The Poverty Trap

The premise of our new online game The Poverty Trap is simple. You assume the role of one of three low-income families and try to give your children a good childhood while managing your money and making the right choices.

But regardless of the choices that you make for your family, you will always end up in a tough spot. You may be left with little choice but to take out a payday loan with a sky-high interest rate, or stop buying vegetables to save cash.

With our game we wanted to show that for many families it isn’t about making good choices or bad choices - often, there is no good choice to make. No matter what you do, you’re caught in the poverty trap. 

Unexpected costs

The game illustrates that when a family lives on a low income, every spending decision – whether it is cutting back on costly fresh fruit and veg because of having to buy new school uniforms, or struggling to afford Christmas gifts because of an unexpected bill – has to be weighed against others costs.

The game also shows how complex the choices are. Too often 'hidden' costs – such as taking half a day off work and losing part of your wages to access a crucial service that you can only get to on a weekday – are what make life difficult to manage.

For some parents, high-interest, short-term loans can seem to be the only solution to get them through to the end of the month. As our game illustrates, these loans can seem like an easy solution, but can end up pulling a family deeper into a financial hole. 

Money management

There is a misperception that families on low incomes can't manage their money, and that being poor is the result of bad choices. We know from our work across the country that many of the poorest families are very good at managing their money – they have to be, because they simply can’t afford to make the wrong decisions.

The goal of The Poverty Trap is not to show that families can't escape poverty, but to illustrate just how difficult this can be, and how it can rely all too much on good luck rather than good choices.

How you can help low-income families

We created the game because 3.6 million children in poverty need support. The Poverty Trap takes users to our petition supporting our Fair and Square campaign, which calls for all children in poverty to receive free school meals, including those in poor, working families. 

Compared to the scale of the problem this would just be one small step, but day by day and month by month, this extra help can make a big  difference to a family in poverty.

By Sam Royston - Policy Adviser
Sam Royston
- Policy team

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