Why it's important we support the 'poor kids'
On Tuesday night I sat down to watch 'Poor Kids', a BBC1 documentary illustrating the heartbreaking reality of growing up in poverty in the UK today. It followed three children from across Britain living in dire conditions with parents struggling to put food on the table. The children had very few toys and nowhere to play.
Refreshingly, it was the children themselves that told their stories, and they gave a unique insight into the struggles they face on a daily basis.
It was also refreshing that the programme took a non-judgemental look at these children's lives, no blame was placed, it simply illustrated the devastating impact poverty can have on their well-being.
The stories of the children followed were not uncommon as the programme highlighted that there are currently 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK – one of the highest levels in the industrialised world.
The work that we do
The Children's Society provides support for some of the most vulnerable children and young people through our specialist services and children's centres. The role of the Policy team at The Children's Society is to communicate the views and experiences of these disadvantaged children to those in power in order to influence policy and ultimately improve children's lives.
Welfare Reform Bill
The 'Poor Kids' documentary should be essential viewing for the policy makers and politicians who are currently putting together a new welfare benefits system, detailed in the Welfare Reform Bill that's going through Parliament.
The Children's Society has serious concerns that this Bill could lead to substantial reductions in support for the poorest families especially those with disabled children and those with high childcare costs.
For example, we estimate that some families with disabled children could have their level of support halved, losing up to £1400 per year under the new system. And due to changes in childcare support some families, particularly single parents, will be worse off by working.
We are raising these issues with decision makers and parliamentarians to ensure the new system provides the vital support needed for children living in poverty.
For me, the strongest message to come out of the 'Poor Kids' documentary was the right that all children should have to grow up free from the scourge of poverty as they are not directly responsible for their situation, and as one child in the programme said 'our circumstances are out of our control'.
By Laura Rodrigues, Policy Officer at The Children's Society