Posted: 10 June 2011

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.

Low well-being

This message is echoed by recent research from The Children's Society that found a clear link between low household income and a child's low 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


By Laura Rodrigues - Policy team

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Taking care of the poor children in the world is so important and the more people realize this and do the better off we will all be. There is more that can be done and I believe that people are charitable and will do the right thing.

For me, the problem is that parents of these children could, and should make better decisions regarding their finances. I don't deny for a second that many families are living in accommodation that should be condemned. But many of these parents are completely uneducated in financial management. For example; the mother of the little girls who went without lunch during school holidays had false nails. Costing at best £4 per packet from Boots, or worst £25 a go at the local nail salon - could have been money better spent? And the father of the son who was bullied at school for wearing his sister's old uniform smoked like a chimney but was unable to find £9 to kit his son out in new uniform from a well known supermarket.
There were freezers full of convenience food, sold in many discount frozen food shops - both unhealthy and costly. To think a frozen pizza costing £1 would feed a family for one night, but a bag of potatoes costing the same would last 2 or 3 nights when coupled with other, healthy, homecooked food. Is it possible to eat well on a budget? Absolutely. You just need to be taught how.
I guess my overall problem is that by giving these families more money, the issue will just continue. the key to improving children's lives is education in real matters - financial planning & prioritising.

Thank you both for your comments. Good to see people are interested in this important area and that the programme and this blog have sparked debate.

I agree that parenting and education is vital to children's lives. The Children's Society children's centres work directly on these issues supporting vulnerable families on healthy eating and parenting skills.

However, I think it is problematic to make assumptions on the way these parents choose to spend their money based on a TV programme. As said in this blog I think a strength of the programme was how it took an unjudgemental approach to examining these children's lives. I think that education and financial support are both necessary to improve the lives of vulnerable children. The Children's Society is calling for financial support to ensure families with disabled children are able to cover the additional costs associated with disability and for support for childcare costs to ensure vulnerable families are able to move into work. It is not simply a case of giving families more money but of supporting them to improve their situations.