You may have seen ‘Breadline Britian’ on ITV last night, or watch it here if you missed it: ITV programme ‘Breadline Britain’
The programme discussed a report by the Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) Unit at Bristol University (and others) published yesterday (see: www.poverty.ac.uk). It repeats research originally conducted in 1983 and repeated several times since, most recently in 2012. This is the longest running research into poverty in the UK. It is based on surveys of what the general public think is ‘essential’ in today’s society and compares that to the numbers of people who are not able to afford those things and have to go without.
The UK economy has doubled in the 30 years since 1983 but those at the bottom of society and their children have been increasingly left behind. Things are likely to worsen further with the introduction of more austerity measures next week - increased social housing rent due to the ‘bedroom tax’; reduction and transfer of Council Tax allowances to local authorities which means more people will be required to pay Council Tax; Social Fund also transfered to local authorities who are replacing it with food vouchers; limiting maximum benefit entitlement to £500 a week; abolition of Disabled Living Allowance and so on.
Sadly we at Children North East are not surprised by the findings of this research because they reflect what children and young people told us during our work about child poverty from children’s perspectives in every part of the north east during 2011.
Children and young people said the biggest problems were damp, hard to heat, overcrowded homes; this report has found 9% of all households cannot afford to heat their homes and 10% live in damp homes. The general public regard good accommodation as the most important essential of modern life.
Children and young people told us it was hard to obtain or afford fresh food and many families could not afford to replace broken household appliances. This report has found 4% of all children and 8% of all adults cannot afford to eat properly; and 26% of adults cannot afford to replace or repair broken electrical goods.
The PSE report also found significant numbers of children lack things considered essential to do well in school such as a computer with internet access at home and to be able to afford school trips. Whilst it is appalling that these things happen in what is still a exceptionally wealthy country - the 7th richest in the world - it is not enough to just moan, Children North East is doing what we can to improve things for children and young people. This month we have been piloting our audit tool for schools to assess how well they include poor children and how to improve, we expect to have this ready for dissemination by the summer along with training for teachers about the impact of poverty on children’s lives.
Courtesy of Jeremy Cripps of Children North East