I recently saw a comment sent in the Metro, accusing families in poverty indulging in Sky TV packages and cigarettes instead of providing warm meals for their children.
The quote, sent in by a reader, read: “I see people’s priorities are more about Sky TV to keep the kids quiet, ciggies at £9 a packet and renting massive TVs.”
The reader went onto to accuse families of not prioritising their income.
I couldn’t believe the arrogance of this comment and wondered if they even had a clue of the genuine poverty that some households face.
Having come across some of these households, I can tell you, they do not live with Sky packages or massive TVs.
These families are living in homes where the walls are covered in damp and the parents have to choose between heating and food. They feed their children whatever they can, sometimes just a bowl of cereal, as they watch on, hungry themselves.
School uniforms are too short or torn and shoes do not fit.
Teachers have even reported providing sanitary towels for girls from low income families.
When they get a free warm meal at school, it is usually their only warm meal of the day and some of these children go hungry during school holidays as families struggle with food costs.
That’s poverty and sadly, it’s on the increase.
There are now four million children living in poverty, the highest recorded since 2007/08. This equates to nine children out of a class of 30 as ‘poor’.
Recent government stats showed 100,000 more children went into poverty in 2015/16 after housing costs.
Arrogant comments of course do not help us a nation to understand why these vulnerable families are left to struggle.
Families fall into difficulty for a number of reasons – unemployment, low paid work and inadequate benefits. Sometimes, it’s just life event such as divorce or even bereavement.
The government’s benefit cap, which limits the benefits paid to vulnerable households, mean more families will fall into the poverty trap. It is estimated that poverty is heading for a sharp rise and we could a see a significant increase by 2021.
The benefits cap was introduced in 2016, lowered from £26,000 nationally to £23,000 in London and £20,000 for other parts of the UK.
The benefits cap means some families will see a reduction of more than £50 a week, and around 13% will lose between £100- £150 a week.
The large majority of these household hit by the cap are single parents with a child under age five.
“The prime minister spoke about injustice on entering Downing Street, but there is no greater burning injustice than children being forced into poverty as a result of government policy,” Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group said.
Children in poverty miss out on things other kids may take for granted, such as warm clothes, school trips and having friends over for tea. They aren’t getting TV time in front of large hired TV screens watching Sky box sets.
It saddens me just how quick people are to judge these families.
What we need is a government policy that will help vulnerable households; help them back on their feet so that children can go on to have the future they deserve.