Thursday, 24 December 2009

Child Poverty at Christmas


Yesterday I blogged about Father Christmas and a pre-Christmas dinner organised by a local church in Canning Town. What I really wanted to talk about was poverty, but I had not quite pulled together my thoughts; particularity about poverty here in my manner Canning Town which is a part of the London Borough of Newham.

I had the good fortune yesterday of meeting at this event a mother and her four young children, and I had the opportunity of not only enjoying their company, which made a very pleasant afternoon spent, and in all the places a church, but much more important was the chat that I had with this wonderful mother, if there was a prize to be had for devotion to the responsibility of parenting, then I wouldn’t hesitate in awarding it to this mum. All four children ages ranging from 11 to the youngest of four were so well behaved and polite that I would have no bother adopting them just for Christmas.

In our discussion during and after the meal this mother shared with me some of the very real difficulties that this family experienced in the struggle to survive in today’s modern world. As a family they were living in private rented accommodation; their rent being £300 a week, with the husband working as a security guard which in London is not a particularly well paid occupation, this meant that most of their expenditure was sucked up just paying bills to keep the utility’s on; but keeping warm and in this cold snap was proving to be problematic, running out of funds meant not being able to charge up the electric key or the gas meter, she told me that this was never a problem until about two years ago, when the prices started to rise like a broken thermometer gone crazy. The family had decided that rationing would make things last longer, this meant watching television covered in quilts and blankets in the evenings.

With a young growing family clothing and the replacement of footwear didn’t come cheap, even in the many charity shops clothing is expensive and there very prominence on the high street has led to the demise of the jumble sale once a reliable option now closed to the many seeking to obtain cheep durable outfits for children.

One other thing that I felt rather up-set about was that this Christmas, with the lack of funds things would be scarce in terms of gifts and presents for the children, the mother told me; that she and her husband had explained the situation to their children and she said they had told them; that the most important thing was being together as a family. I asked the mother did she think that she was in anyway unique in this situation, were any of her friends or neighbours experiencing the same difficulties, her reply was somehow as I anticipated; most were struggling to keep their heads above the water line.

This family I should also emphasize, has spent 11 years on the council housing list and that the children have always lived in the private rented sector, they have never been able to call any particular place their permanent home.

Over the course of the last two years I have written much about child poverty in Britain and particularly about its existences in Canning Town. I find it an absolute abhorrence and detestation that it exists still in the 21st century that children are not only suffering but possibly becoming scarred and deeply affected, as it must surely impede upon their development. I have often read reports in provincial newspapers that organisations are having to handout food parcels to help families cope because child poverty has become widespread in our towns and cities, this is not the short of information that makes the front page of a national newspaper or an item on news at ten, more important to report that the recession is coming to an end, that the housing market is picking up or that a syndicate of factory workers have won big time on the lotto.

So what I’m saying is that child poverty is not considered to be newsworthy; and I wonder why?

Even the politicians give it almost no prominence in their everyday deliberations, how can that be when you consider the 20 parliamentary constituencies with the highest levels of child poverty including Edinburgh, near to where the Chancellor Alistair Darling is an MP, 94% of children in Greendykes and Niddrie Mains ward live in poverty or are in families struggling on low incomes, and just for good measure let me mention some of the others: Bethnal Green and Bow, Birmingham, Sparkbrook and Small Heath, Manchester Central and of course Poplar and Canning Town, which has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country.

Bethnal Green and Bow’s MP is George Galloway, the so-called progressive Respect leader, but when I organised a meeting two years ago on child poverty in Canning Town he tried his level best to get out of it, but after applying gentle pressure and when he did attended he spoke about everything but child poverty, considering that his constituency has a very high percentage of children suffering in poverty, he has been nothing more than a complete disappointment because he would rather spend his precious time delivering help convoys to the Gaza. I have no problem in saying that he is a waste of space!

This is a subject that I could go on and on about, it’s more prevalent and more obvious today than at any recent time in the last 20 years. It is the legacy that I will remember New Labour for more than anything else, as it has taken a very serious turn for the worst under their stewardship, but lets be clear and say that poverty in all its vile forms will never be eradicated unless you are prepared to get rid of the capitalist system lock stock and barrel, then and only then, will our children have the best chances to make the most of their lives.

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