A London children’s charity, the Childhood Trust, has asked children in south London to read out poems they had written to reflect what Christmas is like for their peers in poverty.
“Nothing to eat, nowhere to dine, waiting for the end of Christmas time,” reads one 10-year-old boy.
Another child reads: “Rain down a drain, pit pat, no warm clothes, no warm hat.”
The poems heartbreakingly recreate what is a reality for many children across the UK who are living in poverty.
The non-profit estimates that 700,000 children in London alone are living in households stricken by poverty. Their survey, reported in the Metro, found that 67% of children in these households get no joy from Christmas; with the charity adding that feeling left out, hungry, and not getting any presents were the main reasons given by children surveyed.
One boy tells a story of someone he knows whose family was kicked out of their flat by their landlord, adding that it sounded like something from Victorian times.
The Childhood Trust has included his comments with their report – which also highlights that 37% of children in London were living in poverty as of 2018 — a figure that is actually even higher than in the Victorian era. In the 19th century social reformer Charles Booth recorded an estimate of 35% of Londoners living in poverty.
This month, a second report has also highlighted the devastating impact of child poverty in Britain. The housing charity Shelter says that 183 children are becoming homeless in the UK every day — the equivalent of a child every eight minutes. Most of these children will move in to temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels, it said.
The high rate of homelessness means that 135,000 children will spend Christmas in temporary accommodation this year.
That kind of accommodation is often very cheap, cramped, and in poor condition, without much in terms of cooking facilities and often not much privacy for individual families, the charity points out. Due to a lack of local accommodation available, families are also frequently sent to stay miles away, far from family and friends, making the holidays even more isolating.
Will, 10, told Shelter about his life in the temporary accommodation he and his family had moved to.
“Life in the B&B is horrible, it’s worse than being in a real-life horror film," he said. "There’s no room to do anything, even if I’m reading my book, as I’m still going to get annoyed by someone."
“I’ve been told off by someone for running in the small corridor, you can’t do much, you can’t play much," he continued. "I don’t get to play that often."
“Sometimes me and my little brother Harry, we fight for the one chair, because we both want to sit at the table, and sometimes he wins and sometimes I win," Will added. "I find it really hard to do my homework as I get distracted by my little brother and I don’t have another room to work in peace.”
Their research found that the capital city is particularly struggling with a housing crisis. In England, the areas with the highest proportion of homeless children are the London boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea, Haringey, Westminster, and Newham — where one in every 12 children is homeless.
Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said in response to the findings: “The fact 183 children become homeless every day is a scandalous figure and sharp reminder that political promises about tackling homelessness must be turned into real action."
“Day in, day out, we see the devastating impact the housing emergency is having on children across the country," she continued. "They are being uprooted from friends; living in cold, cramped B&Bs; and going to bed at night scared by the sound of strangers outside.”