Published: 10th September 2012
Last week I was over the moon to hear that for the first time in its 93-year existence the Save the Children charity had launched an appeal to help UK children.
Over the course of the past seven or eight years, particularly since the recession hit, I have become overwhelmingly alarmed as to how visibly poorer our streets have become. There is now an estimated 3.5 million UK children living in poverty, and that’s despite the Government splashing out over £150 billion on benefits and tax credits since the turn of the millennium.
The ‘It Shouldn’t Happen Here’ campaign will help boost low income children’s school careers and provide basic essentials such as cookers, furniture and toys for their families. Fantastic – was my initial reaction, until I went on to learn that the total figure the charity aimed to raise through this crusade was set at a poultry £500,000.
The UK is one of the top five charitable countries on the planet. A country that ships tens-of-millions of pounds worth of aid abroad to support humanitarian efforts around the world. Save the Children is one of the most recognisable and supported charities helping those fighting hunger in Africa, victims of the earthquake in Haiti and the poor innocent children being gunned down in Syria.
As much as I support and admire efforts of any charity that endeavours to tend to the needs of those in third world countries and war-torn nations, I think that it’s about time that we started to look at the state of things a little closer to home.
Since the announcement of this latest campaign many people, particularly MP’s have alleged that the drive is politically motivated and in an article published by The Telegraph it would appear that many of its backers and donators aren’t happy that the charity is now looking to support some of Britain’s poorest families. One former charity contributor wrote, “Cancelled direct debit to Save the Children. I supported them to help save lives not pay for school trips.”
Coming from a poor one-parent family and experiencing life in the midst of a rough neighbourhood strewn with gangs, drug dealers, crack addicts and murderers I can tell those MP’s and upper class folk from first-hand experience that the things they see in their worlds are but a distance dream for many families up and down this supposed power-house of a country. Despite our household living below the official poverty line my mother scrimped and saved to provide my brother and I with the best up bringing she possibly could. If life was like this for me just 15 years ago then imagine how difficult it is for families in a similar situation today with jobs being harder to come by and the cost of living on the increase.
Poverty [noun] – 1. The state of being extremely poor; 2. The state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount.
It maybe hard to believe, particularly if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but there is genuine poverty here in the UK, and if we don’t seek to help our own then nobody else will. There are many elements that make up poverty; financial hardship leads to food shortages and a lack of warm clothes and heating. It can also have a detrimental impact on a child’s education and where there’s poverty there is often drugs, crime and anti-social behaviour.
I count myself lucky that – although I hung around with some undesirable characters in my youth – I turned out to be a relatively sensible and educated young man, whereas many of my friends who had so much potential ended up turning to a life of crime. And that is why for me it was genuinely sickening to read that some people are now refusing to support and donate to Save the Children all because they are launching a campaign to help poverty struck children here in the UK. These children should not be abandoned, they deserve a chance – they are our future for Christ’s sake.
The Save the Children charity defines living in poverty as having a family income of less than £17,000 per year. For me this is far too broad and generalised because of the vast difference between the cost of housing and everyday living between the South and the North.
Many families, particularly where I was raised, would be able to get by comfortably on £17,000 per year and for that reason alone I believe the estimated 3.5 million UK-based children that are ‘living in poverty’ is an inflated figure. Other reports suggest that the actual number of children living in poverty is around the 350,000 mark. But regardless of whichever is correct the fact remains that a £500,000 injection will benefit very few – that would average out at anywhere between 14p – £1.42 per child.
I’m surprised that it has taken this long for many of the middle and upper-class to realise that there is a genuine child poverty issue on our very own doorstep. Maybe we’ve been guilty of neglecting them because of our perception and stereotyping of poor low-income families as dole-dossing, benefit scrounging no hopers. Yes – there are many parents that do play the benefit system, but this is through no fault of the child. If the children of Africa deserve a chance then why don’t our own?
By seriously tackling this issue through fundraising and moulding together much needed support networks for these families, then at least the poorest of our future generation will have a genuine chance in life, a chance to flourish and give something back to society. If we choose to carry on sweeping their needs under the carpet then not only will we see an increase in poverty on our shores, but drug use and crime too.
Save the Children received around £100 million in grants from the Government and the European Union last year and so to set such a pathetic target is an insult to the children that they are meant to be helping. £500,000 will not even begin to scratch the surface, this fundraising target needs to be increased twenty-fold at a minimum.
There’s little use in providing a child warm clothes and a few extra meals for just one winter time. A well-oiled strategy needs to put together before any money is to be splashed around. Hard-up parents need to be educated on ways that they can save money on food, energy bills and clothing. And those that aren’t working need to be encouraged to look for employment and/or courses that they may be able to attend at a local school or college. Forget about spending money on toys and school trips, these are treats – not necessities. This money needs to be filtered through to the children who’s parents have been hit hardest by the recession.
Whatever your stance may be with regards to poor families and poverty stricken children, I’m sure that we all agree that It Shouldn’t Happen Here. I’m living proof that not all children from poor backgrounds turn out to be unsavoury adults, and that with the financial clout our wealthy possess that we can – and should – make a difference not only abroad but here at home too.