Five to a Room: A Poignant Series of Images Exposes the Reality of What It Is like to Be a Poor Child Living in Britain Today

By Platt, Edward | New Statesman (1996), February 27, 2012 | Go to article overview

Five to a Room: A Poignant Series of Images Exposes the Reality of What It Is like to Be a Poor Child Living in Britain Today


Platt, Edward, New Statesman (1996)


Three related statistics illustrate the grotesque extremes of the times in which we live. In 2009 - a year in which British banks were beneficiaries of unprecedented largesse in the form of quantitative easing - Barclays paid the Treasury [pounds sterling]113m in corporation tax and in 2010 it rewarded its bankers with bonuses of [pounds sterling]3.5bn. If that does not constitute a sufficient abuse of business propriety and common sense, then consider a protest group's claim that the "rewards for success" Barclays paid its bankers in a single year were more than has been spent on education in the Borough of Tower Hamlets, east London, where the bank happens to have its headquarters, so far this century.

Such flagrant disparities exist within a city that claims to be the sixth-wealthiest in the world. Besides Barclays, London hosts the headquarters of more than 100 of Europe's largest companies, and its economy of [pounds sterling]162bn accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the UK's total GDP. Yet four in every ten children in London live in poverty and the figure rises to above one in two in its inner boroughs.

London has a higher proportion of children living in income poverty than any region or country in Great Britain. However, there is little reason for complacency elsewhere. One in three children in Wales lives in poverty, one in four in the south-west of England, and one in five in Scotland.

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Brealines

These measures represent stark deprivation. The average household income in London is [pounds sterling]44 per person per day, but a family living in poverty has [pounds sterling]10 per person per day to buy everything it needs, from clothing to food.

The photographs published here, from Save the Children's campaign on poverty in the UK, illustrate the pinched and provisional nature of life on such a budget. Four children huddle in a single cot in a flat in Birmingham; three teenage girls read and do their homework on the bed because there is no table in their parents' house; a boy plays with a football in the shadow of a Glasgow stadium that offers the tantalising prospect of riches and success.

The effects are felt well beyond the domestic sphere - Save the Children's campaign asserts, self-evidently, that children living in poverty are more likely to live in unsafe neighbourhoods - and they resonate through the generations. …

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