Professor Green visits Family Gateway for the BBC’s Living in Poverty Documentary

Living in Poverty

During 2017 Rapper Professor Green visited Family Gateway to find out more about children living in poverty in the North East of England.

The visit was part of the BBC’s ‘Living in Poverty’ documentary which investigated the struggles faced by disadvantaged children and families across the UK.

Prof Green opened the documentary by commenting on the bleak outlook for millions of families in the UK:

“One in four children in Britain are growing up in poverty. This can involve being cold or going hungry. But it can also have a devastating emotional impact on a child’s life.”

“We live in one of the world’s richest countries and we have 4 million children living in poverty. That figure is set to raise by a million in the next 5 years. The children who are having to deal with the pain, the stress and the suffering that adults have to deal with, but without the tools to handle it.”

Professors in Poverty

In the documentary, poverty is the main focus and Professor Green visited Kevin and Claire, who with their two children Leo, 10 and Lilly May, 11, are supported family by Family Gateway charity.

The family live in a council house in Wallsend, Tyneside, an area which has a very high level of poverty, with over 50% of families who live there claiming benefits.

The family have been experiencing extreme financial difficulties after Claire was affected by mental health issues and Kevin became unemployed. Every week they struggle to meet ends meet.

North East Charity

Kevin and Claire are supported by Family Gateway’s pioneering programme, where local parents who themselves have experienced poverty, are trained and employed by the North East charity to support other families.

The family face a monthly battle with bills. They receive around £219 per week on benefits but after food and bills, there is nothing left to spare. They are constantly on the poverty-line and often rely on food banks to feed the kids.

Claire says the main stress is “The debt and money and where the next meal is going to come from.”

The children know the family are struggling, which can be heart-breaking for mum and dad.

Claire comments:

“Lilly May will go around the house switching all the electrics off. Anything that’s not used. She feels guilty when she has to come to me and say ‘Mam it’s such and such’s birthday on Saturday, she invites [me] to a party, but I need a card and I need a present, and she starts getting upset because she knows that we’re struggling. I feel guilty. I feel like we’re letting the children down.”

Professor Green comments on the family’s situation:

“One of the problems that comes with child poverty is the stress for the children, because they feel like they have to be the adult in the house. So that puts a great deal of pressure on them and it’s really sad to see.”

Kevin is also potentially facing a prison sentence due to outstanding rent arrears on a previous property. A debt he simply can’t afford to pay.

Kevin says “It’s not that I refuse to pay it, it’s just I can’t.”

Prof Green reflects:

“With the debt out of control, the consequences for the family can be devastating. If dad goes to prison and Lilly May and Leo get taken away from Claire, they can’t be with their mum or their dad. Who suffers? They suffer”

“And what happens later on in life when they have kids? Kids who grow up in poverty are more likely to be adults who grow up in poverty, and their children are more likely to grow up in poverty, and so on and so on.”

“It becomes an incredibly difficult, if not near impossible cycle to break. They end up finding it very difficult to find decent jobs, forge proper relationships, and with that it becomes difficult for them to make a proper contribution to society.”

Relying on Charity and Food Banks

With money short, the family often have to rely on food parcels from Family Gateway, or donations from food banks, something which can be difficult.

Kevin comments:

“The first food bank was for me the most degrading time ever.”

The family also struggle to pay the gas and electric, having to feed an expensive meter.

“It’s on £7.87 at the moment, but we already owe £6 in debt. We’re constantly feeding meters all the time. When it comes to bulbs, I don’t go out and buy bulbs, [when they run out] I just move between each light fitting. It’s just a lightbulb, but there are probably loads of other families out there who do exactly the same as me.”

Greatest Fears

Kevin and Claire are asked what their greatest fear is for the future:

Claire comments: “Losing the house.”

Kevin follows: “Losing the kids’.”

Claire: “Losing the house is [a real prospect]. And obviously if we lose the house, then losing the kids’. I can’t have that happen.”

Kevin is close to tears as he says: “That’s why we are doing all this. We want to be out of this. We want to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Claire: We don’t want future generations having to deal with this,”

Professor Green comments on the situation:

“To see a man come that close to tears, it just brought back a lot. Being the man of the house, struggling, not being able to provide. You just think, he’s not the only person, there are so many people that are in that position.”

A Bleak Future for Children and Families in Poverty

At the end of the BBC Professor Green documentary he reflects on his meeting with Kevin and Claire, and the situation for many families in poverty across Britain.

“Kids from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be expelled from school, unemployed and end up in prison. Everything they are going through now is going to stick with them for the rest of their lives. Makes me feel ashamed.”

How Family Gateway Help

Family Gateway has 22 full-time support workers like Lisa and Nicola, who work with around thirty families at a time. We work across North and South Tyneside, and Northumberland.

Every day we visit families like Kevin and Claire, to deliver food, provide budgeting support, and help them to deal with the issues they face, whether it be health, addiction, financial struggles, or unemployment.

Family Gateway workers offer support to help them to overcome the challenges they face and access new opportunities, so that the entire family has the chance of a positive, stable future.

Donate to Charity

You can help families in the North East by donating to our charity.

Your support will enable Family Gateway to provide essential outreach and support to families living on the breadline in North and South Tyneside and Northumberland, helping them stay together in times of crisis and overcome the challenges they face.

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