Poor Kids Review: The Kids Aren’t Alright

POOR KIDS: Tuesday 7th June, BBC1, 10.35pm

With over 3.5 million children in the UK living below the poverty line, Poor Kids is a moving documentary which personifies the issue by representing some of the people behind these shocking statistics. It’s an interesting approach to tell the story of child poverty through the eyes of the very children living through it, and it’s an idea that works out extremely well.

We’re first taken to meet 11-year-old Sam, who lives in Leicester with his father and 16-year-old sister, Kayleigh. Almost all of the family’s appliances are bought on credit; if they want to watch telly or use the washing machine they must first put a pound in the box attached to their TV.

Sam is constantly bullied at school because of his home-cut hair, ripped trousers, and worst of all, the fact he has to wear his sister’s old shirt for school. “They call me big girl’s blouse,â€? proclaims a dejected Sam as he tells of the troubles affecting his school life. “It doesn’t matter if you wear a girl’s shirt, or ripped trousers. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing; it matters who you are.â€?

Kayleigh isn’t any better off: she talks openly about her self-harming and suicide attempt, on account of her low self-esteem issues, which stem from her inability to keep up with the other kids: “It puts you in that mind set of, “Oh I’m lower than everyone else, I’m not worth as much as everyone else’ which brings you down.â€?

Sam’s birthday is a particularly affecting scene; not only does the electricity cut out, but we are also told Sam’s birthday coincides with the anniversary of their mother walking out – what kind of person walks out on their child’s birthday?

The other two featured families reside in Bradford and Glasgow, and while both families’ stories are harrowing, it’s Glaswegian Page’s that will stay with you. Ten-year-old Page lives in The Gorbals, an area known for its notoriously inadequate accommodation. “You must be kind of bad to be put in houses like this,â€? says Page as she explains the somewhat serious issue of damp: “They make the outside of the box look nice and the inside is just, like, terrible.â€?

Her family has given up painting or papering the walls and ceilings as the damp destroys any attempt in a matter of days. “On Christmas night our ceiling fell on top of us,â€? she says while showing the crew around her kitchen. The damp isn’t only a cosmetic issue, as Page’s friend explains, her family are sick all the time and she is rarely in school due to chest infections.

The striking thing about this documentary is the eloquence of the children interviewed, each of them is genuinely bright, yet all are fearful of the future; not one is convinced they can escape the poverty which has so defined their youth.