Poor Kids: A child's view of growing up in poverty


When I was asked to shoot and direct a film about poverty, I knew the team and I would be taking on a massive challenge.

As a society, we have stigmatised poverty to a point where nobody likes to admit they're poor.

By making Poor Kids through the eyes of the children, we could uncover a tough subject through a section of society who rarely gets their say.

But this brings its own issues and complexities as a duty of care towards the children is paramount.

Before we even set about finding children, we drew up an extensive protocol on how we would operate with the children's best interests in mind.

I guess the true test of how well we succeeded was when the children watched the film and whether they saw it as an accurate representation of their lives, and they seemed to.

All too often in life children aren't given a voice or the chance to be heard. And all too often adults listen, but they don't really. I'm a dad, so I know, as I'm just as guilty.

Once we'd settled on which children to follow, it was a fascinating journey.

The most important part of the filming process was to gain a bond with the children. After a while children often open up to us because we are a grown-up figure who listens but never judges.

On some days we'd turn up and they didn't feel like filming - they just wanted to go to the park, so to the park we went.

Patience is a virtue, as I keep telling my kids, even if you have driven all the way from London on a tight schedule to move the film forward and you are desperate to turn the camera on.

This patience, though, can pay back in dividends.

One of my favourite scenes in the film is Courtney and Holly chatting on the bed - a scene I could only capture because they were so used to me being around that I was able to blend into the purple wallpaper. I am short though, so that probably helped.

There are times when you do question what you see.

Why doesn't Kayleigh, for example, get a part-time job after college?

Firstly, as Sam clearly tells us in the film, jobs are scarce. Secondly, if her dad is off job hunting in the afternoon, who's looking after Sam and Kaleb when they get home from school?

Sam and Kayleigh

The answer, of course, is Kayleigh.

Why, for example, does Fran have a dog when she struggles to feed the kids?

"For my family's security," she said. "Do you know what it's like living on an estate alongside drug addicts?"

No, I don't, thank God.

The kids used to have bikes but they were taken from the garden. She also recounts a story about strangers breaking into the house.

That's why, as a single mum with three vulnerable young girls, she has a dog. I was then embarrassed I'd asked the question.

I believe so many of the children we met while making the film could go on to great things in life, if given the right chances.

The trouble is we are not only a product of our family but also society as a whole. So, in areas of the country where services are straining and infrastructure crumbling, these chances are forever decreasing.

It's really difficult for children to have a realistic expectation that they will amount to something when they are surrounded by headlines of job cuts and an estate full of the unemployed.

Kids aren't stupid remember - they get it.

At the end of the film, just like Peter Pan, Courtney says, "I don't want to grow up."

Sadly for her it's due to the fear of what's to come, not so she can stay forever young in a magical Neverland.

UPDATE: Thank you for the overwhelming response. Thanks for your comments, thoughts and generosity. The number of your comments has set a record on the TV blog. If you want to help, our advice would be to get in touch with any of the charities expert in dealing with the issues highlighted in the film, as listed on our programme page - Sam Anthony, executive of Poor Kids for the BBC.

UPDATE 2: There's further information for anyone wanting to donate on True Vision's website (the makers of Poor Kids).

Jezza Neumann is the director of Poor Kids.

Poor Kids is being repeated on Wednesday, 27 July at 9pm on BBC Three.

It was first shown on BBC One and BBC One HD at 10.35pm on Tuesday, 7 June.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


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