Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton families share experiences of child poverty

"It's the worst it's ever been," says Darren, father to three children in the deprived Southampton suburb of Weston.

Darren says he struggles to afford rent and food and is thinking about taking a second job.

"If we send our kids to school with nothing to eat, we'd be in even more trouble than we probably are," he said.

Tim Hyde, a Weston community worker, agrees.

'Hungry children'

"For the first time since I have been here we're hearing stories of children saying they are hungry, children admitting to adults they are hungry," he said.

According to theCampaign to End Child Poverty, four million children are currently living in poverty in the UK.

The definition of child poverty is given by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) as having £12 or less per family member per day for all household spending after housing costs.

A report by Inside Out South into the poorest area of Hampshire, Weston, has found some families are living on even less than this amount, despite being in paid employment.

Tim Nichols, from CPAG, said: "When you look at a neighbourhood like this it's not just people out of work that are in poverty, it's more and more people who are in work as well.

"The nature of work has changed over the last generation. It's a lot harder now for people to get a decent living wage and to get secure full time work.

'Insecure jobs'

"Too often it's insecure and temporary jobs."

Amelia says her family is £6 a week better off now her partner Jamie is working than when the family was living on benefits.

Her accommodation consists of nine adults and children living in a two-bedroom house.

Amelia says her accommodation is "horrible", but she has been told by the council she will have to wait "six or 10 years" to get a house.

For the mother-of-six, even cooking a roast dinner is a hard-to-afford luxury.

"I try not to cook a roast. I can use up to £3.15 (in cooking costs) just putting the roast on and to the end of it cooking," she said.

She said it was hard to remain motivated to stay in paid employment.

Cigarettes 'privilege'

"You're barely scraping to survive and you can see why people think, 'what's the point of going to work to earn', because you get more sitting at home doing nothing.

"You get your rent paid for you, your council tax paid for you, and whatever money you have got left you can play with."

Amelia said she was £8,000 in debt to the bank, and constantly racking up bank charges due to failed direct debits.

"I know people will say we shouldn't have had that many children. People think we have kids to get benefits, to get a council house.

"Every bit of money we get goes on our kids. The only bit we have goes on cigarettes. That's our little privilege, isn't it?"

Inside Out Southwill be shown on BBC One on Monday, 5 March at 19:30 GMT and nationwide on the iPlayer for seven days thereafter.

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