The kind arm of the law

Sunday Express - - CRISIS AT CHRISTMAS - By Lucy John­ston SO­CIAL AF­FAIRS ED­I­TOR

A GROUP of kind-hearted pupils have put pen to pa­per to high­light the im­pact of child poverty at Christ­mas.

The young­sters pro­duced a range of eye-catch­ing art­work to raise aware­ness of the 4.1 mil­lion chil­dren liv­ing in poverty in the UK.

Al­most one in three young­sters is from fam­ily strug­gling to make ends meet, and the fig­ure is ex­pected to rise to a record high of 5.1 mil­lion by 2022, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment for­work and Pen­sions.

The pupils, from Rother­hithe, south-east Lon­don, shared their art­work to pro­mote the Christ­mas Tree Ap­peal

– a joint ven­ture be­tween the Metropoli­tan Po­lice Ser­vice and The Child­hood Trust.

Come the big day, they hope to hand-de­liver 22,000 presents to dis­ad­van­taged young­sters across the cap­i­tal, en­sur­ing they have at least one gift to un­wrap on Christ­mas morn­ing.

Un­der-17s iden­ti­fied as “in need” by so­cial work­ers, have been listed as the po­ten­tial re­cip­i­ents of gifts.

They in­clude young­sters who are in care, foster homes, refuges and hos­pi­tals, as well as chil­dren from very low-in­come fam­i­lies. Nathan, 11, is one of thou­sands of dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren sup­ported by The Child­hood Trust.

The young­ster – who has five brothers aged five, seven, nine, 12 and 16 – told how he has to share his bunk bed with his sib­lings.

Three of the boys sleep on the top bunk while the oth­ers in bed down be­low.

“I strug­gle to sleep,” he said. “My brother tells me, ‘You’ve put your leg on my side.you’re put­ting your head on my pillow’.

“It’s been re­ally hard and mum and dad are stressed.”

Although Nathan in­sists that hav­ing ma­te­rial things is not as im­por­tant as be­ing happy, he has faced many is­sues as a re­sult of poverty.

Ear­lier this year, he out­grew his size five hand-me-down shoes and they be­came so un­com­fort­able, they “hurt me all the way up to my leg”.

He also told how the fam­ily had to limit their elec­tric­ity us­age be­cause the “pre-pay­ment key runs out so quickly”.

“I’m not meant to open the fridge door too much be­cause it uses up money,” he said.

“I don’t want a Christ­mas present this year be­cause I don’t want my mum to have to buy six things for me and my brothers.”

An­other young­ster sup­ported by

The Child­hood Trust is 10-year-old, we are call­ing Olivia.

She said: “I live in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion with my one-year-old baby brother and we have had to move eight times in the space of two years. It is very hard to cope.” The young­ster told how her fam­ily had en­dured “rat prob­lems” in one hos­tel, but added: “Some chil­dren won’t even get gifts or good food to eat this Christ­mas.the Gov­ern­ment should con­cen­trate on these peo­ple, not Brexit.”

Laurence Guin­ness, chief ex­ec­u­tive of The Child­hood Trust, said: “For most chil­dren, Christ­mas is a time of joy but poverty, home­less­ness, ill health and fam­ily break­down mean that so many are not look­ing for­ward to Christ­mas.

“We hope that peo­ple will be gen­er­ous and gift a present or do­na­tion so that to­gether with the Metropoli­tan Po­lice Ser­vice, we can make this a Christ­mas to re­mem­ber for thou­sands of chil­dren in need across Lon­don.” The launch of the Christ­mas Tree Ap­peal comes just days af­ter more than 140 char­i­ties and char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions signed an open let­ter to all the po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

In it, they de­manded that vul­ner­a­ble young­sters were placed “at the front of the queue” for fund­ing.

A spokesman for the Con­ser­va­tive Party said it was “com­mit­ted to tack­ling child poverty” and told how the Prime Min­is­ter was keen to give “ev­ery child in the coun­try the op­por­tu­nity to make the most of their tal­ents”.

● To buy a present or sup­port a child in need, visit just­giv­ing.com/ metx­mas­tree2019. To find out more about tak­ing a present to a Lon­don po­lice sta­tion, see met.po­lice.uk/ christ­mas­tree.

‘I’m not meant to keep the fridge door open too much be­cause it uses up money’

Pic­tures: PHIL HAR­RIS

HELP­ING: The pupils whose art­work is rais­ing aware­ness of child poverty

GEN­ER­OUS: Laurence Guin­ness, from The Child­hood Trust, and Met Po­lice Chf Insp Penny Hands with some of the do­nated gifts. Left, one of the chil­dren’s posters

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