Poem About Child Poverty in the UK

Updated on July 24, 2012

Poem About Poverty

A world of peeling paint and mildew,

Where things stop working like clapped out minds.

Looking across desolate concrete,

I wonder why hope is so hard to find,

I wonder where dreams go,

When the dreamer gives up and looks the other way

And graffittis anger on a wall

While little children play.

Striking at a broken down goal -

A crazy parody of this life.

Our ill-fitting shoes on the ripped-up felt,

Cut aspiration back down with a knife.

Bottles smashed on stairwells

And worse - self imposed curfews by night,

Nobodies just trying to be someone,

No one turned on the light.

Ambition like a rusty bike,

The pedals seized; tyres coroded.

The wrong clothes; the coins for hot water.

Just like a gun, emotion is loaded

Then contained and held in -

Though it only fizzles away; a silent bomb

Set to burst when the suffocating mould

Reminds us where we're from.

Kick at my heels; life moves nowhere.

Sighs; fraught words; kids crammed in one room,

Squashed, like canned beans - can't focus on school.

Don't want to grow up, not anytime soon.

Can't see the horizon,

Just a world of budget food and endless TV

Nothing else to do. Nothing to be.

Do you wish you were me?

Poor Kids -Documentary by the BBC Depicting Child Poverty in the UK

About This Poem

This summer, I watched a documentary on BBC1, entitled 'Poor Kids'. It was a revelatory programme; an insight into the very real problem of children living in poverty in the UK. The number of families living below the breadline is increasing, and for some young people, things are so bad that it is hard to imagine in a developed country.

Stepping away from the documentary, I was talking recently to a neighbour of mine. She is a teacher, and has taught in the past at a primary school in one of the less privileged parts of Norwich, the city I live in. Norwich is a great city that does not have a reputation as an impoverished area, but the conversation was revealing:

''Sometimes we would have to feed the children because they would come to school on Monday morning with no breakfast and having hardly eaten over the weekend,'' she told me. ''They would be wearing their sibling's clothes and shoes that didn't even fit.''

The 'Poor Kids' documentary focuses on the lives of several UK children facing constant poverty. One eleven year old boy wore his sister's shirt to school (so obviously a girl's style) and trousers long outgrown. In Glasgow, the Gorbals estate displayed some of the worst living conditions in the UK - council flats with such severe damp problems that it affected the health of children. Children inhabitating seriously damp homes suffer a high level of asthma and breathing problems. One of the children told of how her little sister smelled of damp whenever she hugged her. The outdoors football pitch was a torn layer of green felt that wasn't even flat to the ground but more like a discarded carpet. Somewhere else, two young sisters who lived with their single mother explained how they hated the school summer holidays because there was nothing to do. Other people went out on day trips, they revealed, but they couldn't even go swimming, not even once. Instead, they hung around derelict buildings or inside their undecorated home.

I decided to write this poem from the perspective of children living in poverty in the UK, because the documentary was such a moving experience. So many of us complain over things that hardly matter at all - too many of us don't even realise how other people live on our own soil. As for the children from 'Poor Kids' - what will happen to them? Cycles of poverty can be very hard to break; many children simply follow on in the footsteps of their parents. The words of one ten-year-old hang in the air - ''I don't want to grow up.'' After all, what does she have to look forward to?


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    • Hoopyloopy profile image

      7 hours ago from Ireland

      Hi polly, I really enjoyed this such a powerful piece thank you for taking the time to write this ✌️

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      8 years ago from UK

      Hi Pamela - yes, children from low income families do receive free school lunches in the UK and always have as far back as I can remember, which would be the very late seventies. In the documentary 'Poor Kids', it actually touches on the fact that a parent of a low income family dreads school holidays because of the costs of feeding her children when they do not receive these free meals. My son is now 11 and in the first year of high school and I have to give him about £2.50 per day for lunch, adding up to about £50 / $79 per month. I believe parents have to be in receipt of Income Support to receive free school meals, or in a household earning less than about £16.000.

      Why has it been a controversial issue in North America? I get the feeling, just by reading things on hubpages mainly, that the benefits system is rather lacking in the US in particular compared to the UK.

      Anyway, thank you so much for reading and for your compliments:

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      8 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      I thank you for your poem from the children's point of view. I'm wondering if the UK has the free lunches for lower-income families'children in schools as in Canada and many parts of the United States. It's been quite controversial in many parts of North America before getting approved and in some instances, wasn't approved.

      Voting up and awesome.

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      8 years ago from UK

      Thank you for your lovely comment, rebekah, I'm really pleased you liked it :)

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      8 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Beautiful, Polly. I love that you gave your voice to these children. It's quite powerful.

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      8 years ago from UK

      Thank you Carol, I agree that the problem indeed exists everywhere :)

    • carol3san profile image

      Carolyn Sands 

      8 years ago from Hollywood Florida

      Thanks for the poem Poly C. It is a very frank look at poverty not only in the UK, but in the US and other countries everywhere.


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