Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 5th December 2018

As adults we seem to form two camps when it comes to Christmas: those who think it’s the most wonderful time of the year and those who can’t wait for it to be over. For children, regardless of their opinions on Santa, Christmas remains truly magical.

Yet, for children living in poverty it’s hard to know what sort of Christmas they can expect and the struggles their parents will be forced to go through to provide the things we all see as a normal part of the holiday. I’m not talking about kids in Somalia or depressed Northern economies, I’m talking about the almost 7,000 children in Crawley alive today who, based on the Government’s own data, are living in poverty. That’s over a quarter of the town’s children.

While parents will always do their best to ensure their kids don’t stand out, if you look closely you can see the signs of people struggling all around us. It’s there in the enormous demand for food banks, it’s there in the hidden homelessness of people relying upon the sofas of friends and families to keep a roof over their head or trapped in bed and breakfasts, and it’s there in the increasing numbers forced to beg and borrow to make ends meet.

It hasn’t always been this way. The last Labour Government set out to end child poverty in a generation and when it left office child poverty had been halved, largely through tax credits and reform of the benefits system. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s UK Poverty 2018 report, released yesterday, makes harsh reading but it’s conclusions are clear: under this Government, child poverty is on the rise, almost all the increase in working families, with the Government’s changes to social security pulling the rug out from under parents’ feet. Who on Earth are we as a country if we think treating children this way is acceptable?

So while it’s nice to see our MP running a Christmas Card contest in schools, my question to him is this: when you voted to make this happen, were you thinking of those children then?

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