As 2011 dawns, remember the 3.9 million children still living in poverty

In the last of our series of articles looking ahead to 2011, Left Foot Forward's devolution correspondent Ed Jacobs presents a sobering picture of the state of the nation, with many millions still living in poverty and suffering depression.

In the last of our series of articles looking ahead to 2011, Left Foot Forward’s devolution correspondent Ed Jacobs presents a sobering picture of the state of the nation, with millions still living in poverty and many suffering depression; Ed is a member of the Christian Socialist Movement and is writing in a personal capacity

2010 was a year full of statistics about the size of deficit, the size of cuts and the size of electoral majorities. However, as minds turn towards the challenges of the new year following the Christmas holidays spend with friends and family, in this, the bleakest of mid-winters, spare a thought for those for whom a happy Christmas will have meant simply muddling through.

Remember the 3.9 million children living in poverty, with research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicting a rise in the number of households living in poverty over the next three years. And to be clear, these are not just numbers.

These are millions of real children and families, suffering, struggling to make ends meet from one day to another as the economic and financial climate continues to bite.

In a report on poverty in the UK published by the Citizens Advice Bureau in 2008, one parent explained what poverty meant for them, stating:

“I struggle to feed and clothe my children. I feel so bad because they never get any treats or days out.

“It just breaks my heart and I don’t know how long I can keep strong for them.”

And another concluded:

“Even with the benefits I receive I find it hard to pay the bills and I cannot afford proper uniform or shoes for my son, so he gets picked on at school.” 

Research by the Mental Health Foundation last year reported that 11 per cent of people in the UK often feel lonely; 37 per cent of us have a close friend or family member that we think is very lonely; 30 per cent would be embarrassed to admit to feeling lonely; and 42 per cent feel depressed because they are lonely. And in March, the NSPCC reported  that there had been a 60 per cent increase in the number of lonely children being counselled by ChildLine over the past five years.

In its press release, the NSPCC quotes what 8-year-old Jessica told the help line:

“My mum died three weeks ago and I really missed her today, because I’ve broken my arm and want mum to hold my hand. I feel lonely.”

And it is estimated that throughout our lives, one in four of us will at some point suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, stress or depression. Together with seeking recovery from the problems they face, sufferers also face the fight against a society which all too often brushes off their difficulties as not being a real illness. In May, for example, the columnist Janet Street Porter dismissed depression as being a “trendy illness”.

As we enter a new year, a year in which the reality of cuts and financial pressures become a growing reality, let us all look to make 2011 the year of the “good society”.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.