Young people from across the country launched their own enquiry after official statistics revealed that there are 3.7 million children in poverty, and Labour’s Stockton North MP was delighted to support them in gathering evidence in an official committee room at Westminster.
In the first inquiry led by children into the cost of attending school and its effect on children in poverty, supported by The Children’s Society, Alex Cunningham helped young people from The Children’s Commission on Poverty to question experts about the cost of going to school during a special session.
The Children’s Commission on Poverty questioned witnesses over three days, investigating how struggling families manage to bear the costs of school essentials such as lunches, uniforms and basic materials, including text books and access to computers. The panel, comprised of 16 children and teenagers from across England, are leading the Commission’s 18-month investigation into child poverty in the UK.
“The Commission is providing young people with a unique opportunity to examine first-hand the stark realities facing thousands of families living below the poverty line and I was pleased to be able to help guide panel members in questioning the expert witnesses giving evidence to the inquiry.
“The investigation is not only giving children a crucial platform to speak out about what poverty is really like and reveal the day-to-day challenges they face through their own eyes, but also beyond financial costs to examine the emotional effects that the costs of school life have on children and their families.
“Importantly, this includes the extent to which children and young people in poverty are, or at least feel, excluded, from important areas of school life as well as how they are treated by fellow pupils, teachers and other school staff.”
Matthew Reed, The Children’s Society’s Chief Executive, said: “We are grateful for Alex’s support for the young people and their commitment to ensuring children’s views are heard on this issue. The crisis of child poverty is growing, yet children’s views have been largely absent from the poverty debate. Children’s ability to benefit fully from their education is critical to their future. Yet too often, children in poverty are missing out because of the costs involved.”