Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

'We're turning into a third world country': Child poverty crisis leaves families living hand-to-mouth existence

They say no one is more than a pay packet away from disaster and that raw reality is never more true than in Liverpool.

The maritime city on the River Mersey is a far cry from the Brexit pantomime playing out in the debating chambers of Westminster.

Britain's exit from the EU might be the top priority for politicians, but for those living on the breadline, it's about surviving each day.

"Sometimes you can be left with £60 to last a month," father-of-four Dominic Barber told ITV News Correspondent John Ray.

Dominic Barber lives a hand-to-mouth existence in Liverpool. Credit: ITV News

But when that money runs out after a week, the family is left with nothing, facing an abyss until the next paycheque comes through.

"My kids don't ask for nothing, because they know the situation," he said.

"My worst nightmare [is] someone knocking on my door, saying sorry Mr Barber, you can't feed your children, you can't clothe your children, I'm going to have to take your kids away.

"Because the minute that happens, I won't be on this earth."

Liverpool's poverty figures are stark - one in three children in Merseyside is living below the poverty line - equivalent to more than 35,000 children.

The city has the highest figure for children living in poverty after housing costs have been taken into account - 36% - out of the City Region's six local authorities, according to the End Child Poverty coalition.

"We're turning into a third world country, that might sound overdramatic, but I don't think it is, people have got nothing at all, absolutely nothing," Shirley Marshall told ITV News.

She runs a store at the heart of the community, providing everything from maternity clothes to baby food and nappies to help families in dire need of a hand-out. The store claims to help 1,000 people every single week.

1 in 3
Children living in poverty in Liverpool
Shirley Marshall runs a community centre shop used by 1,000 children every week. Credit: ITV News

More and more families on the breadline are relying on foodbanks to get by.

The Trussell Trust said 1.6 million food parcels were given to people nationally for the financial year 2018/19, up from 1.3 million the year before.

"Me and my partner have gone days without food, just to make sure the kids have got something in their belly," Mr Barber said.

'Starve or steal' is the depressing mantra he would have to live by if it wasn't for the foodbanks.

"First time I've ever been in trouble in my life, was when I was 32 years of age and I had to go into Sainsbury's to steal food, nappies, wipes, for my children," he said.

"[It was] the worst thing ever."

Maureen Delahunty has three part jobs just to make ends meet. Credit: ITV News

And for many families, trying to alleviate the encroaching poverty trap, that means taking on more than one job.

Maureen Delahunty has three part-time jobs on the go, but as soon as the summer holidays start she's in the red, as the cost of childcare is more than she earns.

More than a million Brits are working two or more jobs to make ends meet, according to analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

"Even though I'm working full time, I've got a nearly £2,000 overdraft what I'm living in," she said.

These are the stark stories of just a few families living a hand-to-mouth existence across the UK.

As the outcome of Brexit hangs in the balance, it won't be MPs who face the real aftereffects of our exit from the EU, but the people who have the least.

A DWP spokesperson said: "Children growing up in working households are five times less likely to be in relative poverty, which is why we’re supporting families to improve their lives through work.

"And it’s working - the number of children in a home with a working adult is at a record high, wages are outstripping inflation and absolute poverty is lower than in 2010.

"But we recognise that some families need more support, which is why we continue to spend £95 billion a year on working-age benefits to help ensure every child has the best start in life."