True Vision

films that make a difference

Growing Up Poor: Britain's Breadline Kids

Back to ‘Our Films’
47 minutes
Amy Richardson & Alice Rowsome
Jezza Neumann
Executive Producer:
Brian Woods

In Britain today 4.1 million children are growing up in poverty. Narrated by Sheridan Smith OBE actress and singer and from BAFTA-winning director Jezza Neumann comes a Dispatches special. As Channel 4 spent a year with three children and their families to show what life is like when you don’t have enough money for essentials. Told first hand through the children’s perspectives who are growing up in poverty, this is their story, in their words.

Amid the gowned scholars of Cambridge, Courtney and her family struggle to stay afloat.   Fleeing abuse they became trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, made worse by delays in Universal Credit payments.  Despite all this Courtney remains optimistic and resilient - relishing the chance to choose treats at her local foodbank, looking forward to getting her phone back from the pawnbroker, and encouraging her mum to get a boyfriend so she and her little brother “can have a dad.”

But as the biting north winds sweep across the fens in winter, even Courtney’s sunny outlook is challenged when there is not enough money left on the meter to boil a kettle for a hot water bottle.  Shivering, she starts counting the pennies in her piggy bank.  When her mum tells her the family has been turned down for an emergency fuel bank top-up, Courtney says simply, “That’s crazy, what do they expect us to do?”

In rural Suffolk, 15-year-old Danielle’s life was turned upside down following a breakdown in her parents’ relationship and subsequent loss of their jobs.  They had to move out of the family home into temporary accommodation, and she now has to live and study in a cramped temporary one room bedsit.  With her GCSEs coming up, Danielle is struggling to cope with her anxiety in her family’s current situation.

And in the idyllic coastal town of Morecambe Bay, 10-year-old Rose’s family is part of the growing number of working poor. Contracted to 16 hours a week Rose’s mum struggles to keep her head above water and despite her job, the family was forced into debt when they had to cover the funeral costs of Rose’s older sister, who died of cancer.  As a result of the expenses around her death, they are now having to do things they never before considered, like using a local food club that distributes near-expiry food to families in their community.

These articulate and engaging kids tell their own stories and wryly observe the impact poverty and homelessness is having on their families, including the toll it is taking on their parents’ mental health.  Warm, funny at times, but above all moving, this film looks at the realities of life on the breadline, as faced by over four million kids, through the eyes of these amazing children.



Thanks to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The Trussell Trust, Citizens Advice and Donna Ferguson

If you would like to donate or support any of the contributors in the film, you can do so via our unique charity The Aletheia Foundation.

If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues in the programme, you might find the following links and resources useful:



If you’re feeling emotionally distressed and need someone to talk to, you can phone at any time of day or night.

Helpline: 116 123 (lines open 24 hours, free and does not appear on telephone billing)


Papyrus – Prevention of Young Suicide

Providing confidential advice to young people about suicide prevention, also offering advice to anyone concerned about a young person.

HopeLineUK: 0800 068 41 41 (lines open Monday – Friday 9am - 10pm, Weekends & Bank Holidays 2pm- 10pm)


SMS: 07786209697


Mind offer information and support for all aspects of mental health. Details for local branches of MIND are online or by calling the MindinfoLine.

Helpline: 0300 123 3393 (lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm)



If you’re experiencing a personal crisis and need support to cope.

Text Shout to 85258

Young Minds (opens in a new window)

Young Minds provides support on a range of mental health issues for young people (up to 25) and their families.

Parents Helpline: 0808 802 5544 (lines open Monday - Friday 9.30 -4pm)

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services - CAMHS

Information on mental health services for children and young people, for parents and carers.

Citizens Advice

We give people the knowledge and confidence they need to find their way forward - whoever they are, and whatever their problem. Our network of charities offers confidential advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free.

Trussell Trust Foodbank

Our aim is to end hunger and poverty in the UK. We support a nationwide network of food banks and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.


We believe that no good food should go to waste. We redistribute surplus food to charities that turn it into meals. We are doers. We are a community. We change lives.


Suffolk Road Church Soup Kitchen 
Suffolk Road church is a friendly; family orientated Evangelical church located in Sudbury, Suffolk UK. As a church we have a great time meeting together to worship God, to learn together and to help by serving others: in the church, locally in Sudbury and all over the world.


The Kernos Centre exists to provide professional counselling and support for people with emotional and psychological difficulties – ensuring those most in need receive appropriate, effective and ongoing help, regardless of their resources.

Lancaster and Morecambe Lions

We are involved in raising funds for goods and worthwhile causes. Organising or assisting at local events, collecting locally, providing direct support for individuals or groups in the community, responding wherever and whenever we can. As volunteers, we are enthusiastic about making a difference. As people we are ordinary men and women who enjoy ourselves and gain satisfaction from our role in our community

Other charities and support networks in the East of England:

Centre 33 Young Carers
Christopher Centre
Suffolk Libraries https://www.suffolklibraries.c...
FIND Foodbank
Big Sib - Cambridge SCA