Thursday, 21 June 2012

Hope in Parliament

Sharon Hodgson MP made a commitment at our conference last November to organise a reception at the House of Commons for young people to tell MPs about their experience on poverty. So it was yesterday we took 10 young people and our exhibition of children's photographs of poverty to London. About 50 people came – Lords, MPs from the north east and elsewhere including Ed Balls and Steven Twigg as well as other important people.

The young people with Ed Balls
The young people, the youngest just 10, were amazing, completely unphased by the surroundings or guests. I have seen their drama, 'Hope's Diary' developed with Newcastle Live Theatre, 6 times and get more out of it each time. The lines delivered in the school scene, 'don't worry Hope, we'll get you tomorrow' and the aside in the dinner queue 'I know she's on free meals but she eats so much she's taking the Mick' when the audience knows this is the only meal Hope will have that day – they really hit home.

I was delighted to tell the audience that Children North East and the North East Child Poverty Commission will be developing a 'poverty proofing toolkit' for schools this summer to pilot in the autumn term. The idea being to challenge and support schools to change often unconscious practices that make it more difficult for poorer, disadvantaged children to get the best out of and achieve their potential at school. We already have a lot of interest from some schools.

This was on the day when The Guardian newspaper reported their survey in which teachers said they notice more and more children unable to concentrate in class because they are hungry. As more families struggle to make ends meet and schools close breakfast clubs because of cost, teachers are buying food for some children themselves and Greggs has seen a 60% increase in requests from schools for their free breakfast clubs.

Tyne Tees television followed the young people to Parliament – Sharon Hodgson said it was 'like a modern day Jarrow Crusade' for broadcast at 6 pm on Friday 22nd June. You can read what MPs and others had to say about it on Twitter: #hopeinparliament or watch the Tyne Tees TV report about the trip on You Tube

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