Thousands of Hackney children are living in third-world, Dickensian conditions, according to a charity which coordinates a Winter Toy Appeal to help the very poorest.
Claire Reay, Manager of the Ivy Street Family Centre, said poverty levels are the worst they’ve ever seen. She’s appealing for urgent donations of new toys to give to the poorest children this winter.
Please donate a new toy or gift for a child aged 0-18 – you can shop local and donate in person at various drop-off points in Hackney (see below for details) or buy via the Wishlist www.toyappealwishlist.com
“It’s a choice of ‘heating’ or ‘eating’ for many families- the children get fed but they’re constantly cold and there’s certainly no money left for toys".
Each year The Ivy Street Family Centre take referrals from dozens of schools, children’s centres, hostels, hospices, social workers and the Homerton Hospital for children living in terrible poverty and she distributes toys collected by family website StokeyParents to children in most need.
She said: “It’s no exaggeration to say the families we are meeting and hearing about are living in third world conditions. It’s a choice of ‘heating’ or ‘eating’ for many families – the children get fed but they’re constantly cold and there’s certainly no money left for toys. Without the Winter Appeal they wouldn’t have a new toy at Christmas."
This year The Local Buyers Club is backing the Winter Toy & Food Appeal - for every card purchased in the first two weeks of December we'll give £5 towards toys. (Join here). Our team is also helping with the logistics of running the appeal. It's also backed by Location Location estate agency.
Claire added: “We’re hearing of families sleeping four to a room in cold, damp conditions under four blankets to try to get warm.
“Poverty has started to reach families you wouldn’t expect – many of the families we help are the working poor.
“Living like this has massive health implications for children – a lot are ending up in hospital with chest infections and asthma. Their parents are going without food so their children can eat – I expect many parents in Hackney are malnourished. The parents we meet bring lunch for their children and claim they’re going to eat later - but they have five sugars in their coffees to try to get some energy.
"We hear about families living in hostels who have to barricade themselves in because the crime within their hostels is so bad – when they share facilities like a bathroom that means they often can’t keep clean.”
“Some are living in very overcrowded conditions – there isn’t even enough space for a cot in some rooms. We hear about families living in hostels who have to barricade themselves in because the crime within their hostels is so bad – when they share facilities like a bathroom that means they often can’t keep clean.”
According to data released by Public Health England last year, more than a quarter of Hackney’s children (an estimated 15,000 aged under 16) live below the poverty line. 1,800 live in temporary accommodation and the social and emotional impact can be enormous.
Claire added: “As children get older their friends start to realise that they don’t have a proper place to live - they feel embarrassed. They can’t have playdates or bring people back. Often families cut themselves off from their friends and their communities because they’re proud and they don’t want people to see how bad things have become.”
The problem has been made worse by the higher cost of living and reductions in benefits. Many families got into debt during the summer holidays because of the added cost of providing lunch for their children.
Claire said many families are taking on payday loans or credit cards with massive interest just to meet the cost of living. She added: “The only loans available to people on such low incomes have very high interest rates. They aren’t buying frivolous things with it – just the essentials.”
On average, the list of children eligible for a toy from the Winter Toy and Food Appeal has risen by a third for each agency which refers. The deadline for giving is December 14th. Last year the appeal reached 2,000 children – this year they hope to reach 3,000.
Jenna Fansa, a Director of The Local Buyers Club, founded the appeal. She said: “This is a devastating indictment on the unfairness of our society – the system is broken and it’s causing great harm to children in our community. Every child is entitled food, warmth, safety, education and care – but many are going without even these most basic of basics rights. Our appeal is a drop in the ocean – but it’s a very clear gesture from people living in and around Hackney that we care greatly for families in our community. Every year we are blown away by the kindness of local families but this year, with thousands more children in need, we need help from the wider community.”
Please donate a new toy or gift for a child aged 0-18 – you can shop local and donate in person at various drop-off points in Hackney or buy via the Wishlist www.toyappealwishlist.com
For more information visit www.wintertoyappeal.com
Drop off points include:
- Location Location Estate Agency or Askew Eyewear in Stoke Newington,
- The Deli Downstairs, Victoria Park
- L’epicerie 56 in Clapton
- Bourne’s Fishmongers in Highbury Barn
- Vintner’s framers in Crouch End.
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