Friday 5 April 2019


Every week, during this period of training for the London Marathon 2019, my long run takes me through Penzance by the waters of the bay. The views are wonderful. This post is about the scandal of child poverty on a specific housing estate around half-a-mile from my running route. My source is a Guardian newspaper article, dated 24 August 2016. The situation described in that year won't have fundamentally changed - see last week's blog-post, by pressing here.

A tourist view of picture-post-card Penzance

Nicola Slawson is the journalist whose name accompanies this Guardian article. I learned that:

  • the child poverty rate in Penzance is 41% - on a par with parts of inner-city London, Birmingham and Manchester - compared with a national average of 25%;
  • Seventeen areas in Cornwall rank among the 10% most deprived areas in the UK and Treneere is the most deprived of these areas;
  • In the grey houses of the 1930s estate, where many of the area's 1,225 poorest children live, families survive below the poverty line, either unable to find work or only employed in low-paid and/or seasonal jobs - poverty on Treneere and in other parts of Cornwall, notably Redruth
    and Camborne, is long term and deeply ingrained; 
  • In the heart of the estate is the Lescudjack centre. It used to house council-run universal early years services for all local children under the Labour government's Sure Start programme. Once the Coalition government, under neoliberal Conservative direction, was in power (2010-2015), these services were dramatically curtailed. In 2015, services were outsourced to a local charity, Trelya. By 2016, parenting courses and a toy library were left - still running from the building along with a mother and baby group. More than 200 people used the building on a weekly basis. Many of the mothers have been involved with the charity since they themselves were children, such is the cycle of poverty.  

Generic image - we are shaped when we are young

You need look no further for an explanation why Cornwall overwhelmingly voted leave in the EU referendum, despite relying on EU funding, than this interview with Sarah Wilson, a 33-year-old single mother of five, who works long hours as a care worker. Here are her words:

'They (the politicians and councillors) don't care about the people who are from here. It pisses me off. They shouldn't let anybody else into Cornwall until they've sorted all of this out. There aren't any houses so I'm sorry, whatever you're fleeing from, don't come down here. But they still send foreigners and problem families and domestic abuse ones from up country. Our council gets paid to have them. If you can't house your own, how do you expect to houses anyone else?'      

Ignore this heartfelt and coherent reasoning at your peril.

We want our country back - and our voice heard!

And so back to other data and stories from the article:

  • The average wage on the Treneere estate in 2016 is just over £22,00 a year against a south-west average of £25,625. Yet the average house price is £244,798;
  • Cat Keene, director of programmes and operations at Trelya, highlighted the consequences of child poverty. Children dread going to school as they don't often have a clean uniform; they know they will get into trouble for not having a PE kit or for being late because nobody was there at home to wake them up. They may be bullied for their unkempt appearance, or not having the same trainers as everyone else - for being poor. They often have chaotic family lives with unstable relationships. There are often mental health issues, violence either in or out of the home and substance abuse;
  • Trelya receives funding from the Big Lottery, BBC Children in Need and charitable trusts, as well as being paid to run services by Cornwall Council; 

When the Welfare State fails - charity is required. Let's be quite clear about what is happening. 

  • Nicola Slawson, the author of the Guardian article, commented in 2016 that it would be a tall order for Trelya to achieve their aim of fracturing the cycle of deprivation. She pointed out that changes to universal credit could plunge millions more into poverty over the next four years, while making those already below the poverty line even poorer. She cited the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) prediction that relative child poverty will increase by 50% in the UK from 17% in 2014-15 to 25.7% by 2020-21. Nicola Slawson was not wrong;
  • In Cornwall between 2009-2015, the annual children's services budget was cut from £105m to £87m. The council were expected to achieve savings of 31% - £27m - from children's services.    

2015 - 2016 - 2017 - 2018 - 2019 - still the same chaos - still the same pain - still the same damage

What kind of country is this? Did we once have a welfare state that we were proud to call our own? This is so shaming. And so avoidable. Lay the blame where it lies - on the nasty, heartless Tories and whenever that General Election happens, make sure a socialist Labour government is returned to power.

My book of prophecy - written for the many


  1. I was so moved by this heartrending account - no civilised society should have areas with a story like this..
    All people matter ..

  2. I'm pretty certain most of the inhabitants of Penzance are completely unaware of these shocking stats, therefore I shall start bringing them to people's attention.

    1. Thanks Mick - our Labour Party needs to be leading the way in this spread of information. I stopped taking the Guardian some two years ago because of its anti-Corbyn, anti-socialist stance but all the while I was subscribing I saved the articles that seemed to me to help make sense of what was going on in our society. Those stored papers helped provide a foundation for 'The Road to Corbyn' (2016). Fortunately, this Guardian piece on Penzance must have been one of the last ones saved and now, not before time, recirculated in cyberspace.

  3. To add to this discussion. I do not think that any civilised society should have or need food banks. All should have the dignity of being able to buy their own food, pay their rent and heat their homes through adequate wages with a fail safe of entitlement from government support.