Smashing Kids

“Tonight, more than two million parents will go to bed hungry in order to give their children something to eat… for the first time since the Great Depression, Britain – the so-called Welfare State – is deliberately cutting back the means of survival of its poorest, and their children.”

Children growing up in poverty is the subject of Smashing Kids, 1975. John Pilger meets the Hopwoods, of Liverpool, where hunger has become a way of life during father Harry’s unemployment as his family of five survive on £1 a day. The wallpaper in their council house is torn and there are no clothes in the couple’s wardrobe and no sheets on their bed. The family have never had a holiday and Harry tells Pilger: “It would be easier to serve time than to put up with this.”

Frank Field, director of the Child Poverty Action Group and later a Labour MP, says benefits from the unemployed are falling in real terms and many families struggle to feed their children. 

The Brunsdens, of Hackney, east London, are one of these and have just been served with notice to quit their council house for not paying rent. Mother Irene shockingly tells Pilger that she would have to resort to prostitution “if my baby really, really needed something to eat and I didn’t have a penny”. Another mother says she does not mark her younger children’s birthdays because “they’re too young to know anyway”. 

Pilger points out that the current Labour government’s planned increases in social benefits will be wiped out by inflation, “imposing a direct threat to the survival of the growing number of the poor”.

Smashing Kids, 1975 (Pilger, ATV), ITV, 14 August 1975

Producer-director: John Ingram (26 mins)

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The John Pilger archive is held at the British Library