London has the highest rate of child poverty in the country, affecting the health and well-being of 37% of children in the capital. The Childhood Trust works tirelessly to find a solution to many of the problems young people face: by funding local projects, supporting volunteer programs, and advocating for disadvantaged children.
We sat down with Laurence Guinness, the Chief Executive of The Childhood Trust, to tell us more about the charity's incredible work to help support the lives of children affected by poverty in London. Plus, this Cyber Monday, just as in previous years, we're pledging to give 10% of all our sales today to the charity; helping to fund vital projects and give young people in our community hope for the future.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Laurence. Can you tell us a bit about The Childhood Trust and its mission?
The Childhood Trust is London’s leading child poverty charity and our mission is to alleviate the impact of poverty for children all over London. We’ve been going since 2013, and in that time we have generated £32 million for children all across the capital.
We have three main pillars to our work:
- Funding the delivery of practical and emotional support for over 150,000 children a year. Currently, we’re funding 179 projects in every borough across London.
- Research into the causes, consequences and issues around child poverty – working closely with children to provide them with a voice and media platform, to ensure that their voices are heard.
- The third pillar is our volunteering programs, such as delivering and cooking meals in community settings or our Decorate A Child’s Life program, which uses volunteers to transform squalid and dilapidated living conditions into spaces that children are proud of.
How are these projects and programs funded?
We have a very busy few weeks of campaigns coming up! The Christmas Challenge campaign launches tomorrow, where we’ll be working with 90 different charities aiming to reach £4 million in funds.
We’ve also launched On The Breadline Appeal today with The Evening Standard and The Independent: an appeal to Londoners to donate and support projects that are focused on children impacted by the cost of living crisis.
London is one of Europe’s richest cities – why is child poverty so prevalent in the capital?
London is quite unique. There are 700,000 children who live in relative poverty in London, predominantly due to extraordinarily high rent prices that have spiralled out of control in the housing crisis. Indeed after paying rent, many families across the capital find it difficult to stretch their income to cover all the other expenses: food, bills, clothes, and leisure. There are over 2 million people on waiting lists for council housing (which have controlled, reasonable rents) but there’s just not enough of them, and many of them have now been sold off to the private sector.
The circumstances that we’re in now with the cost of living crisis – with rapid inflation and with wages not keeping up with prices, or the fact that the disadvantaged suffered the most as a result of the pandemic – means there are a lot of factors contributing to the difficult situation.
Can you explain what environmental inequality is?
A lot of the work we’re doing stems from our belief that all children should have access to the beauty of the world. Many of these children have grown up in urban, concrete jungles – they have never had the opportunity to get out into the countryside and discover nature. To even see what a chicken or cow looks like! They suffer from environmental inequality. Children who live in some of these conditions really should have equal access to the countryside and clean air.
How does sustainability play into the work that you do?
We’re also very strong supporters of the circular economy and ensuring that nothing is wasted, repurposing and recycling perfectly usable items to those who need them most. That’s the reason we’re working with A LITTLE FIND. Globally, we produce an incredible amount of waste, and we’re cognizant of the environmental crisis and the part that we can play in ensuring this is minimised as much as possible.
Children from the lowest income brackets have the smallest carbon footprint, but they are simultaneously the ones who get the most punished by it. So it’s really about redistributing: addressing these inequalities by taking from where there is surplus and giving to places where there is not enough.
What are some of the biggest challenges the charity is facing?
It’s always a combination of not enough people or not enough funding – and one always begets the other. We have 70 projects on our waiting list, but only one person coordinating all the volunteers and doing referrals. We’re trying to scale it up but we’ll need about another £50k a year to double that capacity.
It’s been one thing after another. We’re doing incredible work and punching way above our weight in meeting children’s needs – but we can always do more. I’d like to double the Decorate a Child’s Life program, and we’re talking to funders and corporates to see how we could achieve that as I’m determined to expand the program next year.
What is the best way people can get involved?
Donations are absolutely essential. These help fund the delivery of projects and support children's basic needs – everything from hot meals to counselling sessions for those most vulnerable.
At the moment we’re only geared up to work with corporate volunteers, but hopefully when we’re bigger we’ll have the capacity to work with more of the public directly.
What’s the most rewarding part of being part of The Childhood Trust?
Every time I go to one of our projects and see the kids running around after school, laughing with their friends and conspiring to do whatever it is that 8 or 9 year olds do – every time I see that I feel rewarded. Childhood is such a precious time, and you only get to live it once. If you were to look back on your childhood and all you remember is feeling anxious, lonely and scared – well, that’s a really terrible childhood legacy for an adult to live with. These years will shape the lives of the future generations.