Poverty case histories

The father and his daughter, sleeping in a stable at Christmas

The Guardian, December 24 1990
Published on Christmas Eve

It was a bad night in Bethlehem when a couple of travelers found themselves forced by a housing crisis to sleep in a lowly cattle shed. Yet, on an ordinary night in England nearly two thousand years later, Jake Sudworth frequently has to do the same.

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Homeless in Brighton

The Guardian, May 25 1991

Brighton is a plump little town. In a survey last year, academics at Reading University analysed the wealth of all the major towns and cities of Europe and discovered that only 18 towns in the whole continent were richer than Brighton and that in the United Kingdom, there was none to match its wealth.

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The woman who robbed building societies

The Guardian, July 27 1991

It was a Tuesday morning. As soon as the bus stopped in the middle of Twickenham, she hurried out along the pavement with her bag on her arm, down towards the river, to the darkness of the ladies toilet there. The shops were full of people, most of them women, just like her.

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Death by fire - and privatisation

The Guardian, December 21 1992

Disconnection is a thing of the past. Ask any electricity company, and they'll tell you that in the new world of privatised electricity, no-one has to live in the dark and cold any more. If someone has trouble with a bill, they can have a pre-payment meter. Then they just pop down to the showroom, buy a token, push it into the meter and there it is - fuel without fear of debt. Just look at the...

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Portrait of a thief as a poor boy

The Guardian, January 2 1993

One day last summer, when Joey had been arrested yet again for yet another burglary, his solicitor went down to the police station to see him and he sat down opposite him in the interview room with all the graffiti on the wall, and he sighed and he asked him straight: "Joey, why do you do it?"

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Children for sale on the streets of UK cities

The Mail on Sunday magazine, November 21 1993

Scenes from a city. England, the autumn of 1993.  In a McDonald's hamburger bar, two boys sit at a table. Jamie is eleven; he is small and slim with blond hair, pale blue eyes and a face with the kind of impish innocence that makes old ladies want to pat him on the head. Luke is 13, chubby with pink puppy-fat cheeks and a chunky little body whose roundness is exaggerated by the padded red anorak...

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Murder among children

Options magazine, December 1 1993

Every evening in Watton is more or less the same. Around six, the children start to gather in the cafe in the High Street, sitting at the moulded plastic tables, pushing butt ends round the ash trays, until the cafe closes at seven and they move across the road to the pavement outside the Gateway supermarket, where they slump together in the doorway and watch the town go dark.

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The mother who lost all her children

The Guardian, January 19 1994

In the early hours of Monday morning, January 3, five small boys from Leeds were taken into care. They were brothers, aged between six months and six years, their mother was only 22, and they lived together in a council house which was said to be so dirty, so littered with dog mess, that police were physically sick at the smell and senior social workers compared it to a toilet.

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Dead England's hearse

The Guardian, March 10 1994

It is quiet in the graveyard. Away to the west, all Birmingham is on its way to work, the motorways are humming, the pavements are already choked with shoppers and on the radio they are wondering about the weather, but when the big, dark hearse rolls in through the heavy iron gates of Sutton Coldfield cemetery, there is silence.

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Death of an ordinary girl

The Guardian, May 14 1994

For most of her life, Natalie Pearman was a walking portrait of an ordinary girl. She lived with her four brothers and sisters and her cat called Lucy in a neat little council house on the edge of a peaceful village in Norfolk. She liked ballet and horses and watching Neighbours after tea, she was good at drawing and painting and she had the idea that when she grew up, she would like to go into...

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The thief who tried to change

The Guardian, December 1 1994

No one ever said it was going to be easy. Daniel had spent years getting in and out of trouble. He'd been thrown out of school without taking his exams, he'd fallen out with his parents, he'd started thieving for a living in Brixton, he had been taking drugs and then he'd got shot. So when, last summer, at the age of 18, he decided to change his whole life and go to college instead, he knew it was...

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The mother who lost all her children - follow-up

The Guardian, June 10 1995

It is nearly 18 months now since Tina Sampson was famous. In the early days of 1994, she was one of the notorious 'Home Alone mothers', who was said to have left her five small boys alone in a house so foul with dog mess and general filth that police officers were physically sick and social workers described it as a toilet. To a national chorus of approval, all five of her boys, aged between six...

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Women who are jailed for being poor

The Guardian, February 8 1996

It was early morning when they came to get her. She had just stumbled out of bed, heading for the kitchen, turning on the TV, calling out to the kids to make sure they were OK - Marie was only three but she had had a bad chest since she was born, and now the baby had picked up this stomach bug that wouldn't go away - and then the door bell rang.

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Punished for being poor

The Guardian, April 14 2004

For £400, Allan Seymour would stop breaking the law. He's been breaking it now for 34 years. He's been punished with fines, punished in the community, punished in prison. Everybody is always telling that him they're going to rehabilitate him - he's done all the courses. But here he is: 53 years old and up in court yet again. All for want of £400.

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