The Bedrooms of London project was created in response to the current social housing crisis and the damaging effect this has children across the capital. School-Home Support (SHS) and The Childhood Trust joined forces to highlight the impact of poverty and poor housing on London’s children.
The exhibition itself presents photographs of children’s bedrooms, or in some instances just the spaces that they sleep, alongside first-hand narratives from families and children. The images, taken by photographer Katie Wilson, offer a rare and poignant insight into the lives of an estimated 700,000 children currently living below the poverty line across London.
London has the highest rates of child poverty in the country – 37% of all children in London. 
Across the UK, 9 children in a class of 30 are living in poverty. That’s 4.1 million children*. 
Having worked with The Childhood Trust on this project, we wanted to make the most of the unique insight Bedrooms of London brings to the urgent issue of rising child poverty. So we welcomed guests to two private viewings at the Foundling Museum over April 2019. Supporters, corporate partners and friends of SHS were given space to quietly explore and reflect on these extremely touching stories.
The exhibition, which saw photographs of the bedrooms alongside first-hand accounts from families, also provided a powerful backdrop for a series of poignant talks.
Laurence Guinness, Chief Executive of The Childhood Trust, spoke about children affected by poverty, the blight of temporary accommodation, and the dignity of families involved in the project who were all focused on action and change.
Kim Steward, Economic Well-being Coordinator at School-Home Support, talked about the impact living conditions have on children’s education and the work our practitioners do to support families:
“The children living in these conditions have to be educated like everyone else, but they’re stressed to the max, tired, unsettled, embarrassed, they’ve no place to play. It’s our job to make sure teachers understand what’s going on and how to support these families.
“We have parents who tell us: ‘I’ve been trying to get through to someone about my housing issue all year. Since SHS came along, things have actually changed!’ We are committed to helping families out of unsafe, uninhabitable living situations.”
SHS Patron and HM Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, Sir Kenneth Olisa commented:
“We can’t be blinded to these photos and stories and facts. No child anywhere on the planet should have to live like this – and certainly not in this great capital city.”
Victoria Jarmen, an SHS supporter from our corporate partner Chaucer, also attended the events we hosted and was deeply moved:
“Poverty within our wealthy city is often hidden and therefore not talked about. The Bedrooms of London exhibition provides a unique insight into the lives of some of those vulnerable families that SHS work with. The photographs and accompanying stories are extremely powerful in showing the conditions that some children live in and highlights how vital the services that SHS provides are.”
There is a 27% gap between children who receive free school meals and their wealthier peers achieving 5 A*-C grades at GCSE.
Research shows around 80% of the difference in how well children do at school depends on what happens outside the school gates. 
What we’re doing to support families facing these issues…
SHS has been working with The Worshipful Company of International Bankers for almost two years, to equip our frontline staff (SHS Practitioners) with the resources they need to support vulnerable families. Crucially, we have been able to develop the Economic Well-being Toolkit, which is packed with information on combatting poverty, improving economic well-being, and increasing financial literacy. Continued support and commitment from The Worshipful Company of International Bankers means we can update information regularly and keep the toolkit relevant. It’s a vital part of the armoury SHS Practitioners need as they support some of the most deprived children and families with increasingly complex housing and welfare issues.
Valuable recent updates include:
- Discretionary Housing Payment for people who have been impacted by welfare reforms
- 2019 rates for child benefits and disability living allowance
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Information surrounding free school meals and how to claim.
A big thank you to The Worshipful Company of International Bankers for their ongoing commitment.
Here is a snapshot of other things we’ve been doing to support families experiencing poverty and insecure housing:
- Last year, the SHS Welfare Fund spent £23,795 providing emergency support for 235 struggling families
- Through support from SHS…
- …74% of parents improved engagement in their child’s learning
- …75% of parents improved their engagement with their child’s school
- Over two years, intensive support from an SHS practitioner results in an average attendance improvement of 24.4%
- Where there was a problem, 78% of children improved their engagement in learning.
Want to find out more about the Bedrooms of London exhibition?
- BBC News
- Sky News
- Bedrooms of London Report (featuring a testimonial from Kim Steward SHS Economic Wellbeing Coordinator on p.40)