When I wrote about a small yet brilliant BBC3 documentary last week I wasn’t prepared for the amount of feedback that I would get but indeed my Growing Up Poor review garnered more comments than any other I have written for this site. Though some of you thought the documentary was an attack on our current government most of you voiced your concern for the three girls featured in the programme namely the courageous Scottish teenage Shelby who’d almost become completely independent at the tender age of seventeen. This week’s second part of the Growing Up Poor strand switches focus to lads who, for the most part, are slightly older than the girls featured last week though I found that all three shared characteristics with their female counterparts.
For example I found that eighteen year old Rotherham lad Craig had a lot in common with Bridie as both were plucky northern teens who had anger issues and were unsure about what to do with their futures. Unlike Bridie, Craig still lived at home and was supported by his mother however things were about to change as she’d recently lost her job and had to sell the house that they’d lived in since he was young.
We got a measure of his anger problems when he took us on a tour of his room and we discovered that he’d once punched a hole in it when he was upset. In addition we learn that Craig is currently studying a sports course at a local college for which he is paid £10 and gets a free bus pass while he also doesn’t want to claim benefits as he thinks they’re only for losers like his estranged father. As the documentary rolls on however Craig realises he has to swallow his pride and start claiming JSA as he has little other choice after his mum leaves him in the house on his own. As he comes to terms with the fact that he has to leave the house and thoughts turn to his future and more importantly where he’s going to stay. Craig’s training is in welding however we are lead to believe that there are few opportunities for welders in the local area so in the end he relents and decides to sign up to the army. As he and best friend Chink head off to the army recruitment office they learn that it isn’t as easy as it once was to join up as there’s been a major cutback in the numbers of young men that the army can take on. Once again here Tim Lawton takes one of many shots at the government by highlighting that many lads like Craig and Chink need to be able to join the army otherwise they’d just drift around their local community not doing much. As we learnt at the end of the programme Craig is currently waiting to hear if he can sign up to the army and I really hope that he can.
I could also draw a comparison between Amber from last week and Birmingham boy Wes in that they’re both young parents with the latter trying to be more responsible so he can be a good role model for his son. Wes talks about when he discovered that he was to be a father and he’d resolved to stay around to help out rather than completely abandon him and this was mainly down to the fact that Wes never knew who is real dad was. Like with Craig, Wes’ main issue is getting a job and trying to break out of the pattern that his particular council estate has got him into as most days involving him sitting on a wall, singing with his friends and indulging in the odd naughty cigarette. As Wes is constantly hassled by his son Rowan’s mother to contribute he endeavours to get a job and starts by getting a voluntary job. As time goes on Rowan’s mother and her friends get new respect from Wes who claims he wants to achieve something which is hard when you’re a young father. Thankfully by the end of the documentary Wes has been given a chance to earn some money by getting three weeks’ work teaching youngsters how to play football. It is evident that Wes completely loves interacting with these kids and obviously the logical step would be to get a qualification in football coaching I think this is easier said than done. Wes does claim that he knows how to go about getting a job coaching in various academies we learn at the end of the programme that Wes is still looking for a permanent job.
Our final young lad this week is Frankie who has tons of ambition and wants to better himself in a number of ways so to an extent I would compare him to Shelby even though he’s nowhere near as independent as she is. That’s primarily because Frankie still lives with his mother in a three bedroom house that has to sleep five people, this means the family have no front room, while they are all dependent on the benefits she collects every week.
Thankfully Frankie aspires to leave home one day and be the first member of his family to go to university with his wish to be a successful game design after developing a passion for it during a college course. As Frankie obviously needs some cash to attend university he sets about trying to get himself a job which on one hand shouldn’t be an issue as he has built up an impressive CV full of voluntary work. However Frankie has a black mark against his name due to the fact that he served two years at a Young Offenders’ Institute after being involved in the robbery of a mobile phone that resulted in the victim being seriously injured. As we see Frankie visiting friends at the Institute he talks about how boring his life was there and how he regrets being dragged into a life of crime. There is a silver lining for Frankie though as one of his old bosses from his volunteering days has recommended him to an employer in the West End who interviews him for a job handing out fliers. The only issue here is that Frankie has never entered a club before so would struggle to find an audience but despite this he beats out sixteen other people for the job. Taking a little time off from work, Frankie visits Bournemouth University where his potential lecturer informs him that it would be pretty hard to get a part-time job and keep up with the workload as he’d have to put 44 hours a week into the game design course. As Frankie struggles to work out how he could afford the £27,000 fees he comes up with an idea to make friends with a rich person as they’d love to have a mate like him. There’s more bad news for Frankie when he has to give up his night time job has it impacts on his college course and therefore the prospect of university seems less likely. Once again Frankie’s story highlights a serious issue namely that the increase in student fees means people from poor backgrounds are less and less likely to go to university and as Frankie rightfully notes universities are for rich people and not for those who were born into nothing.
While I didn’t personally think that this instalment of Growing Up Poor was as powerful as last week’s there was still a lot to like about the three lads featured. It appeared as if Craig, Frankie and Wes all wanted to better themselves even if it was different reasons. Craig’s motives for joining the army were so he didn’t end up in a go-nowhere spiral, similarly Wes wanted to be a positive role model for his son and Frankie had a definite life plan in place which involved him going to university. I also found this week’s instalment had a much more political underpinning as the goals of all three were impacted by various government decisions whether it be to cut back on army recruitment or the rise in student fees all three of these young lads were given more obstacles than those in the previous generation. Ultimately both of these fascinating films highlight that not all young people are delinquents and some really want to do something with their lives however there are so many stumbling blocks put in front of them that they are much less likely to succeed than those from more privileged backgrounds.
What did you think to this episode of Growing Up Poor? Did you enjoy it as much as last week’s? Leave Your Comments Below.