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Deprived children in Brighton who have never been to the beach
Scores of neglected children trapped on deprived council estates have never been taken to the seaside – despite living within half a mile of the beach.
Many are now visiting the sea for the first time as concerned charity workers offer them free trips to see the outside world.
Community leaders blamed the economic downturn and said many children from poor families were suffering from generations of neglect.
Lynn Bennett, the chair of the Whitehawk Manor Farm South residents’ association, said many children on the estate had never been to the sea even though some live just 600 metres away.
To tackle the problem, she regularly takes groups of children down to visit Brighton beach for the first time.
She said: “Many of the kids think there’s going to be sand there because they’ve seen exotic beaches on TV. They’re sometimes quite disappointed when they see the pebbles.
Recently I had an 11-year-old boy whose parents just weren’t interested. I couldn’t believe it when I found out he’d never been to the beachLynn Bennett, chair of the Whitehawk Manor Farm South residents
“Recently I had an 11-year-old boy whose parents just weren’t interested. I couldn’t believe it when I found out he’d never been to the beach.”
Mrs Bennett said many parents in Whitehawk had never been taken to the beach themselves as children.
She said: “Many of these people come from families where the beach has just never been a part of their life.
"If they were never taken down there as kids then they’re not going to encourage their own kids to go there either.”
Anne Bickmore is the founder of the ABC Fund, a charity that takes disadvantaged children in Brighton and Hove out on day trips.
She said many of the children she meets have never been to the beach or the pier.
She said: “It’s very sad and it’s neglect really. A lot of it is related to poverty.
“I talked to a local school about this problem and they were so shocked they donated money to our charity.
“Many of the parents were never taken to the seaside themselves so they don’t see why their children should.”
Mrs Bickmore said the problem appeared to be getting worse due to the economic downturn because there was increasing demand for day trips for deprived children.
Many council estate residents said they were not surprised by the news.
Carol Doughty, 46, who has lived on the Whitehawk estate for 30 years, said: “None of the kids seem to play out anymore.
“They all seem to be stuck indoors playing on their computers. I doubt they even care about not going.
“When I was young we used to go out and have picnics but none of the parents here seem to want to do that anymore.”
Zoe Hine, 39, from Whitehawk, said she takes her daughter Phoebe,to the beach almost every day.
She said: “It’s surprising because a lot of people here don’t work and you’d think they’d spend all their time on the beach.
“It’s true that there are bad parents here - but that’s the same everywhere.
“Maybe a lot of people are struggling but I don’t think many people are neglecting their children.”
Other residents defended parents on their estate and said those that neglected their children were a tiny minority.
Mother-of-two Kim Ayling, 32, from Whitehawk, said: “I assume most children on the estate go to the beach but every estate has bad parents who don’t care about their children.
“It’s true that some kids are deprived but I do think that people here stick together.
“If someone thought a kid was being neglected they would do something about it.”
Daniel Weiner, the headmaster of Whitehawk Primary School, said he had “heard stories” of children who had never been taken to the seaside.
He said: “Unfortunately Whitehawk can be quite enclosed which can limit some children’s experiences. Children start reception at a significant disadvantage and a lot of children are playing catch up from the minute they join school.”
Councillor Warren Morgan, who represents Whitehawk on Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “There are hundreds of kids in the area so I’m sure it’s likely some haven’t been to the beach, whether that is down to personal choice, a preference for local parks or other social or economic factors.”
Fun in Action
l Anne McLaren is chief executive of Fun In Action, a charity that befriends young people in Brighton and Hove from disadvantaged families.
She said she meets “lot of kids” that have never been to the beach and gives them free trips to the seaside.
She said: “We had a boy from Moulsecoomb who we took to the sea for the first time. He screamed when the waves came in because he’d never seen them before. Many of the parents don’t feel that what is going on outside their area is really for them - so their kids rarely leave their estate.
“Other parents have got lots of kids and they are worried they haven’t got enough money to buy them all ice creams.”
Mrs McLaren said many families living on council estates had developed an “us and them” mentality towards the outside world.
She said: “The parents don’t feel confident enough to go down to the sea because they feel it’s not made for them.
“So their kids have very little expectations in life. But we want them to experience things that privileged kids take for granted.
"But unfortunately things are getting worse because of the downturn and we simply don’t have enough volunteers to cope with the demand.”
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