She’s the young girl who last year asked Boris Johnson: “It hurts when people at school laugh at me and say I’m poor. Do you care?”
Now 11-year-old Rose Melville, from Morecambe, Lancs, feels sure she knows the answer. She says: “I know the Prime Minister doesn’t care about kids like me. Lockdown made things even harder and he still won’t help.”
Mum Kerry, a shop worker, cannot afford to buy Rose packed lunches. restrictions She says: “Rose likes plain food without sauces or mayo. But now there’s hardly any hot food at school, so she’s going without.
“I have to make sure there’s a hot meal ready for Rose the minute she comes home. It’s expensive but I have to make sure she’s nourished.
“Hungry children are being penalised in lockdown. The kids suffer first and suffer most.”
Rose and Kerry appeared in Channel 4’s Growing Up Poor documentary at their local food club, where near expiry date food was sold for £2.50.
Restrictions mean they can no longer browse the food on offer and choose their preferences, but need to buy pre-picked bags at a drop off.
“It can’t be helped,” says Rose. “But it’s a shame because I used to like seeing my friends there and I only ever picked food I liked.
“Now we’re grateful to get any food from the club, and we know we have to eat it whether we like it or not.”
Rose, the youngest of Kerry’s six kids, stole Mirror readers’ hearts when she shared her delight at being given her mum’s five-year-old work shoes when she outgrew her school shoes.
Kerry’s application for an emergency loan to buy Rose new shoes was declined, so she repaired the soles of her own with glue and Rose declared them “perfect”.
Donations from Mirror readers helped ensure Rose got new shoes. Rose says: “My new shoes were £45 from Marks and Spencer and they were beautiful, with a strap going across the top. I polished them every evening. I’m two sizes bigger now.”
Kerry, 49, had to stop her 26-year career as a carer when her second eldest daughter Sarah was diagnosed with cancer in her lungs and given one year to live. Sarah fundraised for her own funeral so her mum wouldn’t worry.
But after she died in May 2018, Kerry was still mired in debt.
“I’m still behind with my bills,” says Kerry. “When I was furloughed, Rose and I worked hard in our garden and we grew courgettes, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower which helped stretch our meals. Although I try not to eat much.”
Single mum Kerry is trapped in a cycle of low pay. Under the current Universal Credit system, for every pound she earns over her £503-a-month take home pay, the Government deducts 63p.
“I didn’t feel safe going back to work because I had a heart attack five years ago and have asthma. But I had no choice.
“I’ve put the heating on, and although the house still feels cold we just have to cope. We’ve learned to cope.
“Rose is always by my side and she’s so sweet she rarely complains. I think she can sense when I’m sad but I work hard not to show it. But when I get down, I look at her innocence as she plays with toy horses and I’m perked up.
“We know we have to care for each other. I just wish our government cared as much.”