A UNIVERSITY lecturer has recalled what it was like growing up hungry in a cold house and how poverty can have a life-long effect.

Dr Amy Pearson, a senior lecturer in psychology at Sunderland University, spoke as footballer Marcus Rashford continues his campaign to end child food poverty, with the crisis deepening.

Dr Pearson said: “The effects of poverty in early childhood are well established, and show that early deprivation impacts on brain development and long term educational outcomes for children living below the breadline.

“Children living in poverty struggle more with working memory - important for remembering things like instructions from a teacher, and focussed attention - needed to concentrate on school work, and are less likely to attain the same grades as those from higher socio-economic households."

“Since the announcement of the ‘End Child Poverty 2020’ strategy, numbers of children living in poverty have only increased, with the gap between minimum wage, and basic living costs growing greater every year.

“The experience of growing up in poverty has a life-long effect, and is difficult to forget when discussions of whether to increase support for families living in poverty, is controversial.

She added: “As a child I was acutely aware of how much electricity and gas we had left and whether we would have to wear a hat and gloves in the house to stay warm, or how many nights we’d be eating beans on toast for dinner.

“I remember what it was like growing up hungry, in a cold house, and my mam trying her best to make things work.

“The suggestion that parents just need to try harder and be responsible is grounded in the idea that poverty only happens to those who do not work hard enough to avoid it, and ignores the years of stagnating wages, rising living costs, and lack of economic growth.

“It is particularly galling when academics are accused of being out of touch with public issues, an ignorance towards the many of us that grew up in deprived areas, deprived homes, and were lucky enough to receive financial support that allowed us to pursue higher education.

“It is the double-edged sword of working in a sector that has historically been a pursuit of those from wealthy backgrounds.

"You feel alien in a cohort of people familiar with ‘holidays in the South of France’, but somehow you’re also now one of the "liberal elite" who doesn’t understand the needs of "ordinary working class people".”

Dr Pearson graduated with a BSc in Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Nottingham in 2009, followed by a Masters in Cognitive Neuroscience in 2010 and a PhD in Autism research in 2014.