As the title suggests, Kimberley: Young Mum Ten Years On revisits its star, Kimberley, 10 years after she first hit the small screen as a teenager in the critically acclaimed documentary Fifteen.
If the earlier programme was all about a young girl hungry to make something of her life and not become a teenage mum like her own mother and sister, the sequel is all about a young woman resigned to never escaping the only sort of life she’s ever known.
The stark difference between Kimberley’s hopes for her life and the reality that unfolds is brought home by the interspersing of clips from past and present as she considers her lot.
Less than a year after the first film was shot, Kimberly became pregnant aged 16. She struggled to cope, and her son, Ciaran, was taken away from her and lives with his father’s family.
The new film opens as Kimberley dismisses the child protection register as “absolute bollocks”. Her second son, Harvey, was placed on the register as a baby after witnessing abuse between Kimberley and his dad, and the first half of the film focuses on the run-up to a case conference with social services to determine Harvey’s future.
Kimberley is determined not to lose another child, and desperate to prove she is a good enough mum. But she is a self-confessed angry person – and regularly loses her temper in front of the camera. She admits to “flipping out” in past case conferences and “smashing up the place” in frustration.
We never meet anyone from social services in person, but their actions are reported.
Kimberley is unsurprisingly no fan of social services, but to the impartial observer most of the social workers’ interventions and suggestions – including anger management and parenting classes – seem wholly logical and proportionate.
One of the most touching moments of the film is when Kimberley finds out that Harvey’s name is coming off the child protection register. She tells film-maker Daisy Asquith that the social work manager had told her she’d come a long way and was proud of her, and shook her hand.
These words and actions clearly made a big impression and, for a moment, Kimberley’s hard exterior softens.
The programme succeeds through its honesty. The result is a hard-hitting and depressing lesson in just how hard it is to break the cycle of deprivation.
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Kimberley: Young Mum Ten Years On was aired at 9pm on 23 April on Channel 4 and is available until 22 May at www.channel4.com
This article is published in the 30 April issue of Community Care under the heading History repeats itself