As a single mother to three children, Skye Walker makes the money she earns from her cleaning jobs stretch as far as possible.
Once bills are covered, struggling Skye has just £170 a week leftover to support herself and her brood, and constantly keeps her eyes peeled for free activities around Lewisham to help keep Kareem, Ashani and Riahiema entertained.
But the family were given a taste of a ‘no stress’ lifestyle, after swapping homes – and budgets – with a wealthy Bromley family who can splash more in a day than Skye spends in a week, for the Channel 5 show Rich House Poor House.
Skye and her family enjoyed swimming lessons in the Sethard-Wrights’ indoor pool at their £4million mansion, and the children did their homework on a brand new computer and were given private tuition in maths.
Meanwhile businesswoman Belinda Sethard-Wright, 46, whose husband Matt, 47, works in finance, found herself panicking after her usual £1,600 per week household budget was swapped for Skye’s £170, and she realised they’d run out of money by Friday.
The ‘eye opening’ experience saw Skye resolve to start her own business in a bid to give her children a ‘happier life’, while an emotional Belinda revealed how a taste of a straitened lifestyle left her with a ‘hollow hole’ in her chest – and declared her Lewisham counterpart a ‘wonder woman’ for her ability to make things work.
Skye Walker, a cleaner from Lewisham, London, feeds her family of four on just £170 a week. She took part in Rich House Poor House to show her children what they could have if they work hard at school
Rich House Poor House sees a family in the lowest 10 per cent of earners in the UK swap lives with a family in the highest 10 per cent – and challenges both to consider whether money really can buy happiness.
Belinda grew up on a council estate, and told FEMAIL she decided to take part in the TV experiment to make her children aware of how privileged they are.
Meanwhile Skye said she took part to show her children what’s possible ‘if they put their heads in their books, and get the A-levels I want them to get’.
Skye said the experience left her convinced that money actually can make you happy, and inspired to improve her family’s living situation.
‘My main goal about money is to basically to get a house. I want my own house. I was homeless, and I’ve been [dependent] on food banks, and it’s not nice,’ she said.
Belinda and Matt Sethard-Wright both come from humble beginnings but now live in a £4 million home just outside of Bromley, Kent. They have a weekly budget of £1,600 and send their two children to private school
‘I would really love to get a nice house. If my friends or any family member [find themselves] homeless, at least I’ve got enough space for them to be with me. Money can make you happy, it can’t keep you company, but it can make you happy.’
It was seeing the kids’ faces, seeing them being kids again. Where I live, they can’t play in the garden and have fun, and just be kids.
While living in the Bromley mansion, Skye gave her children opportunities the family typically could never stretch to; including private maths tuition and a computer to do homework on.
The family also enjoyed private swimming lessons in their own indoor pool at the Sethard-Wrights’ mansion, and hit the shops, where Skye treated herself to a new handbag.
Skye said: ‘It was seeing the kids’ faces, seeing them being kids again. Where I live, they can’t play in the garden and have fun, and just be kids. If they make a certain noise in the house, the neighbours are complaining
The Bromley mansion had its own indoor pool, a tennis court, gym and a disco room. The Walkers relished the experience and had private swimming lessons
‘Where we stayed, the kids could run up and down, have a laugh, play their music, there was no one to tell them to turn it down. The kids were just kids, and that was lovely, they were having a whale of a time.’
Half an hour away in Skye’s housing association home in Lewisham, the Sethard-Wrights struggled to stick to their new straitened budget.
Mum Belinda, who runs her own design company, spent £95 on the weekly shop, around half of what she normally spends when ordering groceries online, and was forced to scratch her and her husband’s wine off the shopping list altogether.
Belinda and husband Matt, who works in finance, live in a home worth £4million, but in Lewisham Belinda struggles to keep the electricity meter and gas key topped up, and becomes visibly upset upon realising she’s running out of money as the end of the week approaches.
Belinda says on the show: ‘There’s this cold hollow hole in the middle of my chest… I normally feel quite relaxed on a Friday night and I’m suppressing this need to want to cry. I’m going home but this is genuine for a lot of people.’
Matt and Belle said they had a lot of respect for how hard Skye works to look after and budget for her children
The family were able to save £10 for the end of the week so their children Olivia and Theo could attend a street dance class at the weekend.
They made it through the week by eating leftovers from the fridge, and swapped their usual generous meals for suppers of beans on toast.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Belinda said: ‘Money doesn’t buy you happiness, because we were still happy during the week that we lived in Skye’s situation… because [happiness is] about love and care and trust and honesty, and all the things that come from within.
‘But I think money buys you opportunities, it gives you choices, greater choices, and the chance to network in a way that you might not be able to do in a far less privileged situation.
‘I just think that Skye is Wonder Woman, I felt so much pride for someone I hadn’t even met.’
Rich House Poor House airs Thursday at 9pm on Channel 5.