image from The Guardian
There have been a series of stories in the press over the past few months, setting an agenda that goes something like this;
Austerity is necessary, we all need to pull in our belts for the sake of the nation
Poverty is avoidable if you work hard. Only those who are lazy live in poverty
We can not afford to continue to pay benefits to scroungers
It is the working ‘squeezed middle’ we need to feel sorry for- those people whose taxes are being used to buy easy lifestyles to people on benefits
This blame the poor attitude is pervasive and seems to play remarkably well- giving us someone to blame, easy scapegoats for the economic woes that assail the nation. Never mind the facts.
We already know that the rich are getting richer.
And that a third of the workforce have held on to their jobs through accepting pay cuts, in a manner unprecedented.
Today, we hear that an extra one million people are now regarded as living in poverty in the UK, including 300,000 children- this from the governments own stats.
One strange stat however is that most of these new children who live in poverty come from working households. All those benefits cuts to council tax benefit, housing benefit, etc, squeezed wages. This from the Guardian says it all;
Oxfam’s Katherine Trebeck said: “It is unacceptable that in the seventh richest country on the planet, we’ve seen the number of people living in poverty increase by nearly a million. With cuts to public services and social security in the pipeline, the number of people living on absolute low incomes will only increase over the years.”
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Despite all the talk about ‘scroungers’ and generations of families never working, today’s poverty figures expose comprehensively the myth that the main cause of poverty is people choosing not to work. The truth is that for a growing number of families, work isn’t working. The promise that work would be a route out of poverty has not been kept as wages stagnate and spending cuts have hurt low-income working families.”
Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: “This year many of these households will be pushed into financial chaos when the cap on benefits increases take effect, compromising the health and life chances of children as they are forced to grow up in poverty.”
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said: “It is shameful that, as one of the richest countries in the world, child poverty is being allowed to increase.”
All these charities are working at the cutting edge of poverty in the UK. The so called ‘squeezed middle’- those of us who might be forced to alter one or two consumer decisions as a result of cut backs- we rarely come into contact with this kind of poverty.
Angry? We should be.
Decisions taken by our present government are not victimless.