Poverty UK, revisited…



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.


9 thoughts on “Poverty UK, revisited…

  1. This week I took a group of students to a food bank in Cardiff. Great people with incredible stories. Take up has more than doubles in the last year. The Government says it is because Food Banks advertise better. The truth is in the eyes of hungry people who walk miles to pick up some free bags of food in one of the richest countries on the planet.

  2. I read what you’re saying, and I am angry, but also frustrated at knowing what I can do (outside of my job, where I see the fallout of social changes). Apart from exercising my vote and supporting some of my friends financially, I wonder if there is anything else I could/should be doing?

  3. From “Other” by Kester Brewin (pg 201):

    “Poverty is a global problem which will require our generous hospitality if it is to be solved, but we mus have as rich and broad a view of poverty as Jesus himself did, seeing the aching poverty in the wealthy tax collector and the empty religion of the Pharisees as well as the hungry mouths of the crowd. His solution was not for the markets to be dismantled… but for them to be removed from the places where generosity should be the governing economic…”

    From a personal point of view, I decided some time ago to not pray for anything where I wasn’t prepared, physically, to be the answer to that prayer. Perhaps that is dodgy theology but stops me guiltily praying for lots and lots of stuff that is removed from me and focuses the midn, body and soul on the people and situations around me.

    Perhaps some are called to change the world, perhaps some are called to bring change through policy and policy-makers, but I think I am a “little person” called to love the person in front of me, to see the poverty (in spirit and material sense) and try to meet that need as best I can. Not to mention the poverty within my self.

    Unfortunately my examples of letting “my light shine, so that all can see of the goodness of the Father” are somewhat limited. But I am work in progress…

    • What a lovely comment Sam! I love the work of some of the Catholic writers on community- Nouwen and Vanier who epmphasis our smallness, our brokenness, our constant need to go to the other. I too am someone who is learning about this, if painfully slowly in my case.

      Thanks very much for plugging me in again to that stream of grace…

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