Get Fair on UK Poverty

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The UK has got a lot richer over the last twenty years – we are the world’s fifth richest country – but not fairer. Inequality has risen, and 12.8 million Brits live in poverty (30% of children, and 17% of older folk). That’s the message of Get Fair – a national campaign calling for an end to poverty in the UK by 2020.

The coalition now consists of more than 50 organizations. They work on poverty right across society, including among children, older people, refugees, and the disabled. Get Fair includes housing groups, as well as faith and community groups.

Two at least of their recommendations could help Britain dig itself out the recession, namely invest £4bn measures to halve child poverty by 2010 and improve the take-up of existing benefits (they estimate that this would help 500,000 pensioners out of poverty).

On 4 October, Britain’s biggest ever event to end child poverty was held in Trafalgar Square, London, organized by End Child Poverty. And Poverty Action Week takes place 31 January to 8 February 2009, organized by Church Action on Poverty.

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5 Responses to “Get Fair on UK Poverty”

  1. JohnDemetriou Says:

    I fail to see how throwing money at this problem can solve it. Cash handouts can’t solve poverty, the actions of individuals can.

    The fact that there are so many childrenin poverty speaks volumes about their parents and the choices they make. Because there is no feasible excuse for poverty in our welfare state.

    Or, could it be that the welfare state encourages poverty by keeping people stuck in a rut of dependency and lack of self respect?

    http://boatangdemetriou.wordpress.com/

  2. Wendy Says:

    Hi,

    I found your blog really inspirational. I hope everyone joins our effort to fight poverty. The Save the Children organization is similar to you in that they are on a mission to help those less fortunate around the world.
    I wanted to let you know about the More than Footprints campaign Trip Advisor is running to give away $1 million to five great causes, including Save the Children. Trip Advisor developed the campaign to give to organizations that are doing amazing work to help our planet and people around the world. The five causes were chosen by Trip Advisor members, and they are all fantastic! Money is rewarded to the 5 charities through votes.

    I am particularly enthusiastic about Save the Children because I love kids believe in their mission in working together to help needy children in the United States and around the world through healthcare and education.

    Will you write about this amazing campaign, and encourage people to vote for Save the Children! Please post the link to vote: :
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Causes-STC?m=11507

    I will be blogging about the campaign through a Trip Advisor site (http://morethanfootprints.typepad.com/votesavethechildren/) and I would be happy to post about your blog as well. Please let me know if you would like more information and I’ll keep you updated on the voting progress!

    Thanks so much,
    Wendy Huang

  3. vinnyp Says:

    JohnDemetriou, let’s get a few things straight. Over half (57%) of all households classified as being in poverty in the UK have at least one person in work. A half of children in child poverty live in households where at least one person works. What does this say about the choices these households make? What volumes are being spoken about the working parents of these children? In these cases it is predominantly a lack of decent and sustainable employment that leads to poverty rather than benefit dependency. These working households are fulfilling their responsibilities to society, they are paying taxes and yet they still find themselves living in poverty. I suppose you were thinking about ‘the poor’ who are on benefits, the easy targets for those wishing to lambast the poor. However, for many households on benefits it makes rational economic sense to remain on benefits rather than enter the low wage labour force because of the high marginal tax rates involved when moving from welfare to work. To you this probably suggests that benefit levels are too generous; to me this suggests that work for those at the lower end of the labour market is undervalued as over the last few decades it has been restructured by market forces in such a way that makes it more difficult for workers to make ends meet. Here I am not just thinking about wages but the entire employment relationship (the changing temporalities of work, the decline of internal labour markets, the increased use of outsourcing etc.) which has been re-regulated so that many individuals have the unenviable option of either entering the post-industrial sludge of poorly paid service employment or remaining on benefits. What a choice! Yes there will always be those families who don’t want to play ball and who don’t and won’t work but to suggest these families are representative of anything more than a media imaginary of poverty is just not correct. It is also very dangerous as by concentrating on headline problem families and labelling all the poor as work shy and feckless misses the wider structural causes of poverty. But then again maybe that’s what those who propagate such views want as it masks the failures of employers and the state as regulator by laying the blame solely at the door of individuals. It is very easy to blame the victim and treat the poor as homogenous but it takes a lot more work to understand the true causes of poverty and suggest possible policy solutions. For example, we must understand why some households are workless (and in many cases it is much messier than they simply can’t be bothered) and help them back into work as a first step. If we stop there though we will be merely moving the poverty stats around from out of work to in-work poverty and that is hardly progress! Welfare and work are two sides of the same coin, which must be tackled simultaneously by encouraging welfare recipients into work whilst at the same time ensuring the creation of more decent and sustainable employment. This will mean that workers don’t just get by but have the opportunities to get on. This includes improved income from a higher minimum wage (or living wage style legislation where appropriate) and/or improvements to the Working Tax Credits system (by the way John its not a handout as you suggest it’s a credit paid to some low wage workers in an attempt to bridge the gap between low wages and living costs as the government attempts to ‘make work pay’ – its not the workers fault their employers don’t pay enough!). However, it should also go beyond income to look at other employment issues such as in-work training, the provision of sick pay etc. As poverty is multi-dimensional and employment can’t solve everything it’s also important to consider extra-employment issues such as the provision of decent and affordable housing and the provision of local services to tackle poverty in the UK. If we fail to do this and instead continue to simply blame individuals, poverty will continue to deepen and widen in the UK and that is something for which we will all ultimately pay – just take a look at the work produced this week by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the societal costs of child poverty. Poverty is a multi-dimensional experience with a multitude of causal factors and a plethora of possible policy responses. Whilst I focus here predominantly on the welfare-employment nexus in a very brief and simplified way it highlights how simplistic, dangerous and, ultimately, wrong the ‘blame the poor for their poverty’ approach is. I am not trying to convert you, just to make you realise that things aren’t as black and white as you suggest.

  4. James Kitchen Says:

    Recent results from the OECD show that since 2000, income inequality and poverty have actually fallen faster in the United Kingdom than in any other OECD country. However, the gap between the rich and poor is still greater in the UK than in three quarters of OECD countries.

  5. Tony Addison Says:

    Thanks to all contributors to this post. We’ll try and take a closer look at the OECD study. I wonder what the impact of the deepening UK recession will be?

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