Monday, 7 November 2016

We need to fight poverty not waste time squabbling over Brexit.

However cynical you think you’ve become there will always be one story that brings you up short and acts as a welcome reminder that you can still be shocked, I came across just such a story last week.

Newcastle based Alice Charity has 88 families on its books waiting for a bed and 24 where a baby is waiting for a cot. Until these arrive children and parents in the families concerned will be sharing beds and some children may have to sleep on the floor.

The charity works with families in the Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle area who are struggling to cope, providing emotional support along with practical help with budgeting and accessing services.

Fund raising manager Sam Warrilow told the Sentinel last week their role was to help families ‘work out if there is a better way for them to spend their money until they are able to manage without our support.’

She added that they often had families on a waiting list for beds to be donated, but recently the number had risen sharply, this has been linked to figured published recently showing that 25% of families in Stoke and 17% in Newcastle were classed as having low incomes.

The appeal launched by the charity has been supported by several local businesses.

It is hard to credit that such a situation could exist in the Britain of 2016, the go-ahead country populated by hipsters where everyone is fixated on who will win Strictly we imagine ourselves to be; and yet it does.

The shock value of children having to sleep on the floor because they haven’t got a bed makes the news, but poverty, like an iceberg, is nine tenths submerged.
You can catch a glimpse of what is really there in the sad little paragraphs at the edge of the page in any local newspaper, sketches of people brought before the courts for stealing food that belong to Dickensian times; not the digital age.

Everyone knows about poverty and the bitter inequality of our society, but nobody ever talks about it. It is that angry elephant wrecking the drawing room of an ignorance in which we are aided and abetted by the media.

The political class mostly ignore the problem, preferring instead to engage in their favorite pastime of arguing about what, if anything Brexit means.

A media that has dumbed itself down to the point of idiocy helps them by typing judges who ruled that parliament should be allowed to debate how we negotiate our exit from the EU as ‘enemies of the people.’

When the issue of inequality is discussed it is usually through the repetition of hackneyed ideas, what we need is the return of grammar schools, because after all telling most kids they’re failures at the age of eleven is an excellent way to motivate them; not.

Anyway in the brave new world just around the corner we’re all going to drive for Uber or do some other job in the ‘gig economy’ so sparkly and new it hasn’t even been invented yet.
This ignores the fact that to make anything like a living in that sort of situation you have to start with the backing that comes from having inherited money behind you. If you don’t have that then the brave new world rapidly turns into a nightmare of stress and uncertainty.

Add to that the benefits cap and the simmering discontent stirred up by media rhetoric about ‘strivers’ and ‘skivers’ and you have an unwisely ignored problem wired to a ticking time-bomb.

Brexit is no doubt one of the major political issues of our time, but it is only one battle not the war the media make it out to be and so has only a limited influence of wider events.

The real fight is against poverty and it is one we must win; if we don’t the consequences could be disastrous.

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