Poverty Amid Plenty

by Tam Burke, September 2017

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG),www.cpag.org.uk/scotland/, referred to the Scottish Government’s Report on Welfare Reform showing that 1 in 4 poor households lack enough warm clothes, are unable to afford school trips or have friends over for tea, and despite doing well at school grow up to be adults earning low pay. CPAG also show that in Britain, for 2014-15 (latest available figures) 28% of children are in poverty, almost 4 million in total. 67% of those kids have a parent in work! London has the highest amount of poor children.

 

Inflation is edging upwards towards 4%. CPAG expect that between 2010 to 2020 prices will rise by 35%, but Child beneifit will increase only by 2%! There’s effectively a freeze on Child Benefit. The parents’ choice for these kids is healthy feeding or warm clothes – not both. The poorest pay the most for basic essentials. They can’t afford to bulk buy. Fuel is expensive, more so using a pre-pay meter.

CPAG have provided a map of poverty rates for each Westminster parliamentary constituency. The rate is about 24% in each of North Edinburgh & Leith, East Edinburgh and South West Edinburgh, previously Labour seats but are now all SNP. SW Edinburgh had the Chancellor, Alastair, now Lord, Darling, organiser of the trillions of pounds bailout of the banks. That led to economic austerity and an average debt of nearly £20,000 each for everyone – from the Prime Minister, First Miniter, to down to Daniel Blake and each of the poorest kids and their parents.

Glasgow Central, with a 39% poverty rate, is the worst in Scotland. Birmingham Ladywood is the poorest in Britain at an incredible 47%.The poorest 17 constituencies all have 40% or more in poverty. There’s 3 three of these each in Birmingham and Manchester and seven in London. Kensington – the home of Roman Abramovich and Grenfell Tower – is listed at at rate of 30%.

Britain’s lowest povert rate is the 9% found in Gordon, the north east Scotland seat lost by Alex salmond, SNP, to the Tories; West Abedeen (also went Tory), has 10% and Maidenhead is 13%, where Theresa May is the MP.

In 2015/16 there were 4 million households below the Average Income figure, the highest number since 2009/10. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) thinks the 4 million will be nearly 5 million by 2020, just three years time. The IFS reckons that by then single parent families will be £2,800 a year worse off compared to now. Just to provide the basic, everyday needs will require these families to have an extra £262 per week compared with today. It’s expected they’ll only get £214 per week, a loss of £53 every single week. This is the real life experience of the hard squeeze on benifits, that’s the daily reality of the austerty that supposedly we’re all paying for together equally.

“…it’s a blight on the country” says Sam Royston, Chair of the End Poverty Coalition, which campaigns for an end to the freeze on all benifits as a crucial first step. With 13 million people from all over Britain dependant on beneifits, half of them with families where someone is working, there sure is as he says an “urgent need for a new and more effective story to change how the public understands poverty and gain the support for actiom needed for Social and Political change.” But in our capitalist country it’s Profits before people, always.

The pro-independance and left wing Common Weal (CW) research group are promoting their ideas for discussion under the title Social Security For All of Us – An Independant Scotland as a Modern Welfare Stae. The basis of this sweeping reform is a Universal Basic Income (UBI); a Job Guarantee Scheme (JGS) and Negative Income Tax. We’ll report further on the discussion of the proposals, but the one local CW meeting on it was welcoming, optimistic and encouraged everyone to speak up with their views.

Fairness of treatment to provide a decent level of benefit, an end to vindictive treatment by the Government to force people off welfare help, even if unwell, is CW’s aim. The hounding of benefit claiments under the present punative and callous system was graphically shown in Ken Loache’s film I, Daniel Blake. Only the stoney hearted could watch it without shedding a tear of sympathy or anger. A future edition of Revolution will report on one claimant’s sucess against the odds for their benefits, and the key importance of strength in unity, campaiging to-gether.

The Department of Work and Pensions DWP) estimate that 19% to 23% of families due help are not claiming means tested benefits. That’s a scadal and it seems to be left to unofficial welfare advice groups to make sure peole get their due to make ends meet. This contrasts with that of those with ready access to funds, who have the know how and business connections to get the resources to turn a profit at workers’ expence. They can afford to employ accountants and lawyers to save them tax, thus avoid paying for public services without breaking any rules. There is benifit fraud, but four or five times the amount is lost through tax dodging that the Goverment appears to ignore as there’s not enough Tax Depatment staff to stop it – or in some cases due to outright corruption.

We support every reform and attempt to lift workers’ living standards, whether through welfare benefits, higher wages or the necessary public spending for peaceful services like health, housing, education, transport, the arts. To end poverty requires control of the economy, democratically planned,a socialit society. The banks and financial instituations that hoard and control all the wealth should be expropriated and should be put under workers control and management. Then we could use society’s vast resources in a coordinated effort to eradicate child poverty.

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