Poverty in the UK
There is much talk of the rising tide of poverty in the UK, especially when such things as the usage of Foodbanks is on the increase. But, I wonder if our measurement of poverty is fit for purpose? What do we need to have as a basic standard of living?
Accommodation – where the standard of housing is such that it is dry, warm and economical to run. There are basic cooking facilities, a toilet and a shower/bath, bedrooms with sufficient beds that have mattresses that do not sag, a reasonable amount of storage space throughout and equipment to be able to cook and keep the property clean and tidy. Accommodation should be that children share same sex rooms (two per room maximum). (As so many properties are not fit for purpose, the Government needs to take on the building of suitable housing itself and legislate for standards for the state of properties whether rented or owned.)
Finance – sufficient money to be able to provide a healthy diet for each person, pay any rent or sensible mortgage, and an allowance for clothing and replacing furniture due to wear and tear. If the rent or mortgage is above a certain limit, the family will be required to move to a cheaper property. Savings to only be taken into account if they are over £25,000. Total benefit to be limited to 10% below the average earnings of those in work, to encourage job-seeking (see below).
Possessions – people may need to sell their television and/or other high value possessions (including cars) to help pay any outstanding bills. If they have no furniture, those on benefits would be given a one off grant in the form of vouchers.
Credit/debit cards – people on benefits should not have debit/credit cards (to stop going into debt and buying things they do not need) and have to go through financial training to help them manage their money.
Each unemployed person should be allocated a ‘mentor’ to help them find a suitable job, including support in moving if none available within in a reasonable travelling distance of the person’s home (taking into account available public transport)
The whole benefit system should be tied to the tax system – see my earlier post on this.
All the above is to encourage people to live within their means, and rely on the State only as a fall-back. If there is disability, then additional support would be needed.
If we are to truly help people who are poor, we need to find ways to make sure that everyone can earn a decent wage, receive any necessary training, so that they are in employment which plays to their strengths and where they are valued. We also need to re-evaluate what jobs we should be encouraging that are ethical and sustainable in a competitive world. This requires the UK to develop niche industries that are not found elsewhere in the world as well as encouraging eco-farming so that we become more self-sufficient and eat locally-sourced products. Also, there is a need to encourage the spread of employment away from the south-east and London, where it is getting ‘saturated’ in terms of population and costs involved in living there. When we are told we live in a ‘global village’, there is really no reason to always focus on London. (If more businesses moved to the north, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there would be a reduction in the need for air travel to Heathrow and the other London airports, for example, as they would fly to other gateway cities.)
A lot more work needs to be done on the above, but the system has to work better, not because of the cost, but more to make sure, the true poor get the help they need to get out of poverty and be valued as people. I feel that the current system is not ‘fit for purpose’ because it does not target the right people and nor does it provide a ‘wholistic’ approach to things.