Austerity’s Children

The UK child poverty rate will rise from today’s 4.3million to beyond 4.5 million by Christmas as a result of last month’s ending of emergency heating support, the end of the £1bn Household Support Fund and the further tightening of caps on benefits.

This was the stark message of Gordon Brown in his recent ‘Partnership to End Poverty’ paper. The second generation of Austerity’s children is being born.

I worked for years amongst struggling families in inner city schools and in the former coal mining areas on the Derby/Nottingham border, where traditional industries were dying and nothing was being put in their place.

Then came the banking crisis, brought about because Margaret Thatcher ended the division between merchant and retail banks. The irresponsible speculation of banks like RBS (remember Fred the Shred?) put the savings of ordinary people at risk, so we, the tax-payer, had to bail them out. That resulted in the first wave of Austerity. Did it ever actually end?

If you read the opening chapters of Oliver Twist you will wonder how it is that we have made so little progress over the last 150 years.

Gordon Brown advises a series of changes:

1: A change in regulation to require banks to hold a fraction of their deposits in the Bank of England which would enable Government to recover £2billion in interest payments made to banks, redirected to the National Poverty Programme. “This regulatory change alone could raise more than £2 billion” says Mr Brown.

2: Revitalise the Sure Start programme through a new partnership with corporate investors which could promise a £1billion to expand children’s services.  2 million children across England benefited from Sure Start, which saw a reduction in child hospital stays by 13,000 a year – which alone repaid 39% of the total cost of Sure Start.”

3: Help the low-waged and the unemployed into better paid jobs. Wages have been driven down so far that nearly two thirds of adults of working age who are in poverty and nearly three quarters of poor children are living in homes where someone is working. Hard work simply isn’t paying.

If workers were to earn more from better jobs following upskilled training and if, the earnings of just 1.5 per cent of the workforce were to be increased by just £1 per hour,  at a stroke an incredible £620 million would be wiped off on the Universal Credit benefits bill while at the same time these workers would be paying income taxes.

4: Don’t scrap the Household Support Fund in October. It pays out £1 billion a year to help families in the greatest need and is operated locally.  It ensures that some of the worsening deprivation is avoided for those already in the greatest need.

I have no doubt that all these initiatives would help. But at the heart of all this poverty is the fact that corporate profits are made by driving down wages, leaving the tax-payer to pick up the bill. Our economy no longer serves the people. The people are serving the economy and funding corporate profits out of their poverty.

Enormous health and social consequences follow from this and it is the tax payer who has to pick up the bill.


Misère   Fernand Pelez 1886



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