East Lothian Courier – 2 November 2023


The horror unfolding in the Middle East puts many issues in this country into perspective. However, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on the level of destitution in this country was both staggering and shameful. Poverty is of course relative and what is faced here’s nothing to what’s endured in the developing world or the plight facing many in Gaza.

But we are a developed economy and are not at war. We are a rich country and society, but the wealth isn’t divided equally. Probably, the worst thing to afflict the country of recent generations has been the growing inequality gap. These destitution figures are the very nadir of that journey and it’s where its brought us.

That people cannot feed themselves, heat their homes or even afford a roof over their head’s simply unacceptable in a civilized society. The statistics also can’t properly express the pain, humiliation and misery inflicted. Some TV reporting did of course speak to individuals and even though highly sanitized their despair, and their feelings of hopelessness were evident.

Compounding all that’s the number of children now born into these conditions. This is the third decade of the 21st century yet so much is redolent of “Oliver Twist” and Dickensian Britain. Yet children are being born not just to fail but into a life of poverty from which escape will be hard, if not impossible.

It’s not come about as a result of global factors or even environmental factors beyond government control. It’s all down to policy choices and forced austerity. Rather than addressing that it’s being worsened. Proposed changes to universal credit rules will further hammer the poor. Many, indeed, most affected, are working but still can’t make ends meet. Work now is no longer the way out of poverty.

It affects us all as social ills whether substance abuse or crime multiple. It’s well documented that more equal societies are healthier, wealthier, happier and better on almost every indice. It’s why austerity must be replaced by addressing poverty and inequality. We need a better and fairer world but equally a more just and equal country.