I receive many briefings about the constituency most are interesting, some very helpful indeed. But one that I received a few weeks ago from Action for Children (ACH) I found staggering. It detailed the extent of child poverty in East Lothian. Now, the county’s by no means the poorest part of Scotland. Not having had the endemic poverty of much of the west of Scotland, though many areas locally have been blighted.
The statistics from ACH were shameful, even if once again by no means the worst in the land. 3369 children living in poverty’s a huge number, equating to 17.7% of kids at school or 5 in every class of 30. That hardship is real and the impact gruelling and relentless. Affecting not just quality of life but life chances.
I was telling an old friend about them recently. He grew up during the war in a mining community in the west of Scotland, parts of the west of the county would be similar. Yet, as he was saying whilst there was rationing, there was no need for foodbanks and homes weren’t deprived of heat or power.
Now there’s rationing of fruit and veg in the supermarkets but that’s through the folly of Brexit. But the extent of poverty’s staggering and visible all around. It’s not just the impact on children, as all generations are being affected. Another briefing showed that the standard allowance of Universal Credit’s £35 less for a single person and £66 for a couple, than allows for meetings the cost of basic essentials.
Benefits and wages aren’t providing for daily needs and children are going hungry and adults without. It’s why wages need to rise at least at a level to keep pace with inflation. Being in work should be an assurance of not being in poverty. Benefits and pensions need to increase to allow people to meet the basis costs of just living.
There’s money and wealth in this country. It’s how it’s being shared that’s the issue. As the Budget it’s time that in an Energy Rich Country all its folk are provided for.