Visible Poverty – 16 March 2023


I recall when we reappeared from lockdown like animals coming out of hibernation thinking how run down some areas looked. The absence of a lick of paint given both restrictions and lack of funds were understandable but obvious for all to see. These were locations which had previously been if not prosperous, certainly not poor. Areas began to resemble those seaside resorts with decaying grandeur, that are a shadow of their former glories. They’ve remained and have sadly been joined by others, as Covid has been supplanted by austerity.

But now it’s no longer just buildings but people who are looking discernibly poorer. The proliferation of foodbanks is seen as the totem for poverty, but it goes far wider.  A friend who’d been through in Glasgow was making that comment and recently walking round South London I saw it mirrored there. Clothes look shabbier, begging has increased and the lack of not just wealth but money in the community is obvious in all to see. Dishevelled and distressed people abound.

Of course, there are areas of great wealth even if thankfully the Thatcher “Loadsamoney” culture has dissipated. But the increase in not just run-down communities but run-down people is marked.  Folk are struggling to keep their heads above water. Many are going under as hunger, cold and ill-health proliferate. Modest increases in benefit levels in the Budget won’t address it. Ever since a welfare state was established there’s been a belief that there should be a minimum level of income below which no one should fall.

Initially that was provided for by Supplementary Benefit, now its Universal Credit whether for benefits or for in work support. But research by the Trussell Trust and Joseph Rowntree Foundation has disclosed that its insufficient for daily living and the acquisition of just life’s basic essentials. The shortfall for a single person being £35 per week and £66 for a couple. No wonder people are going under whether working or on benefits, as that’s without accounting for emergencies or debt payments.

It’s why a Basic Essentials Guarantee expounded by those charities is needed. There must be decency and dignity for all in our society. Providing for basic needs is essential even if the Budget missed it out.