Last week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures showing that, between 2010 and 2013, a third of the UK population experienced income poverty. During this four-year period, 19.3 million people had a disposable income of below 60% of the national median at some point. These figures illustrate how millions of people are treading water, struggling to keep afloat and afford the very basics. Crisis loans and food banks are real.
In the wake of the election of a Tory majority government, it almost feels like the thing to do is to stop banging the same drum, to stop highlighting these issues. Yet here we are. Turning our heads away from people’s current experience of poverty – and what lies ahead – just isn’t an option.
As a senior teacher and a writer for this publication, my income is such that I can afford life’s luxuries. I own my own home and car. I can afford meals out and holidays that take me further than Europe’s shores. I don’t have to face the daily humiliation of wondering if I have sent my children out into the world in clothing that reveals reduced circumstances, and with not much in their bellies. Note the agency in these sentences; I am one of the privileged few. Yet the woman I am today wouldn’t exist without the welfare state.
It’s become almost passe to write that the Tories are dismantling our society’s safety net and pushing millions further into poverty. And although, for some, this is keenly felt as an awful new normal, it remains abstract for others – a reality several steps removed. Not so for me. I grew up knowing what it is to feel stomach cramps as a result of hunger; to have a packed lunch for school that was simply bread and butter; to be so ashamed of my ill-fitting clothes that I avoided going out altogether.
As a young adult I have been homeless and only saved from experiencing life on the streets by women’s refuges. I have moved from jobseeker’s allowance to wages so low that living was only made possible through housing benefit and working tax credit. I have accessed legal aid and had a small insight into how the law can work for even the most vulnerable. And I could undertake my bachelor’s degree because, as a poor independent student, I didn’t have to pay more than £1,000 in tuition fees.
I am the product of a compassionate state, one that believes in the potential of all its citizens. For that I am supremely grateful and lucky. Yet even writing this seems brazen, as though admitting a failure on my part. Poverty is good at shaming you into silence.
A surfeit of humiliation and guilt attaches itself to poverty. How dare I have used the state to realise a better life for myself and the children I would later go on to have? But if the state isn’t concerned with the uplift of those on the lowest rungs of society, how does it view them? Are they simply the fodder needed to realise the 1%’s wealth accumulation?
In my mid-30s, I am no longer reliant on the welfare state – and haven’t been for some time. The truth is that for the majority of those who claim benefits, it’s a short-term measure, tiding them over in their time of need. Now I am comfortably middle-class, even with all the talk of the “squeezed middle”, I am buffered from the worst the government has in store. Yet it all feels like one unfortunate calamity away, its proximity unnervingly near, made real by the daily struggles of younger family members who are trying to recover from childhoods in care, who have few or no qualifications and work on zero-hour contracts. When Iain Duncan Smith talks of “neighbourhoods blighted by worklessness” he fails to mention the poverty of opportunity in such areas, which his government’s policies will further entrench.
No one needs to remind me of the absolute necessity of our welfare state and so I happily pay into it. My wider family in Nigeria – a country where benefits are non-existent and pretty much everything has been privatised – live in the type of poverty that takes seeing to believe. And despite knowing first-hand the difference between absolute and relative poverty, I don’t believe the existence of the former cancels out the debilitating reality of the latter. Poverty in Nigeria or the UK isn’t a choice. Framing it as such is a heartless red herring, waved about to make us believe that only when people are without clothes, food or shelter should we bother to give them a passing glance.
Now more than ever, we need a chorus of voices mobilised against the draconian treatment of society’s most vulnerable. We need the millions who have at one time or other in their life accessed the welfare state to believe that they aren’t failures for doing or having done so. We need to continue the argument, which says it is decent, good and right that the state steps in when all else fails. Because to continue down the path the Tories have so gleefully outlined means society will only become more divided and unstable.
Increasingly we aren’t framing poverty as the result of political forces: the privatisation of state assets such as energy and transport; the weakening of unions; the steady erasure of the welfare state. Instead, we internalise all the guff telling us that poverty is the inevitable result of an individual’s moral decrepitude. Though the wealthy have always spun being poor as a willing choice of the selfish, dumb and lazy, now, more than ever, society seems to be buying this message.
With all Labour’s chatter about failing to recognise the value of aspiration – as if only those who want to pay less tax have it – the party is running scared and away from the most vulnerable. It is an unsightly manoeuvre, one that comes off as grasping and shortsighted. It is important that they do not become complicit in a lie that claims the poor can be shamed and punished out of poverty.
My parents didn’t receive benefits when living in England, yet our poverty was no less degrading as a result; it is not more dignified to offer oneself as cheap, easily exploitable labour. The Tories must not win an argument that is immoral to its core: that accessing the welfare state is a sign of individual failure.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
I came across this article on facebook and its worth sharing here.
The article pretty much nails the intent of the present government or should I say regime, as that sounds more appropriate…
Re-bloged from http://www.davidkilpatrick.co.uk/
Here’s a simple question for David Cameron and George Osborne – and IDS, and all the cohorts of Conservatism, UK 2016 style.
When a government uses fiscal measures to balance the books, through tax changes, the measures are adjustable and reversible. They can be modified, ended, tweaked, extended or whatever is needed.
When a government implements cuts to budgets, staffing levels and grades can be controlled along with purchasing contracts, attention to waste, changes in allocations to match changing times (ever worked with a big underused stationery expense budget but an inadequate capital budget for the IT systems which have actually replaced all that stationery?). All these things are reversible. Staffing levels can go up as well as down. Salaries can be frozen for a period, but increased generously when greater prosperity permits.
My question – how do you REVERSE the current implementation of ‘austerity’?
When times are good once again, do you stipulate that instead of paying a bedroom tax, all social housing tenants should be housed with at least one spare room to take account of modern lifestyles and Britain’s terrible record for cramped housing?
Do you send in a team from ATOS to re-assess the terminally ill, disabled, or incapacitated and ensure life support with indemnity from punitive financial action by banks, landlords, government and local authorities, and utility providers? To remove from unsuitable work those forced to undertake it, and remove the detriment to their lives and the lives of their families?
Do you GIVE BACK what you have taken away and RESTORE the welfare cuts, reverse your social policies, and mend the safety net which is supposed to stop those who fall off the tightrope of life from crashing to a hard landing way below?
North Anston, Sheffield, 1972 (condemned, replaced by an industrial estate) @ David Kilpatrick
I don’t think I need speculate about the answers. ‘Austerity’ sounds so much like the period I was born into, just after rationing had ended (though petrol coupons returned for other reasons). That was austerity too – but with apromise in return that once the nation was through its few years of utility furniture and clothing, austerity would be replaced by prosperity. It was succeeded, over the years, by measures such as 25% Purchase Tax, unthinkably high Supertax on income, pre-EU import duties and quotas and measures affecting the whole of society from the top downwards (while enabling the NHS, public utilities and transport, nationalised essential industries and the construction of the modern welfare state). All could be undone, or moderated, to suit conditions and most now have been even though the conditions rarely demanded it.
The answer is that this austerity is not intended as a temporary measure.
Retired miner, Canklow Meadows Miners’ Gala, 1974 @ David Kilpatrick
It’s planned as a permanent part of our future society regardless of what happens to the economy in five, ten, or twenty years’ time. It has been imposed selectively, making life in Britain worse for those who already found it most difficult. Unlike taxation, the measures now being extended can not be ‘rolled back’ or fine tuned. They are intended to be permanent.
So, it’s not ‘austerity’ then. It is not a period of reduced expenditure intended to rebalance the books. When Cameron talked and talks of so many years of austerity being needed to cut debt and deficit, he has never been talking about aperiod of austerity. He’s been talking about the time-scale needed to introduce and implement cuts, which will then be permanent. For those involved this austerity is forever austerity, not a few years of corrective action.
Family life with dog, terrace backs in York, 1969 @ David Kilpatrick
Maybe if you’re reading this you will consider your position on ‘austerity’ with more care, for your own future and that of your families and friends. Cameron was and is a PR executive, an expert in the use of language to deceive or persuade. This is not ‘austerity’ as there will no return to normality.
Had the Government taken the route of using higher taxation a very small basic increase and few critical adjustments – all fully reversible or tuneable to suit future conditions – would have seen us through. Instead they promise a five-year tax ceiling and repeated measures to enrich the rich, squeeze the middle and turn ‘honesty poverty’ into despised destitution.
Please hit the social media, whenever you like in future, to quote this article and prove me wrong the very first time you learn that any of the measures of ‘austerity’ have been reversed or removed because the GDP has risen, the deficit is lower and the debt is affordable.
– David Kilpatrick
Played a Gig at the “Man of Kent” in Rochester last
night. Good fun in an old school pub that has
regular good quality music (so quite why we were
there god knows ) and a reasonable number of folks
in attendance. Audiences are fascinating to watch,
especially when they are a looking a tad mystified
at times. Not the most lively of gigs but OK.
The journey there was really dire due to a
combination of things including accidents on the
North Circular and god knows what. So I took the QE2
Bridge at Dartford. Result as we though we were
going to be very late but just sailed across. It
seems better without the tool booths. I dare say
that we were lucky that the traffic had cleared but
it sort of saved the day.
It lifted my mood for a while,(always does when I am
actually playing) but I have hit a low again. I am
feeling quite irritated and frustrated again, so
today I have been keeping a low profile. Got a new
slightly better quality Violin Bow delivered today,
so tried that out and was very pleased with the
results. Amazing that it only takes 2 days from
ordering it for it to be delivered from Germany
Went along to a tuesday night session in the bar at
Cecil Sharpe House and did a tune.
No electricity involved. It felt quite intimidating
at first and when I arrived I was a bit cautious as
to how we would be received. We did our Delta Ladies
version of House of the rising sun and it was very
well received. Had a chat with a few people just
before leaving, a very friendly bunch it would seem.
We will go again.
Lots of minor irritations at the moment with
The weekend went reasonably well with two gigs, one
at the Star Inn Bentworth that was OK but rather low
key and a storming one in Engineers Henlow. But
apart from that everything else is really pissing me
The Change in temperature on Saturday laid me low a
bit with back pain and everything else pain too. I
normally wear a lot of layers on gigs so that I can
make sure I don’t get cold, as any drop in
temperature tends to make me feel like I am covered
in bruises, for want of a better description. I was
in a very cold draught which is unusual as pubs tend
to get too hot usually but they had the back door
open as they were serving food for a Birthday party,
so by the time I had noticed it was getting cold it
was too late.
Sunday I got out of bed very late, and my mood
improved a bit fortunately. I worked on a song I am
recording which now needs mixing.
It was slightly hard work as I had written down a
vocal line which the Violin should weave in and out
of but I couldn’t get the tone or phrasing quite
right, though eventually I cracked it.
It an odd thing but its possible to get the notes
right and for it to sound wrong and vice versa
Went to bed at 2.30 am after watching TV and playing
a bit of Piano.
This morning my mood has hit the bottom again
Last night went to bed a bit earlier about 02.00 am.
Got a few more musical sketches written down to use,
that might be interesting.
Did a little bit more practice coding and database
stuff just to keep my hand in and it helps block
intrusive thoughts. Programing is a bit like riding
a bike, you think you have forgotten it all but it
comes back as soon as you start.
Doubtful that I will be doing anything of that
nature anytime soon, but if an odd job pops up then
I am not too rusty
Aches and pains are receding, doing lots of
stretching and stuff. I have a list of fairly
important things that I must start getting on with,
that seems to be quite a common thing among folks
Our washing machine started leaking. Its old, but we
have maintenance cover and a guy fixed and it only
took 30 minutes.
A fairly quiet weekend with just one gig in deepest
Shepperton. A bit of panic as the road we normally
use was shut and we managed to get slightly lost,
but it was received well enough.
I have started attempting to play the accordion
again, with reasonable results. I am not attempting
anything too sophisticated, just basic stuff
knocking out fairly simple tunes or accompaniments.
I have however decided that it is for me personally
a sitting down instrument, as that means my back can
just about deal with it.
It sounds rather nice with Vicky’s newly acquired 5
string banjo (which Vicky seems to be on very good
terms with musically) and of course also works
without the need for electricity. It could be
important as we will at some point be playing some
completely unplugged gigs. We are hoping to
introduce some of this stuff at a few floor spots
between our normal gigs. We ran though some stuff
yesterday which didn’t sound to bad at all
I do still feel quite low, and its been difficulty
to get any enthusiasm for much. Normally the longer
days do give me a bit of a boost so perhaps that
I just make a list of things that need doing and
then mostly don’t bother to do them I do practice
(including sight reading which I still suck at on
the whole) . I even attempt to write the odd piece
of music too.
Also I have running through some programming stuff
just as a form of mental exercise crossed with
revision (mostly database stuff) just in case I get
an odd IT job coming in.
What I do miss is the rhythm of the work place but
not the tedium. I am also becoming more reclusive by
the minute and experiencing a certain amount of
anxiety most times I go out to do anything now.
Thats not healthy, so with great reluctance I think
I shall have to visit the doctors and see if theres
anything useful that they can do?
I really don’t want more anti-depressants though.
Yep its still February out there. I have really had
problems with the cold this year, and the fact that
the temperature has gone up a smidge is a very
welcome relief. Business otherwise is much as usual.
Still trying to come up with a cunning plan but so
far failing miserably.
The SAD lamp seems to be not so useful as I though
it would be. It certainly stimulates me but seems to
actually be making me more irritable. Still it was
worth a try and it maybe that I have not quite got
the dosage right. A very short burst each day may be
enough so I have cut down and will see how that
I am still trying to find a way to make a few
dollars more, but so far its not going to well.
A lot of the unskilled stuff I used to do is not in
much demand and I can’t do much in the way of
lifting now. I can’t really do a full time job and
still keep the music going. I used to be quite a
wizz with php sql asp unix mca scrip and even the
dreaded VB and so forth(I still keep my hand in),
but I can’t work long periods at a keyboard anymore
I do get job offers but they are full time and
frankly that’s not going to work even if I were to
pack in the music, assuming they would have me with
out heavyweight commercial experience for the last 6
years or so and also being the age that I am.
Another huge problem I have days when I am
relatively normal mentally but they alternate with
times when I am pretty much out of it. A couple of
days a week is manageable, but anything more really
doesn’t work. So between the mental problems and the
muscle and joint issues I seem to be a bit stuffed.
It is causing me some strain as I can just about
keep my head above water but not much more than
that. the thought of things going on long term in
the same way is a bit hard going as I am beginning
to feel quite useless. That combined with a real
loss of confidence in the last few months has not
helped at all. The area that I live in has very
little that you can do at low or cost, so I am
thrown back on to my own resources quite a bit.
its really wearing me down now…
My 58th birthday passed without to much in the way
of incident. With a half decent gig as one third of
the Delta Ladies at the halfway house in barnes the
night before, so that was alright. I seem to be
doing less and less recently and I am a little
perturbed as it feels like someone has hit my off
switch and i can’t quite get going again. Last year
at this time I was playing a lot of very big and
possibly indulgent piano stuff. I can’t seem to get
my head around writing lyrics anymore and maybe I
have simply just run out of ideas. Perhaps one only
has a limited amount of ideas and once they are used
up thats your lot sunshine.
For a Birthday present I got a SAD lamp as yet
another tool in the ongoing battle against
depression. It seems to have had some effect as I
have got a bit more energy and the ability to
concentrate for more than a millisecond. So maybe
there is some hope left for me. I do spend a lot of
time playing the piano, but I really don’t feel
inspired at all.
I made a list of all the skills I had accumulated
since leaving School, as apart from learning to read
I didn’t really pick too much in the way of formal
education. Currently I spend a lot of time on the
old internet thingy, I do read a lot of political
blogs now. Funny thing but I never took much
interest in Politics when I was a Civil Servant.
Weird that. But hey I didn’t say I was any sort of
intellectual I am worried about the way things seem
to be going. I come from what used to be called a
working class background, and I didn’t really know
what was going on around me most of the time. In
fact I was pretty gormless. Often I wake up in the
morning and think WTF did I do that. The interesting
thing is that I never felt that it was any of my
business to judge other people. I didn’t really
understand the 80’s and somebody I worked with tried
to explain things to me. The message which I missed
at the time was stop being a mug, but enlightenment
did not arrive soon enough to save me. I have often
chosen to believe what people tell me, but this also
has not been a brilliant strategy. I have been very
naive, and people have taken advantage. Being prone
to depression and having had some fairly long
episodes you don’t always feel you can fight back. A
consequence of this is that you don’t tend to stand
up for you rights too much or eventually something
pushes you over the edge and you go for the throat.
Now I see, and I don’t like what I see at all. You
float through life in a dream, and whoosh its gone
and you wake up just in time to see how far wrong
you have actually gone. Today I am feeling vaguely
paranoid with a side order of useless. I am watching
TV and I have not been out of the front door for two
days. Thats not good really, but London only works
if you have the resources to enjoy it. I am an
introvert, but a lonely introvert gathers no moss or
quite often friends either. I don’t like ring people
on the phone as I think that they won’t want to hear
from me, but I also can talk to much and that may
well piss people off. Or folks think your being
aloof because you can’t do small talk too well.
2014 review of my year.
Posted 26th December 2014 at 06:35 pm by Diana
It was the best of times, the worst of times, hang
on a minute. How about ?
Long ago and far away in a distant galaxy a rebel
army fights against…
No thats not it, so maybe
“Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a
good morning whether I want it or not; or that you
feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to
be good on?”
Nope, I think I will try starting this one again.
OK, then. Mostly it was a lot like the year before
with a couple of notable exceptions which were:
My partner taking early retirement (18 months early)
which has taken a fair amount of adjustment as we
don’t have a lot of personal space. We have not
actually killed each other yet so you could say its
gone fairly well, though its still a few days to
Also my musical co-conspirator and Delta Lady Vicky
Martin had a triple by-pass op in June which seems
to have worked out fairly well so far though we had
to curtail our mutual musical activity’s for 7 weeks
or so, and forgo our planned trip to France to play
a few gigs.
Other than that I have mostly been concerning myself
with music related study (which is starting to bare
fruit) and writing a few odd tunes, some possibly
very odd. As I am self-taught, there have been a few
things that have remained a bit of a mystery to me
but having a better understanding of the nuts and
bolts that make it all up makes a lot of difference
once it sinks in to your subconscious.
There has been a certain amount of introspection
too. Most of my difficulty’s seem top stem from the
fact that I am an introvert and in social situations
often find things difficult. I have never really
been good at small talk and don’t seem to have the
same innate responses which often leads to
considerable awkwardness. This also means that I
find it hard, (often very hard to say no to people).
All of this has had the effect of massively reducing
my confidence in some areas, but there are things I
need to accomplish that really mean addressing those
issues now. There is no reason why I should have
anymore success with this in 2015, other than the
fact that I will be starting afresh with some
matters. In my case success would really be some
very small victory’s indeed, but would make a big
difference to the way that I think and feel about
myself. I have tried so many different roads to try
and sort the problem out., I do suffer from
depression but thats not really whats stop me from
doing things although it sometimes makes it more
difficult to start.
I have pushed through a lot of barriers over the
years but the problems I am left with are the most
intractable and if not addressed will continue to
make life more difficult for me than it needs to be
and cause unnecessary anxiety. Now I am fed up with
trying to work around these issues or compensate in
other ways , and making a lot of effort for
relatively little reward as all I am doing is
finding more an more elaborate ways of avoidance.
So perhaps this is really a now or never moment,
about choosing to limit my life because of my
anxiety or taking a punt that may leave me no better
off and feeling worse about myself than ever.
Hope you all have a good new year.