The noise of victimhood culture has drowned out the plight of the poor

Jun 13, 2018 by

by Jenny McCartney, UnHerd:

Destitution is a term that feels antiquated: the words “the poor and destitute”, go together like a horse and carriage, conjuring the exploited, desperate masses of Victorian England. It’s a condition that was addressed, but barely relieved, by the grim charity of the workhouse and the orphanage. For as a recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reminds us, destitution is still very much with us.

In 2017, more than 1.5 million people in the UK were ‘in destitution’ (lacking two or more of the following six essentials: shelter, food, heating, lighting, appropriate clothing and footwear, basic toiletries such as toothpaste or soap). The figure included 365,000 children.

The causes of destitution, it appears from the report, divide into the long-term – high costs of housing, and pressure caused by poor health or disability – and those that trigger an immediate crisis: low benefit levels, delays in receiving benefits, and “harsh and uncoordinated” debt recovery practices.

Long-term and short-term factors interact, of course: ongoing financial pressures mean that those who are struggling simply to make ends meet will be unable to build up even a small financial buffer against adversity. Then something unexpected but inevitable happens – such as a benefit freeze or an unavoidable extra demand – whereupon they slip into deep hardship. They are no longer just “getting by”, but sinking.

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