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Sticking plaster solutions to poverty are no longer working

ACCORDING to a BBC news report dated April 2 2018, malnourished children are attending school hungry, tired, unkempt and have been seen to be hiding food from school canteens to take home to eat. 

Poverty has been a largely unreported subject for a long time now and there has always been areas where poverty is much worse than others. 

This problem has now become widespread throughout the country, in areas where it was unseen in the past. 

The changing of our social security system, the introduction of the benefit cap, universal credit, women’s pension changes and the cruel ESA and PIP system have all contributed towards this. 

People are shamed into silence by an uncaring government and no longer can they reach out to their local authorities for help. 

Many of the resources that were available to people in emergency situations from them are no longer available due to local authorities’ funding being cut to such an extent that many are struggling to continue. 

Take a walk in any town centre or city and you will see the poor walking with their heads down, just wanting to get by but with little or no way  of doing so, yet they are told by the media that they must “live within their means,” when they haven’t got the means to do so in the first place.

In the course of my anti-poverty activism I once handed a couple of food parcels to a woman and her three children, one a toddler. She thanked us for them, crossed the road and they ate the food that we gave them out of the tins, ripped open a  packet of biscuits, eating like they hadn’t eaten for a while. 

I live in Ashton-Under-Lyne which was one of the first areas to “trial” universal credit. As a result of the ever-increasing poverty our area had the first medical trust in the country to open a foodbank within the hospital grounds. Patients were being admitted with malnutrition-related illnesses, being treated, yet returning to homes devoid of food. 

The NHS trust has tried to rectify this, but I’m aware that there is a never-ending cycle of poverty and that there are still many readmissions due to malnutrition. 

According to the figures from Manchester City Council, there has been a dramatic rise in malnutrition-related admissions — there were 58 admissions reported in 2014, 34 in 2015, 73 in 2016 and 100 in 2017. 

This is a very worrying trend indeed, but it only takes into account people who are admitted into hospital and it doesn’t include the thousands of who are living with low-level malnourishment.

Poverty appears to have become normalised by society. Every week when I demonstrate outside Ashton-Under-Lyne jobcentre I speak to people and ask how they are coping.

Their answer is often one of resignation — that this is what it’s like now, that it’s not worth complaining because who would listen? 

Indeed, many people living in poverty feel neglected. Their voices are unheard, they feel that no-one wants to represent them and to tell the truth about their lives. 

I proposed a motion at the North West Labour Party conference for the Labour Party to elect a minister to specifically represent these people, to work with other ministers to devise solutions and to help to fight the Tory government on poverty-related issues. 

While there are ministers already appointed to deal with housing, education and so on, there is no minister that can specifically represent and support people living in poverty. 

If the Conservatives can appoint a minister for loneliness, then surely the Labour Party can appoint a minister to represent the thousands of people who are living in poverty, which is increasing on a daily basis? 

It’s an indictment of our government that they force them to live like this, that our children are hungry and their parents hungrier. 

We must do everything in our power to represent these people and to fight the very reasons for their poverty. Sticking plaster solutions are no longer working, we need real solutions. 

It is also very important to vote in the forthcoming local elections and vote for the Labour Party, which, once in government, will stop the persecution of the poorest and most vulnerable. It’s a battle that we can’t afford to lose. 

 

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