Socialist Party
| Print

27 June 2012

Breadline Britain - living in poverty

A series in the Guardian, Breadline Britain, has outlined some shocking statistics about poverty. These figures have smashed apart the Tory propaganda about 'scroungers' and 'the job-shy'.

Seven million adults are always one step away from extreme financial stress - even though they work. This has a wide variety of horrific consequences on our communities, some of which are commented on by Socialist Party members here.

In the eighth richest country in the world, there is no reason for poverty. There is 750 billion lying idle in the bank accounts of big business - they won't invest because they can't see a way to make a quick profit.

The Socialist Party calls for an immediate 50% levy on that money to enable mass investment into public services and socially useful job creation.

We also call for:

'Cliff edge' poverty blights millions

Breadline Britain particularly highlighted what the Guardian calls 'cliff edge' poverty. This describes those who manage to survive but are always at breaking point to the extent that they have no way to handle an unexpectedly large bill or a broken household appliance.

An increasing number of these people are working. The number of housing benefit claimants who are in work, for example, more than doubled between November 2008 and February 2012.

And 58% of children in poverty have at least one parent in work. The Charity for Civil Servants, a hardship fund, used to give money mainly to retired and vulnerable civil servants. Now 85% of their funds go to those in work, mainly with young families.

Costs are going up, wages are frozen and benefits are being slashed. In the last five years, food prices have gone up 30.5% while the minimum wage has risen only 12.1%.

The 'cliff edge' explains the rise in pay day loan companies, charity shops and food banks as people need a way to pay unexpected costs.

The problem was highlighted recently by the computer error at RBS, Ulster bank and NatWest meaning that millions of customers didn't have expected wages and benefits transferred into their accounts.

Adele Guntrip, Hampshire Socialist Party, describes her experience.

On Thursday 21 June I was a victim of the NatWest banking system crash. I woke up and went to get my tax credits that I rely on to feed my children - as we live hand to mouth, week to week - and discovered that I had no money.

I called the bank and was told they could not offer an emergency system as all accounts were down.

I spoke to two other people who were in panic as they had not received their money. One had no food and no electric and was reliant on the money they get every Thursday for sustenance. It was only through my advice to them that they realised the problem.

Every pensioner, every benefit claimant and everyone in receipt of tax credits who banks with any of the RBS owned banks, was without funds.

If I did not have a partner who lent me the money I would not have been able to send my sons to school.