As good as it gets?
According to the latest available statistics from the Scottish Poverty Information Unit (SPIU), One in five people in Scotland – or almost one million people - are living in poverty. In REAL numbers, this equates to 990,000 individuals living in a household with an income below 60% of the median. (Scottish Executive, 2007).
In Scotland, poverty is shared unevenly across age groups with poverty experienced
by 24% of children (250,000), 19% of working aged adults (590,000) and 16% of
people of pensionable age (150,000).
As always, behind the statistics, there are people, families and communities. For many of these people it means choosing which essentials to go without. It is a sad fact that today, in Scotland, people have to go without Sufficient food, adequate housing, heating and enough clothing. Is it right that 1 in 3 Scottish children should be in this kind of situation?
Various studies over the years have shown that children in poverty actually learn to 'lower their expectations', they learn not to ask parents for basic things like school trips and from personal experience, children in poverty often make up stories about not wanting to go or they call in sick on the day of the trip.
It can be said that we live in a stressful society and this is true. Britain frequently comes top in "Most overworked nation" surveys and it is well known that Britains work longer hours than the rest of our European counterparts. However, as with everything, there has to be perspective. A friend commented recently that he'd had a stressful year and and it had been incredibly long. I have no doubt it has been, as I too have been in that situation, but I really do wonder if these completely polar opposite forms of stress can be compared.
A song that always comes into my head when I think about poverty and not being in work, is "As Good As It Gets" by Gene. There is a line in the chorus that goes"How can you ask for more, If you're paid, you're not poor.", the song talks about the greedy living off of the poor and taking advantage of any opportunity to keep that gap as large as possible.
The song goes on "When red became blue, Hopes denied, Our dreams swept away with the tide"... This song could have been written yesterday. The aggressive cuts that the current government are about to impose on the nation is counter productive when it comes to poverty.
Children who see poverty will end up living in poverty if this is all that they see. Children who's parents are unemployed, are more likely to be unemployed when they get to working age. This is exactly the time when governments should be attempting to create jobs, create futures for these children and their parents. It has been proven time and time again that cutbacks lead to more debt, more poverty, higher medical costs (through people eating poorly and drinking more heavily), homelessness and all the other social evils that go hand in hand.
Being unemployed at the moment and searching for a job in my chosen profession is difficult to say the least. It is stressful, it is depressing, it is frustrating, it is a twisted mix of emotions. The pitiful help that I get from the government to help me back to work is degrading and demotivating. The system is flawed to the core, with hundreds of thousands of people in the same position. I recognise that there are some people who lie and cheat the system to get the most out of it, however for the majority of people who have been made redundant, or that have retrained to try and better themselves and their family lives are being thrust further and further into the poverty trap. I do not believe anyone would chose to live in these circumstances if they could help it. "People want to work, Not wallow in the dirt, People have to work...", as the song continues.
Those in work (and I have certainly been guilty of this myself), sometimes complain that the stress is too much, and that they are unhappy. But please think about those who are in poverty, who actually can't afford to work, who have been run into the ground by circumstance and by a benefits and financial system so fatally flawed that it is creating more problems than it helps.
Sitting where I am right now, I know what kind of stress I would prefer to have.