Official British government figures reveal a drop in the number of people out of work but the cost of living is not matched by earnings. This price gap exposes the reality for many people for whom poverty is a reality and political rhetoric is just cheap talk.
Official statistics tell one story but some primary schools in England are operating as a first response unit to children growing up in poor households in Britain.
Teachers, headteachers and support workers admit to handing out shoes and coats to children shivering in the cold weather and allowing parents to charge their cellphones in classrooms because they don’t have sufficient electricity at home.
The report carried out by British broadcaster ITV has exposed the severe poverty experienced by children in schools in the North West of England. The school in Morecombe also runs a breakfast club where a slice of toast or a bowl of cereal costs 13 cents (ten pence).
But even that’s too expensive for some children.
The interview with the school prompted people to turn to Twitter to tell their own story, including another teacher:
“I have brought home six school jumpers belonging to my years sixes. They haven’t been washed in a while. I’ve washed them, ironed them and will leave them in the classroom tomorrow but won’t say anything. The kids may suspect but I’ll keep mum.”
“I’ve been around local charity shops today to buy a dozen books for our class library. My students love reading but can’t afford their own books.”
Meanwhile the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed a fall in unemployment which declined by 26,000 to 1.43 million; the jobless rate remained at 4.3%, the lowest rate since 1975.
The Conservative government was quick to take credit.
However, it’s a different kind of credit that has prompted more stories of genuine hardship told on Twitter.
Universal Credit is the government’s new welfare program which has been rolled out across the UK.
Instead of individuals or families applying for separate benefits — such as income support, jobseekers allowance, child tax credits or housing benefit — one single payment will be paid directly into claimant’s bank accounts to cover the benefits they would usually be entitled to. Universal credit is based on how much money you earn each month.
A recent report by Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggested almost 400,000 more children are living in poverty today than in 2012/13.
Changes to welfare policy since the 2015 Budget “are reducing families’ financial breathing space, with wage growth at the bottom end of the labour market failing to make up the difference,” the report stated.
Commenting on the ONS figures, Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said:
“Today’s figures are further evidence of Tory economic failure, only a day after inflation rose to its highest level in over five-and-half years. Eight million people in working households live in poverty, and many will struggle this Christmas as a direct result of this government’s austerity policies.”