Friday, 22 June 2012

Poverty

The Guardian have put up a nice little tool on their website to calculate how far you are from the poverty line.

Apparently, I'm pretty much on it.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

I earn the equivalent of around £18,000 a year. I'm not fantastically well-off. But I wouldn't describe my living conditions anywhere close to poverty. I have heat, shelter, clothing, food, water, security and access to medical treatment. Hell, I even have Sky TV. I cannot, in any serious use of the term, be described as being 'in poverty'.

Now, I don't doubt that there are a small minority of people in the UK that still do live in poverty. If your quality of life is so poor that you are effectively denied access to one or more of the above criteria, you are in poverty. Given that we are fortunate enough to live in a society where security and access to medical treatment are provided by the State (although not particularly efficiently, but that's a different argument), that leaves us only 5 considerations for ourselves.

So, a minimal energy bill would cost around £60 a month, say? That's based on my bill of £90 a month which allows me to live in relative comfort. The rent on a small bedsit - £150 a month. Sustainable food for one person - about £80 a month. Average water bill - around £30 a month. That's a total survival bill of £350 a month, or £4,200 a year.

Being unable to afford Sky TV is not poverty. This is poverty.
 So that's the real poverty line in this country. Not around £9,000, which the Guardian calculates it is for a single person.

The fact that real poverty still exists in the UK shows that:
  • The current benefits system isn't fit for purpose, because it gives money to people who aren't actually poor;
  • Poverty cannot be eliminated simply by throwing money at the problem, as that's what we currently do, and poverty still exists.
Of course, that throws into confusion the entire ethos of the current welfare state set-up, doesn't it? So maybe it's actually time to start addressing the causes of poverty, rather than just its symptoms.