Why do I keep banging on about poverty? Good question – and one I have been asked several times recently in relation to this blog and other writings.
One answer goes back to that haunting verse in Proverbs (31:8) that formed the title of a book many years ago about the failure of the German church in the 1930s: “Open your mouth for the dumb.” In other words, give a voice to those who have no voice, or whose voice is silenced for some reason or other. To not give such a voice is not to be neutral – it is to silence a voice that needs to be heard.
Hence the banging on about welfare cuts and their effects on the lives of individuals, families and communities.
So, last week, as part of a deanery visit, I met the director of a Children's Centre. The biggest concern: increasing numbers of families going hungry and needing help from diminishing food banks.
This is civilised Britain in the twenty first century. Increasing numbers of people – families – needing help with basics such as simple food. The demands are becoming greater than the supply. We used to associate organisations like Save the Children with Africa; now they are being associated with here.
During our conversation last week I heard about the impact of deprivation and the welfare cuts on:
- Food banks
- Families who are being caught in the 'bedroom tax' trap
- Families who live in 'deprivation postcodes' in otherwise prosperous areas
- Families which, now that the last laundrette has closed and washing machines don't count any longer for emergency provision, work out how to keep themselves and their children clothed, clean and dignified.
I also heard how those who tried to live on £1 per day during Lent (with Christian Aid) found it increasingly hard to eat anything good. Cheap biscuits fill the stomach when an apple cannot be afforded.
This is the real human cost of austerity. Churches and other organisations are resourcing individuals, families and communities with food and other material aid: the question is why this should be necessary in an affluent and civilised country.