Ryeview – January 2009

Start by tackling the cause of a problem

John Clark writes…

First published: January 2009 – Gazette & Herald

Poverty is not a crime it just produces a lot of victims. People who are poor are punished at school, employment and where they live. Books, computers, music lessons, and opportunities to study are much less in most poor households than they are among the well off. This means that children from poor households are disadvantaged before, during and after their school years.

The government has produced a White Paper showing that children born in 1970 have a lower ‘social mobility’ than those born in 1958. Most of the people in power were born nearer to 1958 but won’t pay for today’s poor so that they have the same opportunities as benefited today’s establishment.

The Labour Government has set a target to abolish child poverty by 2020 and on the way halve child poverty by 2010. In 1998 there were 3.4 million children in poverty. To Labours credit 600,000 have been lifted above the poverty line. It is however virtually impossible for this to be trebled to 1.7million in the next 2 years. Even if this is achieved 1.7 million children will still be in poverty.

The proposed law appears to mean that ‘disadvantaged youngsters must be given a better opportunity by public bodies, including councils. I have no problem with this but would it not be better to remove the major causes of the disadvantage.

  • Child poverty is the biggest one. It would be dramatically reduced by increasing the minimum wage to a ‘living wage’ of say £7.50/hour.
  • Child illiteracy and numeracy. 30,000+ children move up to secondary school every year unable to read or do arithmetic.
  • In the 1950’s councils built vast numbers of council houses. In the 2000’s ‘affordable housing’ building levels are woeful.

Labours plan does not tackle the basic problem. It is designed to induce teachers to stay in poor schools and help disadvantaged students to get into better careers such as law, medicine or the media.

The Tory press has responded in the expected way. To quote the Daily Telegraph “The plan raises the fears that the middle classes could inadvertently be discriminated against……….” This shouldn’t surprise me. On RDC when a low pay rise was on the table I stated that it was more than enough of a pay rise for the chiefs. At the other end, 2.45% was less than inflation and therefore a cut in pay. We proposed a £200 bonus for the lowest paid, £100 for middle earners and £0 for the top. An officer report was produced claiming that this proposal discriminated against the higher paid. Clearly the establishment does not want to pay for improving the lot of others. Put another way Social Mobility appears to be fine as long as those ‘coming up’ don’t take a place from those who are already up there. Someone ought to point out to those smug people further up the ‘class’ ladder that the bottom of a ladder is vital in holding up the top.

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