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In Our Times – Poverty and Inequality

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13.5 million people in the UK (or just under 1/4 of the population) are currently living in poverty.  Income and health inequality are higher than ever and continue to rise.  It’s time for this to change.

To get better informed about poverty and inequality there are some excellent sites and resources.  You could start by browsing the following and seeing where your interest (or indignation) takes you…

The Equality Trust was established coming out of the Spirit Level research, which resoundingly found that more equal societies are better for everyone.  The Equality Trust continues to publish research and campaign for a more equal and fair society in the UK.  Their website offers many resources for anti-poverty campaigners.  Inequality.org is an American site run by the Institute for Policy Studies that is a new portal for data, analysis, and commentary on wealth and income disparity.  PSE is a British organisation which reports research, examines policy, and stimulates debate around poverty and social exclusion.  The PSE research informed the ITV ‘Tonight’ special, Breadline Britain, extracts from which can still be seen on youtube.  Just Fair campaigns for equal economic, social and cultural rights for everyone in the UK and aims to make sure that international human rights obligations are honoured in the UK.  Their website has an information hub which houses interesting reports and thinking.  The Fair Pay Network hosts films, resources and factual reports about inequality and fair pay, and fights against low-paid work and in-work poverty.  To keep up to date with current thinking on poverty and emerging issues you could sign up to the Oxfam UK Poverty Blog.

Of course poverty and inequality are two of the biggest issues facing us both nationally and globally, and it’s easy to wonder what we can possibly do (as individuals) to help.  Many leftist thinkers argue that inequality is a necessary part of Capitalism, and that while we accept this current economic system, gross levels of poverty and ever-rising inequality are inevitable.  But while we’re waiting for and working towards a better, fairer society and social/economic/political system it’s surely worth trying to reduce poverty now (remember the New Labour government had a plan to eradicate child poverty by 2020), and tackle income inequality head on.  In the current climate you can lobby your local councillor/MP/MEP to push for more effective and humane anti-poverty, inequality reducing policies.  But what policies should we lobby for?  It’s hard for a layperson to know, but there are excellent organisations conducting research and analysis and developing powerful thinking on anti-poverty strategies – Joseph Rowntree Foundation is excellent in this regard, and economicshelp has some interesting policy ideas.  And with all the reading and thinking you’ll have been doing if you follow these links you may develop new thinking of your own to share with these think tanks.

If you want to go further, you could help to build public support for the eradication of poverty and inequality – raising awareness amongst the general public is hugely important if the government is to listen.  A great deal of work needs to be done before the majority of the population really understands the extent and reality of poverty and inequality in the UK, and there needs to be a cultural shift so that there is a common agreement that it’s just wrong; that it can and must change.  To do this, you could support one of the national lobbying organisation mentioned above (either through donation or active membership) or find out about local charities that are working on the ground to tackle the impact of poverty and inequality.  Or you could start your own campaign and galvanise those around you to taking action.  You’ll find resources and advice on setting up your own campaign here.

For information about poverty and inequality issues specifically affecting young people, older people, the homeless community and ex-service personnel, please visit the specific pages.

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