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Experiences of poverty

'We try to not eat a lot in one day. Even though we are really hungry.' Who said this and why? Watch Rachel explain more.
We try to not eat a lot in one day. Even though we are really hungry. We have to be careful with our food. At the food place, because we don’t have a lot of money we always go there to get a bit more food. We go there for free, you don’t have to pay. These are the words of a primary school child who was interviewed for a documentary about growing up on the breadline. He’s about 8 years old and is describing visiting foodbanks in a routine, matter of fact way. And it has become routine. In the year April 2015-March 2016, 1.1 million emergency food parcels were provided by one official foodbank network.
For the year ending March 2021 that figure had reached 2.5 million. It’s worth highlighting that this particular network was established to help fight food poverty abroad, not in the UK and in 2006 distributed fewer than 3,000 emergency food parcels. Perhaps the most obvious indicator of poverty is hunger and while we are often talking about ‘relative poverty’ in the UK, we are increasingly seeing people going hungry, living in properties they can’t afford to heat, or even experiencing homelessness. Oliver Twist may have been written over 150 years ago, but people – and children in particular, are still going hungry.
The lived experiences of those in poverty have become incredibly powerful tools for highlighting the impacts of poverty, questioning government policy, and challenging assumptions. One constant faced throughout history has been the stigma felt by those who find themselves in poverty. In a report by a charity and key academics, it was found that Benefit stigma in Britain is primarily driven by the perception that claimants are ‘undeserving’, with data suggesting that people in the UK now see those who claim benefits as less deserving than they did twenty or thirty years ago. Those living in poverty are aware of this stigma – they often feel it in their day-to-day lives.
There have been countless studies and projects – one called ‘Dole animators’ was conducted by a colleague here at York –
Dr Ruth Patrick, and typical quotes include: We’re classed as being scroungers, work-shy, that kind of thing. All the negative stuff I know I’m not like worthless or anything like that, and I know I’m not a scrounging bit of scum but when it’s told you over and over again and that’s all you hear I can understand some people get really affected by it. Benefits as a ‘lifestyle choice’ is a no-brainer and it infuriates me when politicians and the media portray people in a derogatory manner because their circumstances dictate that they have to apply for social security payments to get them through the bad times. While unemployment is closely related to poverty, this year 1 in 8 workers were in poverty.
Even before the pandemic, 56% of all those in poverty were in a household where at least one person was working.

It is one thing to look at the numbers and know what the data tells us about poverty… but these numbers represent people.

How does poverty affect those who experience it? What is their life like?

Share your thoughts with your fellow learners in the usual fashion.

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Understanding and Solving Poverty and Inequality

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