Thursday, 28 January 2010

Poverty and Inequality

The photograph and story in the Journal last Monday is great publicity for the campaign. Since then there has been a lot of focus on child poverty and inequality. This is a letter I wrote to the Journal about it:

'The measure of childhood poverty is relative – family income less than 50% of median income after the cost of housing. So as the incomes of the richest increase, the gap between best and worst off widens and more fall into poverty.

In the UK the gap between incomes grew faster than any other developed country during the Thatcher years. From 1997 the Labour government tried to reverse the trend with some success in the first five years of this century, but unfortunately that ground has since been lost.

The UK is now the most unequal country in Europe except Portugal, and one of the most unequal in the world. Convincing worldwide evidence shows that all kinds of social problems – violent crime, teenage pregnancy, drug misuse, depression, the number of people in prison and even obesity are closely linked to inequality. In country after country the greater the gap between rich and poor the worse the social problems.

Children North East knows of many families who are struggling to make ends meet. Too many children live in houses their parents can’t afford to heat; children who don’t have a winter coat and children who don’t get three meals a day because their parents can’t afford it.

We also know there are a great many individuals and businesses who care particularly during this recession. The generosity of North East people is well-known for example this Christmas Children North East received over 6000 gifts which we distributed to children, the biggest number we have ever received. We are extremely grateful on behalf of all those children and their parents.

Which ever party forms the next government the crucial issue which must be faced is to reduce inequality of income. That can be done two ways – tax the earnings of the wealthy or increase the income of the poorest. It is up to us as voters to decide which is the most just.'

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