Through the eyes of a child.
We should all see the world through the eyes of a three year old. It’s an exciting place full of opportunity and wonder. It’s a world where firing a nerf blaster at your birthday guests can fill the room with all our laughter. But it’s also a world where what you remember most from a trip to York, that took in the Railway Museum and a Viking Centre, are the bells of York Minster. Even at three years of age we know what a rare beauty that is. Our Grandson’s life and vocabulary expands daily and its joyful to watch. He got every kind of vehicle for his birthday, even emergency ones that made their own siren noise! If Eskimos have 50 words for snow, then he has a similar number that make car brrrroom noises. It’s even magical to see him play with toys that were once his father’s, especially super ted whose super powers live in the imagination of the children who have loved him. What an amazing world this is when you live in a nice house, have plenty to eat and money for toys and trips away.
But what of those who don’t? What of the 5.5 million people for example, who stand to lose the £20 so-called uplift of universal credit, with 0.5 million of them plunging into poverty, 200,000 of them are children. Children whose birthdays will be very different to the one we have just celebrated. The government knew the rate of universal credit was too low, hence the recognition that the additional £20 was crucial to avert even more distress during a pandemic. The truth is it was always too low. Food bank use declined when people had enough money to feed themselves.
And this is not a problem of unemployment, 60% of those affected are in work. It’s a problem of poor working conditions and low pay. And it’s a lack support for disabled people - disabled by a world that doesn’t accommodate their needs, for both physical and mental health. Ours is a rich country crippled by staggering inequalities. It is to our collective shame if we allow people to starve while others thrive. The government must integrate the £20 into universal credit. As the recently appointed UN rapporteur on extreme poverty in the UK said it would be ‘unconscionable’ to remove the money that is so evidently needed and ‘incompatible with Britain’s obligation to protect its citizens’ rights to an adequate standard of living’. Strong words and so they should be.
I can’t imagine how it feels to be unable to feed your family. But my grandparents knew that feeling. It’s not so far away really. I don’t know how politicians, knowing the impact of removing the £20, can even think to enact it. I don’t know how they could look their own children in the eye and say we deliberately made children starve. How could they even sleep at night?
How can we if we do nothing?