The task of organising is indeed difficult in the current context. There is little prospect of significant action to tackle poverty at UK level, with a Government with an 80-seat majority in Parliament, which came to office with a focus on delivering Brexit but which is now faced with having to deal with the hugely damaging long term social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
More widely, the Covid-19 pandemic has both brought into much sharper focus pre-existing inequalities in society, and led to dramatic increases in poverty, debt and levels of unemployment (especially for people under 25), which are significantly worse than that following not just the 2007 global economic crash, but the deep recessions of the 1970s and 1980s.
For all the talk of ‘building back better’, this leaves many families and communities with the prospect of reduced life chances (and indeed, life expectancy) for years to come.
Beyond this, there are strong and deep seated public attitudes in the UK which stigmatise and blame individuals for their own poverty.
Professor Ruth Lister describes this in terms of the ‘othering’ of people living in poverty. Over many decades, these attitudes have not only been embedded in the welfare system, but have also been internalised by many people living in poverty themselves.
In the words of Wayne Green, who spoke at the first National Poverty Hearing we held back in 1996:
“What is poverty? Poverty is a battle of invisibility, a lack of resources, exclusion, powerlessness… being blamed for society’s problems”