The problem with poverty is that it affects the poor, or more specifically affects the poor disproportionally. We are all experiencing the current cost of living crisis but for people on low incomes, the increase in utility costs, food, and basic necessities is not only an inconvenience, but an everyday struggle. This is because if you are on low income, then the choices you have when prices increase are significantly reduced - there is no extra to cut out so people face the 'heat or eat' dilemma.
We see this every day at the Mission. We have always supported people who, due to a life crisis, are struggling to meet extra costs - the fridge breaks, the new flat has no furniture for example. But increasingly we are seeing people simply struggling to meet everyday costs. In my view, this means that poverty has become an issue of justice.
Here are a few more examples:
Incomes for the poor are often very slow to respond to price inflation. Benefit increases - if they happen at all - only happen once a year, but prices are rising all the time and at an increasingly rapid rate.
Inflation is not uniform, indeed the work of Jack Monroe (@BootstrapCook) has shown the practices of many big businesses in the face of rising costs. They have saved money by withdrawing many value range items. Low income customers therefore have no choice but to buy high-priced ranges, which are often several times the price.
Finally, the poverty premium means that those on low incomes pay more than others. For example, prepaid utility costs are higher than those on a billed service, but this is often the only choice for people who are renting.
And finally, as they say, I can't ignore the fact that so many interventions aimed at helping to mitigate the cost of living either don't help those on the lowest income, or inappropriately support people who really do not need the support.
On that note, if in the next few weeks you receive via your Council Tax a rebate to reduce the rising cost of gas and electric and you feel you do not need this, then please consider donating an equivalent amount to the Mission here. This would enable us to continue to support the rising number of people in need of our help as the cost of living spirals out of control.
To explore this link between Poverty and Justice, I am pleased to be part of the Lent Life panel at Huddersfield Parish Church at 6:30pm 5th April 2022. With a panel, we will be exploring poverty and justice and answering audience questions. I look forward to seeing you there.
Paul Bridges, CEO, Huddersfield Mission.