Blog: Poverty is not inevitable

Councillor Matt Kerr

Councillor Matt Kerr

Councillor Matt Kerr believes that by working together we can challenge the stigma of poverty.

Poverty brings with it challenges beyond some of the obvious ones. Sadly, we live in a society where the necessities of life are not understood as rights. People – our friends, neighbours, colleagues – live with the more visible and publicised aspects of poverty every day; choosing between heating and eating, struggling to service unaffordable debt, attending food banks to feed themselves and their family.

The less visible aspect of poverty is the humiliation and stress it can bring into people’s lives, relying on charity to feed your family is not an experience anyone would want to have to go through.

Yet, discussion in our society often circles around a separation of those people who deserve help and those who are deemed less worthy. The ‘strivers V skivers’ argument has, sadly, poisoned discussion on the subject and only succeeds in kicking people when they are at their most vulnerable.

We hear of benefit fraud (0.7%), but how often do we hear of the £1.5bn in social support which goes unclaimed?

We hear that people are workshy, but how often do we hear that most people living in our city in poverty are in work?

We hear of people not ‘paying their way’; and young people deprived of support as they ‘haven’t paid enough in’, but how often do we hear of the conservative estimate of £119.4bn in uncollected tax in our land?

Tackling poverty must be about tackling economic inequality – that must be at its core – but we must also challenge our assumptions of each other; on what poverty is, and how people get there.

Our Social Security system is built on a whole population insurance policy and any one of us could need it tomorrow. It was built as a governmental expression of a rejection of ‘beggar thy neighbour’ and built on the understanding that we are ‘all’ truly part of society. That is why organisations from across Glasgow are coming together to make poverty a thing of the past.

The city’s Poverty Leadership Panel is made up of public, private and third sector organisations, as well as representatives from communities living in poverty.

Members include Wheatley Group, Glasgow City Council, the Glasgow Disability Alliance, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and the Poverty Alliance.

We want everyone in our city to join us as we reduce poverty and exclusion over the next decade.

Over the next year, we’ll be campaigning for a fairer Glasgow, and giving people in our city who are affected by poverty the opportunity to have their voices heard, challenge stereotypes about their lives and put forward solutions to end poverty for good.

We must challenge negative stereotypes on poverty wherever we find them, not only because it has a corrosive effect on our support for our Social Security system, but because those stereotypes dehumanise our fellow citizens and are built on the myth that poverty is inevitable. It is not.

Poverty is never inevitable, and each of us has a role to play in proving that. We hope you will join us.

  • Labour councillor for Craigton ward and executive member of social justice at Glasgow City Council, Matt Kerr, is working with Wheatley Group to back the Poverty Leadership Panel’s campaign for a fairer Glasgow