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I, Daniel Blake – Manifesto for a new UK

Election Issue #1 : Food Bank Nation

I'd suggest the most compelling movie for our modern times is I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach. It describes the meat grinder reality of many people across the UK, telling their story in an accurate, heart rending manner.

The Trussell Trust reports it's getting worse not better, hardly surprising when the causes, notably the sanctions regime, continue and thus can be considered a key Election Issue. There is a choice to stop it, or not, reflected in how YOU vote.

As their research shows over 140,000 parcels were handed out in Scotland, where more than one in four children are now born into poverty.

While the Tory party denies it is true, their own audit office does not. Their role as neutral assessor of government policy performance tells the same story and condemns them the same way, highlighting:

  • The Dept imposed over 400,000 (!) sanctions in 2015 alone
  • The Department has not used its own data to evaluate the impact of sanctions in the UK, and has not supported wider work to improve understanding of sanction outcomes.

The Cost of Poverty

The critical insight is this one: "The Department does not track the costs and benefits of sanctions", important when you consider the key decision making rationale used to justify the program - The central idea to sanctions is that they are economically prudent and "motivating" towards those receiving benefits, thus keeping the costs in check and ultimately reducing them while growing the tax revenue base.

A positive outcome all would agree with but the actual policy fails to achieve even this, indeed it gets worse, much worse, when you start to take a more honest, holistic appreciation of the situation, in particular the critcal dynamic of 'displaced costs'.

In short people starved to the point of malnutrition are less able to find work, funnily enough, and instead fill up hospitals, causing an overload on the NHS. The dynamics of this are very well explained through this article from Canadian organization Canada Against Poverty, that makes the equally obvious point that it also drives crime and thus increases policing costs too, impacts across Education in the same kind of way, and so on. Ie it's a Root Cause.

Therefore a much more mature social system approach would seeek to eliminate these causes of costs. The article highlights:

Poverty causes serious health problems for those individuals living in poverty — for example,  living in poverty can double or triple the chances of developing diabetes and complications such as blindness and cardiovascular disease — but it also causes financial problems for the healthcare system itself. Estimates place the cost of poverty on the Canadian health care system to be $7.6 billion.

Another spending avenue is the criminal justice system. There is a direct link between poverty and high rates of incarceration, which costs the government and taxpayers a significant amount of money per year — Saskatchewan is thought to spend between $50 and $120 million per year on the criminal justice system.

The Rowntree Foundation estimates the UK's Cost of Poverty to be £78 billion a year.

Conclusion

Much of the poverty in the UK is a direct result of policy, meaning that immediate, positive impact could be achieved simply by choosing to stop the program. Longer term, more systemic improvements can be further made through social innovations in particular a Guaranteed Annual Income. The cost of doing so would be justified by the larger amounts it saves across Healthcare, Policing et al, AND would create more real, sustainable employment and a route out of poverty.

A recent inquiry in British Columbia reported that per year, it would cost the province $3-4 billion to create and enact a poverty reduction strategy — a staggering amount until you consider that doing nothing to end poverty costs the province $8.1-9.2 billion every year. Enacting policies to end poverty is the best step forward legally, morally and economically.

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