Thursday, 09 April 2015

Getting by? Back in the early 90s I got disillusioned with being part of a circus of people talking about those who experience exclusion, too frequently in their absence. I tried (largely unsuccessfully) to get funding for what I called ‘Voices’ projects, whereby people’s own experiences were recorded and this constituted the text, with or without context. At one point I had a list of eight or ten sub-projects, but funders could not be persuaded. The nearest I came was with a project in Derry, Northern Ireland, but I don’t know what happened to the small amount of content created. More recently, I was part of a successful example, A series of doors, presenting the experiences of young people in poverty. It’s tempting to say now that ‘Liverpool has done it’, because a range of Liverpuddlian agencies have worked together to produce the Getting by? report. And they’ve done it supremely well. Try and get your hands on the hard copy. The project has documented 12 months in the lives of 30 families living in poverty in Liverpool where one or both parents are working. The website has included video clips as well as monitoring the political context and providing a clever connection between sources of help and advice, and the advisors’ take on the provision of that support. The report shows what you’d expect: these families are invariably hard-working, financially astute, and often enormously resourceful, but still have insufficient means to raise themselves out of poverty. And these are families with paid employment. The foreword quotes Beatrice Webb up-front: ‘Poverty is not due to a weakness of individual character, but is a problem of social structure and economic mismanagement.’ With a frankly unpromising general election in view, what chance that those who are in positions to do something about the social structure and the management of the economy will take any notice?

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