A Question I Was Asked:

"Eradicating Child Poverty in Britain" - What's This All About?

The Question:

This is more a political question than a theological one but would you comment on it?

The new British coalition government has just restated the old Labour government's intention to "reduce child poverty in Britain." But surely child poverty in Britain has disappeared a long time ago. What do you say?

UK Apologetics Reply:

I wholeheartedly agree. There has been real poverty in Britain in the past. The Victorians started to make real inroads into eradicating this poverty, however, a degree of poverty affecting not only children, but also many others, of course, continued into the 1920s/1930s. The Second World War obviously caused many such poverty-reducing efforts to be reduced, but - by the mid-1950s - poverty in Britain was, nevertheless, substantially reduced and the widespread poverty of about 150 years earlier was just about already eradicated.

If we come forward to the 1960s/1970s, true poverty in Britain had been eradicated in any and every family in which people behaved in a responsible manner. In other words, if a father is an alcoholic, for instance, and drinks away the family's substance, then there will obviously be poverty within that family. But, generally speaking, British poverty had been eradicated.

In more recent years, there has been the problem of unemployment affecting older men; sometimes when such men became redundant it was almost impossible for them to find renewed employment. Two factors played a part in this: 1. The large-scale moving of women into the work place (thousands of jobs which were traditionally the domain of men back in the 1950s/60s were being carried out by women by the 1980s/90s). 2. The desire of most employers to employ only young people and to train them in their own way. These factors caused a degree of hardship and much frustration to numerous older men and their families, but not really "poverty" in the old sense because of the availability of social security government funds by that period.

But "child poverty" in 2011? Frankly, it does not exist within any responsible family. Sometimes one has even heard parents complaining about not being able to properly clothe their children, even when it is known that those parents spend a lot of the family's income on alcohol and tobacco and still manage to take holidays; therefore, the problem cannot be poverty in the older sense. All this may sound harsh to some, but my wife and I have had long experience in living on a very small budget and we have done so successfully, but one has to be sensible and responsible, living within one's financial limitations. But poverty, 1900s-1930s style, is dead and buried and it is foolish to claim that it still exists.

So why do UK politicians make these very strange statements about "abolishing British child poverty"? It has long been a cry of the left-wing who have become left behind in history. But the phrase is now also often used to refer to families in which younger fathers do not even want to work for no good reason, so to 'abolish child poverty' is suddenly about getting some of these people to go out and get a job! But it is a misnomer. Social security payments mean that not a single person in Britain has to live in poverty. The old large-scale poverty of the past has been eradicated and I too get tired of politicians using this phrase about a problem which is simply not true poverty.
Robin A. Brace. April 10th, 2011.