Poverty in Cornwall

The Bishop of Truro is asking 9 supermarkets for boxes to be placed in their stores so that customers can donate food. This is supported by the county’s foodbank scheme.

According to Professor Townsend, poverty is defined as:

“Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in the activities, and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or are at least widely encouraged and approved, in the societies in which they belong”.

The government defines poverty as a family with two children living on less than £300 a week (BBC 2011). The Child Poverty Action group state that a measure of poverty is where household income is below 60 per cent of the median UK income after housing costs have been paid.

In June 2011 Cornwall council’s  Deprivation and Child Poverty report showed 19% (16,650) of under-16s living in poverty. Levels ranged from 2% in some areas to 58% on the Pengegon estate in Camborne.

Poverty therefore does not explain rioting, where are the street protests at this level of deprivation which equals that found elsewhere in the UK? This shows that simple cause-effect explanations for human behaviour are not adequate. Instead we must look to fuzzy analyses and solutions and come to understand that certain behaviours have different antecedents and require different tipping points. Poverty needs other variables which are not always measureable. Camborne as far as I know does not have a history of racial tension, police stop and search or gang culture. Neither does it have conspicious consumption and ostentatious privilege on show, the poorer areas do not sit cheek by jowl with Mansions. We would have to ask residents why they have not kicked up at this continuing level of disparity. Do they expect less? Have they internalised failure, are they ‘all in this together’?

Townsends definition perhaps illuminates. If poverty is experienced in relation to the ‘societies in which they belong’ then it may be posited that camborne society is sufficiently poor and cut off from privilege that residents do not feel excluded as they have little experience (apart from media projections) of social wealth? What protects camborne from looting? Poverty is certainly there but what is missing to turn this experience into social unrest?

Oh, by the way…donating food? In the UK ? Are we mad? What is it about society and people that we may think it necessary to donate food? Before you answer that, have you experienced living on 60% the median wage with two children for, say a year?

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