Personal responsibility is the key to solving poverty in the UK

Personal responsibility is key to alleviating poverty, but the Left don’t believe in it 

Last week saw the release of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report “We can solve poverty in the UK”.  It claims over 13 million or around 20% of the UK population live in poverty and is yet another example of lefty bias with no reference to the individual’s responsibility to provide for themselves or families.  It’s the usual rhetoric, blaming society for poverty and by doing so is perpetuating disillusionment and turning poor people against the very society they should be striving to be part of.

As we know, lefties love the underdog and are obsessed with creating “victims”.  Large proportions of society are now considered “victims” and seemingly no one is responsible for their circumstances. More and more groups are becoming “victims” and the responsibility is falling harder onto the shoulders of those that do provide for themselves, especially if they are childless.  The Left, often funded by charitable organisations, keeps pushing these agendas; if they succeed with one agenda they just go on to find another. The cycle is never ending and ultimately unaffordable.

Poverty, inequality and discrimination are big money spinners for the vast array of trusts, charities, foundations, universities and other interested left wing parties.  These organisations employ hundreds of thousands of people, many on nice salaries with generous pensions.  There’s a vast gravy train of people who have a self-interest in creating further causes to keep themselves’ in jobs.

The JRF is a leading anti-poverty foundations in the UK, it’s extremely wealthy with over £178 million in assets and although they do some good things they also produce research, policy and lobby government advocating for greater wealth distribution and more state interventions.  But, surely there’s a moral imperative when an organisation pushes policies that further their own “business” aims whilst leaving someone else to pick up the tab?  JRF, which veered towards the Remain campaign is now using Brexit as an excuse to lobby the government to raise an extra £15 billion annually in taxes from the wealthy to spend on poverty.

The definition of poverty has increased over the years and charities keep pushing the minimum income level up.  JRF is now promoting a new poverty level called the minimum income standard (MIS).  This MIS is unattainable unless we pursue a much greater level of wealth transfer and it’s irresponsible of the JRF to be promoting that people have the right to these levels of income.

The MIS is based on what the public thinks is required for an adequate standard of living and includes meeting the costs of food, clothing, household bills, transport and cultural participation.  To give an idea of how ridiculous this is here’s the figures:

  • £422 a week for a couple with two children or £21,944 a year after tax, housing and childcare costs
  • £178 a week for a single person or £9,256 a year after tax and housing costs

JRF considers anyone living on 75% of MIS or less to be at risk of severe deprivation:

  • £317 a week for a couple with children or £16,484 a year after tax, housing and childcare costs
  • £134 a week for a single person or £6,968 a year after tax and housing costs

Bear in mind that these figures are the income levels JRF thinks people should get regardless of whether they work, the amount they work or the skills they have.  Also consider the average income in the UK is £26,000 gross and the 40% tax band kicks in at £43,000 which equates to take home pay of £32,407, plus workers are encouraged to pay into a private pension so realistically a person on £43,000 would have a disposable income of under £30,000 net.  These figures clearly show that what the JRF is promoting is not only unattainable but insulting to people who have worked hard, have skills and qualifications but don’t earn much more than the MIS after tax.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Left has pushed for a shorter working week.  Someone on a low income only has to work a maximum of 40 hours a week and then may be able to receive a variety of state top-ups to supplement their income, rather than working overtime.  People on lower incomes now work on average less hours than ever before, however many people in professional jobs have to do unpaid overtime for their bigger salary.

Not only do those on low incomes get top-ups from the state through an array of benefits but they may also be eligible for a variety of other state subsidies such as social housing, free prescriptions, eye care, dental treatment, free school meals, the list goes on to things such as discounted travel, vouchers for fruit, free childcare for two year olds, help with school uniform costs, to name a few. Conveniently for anti-poverty campaigners none of these costs are ever quantified or considered in the amount of money received, but for a family these could easily be worth thousands of pounds a year.

It is also important to note there is inconsistency in how incomes are reported.  For better off earners income is always reported before tax, for benefit recipients income is always reported as net money received but minus any “in-kind” subsides and for low paid workers pre-tax income is often used, but financial benefits are often not citied and subsidies are never stated.

JRF also reports on lack of opportunities and poor education for people living in poverty. Apparently 5 million people in the UK don’t have the basic three Rs.  The facts are shocking:

  • 23% of 16-18 year olds, 17% of 19 – 24 year olds are at the lowest level of literacy (level 1 or below), compared to 19% of 55-65 year olds.
  • 29% of 16-18 year olds, 25% of 19 – 24 year olds are at the lowest level of numeracy (level 1 or below), compared to 26% of 55-65 year olds.
  • For the oldest age group in the study (55 – 65), England is third in the international rankings for literacy, for the youngest age group (16-18) it is 18th.
  • England is the only country where the average literacy score of the youngest age group (16-18 years) is lower than that of the oldest age group (55-65 years)

Considering compulsory school age didn’t rise to 16 until 1972, class sizes have decreased, the amount we spend educating a child is far greater than ever before plus the so-called poverty levels of today would have been considered absolute luxury for large numbers of our older generation, these figures are truly disgraceful.

Yes, education levels have been dumbed down but the real reason for this shift is not poverty, it is culture.  It costs the taxpayers around £4,550 a year to send a child to school yet around a quarter of children are leaving school with a literacy and numeracy level of one or below.  The Left, of course, blame poor schools, family poverty, broken homes and just about everything else they can think of for kids doing badly at school.  Billions of pounds has been thrown at the problem including all sorts of extra support, parenting classes, extra nursery education for poor families and of course more state handouts.  These figures clearly show that more money is not the solution, if it was then the older generation would have lower attainment levels than the young.

Too often the prime reason adults lack skills is because they haven’t made the most of their school years.  Many children do not take school seriously, mess around and leave without qualifications, a stark contrast to our older generations who valued the opportunity school gave them as it was their route out of poverty.  This has been perpetuated by a society that is obsessed with children, pandering to their rights and not installing discipline. Children that don’t have the discipline installed as a child will struggle in the workplace. But, crucially schools are only there to steer and teach children, it is up to the parents to instil discipline and moral values and help nurture their children to become resourceful adults.

However, many parents do not take responsibility for bringing up their children or even teach them basic life skills.  The Left doesn’t even expect parents to be financially responsible for their own children thus effectively the taxpayer is paying irresponsible people to have kids whilst responsible taxpayers are limiting the amount of children they have because they feel they can’t afford to have more.

Clearly we need change.  People need to be rewarded for doing well but equally people have to be able to fail.  The Left need to realise that there will always be an element of society living in poverty as some people will continually shirk responsibility and make bad choices.  Some people are poor through their own doing or through their parent’s bad choices and giving them more money just perpetuates the problem from generation to generation.   The Left have created a culture of entitlement, people are no longer grateful for the handouts and the “free” services they get receive, but think it is their right to receive them.  Conservatives must pull back; no one has the automatic right to other people’s money.

“Better off” bashing by the Left is out of control.  Generally, it is assumed that people who earn higher incomes have had an easier life, come from better off families and have had more opportunities.  This diminishes the accomplishment of achievement as many people have to overcome numerous difficulties to succeed and it doesn’t take into account the sacrifices, study, costs, hard work, stress and long hours an individual puts in to gain a better income.

People’s motivation is for themselves and their family and lefties are no different, we only have to look at the Labour Party and its champagne socialist followers to see this.  The Left needs to consider the motivation behind success; and a system which taxes away your income, penalises your children because of your wealth or educational status and inhibits freedom of choice does not install drive to succeed.

I would thus argue that the only way to help poor people achieve in life is to give them back responsibility.  For those who take responsibility opportunities should be available and this is where the state should support.  School education needs to be redefined as a great opportunity which should be grabbed with both hands and the curriculum needs to cater for a much more diverse range of skills rather than push everyone down an academic route. The Conservatives have put apprenticeships back on the agenda, an excellent start, but the Left need to realise that less, not more people need to go to university and that those who don’t go to university are just as value and capable of achieving financial success as those who do not.

For those who don’t succeed, waste their school years, make bad choices and don’t take responsibility for their lives, life should be financially tough.  The state should only ever provide an absolute minimum level of support, if people want luxuries then they have to be prepared to work for them.  Creating a better life for oneself, having more money and being able to support your own children has to be the ultimate driver.  Further distribution of wealth is not the answer.

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty