One million children hungry cold or homeless

Fight for a socialist alternative to the Tories and Starmer’s Labour

Joe Waters, Gloucestershire Socialist Party

in 2022, 1.8 million UK households experienced destitution, a recent study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found. This means 3.8 million people, including over one million kids, were unable to meet basic physical needs like food, warmth and shelter. Rates of destitution have more than doubled over the last five years with three quarters of these households reporting living on less than £85 a week after housing costs.

It is not difficult to understand why so many people are being forced to live without basic necessities. Inflation has put enormous financial pressure on households, many of whom were already struggling due to low pay or underemployment (if they could even find work, or were able to work). While the bosses have made massive profits, wages have not kept up, making a slip into serious poverty for millions inevitable.

Benefits provide no real safety net for households struggling to get by. The basic rate of Universal Credit for a single adult (£85 per week) falls, by definition, below the threshold for destitution in the UK.

With so many people failed by capitalism and its pursuit of profits, and punished by the Conservative government, whose benefit policies have guaranteed hardship for millions, it is natural that many would look to the opposition Labour Party in hope of change.

However under Keir Starmer, Labour has made it clear that it is unwilling to commit the resources needed to improve the situation. He has refused to commit to remove the two-child benefit cap, a policy which has been identified by groups as a major factor in pushing so many families into poverty.

In many cases, where wages have risen for ordinary households, even if not in real terms,  this has come as a result of industrial action. Through taking strike action across a number of sectors over the last year, working people have delivered some relief for themselves. However, whilst the government attempts to tighten laws to restrict the activities of trade unions, Labour has failed to show real opposition and stand with striking workers.

Labour has claimed it will scrap some of the Tories’ anti-union laws. But in the context of Starmer’s almost constant abandoned pledges, and the hostility the party leadership has shown to strikes (including banning MPs from speaking out on picket lines), this commitment seems paper thin.

Working-class households desperately need a new mass party, grounded in the working class, which can fight for the resources people need. Such a party, armed with a socialist programme to take the wealth and resources out of the hands of the bosses and putting society in the hands of the working class, on a democratic basis, could put an end to poverty once and for all.