Listening to BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show yesterday left me feeling deflated.

In a debate about the archaic cliché “the deserving and undeserving poor” the overwhelming message coming back from callers and interviewees seems to be that we should stop giving out state benefits to those who are not deemed to be deserving of them, i.e. those who do not actively try to secure work, those who have ‘too many’ children, those with addictions and endemic social problems. 

One particular caller spoke of her belief that the children of these so-called undeserving poor were not at fault for their situation and therefore should not be deprived of the benefits afforded to their parents to care for them.   This was met by a counter argument that this was not the way to support these children…but not followed up with any productive suggestion of how the state should intervene to support them and break the cycle of poverty and benefit dependence. 

What struck me throughout this debate was people’s inability to make the link between the children in question who are often lacking in balanced diet, education and opportunities; the “deserving poor”, and the adults being described as “undeserving”.  These deserving children are the undeserving adults of tomorrow and I can’t help but wonder when and how exactly these callers and politicians will nail down the transition from one to the other?   Taking benefits away from this group of people is not going to miraculously fix society’s ills, but rather exacerbate them.   So long as we live in a society that seeks to deprive those without skills, opportunities and education, there is always going to be a need for the support workers in organisations such as Simon On The Streets.   It will be a fantastic day when there is no need for our service!

Helen, Simon on the Streets

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  1. Leeds today: heroes unmasked, controversial builds, the Yorkshire Rose, Water music and innovation. | Beyond Guardian Leeds - July 25, 2011

    [...] week BGL will be looking at the marginalised parts of society; today Simon on the Streets asks at what point to “deserving” recipients of benefits become “undeserving”? Children are deserving, but do they become undeserving the moment they turn 16? People have strong [...]

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