Umm, what is this poverty that we’re talking of?

Perhaps most shocking is the fact that Kensington and Chelsea actually has the highest life expectancy at birth for males, and second highest for females in the UK. There is a stark contrast within the borough – the area around Grenfell is among the top 10% most deprived in the country, and the inequalities in healthy life expectancy between those living in the tower blocks and the multimillion dollar mansions next door are the widest in the country.

I grew up in west London and spent time working as a junior psychiatrist in Kensington and Chelsea. On home visits to see patients in their council housing, I saw the destructive effects of poverty daily. Trying to make the best of their circumstances while exposed to crime and violence, struggling to feed themselves and their families, suffering from mental (and often physical) illness and sometimes using drugs and alcohol to cope. The outcomes in terms of life expectancy seemed dishearteningly predictable, but unnecessary.

Someone whose paid for by other people flat is renovated at a cost of £70,000 is not in what most of the world knows of as poverty.

That’s actually more than the lifetime income of around and about half of humanity…..

33 comments on “Umm, what is this poverty that we’re talking of?

  1. “On home visits to see patients in their council housing, I saw the destructive effects of poverty daily. Trying to make the best of their circumstances while exposed to crime and violence…”

    …by other ‘poor people’, I assume?

  2. After my parents’ business went bust in the early 90s and I had to be taken out of my nice independent boarding school into the local comp, moved from our nice 4 bed semi to a 2 bed council flat and lived with two unemployed parents, I never felt poor. We had no income other than that provided by the government for a few years but I was always clothed and fed. Christmas was shit for a while but that was about it.

    I honestly don’t understand poverty in the U.K. Surely I experienced it for a couple of years. I noticed the difference of course from that nice middle-middle class existence but it wasn’t all that bad.

    Still working my way back…. 🙂

  3. I despise this sort of thinking.

    I grew up on a council estate and my family lived a less privileged life than the Grenfell Tower residents. But the “poverty” we lived in didn’t make us shits. You find shits at all levels in society.

    If some junior psychiatrist had come round to our place and sobbed at our “poverty” my old man would have shown him the door, sharpish.

    These middle class wankers are so naive, you wonder how they survive. People claiming to have mental illnesses were probably just working the system. When you surround people with rules they very quickly adapt and the game begins, you’re just a tool. In both senses of the word.

    You provide the excuse to legitamise people’s dependency on the State.

  4. There is a big difference between being poor and living in poverty: the former is a matter of income and wealth, the latter much more about the behaviors that derive from being poor. Not everyone who is shit poor is living in poverty. This has been studied and written about for years, but I guess middle class Guardianistas are unaware of it.

  5. suffering from mental (and often physical) illness and sometimes using drugs and alcohol to cope

    Do they have this the correct way around?

    The Guardian’s attitude to alcohol at the moment is interesting. If you are middle class they are censorious, and catastrophic effects will result from mild alcohol consumption.

    If you are ‘poor’, it’s the other way around. Illness strikes you at random and alcohol is an understandable palliative.

  6. There is a big difference between being poor and living in poverty

    Dalrymple drew the description between living in poverty and living in squalor.

  7. “There is a big difference between being poor and living in poverty”. There used to be a scheme for giving state bursaries to enable children of the poor to attend private schools. The Blair govt scrapped it. A Labour MP explained that the children who won the bursaries were the wrong sort of poor.

  8. ‘inequalities in healthy life expectancy’

    They fixed this in Logan’s Run. The standard communist fix.

  9. Most of the poor people I have known were good people. I posted this in a thread a couple of weeks ago and got jumped on.

  10. @dearieme

    There was a whole class of ‘direct grant’ grammar schools, who were required to provide 25% of free places (by examination) the remainder being fee-paying. In return, they received their share of central government funding directly, rather than being allocated by the local education authority.

    They were mostly members of the “Headmasters’ Conference” of public schools, and we used to play Eton at soccer. Labour forced them to choose between becoming fully independent (like MGS) or joining the local system (sometimes retaining their ‘grammar’ status, as Wycombe or Lancaster).

    My year sent 7 students to Oxbridge. The Lancashire mill town where I grew up would now struggle to match that number over a decade. Such is progress towards ‘equality’.

  11. There used to be a scheme for giving state bursaries to enable children of the poor to attend private schools.

    That’s how my Dad went to Truro.

  12. “Trying to make the best of their circumstances while exposed to crime and violence, struggling to feed themselves and their families, suffering from mental (and often physical) illness and sometimes using drugs and alcohol to cope. ”

    Sounds like your average run of the mill experience during my formative years. Not sure what his point is? You get on and get out or you sink and die.

  13. “That’s how my Dad went to Truro.” I was thinking of the Major government’s scheme, the name of which escapes me. Anyway, the “wrong sort of poor” that the Labour MP so detested included such people as the children of poor-as-church-mice clergymen.

  14. “Labour forced them to choose between becoming fully independent … or joining the local system”: and sometimes they just perished.

    Our best local direct grant school became independent because if they’d become a council school they’d have been closed.

  15. @Chris Miller, dearieme
    At my direct grant grammar school (Headmasters’ Conference, 7 boys to Oxbridge in a good year, etc) most boys (ie far more than 25%) had a free place. (The Wikipedia article is quite good on how this worked.)

    Or, to be more exact, after a great deal of effort the religious order that ran the school achieved the position in the early 1960s where most of the pupils had free places. A couple of years later the government forced the Brothers to choose between making their school fully independent and closing it down.

    It went independent and still exists, albeit now without the Brothers. Does it send people to Oxbridge today? If so, the website is surprisingly modest about it.

  16. Hey i know a mate who falls into the author’s category. Worked with poor unfortunates. Initial middle class shock of wtf are they doing to themselves? FFS they still cut potatoes and put them in pots of boiling oil because its cheap. Sees the same characters and circumstances and same surnames over twenty years, loses the shock, feels he has made no difference whatsoever adds in a peppering of i’m not being paid enough for this shit and everyone i socialise with is considerably richer than meow (viz tim’s theory of middle class journos and civil servants bitter at being out bid on their fave houses and schools) conclusion Russell Brand and Jeremy Corbyn will save us.

  17. Most everyone I knew – most of my mates – got the hell out of Dodge as soon as we could. Those left behind tended to be the petty criminal class or families with ‘limited knowledge’. And while part of me disparages the left behind, I realise random genetic distribution played a part – there but for the grace and all that. I’ve done ok but perhaps I just hit lucky. Attributing my success, such as it is, to ambition and hard work being a delusion, rather than just luck of the draw.

  18. Round here the farm hands really are poor, working long hours in, literally, shitty jobs yet we don’t to have all the problems we see in inner cities. More importantly we don’t get whinging sense of entitlement articles or lectures.

    Last Christmas a number of women got together and put together a series of boxes, breakfast(us) dinner and presents for the kids, for one particularly hard up family.

  19. When I came along at the tail-end of the 1960s, my mother’s weekly housekeeping budget was £8. That fed and clothed six of us (my brother went off to university about the same time my sister was born). Somehow my mother made it work. I suppose we were poor, but it didn’t feel like it.

  20. @Gamecock
    “Most of the poor people I have known were good people. I posted this in a thread a couple of weeks ago and got jumped on.”

    Don’t remember your originally phrasing it like that, but perhaps your views are influenced by limited experience. And the realities are something I’m having to deal with, currently.
    Someone I’m close to comes from a background which one might classify as the “good poor”. And I’ve, myself, done my best to excuse them of SMfS’s repeated accusations of “feckless” by pointing to the historic disadvantages they suffer, from the wider culture they belong to. But I’m having to deal with her brother’s execution by low level lowlifes in the drug trade. And one can’t get around that hanging around the cantina drinking your sister’s earnings in prostitution does tend to define them as a “bad person”. As it does the lowlifes who did the shooting. And quite a lot of other people this situation produces.
    There’s nothing inherently virtuous in being poor. Far from it. Being poor can, in itself, produce a surfeit of bad people.

  21. I read some pretentious wank on these pages and I mostly let it slide because in a certain light it could be viewed as (educated) humour.

    Poor people are bad people
    Because you are ‘bad’ you are poor
    Work hard and you can become not-poor therefore good.
    Work harder to become good.

    What planet are you people on, Arbeit macht Frie will not make us rich.

    Producing what makes us happy makes us rich, surely there is a market opportunity in making poor people happy that makes everyone richer.

    Get off your lazy fat rich arses and become obscenely rich making everybody elses lives better or get out of the f.ing way.

  22. The stereotypes of the poor are ridiculous. When my family was poor, it was just the way it was. We didn’t “struggle.” My parents didn’t buy things that other families did.

    As DJ said, “Christmas was shit for a while but that was about it.” I got one present on Christmas. It didn’t make us do evil things. My parents went to work, I went to school. Eventually Dad got out of his student debt (1961!), and things got pretty good. I went to college and became a computer scientist.

    My father was one of 12 kids in rural Kentucky; my mother was the orphaned daughter of a coal miner in West Virginia. They and most of the people they knew were moral people.

    The suggesting that poor people are bad or evil is insulting. They are just people. I’m quite well off now, but I haven’t forgotten my roots.

  23. dearieme,
    if you are academically gifted then your education should be free at point of use because we all benefit (parental wealth is academic)

    Gamecock,
    Christmas is shit for everyone with expectations, it is the surprise that makes it, We (big family) used to have a stupidly low budget per gift (prize for closest to indiviual and totall budget).

    For poor people official money itself has a very low priority, other stuff is used as money, what is the point of collecting official money when it will be used to disadvantage you in the future ?

  24. BobRocket….as far as I recall, a Tale of Two Cities was about London and Paris at the time of ‘The terror’. Unless you are thinking of the same book that David ‘mastermind’ Lamy was talking about?
    Poverty is less a lack of money more a lack of expectations (on both sides)Worth reading Thomas Sowelll on black poverty after40 years of welfare

  25. “dearieme,
    if you are academically gifted then your education should be free at point of use because we all benefit”.

    The trouble is that there’s little evidence of that when it comes to Higher Education. It’s easy to believe of primary schooling. It might well be true of secondary schooling. As a blanket statement about Higher Education it seems implausible to me. After all, if it were true the Swiss would send far more kids to university. Shrewd chaps, the Swiss.

  26. @ dearieme
    The number of kids at university is far greater than the number who are academically gifted.

  27. There may be a confusion between the direct-grant grammar schools (abolished by the 1974-79 Labour Government) and the grant-maintained schools (abolished by the 1997-2010 Labour Government).

    The former included some of the best schools in the country, superior to most public schools, sending many pupils to Oxbridge. Denis Healey, Chancellor of the Exchequer when the direct-grant grammars were abolished, went to Bradford Grammar School and subsequently to Balliol College, Oxford. BGS was a direct-grant grammar school that converted to an independent school on abolition. He, a working-class kid, kicked away the ladder he himself had climbed up.

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