In a speech last night, Mrs Ward, a primary school teacher from Doncaster, said Labour had “tried hard on this issue” but had failed to fill the vacuum left by the death of the mining and manufacturing industries in many working-class communities.
She said it meant a “small, significant and growing minority” of children were being raised in families with low expectations and a level of poverty “mirroring the times of Dickens”.
In her speech, Mrs Ward said: “I am talking about perfectly healthy children who enter school not yet toilet-trained.
“Children who cannot dress themselves, children who only know how to eat with a spoon and fingers, and have never sat around a table to enjoy a home-cooked family meal. Children who think that the word ‘no’ means if you throw a wobbly it will miraculously turn into yes.
“Children who get themselves, and sometimes their younger siblings, up in the morning. Children who bring themselves to school at very young ages. Children who sometimes don’t know who will be at home when they get home – if anyone. Children who don’t know exactly who the father figure is in the home from month to month.”
She added: “I know of a pupil who actually saw, from the classroom window during a lesson, his house door being kicked in and his dad being led out of the door in handcuffs – this was during Sats week. He did not achieve the level he should have. Are we surprised?”
All of the above is many things, including appalling, but they\’re not equivalent to Dickensian poverty. For that we would need average life span at birth to be under 40 years (and that was the average for the entire population, not the poor) and something like 1 in five children not seeing their fifth birthday.
It\’s also extremely unclear how much of the above horrors have to do with the amount of money (ie, poverty) available. It simply ain\’t true that every poor life is caused by cash poverty.