The author is a journalist; this book is a combination of interviews and the underlying trends. But it's much more than just anecdotes pretending to be data. There is discussion of the causes and how they affect real people.
Some of the information will come as a surprise to those who still have an 'undeserving poor' mindset, one where poverty is recast as a moral failure. For instance, many would say that having a mobile phone is not an 'essential', rather it's a luxury. Read this and be prepared to reconsider. If you want to claim what we now call 'benefits' — things that once were seen as 'welfare' — you can often only do this online. How do you get online? If you are very lucky your local library is still open; but sessions on a computer are often time-limited. Alternatively, try a Jobcentre — if it hasn't closed. Can you afford the bus fare to get there? And once you get a 'job' you may be required to work at all sorts of times, and to be contactable you need a mobile for the text messages.
Poverty isn't identical to what Beveridge found and reported on in his 1942 Report. The 'five giants' are still there; government actions over the last 30+ years have not improved the situation. The 'austerity' promoted for the last 7 years has considerably worsened the outlook for many people. If this were not so, why have we seen such a great rise in food banks? Don't food kitchens belong to the 1930s?
If Britain was the leader among industralised nations, this lead has long vanished. So many heavy industries have vanished; but the real tragedy is that so little real effort was made by successive governments to find real and sustainable alternatives. If there were new industries, the neo-liberal outlook, privatisation, outsourcing and the mobility of capital, going where the profits are greatest and the taxes the least, so often mean that these aren't real jobs, more excused for employment at or below minimal wage levels.
I'd have liked to see more on the health effects of poverty, and its sibling inequality. We do hear some details, such as the differences in life expectancy, and the differences in the lengths of active life, but there is so much more.
Showing just how poverty demeans us all made this one of the most depressing books I've read for a long while. And there is no obvious light at the end of the day, and the 'sunny uplands' of Brexitania, where baby unicorns gambol in the spring sunshine is just a delusion.
This is an important book. It highlights the extremities some families have to go through just because they have so little money. The chapter on Self-dentistry is a shocking indictment of a rich twenty first century country. Austerity has exerted huge pressures on vulnerable families and groups and this book should be required reading for all conservative members of parliament to open their eyes to the harsh realities some if their constituents face.
This book really is outstandingly good. It is the sort of book that you should have to read before you are allowed to vote.
It is an upto the minute account of poverty in Britain, written by a journalist. The book skilfully balances personal anecdotes, specific examples, statistics, hard evidence and a clear explanation of just how unfit for purpose the safety net of benefits really is.
It was particularly good on skewering the wilful misrepresentations of media and politicians in creating a mythic bogeyman of the feckless poor.
While the book is a salutary wake up call to us all, it is not unduly depressing. At heart the author likes and admires the spirit of the people he writes about, he just makes you wish that society could look after them better.
I would encourage anyone and everyone to read this, I cannot think of any negatives about this book, it is important, heartfelt and timely.
Easy accessible text written clearly against the backdrop of the 1942 Beveridge Report. A simple exploration of the lives of those experiencing the reality or the statiatics. Questioning how anyone can describe Britain as a democracy. I've spent two days wondering why I'm feeling blue; like I should be busy doing something.