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Protectors of the Poor, Get Wise and Get Real! Stop Advocating Policies You Wouldn't Want for Your Own Children

18/05/2015 22:23 BST | Updated 18/05/2016 10:59 BST

No one holds their breath more at this interregnum before the new planned welfare cuts than the most needy among us. They hold their breath because their immediate conditions are being decided. Will they be a part of the big chop? Will they have to do what they are doing with less than they currently have?

But you would have thought that those who hold their breaths the most are the self-appointed champions, the guardians, the custodians and protectors of the poor.

Because the government are the true bosses of the poor, because the government holds the purse strings, then how these guardians act next will be important to the poor. That is if you believe the sentinels, the defenders.

For a long time now I have been unsure how effective have been the poor protectors. With their constant shrill ring of anger and distain for this government, for the previous government, and the government before, back to the creation of the welfare state, and even before, one must question their declamatory noises. A few generations of progressive poor defenders have come and gone since the Second World War, and I would suggest much of their actions have been found wanting.

For are they not simply noises offstage; necessary perhaps to prove to themselves that they are sincere about the poor? Demonstrations of their need to define themselves by the failures of others.

When I started to work in poverty, by trying to give homeless people a legal way of earning money, I left the company of the shrill chorus. I stopped defining myself by the empty task of complaining about poverty and concentrated on its alleviation in the lives of as many people as possible.

I wanted to try and find a way by which the poor could be given exit strategies (to borrow a business term) out of poverty.

I did not simply want the poor to be more comfortable, and better provided for in their poverty. I wanted them out of their poverty and, if need be, into the middle classes. The middle classes being the safest place to be to ensure you could have a full a life as possible.

I wonder now, as we prepare for draconian cuts, if we should not be petitioning for constructive utilisation of budgets, budgets for social change, rather than shrill and angry complaints. Should we not jettison our outrage at government policy as little more than theatrical, and instead constructively temper our minds to solutions. We should learn to box clever.

I get a distinct feeling that many of the angriest welfare cuts critics shout as though fascism has won, the poor have be driven into the streets, and all social good has been routed.

These representatives of the poor might want to start involving the poor in their own redemption out of poverty. However, that would mean dumping much of the sabre rattling ideological stuff because, in the meanwhile, their war dance changes nothing.

If the government wants to save money then let us ask that they work out proper budgets, those that do not simply save in one department but raise costs in others. For example that driving people off benefit does not increase costs to the NHS - which increasingly seems to be expected to sort out social problems that blossom and increase within poverty.

The social security system was created as a method to help people in hard times. What appears to be the argument that many have made over the years, myself included, is what happens if giving people social security extends the period of hard times? What if social security with too many people becomes self defeating - and walls people off from social opportunity?

With under 1% of people on social security going to university you can see that social development is disallowed. Add to this the amount of people on social security not given skill increasing opportunities, through work or education, and you can see that social security is a social trap.

The protectors of the poor, in trying to ensure that people are kept on social security, have forgotten the best interests of the poor themselves. And the media and novelists, playwrights and documentarians have not been slow in glorifying much of the abjectness that grows out of this state sponsored poverty. Laughing at poverty and the poor, like inmates at a zoo, has become the underside of the inept guardians actions.

Social security itself needs to be separated within itself. Pensions and support for the old needs to be separated from the support of the ill and the infirm. And help for the able bodied should be concentrated on, to enable them to be lifted, not driven out of benefits.

We need to concentrate on lifting people out of the poverty of social security who do not fall into the old or the ill category. The way in which social security has traditionally been used as a place to warehouse the poor, since the time of Margaret Thatcher, needs to be ended. The emphasis has to be on bringing these people back into society. It is criminal the way that so called social progressives have aided and abetted the creation of a class of people with no future. This is a situation that they would not wish on their own children.

Social security should start being about security; the security of knowing that your children can get educated, can get good jobs, and can face a better future. The kind of security that the middle class defenders of the poor give to their own children.

What is good enough for our own children should be good enough for the poorest among us: that is the chance to have a future.

Social security should become an apparatus for social mobility for as many people as possible, not a sentence to an eternity of poverty. The government should be held to account over how it puts together its budgets, taking into account the hidden costs of driving people off of social security. And not allow them to simply dislodge the cost to other government budgets.

But more than anything it should be held to account by demonstrating its commitment to making benefit actually beneficial to its beneficiaries.

Progressive defenders of the poor should be trying to break down the social barriers between themselves and the Poor. Not erecting them higher by advocating social security ghettoisation; which is what they have effectively been doing over the decades.

Get wise, get smart progressives! Stop advocating poverty measures you wouldn't give your own children and friends.

Let's demand the government demonstrate its commitment to getting poor people OUT of need, and not further into it. But let us demand of ourselves that we campaign for constructive government policies that bring social change not social isolation.

Recently a leading supporter of poor people spoke to me disdainfully about 'Poundland jobs', saying we don't want more of them. I pointed out that the best way to get a job is to have a job already. Would you not say that to your child? Get anything in order to grease the wheels of your life, rather than have them seize up?

Not so many decades ago most members of the middle classes had ancestors who did just that, they took what was available. They burnt the candle at both ends to get out of poverty. They learned to make the most of poor times. Out of that hardship grew their descendants education and social mobility.

As I said what's good enough for the middle classes should be good enough for the poorest among us. Instead of just gifting them money gift them the will to rise out of their straitened circumstances.

If the government truly believes in one nation it will be around its policies regarding the poor that they will be held to count. Most people were better off by the end of Thatchers reign. But the pain and suffering she left in her trail is still being paid for.

Keeping the majority comfortable cannot be done at the expense of a large minority of the poor. To achieve both ends will involve social budgeting and social investment that creates exits for the poor.

At a Big Issue conference, in the early days of the first Blair government, I gave Peter Mandelson an enormous card, like those large cheques charities get. It said 'You have to fair well on welfare in order to say farewell to welfare.'

I could not have coined truer words. Our demands to this One Nation government MUST echo this sentiment.