This rather shocking statistic, from Radio 4’s Today program on Thursday, came with another story of a mother admitted to hospital having collapsed through lack of food.
From the same source last week it was claimed that 6.5 million people are either looking for work, or looking for additional work because, like the mother who collapsed, they struggle to pay the bills.
My anger was aroused, knowing that it has been nigh impossible to do anything about it and not for the want of trying
8 years ago, I launched an unusual kind of business which made tackling poverty its primary focus. Only in recent times have I begun to understand why it faced so many obstacles.
Seeking support from the South West Regional Development agency, I was told in 2004 that they’d invested a lot in developing a strategy and that they’d get back to me if my proposal matched their plans. That’s the last I heard of it in spite of my reminder.
In the same town of Exeter, RISE-SW an organisation was created to support the kind of thing we were doing, social enterprise. After 3 attempts and 3 years later, they finally responded telling me they were too busy with their own project, to help.
There were similar responses from national organisations. it was “beyond their current focus” I’d be referred on to those who’d already referred me to them. I contacted two members of the House of Lords, to be similarly ignored,
It was the same story from our All Party Parliamentary Groups. Not invented here.
As I’ve now come to realise, we were stepping on toes, where together ICOF, the Co-op funding arm, SWRDA and RISE-SW were bound to see us as competition and shut us out.
That would be justifiable perhaps, if they’d made significant impact. The poverty that exists today, suggests they haven’t.
We’d had considerable success in earlier efforts overseas, in our work which took micro-enterprise development to Eastern Europe. It had left behind a flourishing community bank funding several thousand small enterprises.
We returned to focus efforts on Ukraine, but even there we found impedance from public sector organisations blocking and hijacking our work. In a recent BBC4 documentary our primary focus was highlighted – ‘Ukraine’s Forgotten Children’ in orphanages for the disabled . Both the US government and our own knew about this at least 4 years ago and turned a wilful blind eye.
All of these obstacles, home and away, came from the public sector, who through taxation, we pay to push us out of the way.
Locally, I know, there have been some efforts to replicate micro enterprise development. Gloucestershire First, for example, with £160k of RDPE funds. All well and good if they create impact, but by shutting out those who’ve created impact internationally, with their own funds, can be of little benefit to anyone, least of all those in poverty. Those who fall between the cracks that traditional economics fails to reach.
Even now, there’s still a chance to act – in creating local jobs. We must also deal with the problem of public sector gatekeepers, who need to lead, follow or step out of the way.