Making a difference for the Poor, one person at a time

Remember the story of the starfish when it comes to make a difference, says Peter Farley.

Remember the story of the starfish when it comes to make a difference, says Peter Farley. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Peter Farley urges us to join together to fight against society's inequalities.

Astonished! Alarmed! Appalled! These were my reactions to figures released by End Child Poverty which showed that 27.4% of young people in North Norfolk live in child poverty, above the nation's average of 26.9%, but below Great Yarmouth's 32%.

In Deuteronomy, we read: 'there need be no poor people among you'. Surely, this isn't just the aim of those of Judeo-Christian faith. Anyone, of any faith or none, who desires to see a fully-inclusive, just, fair and equitable community, would be seeking to eradicate poverty.

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, said: 'Something is really wrong with the way our country is run if the UK, one of the wealthiest in the world, can't ensure the well-being of a quarter of its children. The Government needs to seriously consider how it is prioritising its spending, and the effect that is having on future generations.'

I couldn't agree more. It's a shocking indictment of the failure of successive governments (of every colour) to effectively and sufficiently provide for our children.

Thankfully, we have increasingly robust procedures to safeguard the wellbeing of children and young people. But, it must be said, that these safeguards have only been brought up to their present high standard as a result of disastrous failures to prevent tragic abuse-related fatalities.

Quite rightly, individuals who neglect to properly care for children are called to account. Surely, Government should be called to account too, for its failure to ensure there is adequate provision for our children.

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Sadly, I have recently found myself involved in child safeguarding procedures. A positive benefit of this, has been to witness the compassion, commitment, expertise, and care of those involved in such proceedings — social services, CAFCASS, the courts (including barristers and solicitors), and not forgetting of course foster parents (who care for children at risk during proceedings).

I am not suggesting those who commit their lives to working with children, young people or vulnerable adults at grassroots level are at fault. Nor does the fault lies at County level – though it may be felt they are complicit by failing to truly make an effective stand against austerity measures. No, it is Central Government who are culpable of child neglect!

Let me go back though to the question of the 27.4%. These children are part of what could be called the 'statistically poor'. When the Bible speaks of the poor, it is speaking of a much greater proportion of society. It suggests that the poor are those who, for whatever reason, are not enjoying the quality of life we were created to live.

So, it's not just the financially less fortunate; that is only one measure. Who really are the Poor? Well they include the '42% of north Norfolk people who contact Norfolk Citizens' Advice', who 'consider themselves physically or mentally disabled', they include the sick, the lonely, the disadvantaged, the abused, the victims of crime and domestic abuse, the widowed, the orphans, the bereaved, those with dementia the terminally ill, the immigrants — indeed all the have-nots and are-nots! And don't let's forget either, the army of carers who serve them.

But what can you and I do, as ordinary citizens, with little or no political clout? Remember the story of the young boy on the seashore, surrounded by hundreds of stranded starfish, who was busy throwing them back into the sea. When challenged, as he threw another back, that his efforts wouldn't make much of a difference, he replied: 'It made a difference to that one.'

We can all look around us and see who the Poor are, and then finding ways of improving the quality of their lives. This could mean just sitting and talking with them, doing shopping or jobs round the house, taking them to appointments, helping them fill in forms. or take them out for a day or an evening. The list is endless.

Or why not volunteer to help the many really dedicated organisations who are already helping the poor? Don't forget either, that 'the pen is mightier than the sword' - so try writing a letter to this newspaper. Maybe, if enough people wrote in vigorously, the editor would think it newsworthy enough to start a campaign.

That's the secret! Just imagine how great a difference it would have made on that beach, if hundreds of people had been rescuing starfish. Each motivating and encouraging one another to work faster and harder.

How about starfish pin badges, starfish mugs, starfish posters, a competition for slogans? Let's see how we can creatively and effectively put up a fight, for those who cannot fight for themselves.