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Poverty in Britain - Why are millions of Brits so broke? | DW Documentary

Sep 10, 2023
In the UK, rising energy costs and a high rate of inflation are causing social tensions. The worsening situation also affects the middle classes. More and more people are no longer willing to stand by and watch the government defund essential services. In the UK, almost one in four people – more than 15 million – now live below the


line. Society is eroding. What will happen next? Yet at the same time, the world's sixth-largest economy is experiencing a historically low unemployment rate of 3.8 percent; It is home to a thriving business environment, a wealthy upper class, and 171 billionaires. But


of people can no longer pay their bills, despite working hard.
poverty in britain   why are millions of brits so broke dw documentary
The "working poor" are working like slaves just to make ends meet. The UK welfare system is collapsing. Family benefits have been reduced by 50 percent in the last decade. Social inequality is at its most extreme since World War II. The consequences are catastrophic. They simply stopped supporting him. He weighed four and a half kilos when he died. This is how the State treats vulnerable people. It just shouldn't happen. The government seems useless. A growing number of citizen initiatives are taking social justice into their own hands. Pizza or pasta? Pasta. More people than ever depend on food banks.
poverty in britain   why are millions of brits so broke dw documentary

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poverty in britain why are millions of brits so broke dw documentary...

Many public services have been eliminated. Private citizens are filling the gaps where state support is lacking. Good day. IM volunteer. They don't pay me anything. If nothing is done to tackle


and help the UK's growing ranks of socially disadvantaged people. Some predict a humanitarian catastrophe. A 40-minute drive from central London, Leighton Buzzard has a population of 38,000. It is a quiet, suburban city. But on market days, all they talk about is inflation. In one year, food prices have risen 14 per cent, the steepest increase since 2008. Both Naomi and Stuart have good jobs. But when they shop, they keep a close eye on prices.
poverty in britain   why are millions of brits so broke dw documentary
I'm always comparing how expensive it is now to what it was 6 or 12 months ago. Things have become more expensive and there are also fewer options. We can't afford not to be diligent now, we have to be a little careful about what we spend our money on, especially since we have a baby. As the nation reels from the cost of living crisis, a new monarch was crowned earlier this year. I hope you think this is crazy, what's happening. We really need to help and change the way the country is governed right now. However, I suspect very little will be done.
poverty in britain   why are millions of brits so broke dw documentary
They are a typical middle class couple. They own their own home. Naomi has a management position at a car manufacturer, Stuart is a computer distributor. They have a combined income of around £3,500 a month and are not used to having to worry too much about money. But now they have started saving on heating. It's not very hot here, is it! This is because we only heat one room at a time. My other half is working in the kitchen at the moment, so the radiator has been on in the kitchen this morning for an hour. Now we are very careful because the price continues to rise.
Naomi's maternity leave has ended, but she is reluctant to return to work because the couple cannot afford childcare. Her sister Alexandra is in the same boat. Hello!!! Hello Beautiful! Come on, we've turned on the heating for an hour. Alexandra is an official at the Ministry of Justice. But she and her husband also can't afford to hire a nanny. So now they have both gone to work part-time so they can take care of their children themselves. For two children during the school holidays, the babysitter would have cost me £120. My take home pay per day is about £80. It doesn't make sense for me to work.
Childcare costs basically force her out of work. For the first time in 25 years, Alexandra is experiencing financial difficulties. I'm overdrawn now, I'm trying to cut back on things. It's actually making me anxious. And I know there are people in a much worse situation than me. But I've worked so hard for it! Yes, a woman can't be professional and afford to live in a house and have the heat on from time to time when it's cold and dress the children. Then there is something that is not right, something that is not working. While the middle classes feel the pressure, working class families are increasingly desperate.
Blackpool, in the northwest of England, is home to some of the most deprived areas of the country. One of its best-known monuments is a replica of the Eiffel Tower. This popular spa attracts multitudes of visitors every year. You've got the Eiffel Tower, we've got the Blackpool Tower! I'm sure there's some story about who got which first. Did you copy us? 18 million tourists a year. They come for Blackpool Tower but also for the beach, the docks, the fair and the arcades. It's like the Vegas of England! The heart of Blackpool is the Golden Mile. A seafront packed with attractions, restaurants and souvenir shops.
It dates from the mid-19th century. The first visitors were workers from local mines, factories and textile mills. After the Second World War and until the early 1980s, Blackpool was a thriving seaside resort. The beaches were always full of people. But when low-cost airlines began to prosper, the city's decline began. British tourists opted to fly to sunny beaches on the other side of the world. For Blackpool, it marked the end of a golden era. Today, one in three jobs still depends on tourism. The locals fear the arrival of winter. It is very difficult to find work here.
Many stores close during the winter. Obviously they reopen. But everyone is constantly looking for work. On the last day of summer, the city hosts a huge fireworks show on the beach that attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. One last hurray before winter. Here it lasts six months and leaves thousands of people homeless. Not far from the seafront is a very different Blackpool. Abandoned and dilapidated hotels and abandoned shops. Most of England's ten most deprived neighborhoods are located in Blackpool. One of the only places that keeps its sign illuminated in winter is this community cafe.
Mark Butcher runs a soup kitchen for the homeless. Well friends, 5 minutes left! Mark, 51, opens his doors to the city's poorest residents twice a week. Tonight more than 20 people are waiting for a free meal. Come in and sit down! Good! Are you bringing the dog? Come on love, you're welcome too. Tonight probably 10% of the community we serve will be homeless. The rest of the people lack money. They're waiting to get paid, they probably have a big electric bill. And they don't feed themselves. It's not just happening in Blackpool. In the UK, more than 9 million people and almost 4 million children are food insecure.
Tonight we will have pizza for dinner at the community cafe. For many, like her husband and two children, Becky, this is the highlight of the week. Tuesdays and Fridays are our only two hot meals of the week because we are currently homeless, living in temporary accommodation. It's hard. We have met many people in our situation. Now we never take anything for granted. Mark has devised a system to finance the charity project. Paying customers of your restaurant can pay for an extra pizza that will go to one of the homeless customers. So if they come here and pay for a pizza, they know they're going to get food.
So it makes you feel safe when you give, that you are giving to someone who is going to need food. And when we serve pizzas, customers know that it is not free, but paid. All your pizzas tonight were paid for by strangers. Markës' project is working so well that Amazing Grace Soup Kitchen has become one of Blackpool's leading charities. Here 400 people a week receive free food and demand is increasing. For Mark, it has become a personal mission. It's a big weight on my shoulders, because if I don't get food, people go hungry. Nowadays, the pizza maker is always busy.
Burned, like that Boom! Just a few years ago I would never have dreamed that this is what I would end up doing. He grew up in a run-down area of ​​Blackpool during the Thatcher era, when deindustrialization swept the north of England and unemployment was rampant. He and his family were known criminals. We had a nickname here. They called us "The Butchers", my last name is "Butcher" that's why they called us "The Butchers". You start with petty crimes, you steal bikes, you steal cars and then you move on, you go up the ladder, you go from one stage to another.
That's what happened. Poverty breeds this. But his life took a different turn when his brother David, an addict, was murdered in a drug deal. I saw my brother die, I saw hell on earth, I really lived a hellish life, when he was a child. So when I was 33, I made the decision to change everything. After the death of his brother, Mark turned to religion and Christianity. 18 years later, he is a different person. But he's seen firsthand what poverty can lead to, and that's partly what drives his charitable work. Ashton-under-Lyne, on the outskirts of Manchester, is home to a population of 43,000.
The former cotton weaving capital of the UK was hit hard by deindustrialisation. Its job center became the first in the UK to experiment with Universal Credit, a unique benefit combining six in total, including jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit. That was in 2013, under David Cameron's Conservative government. The introduction of universal credit brought radical changes to the benefits system. Local journalist and activist Charlotte Hughes was outraged. Her story even inspired a movie. It's Ken Loach and I, the writer and filmmaker. Ken contacted me and used part of the script for his film based on some things I wrote at the Job Centre.
When Charlotteë's daughter Eleanor was six months pregnant, the employment office imposed a benefits sanction on her because she said her pregnancy meant she could not participate in the unpaid work required in exchange for benefits. Charlotte Hughes has been fighting the government's Department for Work and Pensions ever since. Don't be surprised if they call the police. Charlotte and her youngest daughter, Tallulah, have been protesting outside the Ashton employment center every Thursday for eight years. Since the government reform, employment offices are responsible not only for processing benefits for the unemployed but also for pregnant women, families and disabled people; as well as housing benefits.
A one-stop shop for those in need of social assistance. It's horrible in there, they have desks with numbers, it's horrible. Charlotte is not allowed inside, so she distributes leaflets outside. Do you want a brochure? Do you want a brochure, honey? She will help. It contains information on how to challenge employment office decisions in court. Are you going to the Employment Office? Do you want a brochure, honey? She will tell you what they don't tell you. Good luck. Good luck. The most important thing is that when you file a claim with the Employment Exchange, and if you have to go to court, as is often the case, you have all the evidence you have.
All the tests. Charlotte is campaigning against arbitrary employment office sanctions, imposed at the discretion of individual caseworkers, which often leave people penniless. This man had his payments suspended just because he missed a phone call. I told them he couldn't afford to pay my cell phone bill and they cut off my access. Yes, they sanction you without question if you don't answer one of his calls. They cut you off! They don't give a damn if you don't have money and are struggling. All they care about is that you do what they tell you to do. And if you don't do what they tell you, that's it, they cut off your money.
In addition, sometimes the employment office does not take into account the applicant's health status. Like in the case of this man, he has a cane. Look at my leg, do you see my leg? This is due to unemployment. His doctor said. I have a bulging disc in my body and I have a leg that had hip surgery and was shattered due to arrest. 3 years of my life on £40 a week as a disabled man. I can't feed myself. They have no idea how these people have to survive, they have no idea about their medical conditions, they employ them to prepare them for work.
It is estimated that Universal Credit has pushed 1.5 million people into poverty since its introduction in Ashton ten years ago. One thing is certain: since the various social benefits were merged into one, the number of food banks in the country has increased considerably. Ten years ago there were approximately fifty in the entire country. Today there are more than two thousand eight hundred. Including the one run by Mark Butcher in Blackpool.As well as hot meals, he and his team now also make food parcels for the homeless. All these bags are for cooking. These blue bags are for people who are generally homeless, on the streets, and have no cooking facilities.
People can also pick up hygiene kits. Here in England, one in five can no longer afford basic toiletries. These items have been donated by companies and individuals. Volunteers are often surprised by what people bring. A local man died and at his funeral they had all this food. He had a lot of food left over, instead of throwing it away, they brought it to us. Everything is welcome. Blackpool Foodbank can barely keep up with demand. Pizza or pasta? Pasta! What makes these developments even more shocking is that the government knew full well that charitable initiatives would have to fill the void.
In 2010, at the height of then-Prime Minister David Cameron's austerity measures, the Conservative leader pushed ahead with the Universal Credit scheme despite the extensive welfare cuts it entailed. According to the NGO Human Rights Watch, benefits for families and children were reduced by 44 percent. To sweeten the pill, he promoted the concept of the "Great Society." The Big Society is a huge cultural change where people, in their daily lives, in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their workplaces, do not always turn to civil servants, local authorities or central government to solve the problems they face. face, but they feel free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities.
The former prime minister visited Paris in the spring of 2021 and we took the opportunity to ask him about his social policy. A few days before the interview, he had tweeted photos of himself helping at a food bank. His post was heavily criticized, especially by Labor MP Zarah Sultana. In the UK, many people have said that the "Big Society" was a cover for austerity measures. That's often said, but I think it's simply not true. Whoever would have been Prime Minister in 2010 would have had to make some tough decisions too! The reality is that we have reduced the deficit by two-thirds, we have ended up with the fastest growing economy in the G7, we have created 2 million jobs and 1 million more companies.
We have recovered the UK economy. But poverty increased. No, that's not true. Look, I think part of the reason there has been an increase in the use of food banks and part of it is because the government before me did not allow job centers to refer people to food banks. They didn't want bad publicity. I think that's bad. If people need help, you should direct them to where help is available! And my government allowed that to happen. David Cameron is convinced people should be grateful that his policies allowed those in need to get help from food banks.
A view that suggests he knows little about the economic realities facing


of Britons. This afternoon, Graeme, an army veteran, is in the queue outside Mark's foodbank in Blackpool. Why are you here? After working my whole life, Royal Marines, civil servant, in the office, lots of places I've worked, so I'm not going to end up sleeping on the streets. So I have to motivate myself enough to be able to stay on the property. Now 58, his descent into poverty came out of nowhere. Before the pandemic, Graeme Wilson worked in the construction industry. But when COVID hit, he went bankrupt.
He moved to Blackpool to recover. This is basically what they call a studio which is open plan, the living room and bedroom are one place. Kitchen area obviously. Graeme used to earn the equivalent of £2,000 a month. He now lives on an unemployment benefit of 400 euros. Once the rent is paid, he has enough left to buy food for himself and his dog or to heat his apartment. Like 16 million others here in the UK, he faces what has been called the "heat or eat" dilemma. I've never understood the term "heat or eat." So you have a choice, what do you do?
During the day it is 15 degrees Celsius on the floor. At night the temperature drops to 8 degrees. I've had this jacket on since 6 o'clock this morning. Body warmer. Sorry, jumper. T-shirt. Then I can leave that fire off. It is a small fan heater. It doesn't really heat the room. Believe it or not, 5 hours. It's 10 pounds. Graeme knows exactly because he has a prepaid meter. He has to pay for the energy in advance. Energy providers have created what they call a prepaid meter, which means that the tenant has to pay for their electricity before receiving it. He had no choice.
If customers do not pay their bills on time, energy providers automatically install a prepaid meter. Four million British households now have one. A few days later we meet Graeme again. He has to go to a nearby store to recharge the key from his prepaid meter. Can you recharge my electricity for me please? Thank you. How much would you like? €20 please! 20 pounds! Thank you. Thank you. 20 pounds of electricity lasts Graeme four days. Today in Britain everyone pays more for electricity, but households with these pay-as-you-go meters pay 10 per cent more than others. Why, if I pay them in advance, why do I have to pay them more than people who are quite rich, quite well off?
And we, the lower class people, have nothing, we get no concessions, nothing at all! At the moment, Graeme can still afford to pay for his electricity, but winter is just around the corner and here in the north of England it can be bitterly cold. If people cannot afford to heat their homes, their health may end up suffering. The Irish Sea port of Fleetwood has a population of 25,000. It used to be reasonably prosperous thanks to the fishing industry, but today the situation is bleak. Annual per capita income is £3,400 below the national average. Life expectancy is only 70 years, 10 years less than in the rest of the country.
This is due to a variety of poverty- or abuse-induced health disorders that some doctors have even called "shit life syndrome." Well, take a deep breath! Well, that's all perfectly fine. Mark Spencer has been a doctor at a local health center for 30 years. The people we see have multiple health problems. And you will see that in disadvantaged communities, with poverty, people live with multiple long-term conditions. You've got diabetes, heart disease, strokes, depression rates are double the England average. The UK's national health system, the NHS, is not particularly useful in poor areas. It may be free, but on average patients have to wait 13 weeks to get an appointment with a doctor.
Hello lisa. Here. And even then, doctors' offices are so busy that appointments have to be kept brief even for seriously ill patients like Lisa, who suffers from cancer and pneumonia. Deep breaths! Again. You're very breathless, aren't you? Patients are supposed to follow the “one problem per visit” policy. Regardless of the severity of your condition. I have a lot of ear infections. But Dr. Spencer doesn't have time to listen. Under NHS rules, patients get a 10-minute slot with a GP. That's shorter than in any other industrialized nation. You have 10 minutes including reading the notes, seeing the patient, writing the notes.
All this in 10 minutes. And if you noticed, Lisa's main problem is her infection. But she also wanted to talk about her audition. A lot of people come in and say "too", "too", "too". Dr. Spencer gives Lisa a prescription. But he cannot examine her ears. Like many of his colleagues, the situation makes him desperate and he has often been on the verge of giving up. The death of a young patient suffering from alcoholism stimulated him. I told him, "If you don't stop drinking, he will kill you." And he said, "I know you're trying to help me, but it's not the thought of dying that's stressing me out." me.
It is the idea of ​​living.” A tragic story but not uncommon. Studies show that a lack of social and economic prospects plays a key role in suicides, overdoses and cirrhosis. Dr. Spencer used to prescribe medicine to his patients as a matter of course. But then, inspired by some of his medical colleagues, he began prescribing less conventional treatments. Here, at the Fleetwood football stadium, he puts into practice his method of combating "shit life syndrome." This is the "traveling football club" for older people, not especially athletic men. Many are here on the instructions of Dr. Spencer, who prescribed them exercise.
The doctor works with a professional trainer. Well friends, gather quickly, please. Remember walking football, four touches, no contact. Have fun guys! Dr. Spencer is convinced of the therapeutic benefits of exercise and activity. He founded an organization that offers 77 different activities to promote health, from yoga and gardening to singing. I have seen many people come to activities like this. And over time, he can stop taking some of his medications. You become more active, you become more involved with other people, your self-confidence improves, look: give me the ball, give me the ball, let me join in. That's all because self-confidence is improving.
For James, the sports club was a lifeline after the death of his wife. My mood is much better. Now I can talk to people, whereas before I was a recluse, I shied away, went to corners. I didn't want to meet people. Now I can talk to anyone. Pete is 73 years old and has lost 20 kilos. He can no longer imagine life without the sports club. I have had heart problems. And it's a great sport that you can still play. What would you say your health would be if you didn't play soccer? I don't think I'd probably be here.
Seriously no. I don't think I would be on this planet. A ray of hope for Dr Spencer in his constant fight to save the poorest from dying too soon: several politicians are increasingly alarmed by the health consequences of years of austerity measures. Some blame the Conservative government for causing the deaths of hundreds of people. In the House of Commons, deserted as it is, opposition Labor MP Debbie Abrahams, for example, raises the issue. This is a scandal, it is a scandal, there are British citizens who are dying as a result of the policies implemented by this government.
According to a BBC investigation, the pressure on the social care system has cost the lives of at least 150 people. Despite this, Debbie Abrahams' calls for a parliamentary inquiry have gone unanswered. We don't know how many people have taken their own lives or died as a result, which is why we need an independent investigation. I've been pushing for this for several years and I'm not ready to give up. The deputy has personally known some of these people's families for years. Philippa Day, a 27-year-old single mother, took her own life in 2019, after a long struggle with the benefits system.
An investigation found nearly 30 cases in which “systemic errors” had led to failures by benefits officials. Yours is not the only case of this type. This is Errol, Errol died of hunger. He had schizophrenia, the Department for Work and Pensions knew it. And they sent her letters to show her that he needed to attend evaluations and when she didn't respond because she was very mentally ill, they simply withdrew her support. He weighed four and a half kilos when he died. This is how the State treats the most vulnerable people. It shouldn't happen. Tragic consequences of cuts in public spending.
This has also affected another sector. In the 1980s, Thatcher's government began massive privatization of public transport. As a result, more than 25 percent of bus routes were disrupted, especially in rural areas. Ten million people, a quarter of whom are over 65, live in rural areas of the UK. Often the nearest doctor is a good hour away. This isolation has been exacerbated by the lack of bus services. In Cumbria, bordering Scotland, citizens have found their own solution. This blue minibus, which travels on rural roads, is now the only link between the villages. It is run by volunteers. This morning Catriona, a civil servant who has been retired for three years, is behind the wheel.
Also on board is Neil, one of the managers of Fellrunner, the charity that runs the bus. Good morning, can I help you with that? Not well. The project is run by volunteers. That means the bus fare can be kept to just two pounds – enough to pay for petrol and maintenance. If bus drivers were paid, operating costs would be too high and the service would have to be discontinued. IM volunteer. They don't pay me anything and I love it. And I think doing this is very that the community is honest. We have 25 volunteers. After a long 8-week training program, they have passed all the tests and in the coming weeks they will be able to let loose with the passengers.
Fellrunner serves a region the size of Luxembourg with four minibuses like this one and transports 10,000 passengers a year. Mainly older people who depend on public transportation and community solidarity. I'm going to visit my daughter! Without this bus, what would you have done? I could not go. I couldn't go because I don't drive. So it's good, yes. Volunteers do more than just transport their passengers. This morning, Neil is worried about an older lady he hasn't seen in a while. He should go and check that she is okay. Alright. Okay, okay, no problem. Good day. I called to say I wouldn't be coming.
I'm very sorry for bothering you. The drivers are all gentlemen and ladies. And I'm very, very happy to be able to use it. I won't come today! For people living in remote areas, these services are crucial. There are reportedly more than 6,000 volunteer-run bus services across England. But to what extent are these initiatives sustainable? Until when will citizens be able to compensate for the failures of the State? Graeme's situation has improved. He has a regular job and is paid £80 a day. Danny Burba, 28, owner of a small construction company, is keen to help create jobs here in one of England's poorest towns.
I hired him and he needs a job, so that's one of the main reasons I hired him. He may be older, but I think age shouldn't be a factor in this game, he can get the job done. He can do it. Danny employs three people. He specializes in renovation work and his skills are in high demand. According to official figures, one in four privately rented flats in England are considered unsuitable. Today Danny and Graeme are renovating the kitchen of an elderly woman and her disabled son. You walk in there, sit back and relax. Thanks love. You are welcome.
Making it affordable for them is vitally important, especially for someone with a disability. Older people struggle. Pensions are low, tremendously low nowadays. Danny understands the plight of his poorest clients. He asks them to pay for the materials, but he finances the labor. Graeme also understands how important it is to help people. Today is a day off for Daniel. You have to reverse your mentality, you have to look at what you can give instead of what you can receive. His kindness is exemplary. If this is what David Cameron meant by the "big society", it comes at a huge price.
Danny and Graeme spent a whole morning working for free. It's a lovely gesture. But they really can't afford it. Danny's wife Frances is worried. She takes care of her two children and does the company's accounts. She just received bad news from the bank. Opening balance. You owe £500. The company's account is overdrawn. Danny will have to make some difficult decisions. Depressing! I'm just trying to see what we should pay first. We need to do this by the 24th. If we manage to get this other job, hopefully it will be a few days, right? It affects us enormously as a family and as a company.
And it's one of the reasons we're in the position we're in. I think sometimes we have to learn to separate ourselves. We have to make money from this job, so we have to start quoting more for jobs. But it's difficult, especially in Blackpool. The couple knows they can't raise prices if they want to help people who are struggling. But they also need to make a living. While Danny tries to figure out what to do on the other side of town, café owner Mark Butcher is working on his latest project. He bought an old double-decker bus for £15,000.
This is Julia, the Big Red night bus. Is this the first time you've seen it properly? Together with Julia and the rest of the cafe's team, he is turning it into a mobile emergency shelter for homeless people and victims of domestic violence. A project valued at £100,000, half funded by donations and the other half by local benefactors. We have gone to the town hall, we have asked them to help us, but they never offered to give us anything. Nothing at all, not a single cent. The board wasn't interested, but that made Mark even more creative. Advertising will go there.
So everything will be wrapped with advertising awnings. He is planning to sell advertising space to local businesses. Once again, Mark does not trust the authorities but rather the good will of the locals to fight social inequality. This is going to help the community. This will be a game changer for the community. Not just the homeless. This will be a game changer for our entire community here in Blackpool. One in ten people in the UK are involved in a charity. The country does not lack volunteers to fight poverty. But at what price?

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