Personally, I’m from a working-class family and, as a child, although we never had a lot of money to spare at Christmas, we did live in a (new build) council house. We had warmth, food, presents and a sense of hope. Life and the future was full of possibilities. So for me, Christmas conjures up a cosy mental image, a warm glow of family gatherings, good will and good food. Whether religious or not, it is meant to be a reflective festival to uplift the spirit in the bleak mid-winter and fill us all with hope for the year ahead.
But this won’t be the Christmas reality for a large proportion of the population this year, and the future is looking bleak.
Currently more than a fifth or 22% of the UK population live in poverty – a total of 14.5 million people. Of these, 8.1 million are working-age adults, 2.1 million are pensioners and 4.3 million are children. That equates to one in three children in the UK living in poverty.
But with the current cost of living crisis, astronomical energy prices, low wages, interest rate hikes that threaten mortgage repayments and a profusion of rented mould-ridden properties, people dying whilst on waiting lists for hospital treatment, as well as an ever-present threat from Covid, Christmas threatens to be a truly miserable period for a large majority of the population. Children going hungry and the introduction of food banks and so called ‘warm banks’ are things that should not exist in a civilised society and were unimaginable 30 or 40 years ago.
In an article for The Independent (14/12/22) Amanda Chadderton, the leader of Oldham Council, summed it up saying: “Years ago, a food bank wasn’t a thing… Now you see politicians cutting ribbons to open them as though it’s a good news story that people are starving. What? The same with warm banks. What kind of country are you when people can’t heat their own homes?”
What memories are our children going to have, what hope or trauma will shape their lives? We need to ask:
… just what will Christmas mean for future generations??