LAST week was Challenge Poverty Week. It would not be wrong to say that every week – particularly for politicians – should be Challenge Poverty Week, and in many ways each week is.

Since 2013 however, The Poverty Alliance and an increasing number of partners have brought a focus across the country during the first week in October, to facilitate a collective challenge to the injustice of poverty.

Disheartenment and complacency are enemies of this challenge. If we ever feel that trying to change or challenge the injustice of poverty has become hopeless, or no longer worth the effort, then the injustice prevails.

Having some points of focus where people can come together to remind each other why they do what they do every day is always a helpful weapon against these enemies.

Having opportunities for living experience to be known and understood is also crucial. We can only really challenge what we know about, and whilst a lot of the problem is systemic – how our governments and agencies work – a lot of it is only really known and understood through the experience of individuals and families.

A United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights stated, in a 2019 report about Britain, that poverty in a country such as ours, was a political choice. This statement has returned to me almost every day since first reading the report. All levels of government still have room for reflection and different choices, messages, and spending priorities, in light of that statement.

Reflection was one of the daily themes of Challenge Poverty Week this year – for Saturday and Sunday. Earlier in the week the themes of communities and volunteers, housing, adequate incomes, transport, and food were explored. For each of these there is so much that can be said.

It is fantastic when people are involved in their community, and I know that people helping people is the most powerful force for good that we have in communities. We should never have situations where someone feels trapped in poverty because of their commitments to voluntary work. There must be a balance that can support the family of the helper and the wider community.

I believe in Housing First – I have written about it several times. Everyone should have the dignity of a house, rather than moving from homeless accommodation into another step, then another step, and eventually getting somewhere to call home. The dignity of a house, with the right support to live there is the better way. When housing is provided, is it somewhere that would be good enough for our parents or children to live in? If not, then why are we asking someone else to live there? All choices, and some of them seem expensive choices to make. What is the cost – currently and in the future – of not making them, or at least not making them consistently?

Most people just want enough money that they can live on. For some people that is still beyond reach. I would argue that the benefit system for many people still makes the decision to work too difficult. That seems so incredibly counter-intuitive to me, but yet again, it is a system choice.

Thinking about Universal Basic Income – something else that I have written about – looking at the possibility of radically moving the goalposts to the benefit of all, could be considered in order to provide adequate income.

Transport and food? Well, the costs keep rising and that hopelessness I mentioned is lapping at our feet like a rising tide. The solutions at community level are incredible, but the choices of governments, the challenges that need to be made to powerful groups to address injustices that we see through public transport priorities or what happens on our supermarket shelves – those challenges need to keep coming.

There are debates about the measurement of poverty. There are debates about whether we can eradicate poverty or not. These debates are valid, but they frustrate me. Whatever debate is needed so that we can be effective: where what we do makes a difference, that we know has worked, can’t overshadow us all doing what can be done, and caring – deeply – that we keep doing it.