Since 1980 Children in need has raised the dismally small sum of £500 million … a sum which is nowhere near – I mean nowhere near – the amount needed to tackle child poverty even in the short term.
One in three (4 million) children in the UK are currently living in poverty and the UK has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialised world. This situation is unlikely to improve any time soon- especially as the recent welfare cuts will cost working families nearly £10 billion, which will obviously be felt more by the poorest.
This leads me to the inevitable conclusion that while charity is all well and good (or actually maybe not – see below) what we really need to tackle child poverty is a more progressive taxation system. This basically means that we need to tax the rich more.
I have blogged previously about how the wealthiest thousand people in Britain saw an increase in their wealth of £77 billion last year alone, taking half of this wealth would lift thousands of children out of poverty. Lower down the pecking order, all of those hyperactive, upper middle class, privately school educated presenters that will be providing low grade comedy entertainment tonight are on six figure salaries – we could go back to taxing them, and others like them at a 60% rate of income tax like we used to in the 1970s.
But surely it’s still good to give to charity?
Buddhism provides some interesting insights here –
I am in 100% agreement with the Buddha on charitable giving – if an act of charity is done with genuine compassion for another – fantastic! (Not quite his words, but that was the general gist). But acting out of compassion is not just as simple as just giving ten quid to a media campaign for children in need.
Buddhists take a holistic view to compassionate giving – simply giving people what they want, or just meeting their immediate physical needs isn’t good enough – because in such cases the act of giving isn’t coming from a consideration of what people – all people – really need for their continued wellbeing. For an act of charity to be truly compassionate you have to think about what that person really needs for their long term physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Moreover, because Buddhism starts from the premise that all living beings are deserving of compassion on an equal basis, being truly compassionate means thinking about what kind of social and economic system can provide long term happiness for all beings. And to cut a long story short – our neoliberal political economy is not that kind of system.
Children in Need as an ideological smokescreen
Charitable events like children in Need can make you feel like you are doing something good – but in the grand scheme of things – giving a tenner to this cause does nothing – but people can attribute huge significance to that tenner they donate – thinking ‘I’ve done my bit, that’s my social duty out of the way for the year’ – and then get back to watching the TV – leaving the neo-liberal class to cut hundreds of millions of welfare provision for children and leaving the wealthiest to stash their profits in tax free havens abroad, which results in less to be spent on alleviating child poverty.
I suggest you don’t give money to Children in Need – educated yourselves about the deeper causes of child poverty and poverty in general instead. And remember, a true act of compassion involves standing united against neo-liberalism, which for us means resisting the Tory cuts!