The bitter cry of outcast London : An inquiry into the condition of the  abject poor : Preston, W.C : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming :  Internet ArchiveHope’s mission is to the poorest and most marginalised in our society, with societies ‘outcasts’: it started with homelessness, but now extends far beyond to people experiencing marginalisation through general poverty, mental health and addiction, and by racial discrimination.

The recent decision to cut the extension of £20 a week to the very poorest, those on Universal Credit, is very unwelcome news to the people we work with and support:

As well as to individuals and their families, this will cause immense harm to society as  whole. Research shows that the very poorest were most affected by covid, bringing costs to the NHS, as well as the causation poverty imposes on all aspects of health. Investment in poverty is good for health costs as a whole. If you don’t believe me, ask doctors:

Are we proud to see a decline in life expectancy in Britain? is this the sign of a healthy society?

Yet, buried as it is in national hysteria about the England men’s football team (and yes I do care, my father was a professional footballer and I share this pride), and relief for many at covid being ‘over’, the decision to cut benefits has had almost no traction in the press or media. It has just slipped by.

This is partly because Britain is simply so unequal, so much more so after covid, and the poor just off the radar now to those who are doing fine. Many people have come out of covid richer, at the same time as others have got poorer. Inequality has never been so stark, yet a few spare quid in the majority’s pockets and the diverting factors mentioned above may have blinded some to the vicious reality of poverty that Hope addresses. Not since the beginning of covid have the poor been more marginalised, it feels, than this week, as though the compassion of covid has faded.

It is Hope’s role not to forget: not to be diverted by football silverware and the discarding of masks. Thousands of people here, in your town and your streets, will suffer loss and hunger and pain as a result of a ‘minor’, ‘temporary’, ‘not really needed’ £20 that some think is loose change but don’t realise that it is the difference between eating and starving for a lot of people. They are made more outcast from society by this decision: they will go hungry; they will suffer more bad physical and mental health and much more harm besides.

It is Hope’s role be the voice of the outcast, the channel for their ‘bitter cry’. It seems the need for us, like the poor, is always present. So much for ‘building back better’ after covid.

See Andrew Mearns, ‘The bitter cry of outcast London (1883)