I love to watch Breakfast News as I get ready first thing in the morning. This week I was struck by a story reflecting on how the poorest in our society pay more for basic services than the rest of us. This is the ‘Poverty Premium’. This is not a new story but it always seems to get swept out of sight.
The ‘Poverty Premium’ means that because your income is possibly insecure (zero hours contracts, working for cash payments, moving from one job to another) and it is not always possible to have a bank account or credit then paying bills by direct debit (and getting the savings) is also not possible. Electric and gas cost more on a pre-payment card. Mobile phone contracts are unavailable so it costs more to be in touch. No internet means less opportunity. I wonder why nothing seems to happen about this situation? Perhaps some feel people are poor because they have brought it on themselves?
In Matthew 26:11 Jesus says, “you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” I wonder if we are comforted by his words and feel that if this is the case there’s nothing to be done? On the contrary. Without Jesus’ physical presence we are to be his hands, his feet and his voice. The Body of Christ (the church) has to speak out against the unjust structures of society. Poverty cripples people. It weighs them down. They have no energy to become the people God intended them to be. As his disciples, shouldn’t we be working to understand and speak out against poverty more fully so our brothers and sisters can have that opportunity?
The Revd Ruth Fitter, vicar of St Paul and St Stephen’s, Gloucester