The Way I See It #32 : By Darren Murphy

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RECENT statistics revealing that Hawick and the surrounding area is the Borders’ worst-effected location for child poverty saddened me. Of course, the issue of child poverty is heart-breaking enough, and no youngster should be subjected to a poor quality of living. Unfortunately, it’s a deplorable reality of life. People do struggle on a daily basis and the economic climate of recent times has compounded this.

Hawick is a proud town with great traditions, the Queen of all the Borders. And this child poverty statistic will no doubt have shocked many local residents. Hawick MSP John Lamont condemned the figures and rightly so. However, action is what’s truly needed to help eradicate this abysmal social problem. Directing blame and pointing fingers as to why this scenario has occurred is easy.

I read a comment on one forum recently which claimed that some people on low income/benefits do not use their money appropriately. It’s a question of priorities, though, and if you are a parent it is your responsibility to provide your children with the best possible life you can. And that doesn’t mean using your cash to buy alcohol or cigarettes and throw away a few quid on a horse. Listen, this happens all the time, and I’m not going to sugarcoat life as some people are despicable enough to choose this method of spending, in the forlorn hope that there will be a little left over for their kids. Thankfully, the majority of parents spend wisely and would rather go without than see their young ones suffer.

It’s worth noting that six out 10 children in poverty have a parent in work whose income is not enough to keep the family out of poverty. And cuts to Working Tax Credits and childcare have contributed to this as the government tries to save cash at almost every turn. But it’s totally wrong that the government’s actions are condemning some children to a life of poverty just because those in power are struggling to get a grip of the deficit.

Hawick’s councillors have been under fire recently and have faced some fierce criticism. And their failure to provide the public with details of what they are doing to try and improve Hawick is quite rightly being scrutinised. But surely now is a chance for them to become more proactive and to make inroads into identifying the reasons behind Hawick’s dreadful child poverty figures, thus giving our local members the opportunity to prove they are worth their not insubstantial salaries. An urgent response is needed to help combat this problem, and in this regard our councillors should be putting themselves out there to find out which families are struggling and work with them to find a solution.

None of us wants to hear about a child suffering needlessly; but it isn’t just the responsibility of the local councillors. It’s also important that the town works together to raise awareness and combat any issues of child poverty.

How would you feel if you couldn’t provide for your children? The very thought of it should start to sink in now.