When poverty means not understanding – and not knowing how to learn to understand

Photo: Guardian UK

I’ve been supporting a woman for a number of years now – every now and then she calls in with questions, papers, phone messages and needs and asks me to interpret, explain, order her world and come up with a plan – because she doesn’t know how to do these things.

Whether it’s medical care – like being registered with a doctor, benefits advice – like having some money for food, rent and heat – or ideas about courses and jobs she would like – she brings everything to me because she doesn’t know how to do it.

She’s a lovely woman, friendly, lonely and misunderstood.  She would love to work, she would love to study, she would love to socialise but doesn’t quite know how to do these things.  She lives incredibly simply, she opens up her small home to anyone and everyone who needs a bed.  She’s only had her own four walls for the last 8 months – she lived rough before that – because she didn’t know how to tell anyone she was homeless or that there were options for her.

I’m angry today because she brought me another problem.  I’m not angry with her.  I’m angry with a system that has no personality, that gives this woman a number and does not see her or understand that she doesn’t know how to use the number she’s been given, or read the letters she’s been sent or participate in the society she’s is a part of according to the rules – rules that seems a lot stricter and inflexible to the vulnerable people – who don’t know how to do it.

I’m angry because she gets £70 cash a week from the government to survive and she’s been told that £48 of this now needs to go towards her rent – this leaves her about £22 a week to pay for food, buses, electricity let alone anything else.

I’m angry because she doesn’t understand and she doesn’t know how to do things.

I’m angry because people who understand a lot and know how to do a lot of things are making up these rules.  They have no empathy, insight, compassion or ears to listen.

I lose count of the numerous advocates and advocacy agencies up and down the UK who are saying this again and again and again to people – the decision makers – who’ve never sat with someone who doesn’t know, who doesn’t understand and hasn’t the ability to learn how to understand.

As one of the most educated and comfortable societies in the world – we need to be better at listening, understanding and supporting our vulnerable people.  They don’t understand and won’t ever learn how to understand they just need to be nurtured, nourished and raised up.  Because that’s what communities should do with their weak – bestow honour upon them.




Filed under Gender, Justice

2 responses to “When poverty means not understanding – and not knowing how to learn to understand

  1. Oh Harriet, Nail on the head again! Very well said. Sickening STATE of affairs! Sheree.

  2. Pingback: One Year On: What’s Next… | harrietlong

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