Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

The right response

Much has been written in the wake of the appalling tragedy in London which saw the poorest residents of the richest borough suffer due to impoverished that proved totally inadequate when fire came raging. It seemed more akin to a Dickensian horror story than a credible news account from the fourth richest nation in 2017. But then that is part of the problem here. The nation’s wealth is not being shared fairly but tends to only benefit the very richest.

Predictably some have used the occasion to spew forth party political bile, playing one party leader off against the other. I find that distasteful not least as press photographs so rarely give insight to reality. Others have whipped up a mob to protest the injustices ravaging society.  Those injustices certainly need to be dealt with but I am never sure angry mobs do much good. How then should we respond?

I believe the most important thing that could (and should) come out of the horror is for the government to take a hard look at the housing crisis. For too long the market has been out of control in Britain and it is at the very heart of most divisions within society. And whenever a building site crops up today you know what is on offer will not be proper homes with gardens, in which families might thrive, but the falsely titled ‘luxury flat’. Cheap built boxes barely big enough for two in which couples must struggle to raise a family. It comes at terrible cost on many levels.

Yet the short term benefit of financial profit, for builders and investors, ever trumps the long term societal benefit of healthy families. High rise flats have been proved to be disastrous for those who live in them. Nobody wants them. So why do we keep constructing them? This article makes the point forcibly.

Because the market has been artificially inflated, via stubborn refusal to build proper housing for families, demand has outstripped supply for too long. This has led us backto a Victorianesque era of crippling rents and sometimes nasty landlords. And it ensured one generation grew rich at the cost to those beneath them. How was this situation allowed to develop whereby the elderly luxury cruise industry is booming as young families line up at food banks.

You might imagine property would at least be passed down upon death but one look at recent seismic changes in provision of care for the elderly disavows you of that fact. Here is another crisis in the making. The trend being for the pulling down of conventional affordable care homes in favour of building swanky new ones, the sort which charge literally thousands a week for care. How is this justifiable? Often it would be cheaper to stay in the best hotel in town.

Thousands are charged to the residents who sell the home to cover the cost. Yet those working in these places are, I can assure you, on minimum wage. I visit them weekly. And with a handful of staff for whole floors of residents it soon becomes clear that an eye-watering profit is being made by somebody in the equation. But it is manifestly not the children of those elderly who cannot care for them themselves because two incomes are now needed to maintain their own mortgage! So it is that the family silver is handed over to the few and people remain beholden to the state and employer. We all know paying for the elderly is a serious societal problem but does anyone else smell a rat in regard to the increasing costs involved?

I think it is a scandal crying out to heaven. For how much does it cost, truthfully, to provide three meals a day, a few hot drinks and to assist people with washing and cleaning? Yet thousands are charged and so the wealth gained by the boomer generation disappears. Which only adds to the increasing division in society, the widening gap between have and have nots. The inability of choice for one adult to stay at home and thereby make the family the place where people are cared for.

If we care about society, not just profits, this all needs to be dealt with. We must start building affordable and decent family housing. We must lower the amount of take home needed to pay rents and mortgages. We need to make the State smaller and the family home much stronger. A situation which is nigh on impossible with the current ratios of wages and costs for the average family.

Yes sorting the housing problem would be in the national interest. The flames pouring over the risible tower in London made that clear. There is simply too much wealth disparity between rich and poor, state and family, old and young. Lets build with fervour and supply that demand. Lets start thinking about how we make society as a whole richer and not just the few at the top.

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1 Comment

  1. Jack Andrew Hughes

    I hear you Father…… and in a Catholic society this just would not happen. The problem is that 100 years ago the ‘profiteer’ would have heard the example of Dives at least once or twice a year, now thanks to the lies of materialism (that matter and energy are all that exist) and darwinism he views the residents of Grenfell (in EB Scrooge’s words as the ‘surplus population’.

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