Christopher Burns is a member of the APLE Collective, a national collective of individuals who experience poverty. The main contributions he makes are through his imagery and here he uses his art and photography to visually describe his take on a recent Alternative Security Review roundtable discussion on Economic Security in the UK.
I was asked to join a roundtable conversation about economic security. The discussion included contributions from trade unions, charities and people who had studied the issues around poverty and marginalisation. The final report touches on the recent rail strikes and the reporting of it, which has been described as causing social division. Also, the way the economy is structured causes the same thing too. Value is only classed as how much money you can earn and create. Extreme poverty can put children into care. From my own experience of the care system it doesn’t give very much care.
Those who need support are not part of the conversation; again from my own experience, people who need support are viewed lesser than those who are giving it or controlling it. And it’s hidden prejudice that keeps it alive. Does feeling insecure result in being anxious? Yes, it makes you delay fixing the car and only replacing items when they are really, really broken.
The brutal reality is we do not live in a world where cuddles, security and care are available to everyone. Being part of the unlucky population creates scars that vibrate across your body. You are in a cage with no way to escape. Security is important so that life becomes ordinary and enjoyable; those stepping stones that you expect to happen actually do so.
I’m not saying that everyone should be given a free Tesla, but dignity should be available to all. Hope is the biggest driver of change. An unbreakable self-determination that has certainly kept myself being very vocal and loud but not in a microphone way. Star Trek, Star Wars and now The Orville says that anyone can make a difference regardless which home world you were born on.
The welfare state may have been the wrong answer, but at least it forced society to recognise that poverty and all the things which can create it were avoidable and could be tackled. And again, for all its critics, the NHS is still here, as I spoke to a doctor today, and is still doing miracles. What is needed is a Revolution of Kindness and a collective belief that is so abundant in science fiction.
Neglect and necessity
Probably the most common theme of my art in almost a decade: if benefits could be used to prevent neglect would it lead to a more positive term? Would any sort of financial assistance be labelled instead as essential? Would any MP be brave enough to say this at PM question time?
Insecurity in work
Are these collectors on zero hour contracts or on contracted hours? And what would a healthy resident notice first if everything stopped: the rubbish not being collected on a sunny morning or not being able to see a doctor? Could you drive one of these vehicles along a narrow country lane?
The very nature of casual work is your stamp may not get paid. It is creating future pensioner poverty and misery. Those in more secure and highly paid work would be much more protected from poverty as they are able to pay into a private pension and be less reliant on the state one.
The gig economy and we are all part of the reason why it exists. It has created so much wealth for a few that they can afford to build rockets to the moon. If l asked nicely could I get a ride on a new Shepard Rocket?
What would happen if you were a tenant and suddenly lost your job? Also just over half of the disabled community in the UK are in work , so potentially this cause could be discriminating against over 6 million people and others who may not be able to lawfully work such as those waiting for their asylum application to be processed. Is this advert exacerbating the housing crisis?
Does society view parents who care for their vulnerable sons and daughters less than accountants? Carers are still the unsung heroes of the care system. And Carer’s Allowance is roughly the same as it always has been (less than seventy pounds a week). There have been repeated calls for Carer’s Allowance to be raised. Unlike those on Universal Credit, unpaid carers didn’t see the twenty pounds uplift whilst the country was in lockdown. Unpaid carers save the economy millions every day and without them the care system would break instantly.
Christopher’s use of imagery to reflect on economic insecurity is similar to one of the research activities of the Alternative Security Review. Our colleagues at Coventry University Centre for Trust Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR) have a call for participation in ‘Visualising Security’ workshops. If you would like to join this activity (online), you can register here or read more on CTPSR’s Facebook page.
Christopher Burns is a member of the APLE Collective, which works together with organisations that support members to take positive action to eradicate poverty. Their aim is to create a sustainable, grassroots network across the UK to raise awareness of poverty, reduce stigma and work together with others to eradicate it. He has autism and was diagnosed at age 32.