I was absolutely incensed the other night watching Richard Bacon on ‘How Rich Are You?’ discussing the widening poverty gap and the lack of mobility within the social classes.
I think it was tantamount to MURDER. Murder of hope and aspiration. Murder of the possibility of transformation. Seriously – I feel that passionate about it. Why? Because 23 years ago I was living in a £400 a month rented hell hole with no central heating and an unemployed husband, pregnant with my first child aged only 20. I had already started my little business from very little – certainly none of my own money as I didn’t have a penny to my name back then. I earned a whole five thousand pounds in my first year – trust me even then back in 1992 that’s was a pittance to live on. I remember my Mum saying to me at the time that there was little point getting stressed over this business when I’d be better off on the dole.
Bollocks to that. I had a dream, a vision, of what I could achieve for my baby girl and me. I didn’t know the how; I just had the burning desire and the BELIEF.
Now this was before the Lottery, X Factor and The Apprentice where a culture of easy wins and instant celebrity equals an easy exit for poverty and massive success. I had a little business, in a nuts and bolts industry – but from that Diamond was born – the Diamond that you see before you today – now a multi-million pound business with 20 sites around the UK (signed up two more yesterday).
When I brought Chloe home from the hospital on Christmas Eve, to my freezing cold house, her room was the only warm one. I placed her in her second hand cot, in her room full of entirely second hand furniture, even with a second hand rug on the bare floorboards and I vowed we wouldn’t be there for long. And bugger me, we weren’t. It was not easy but gradually year on year my earnings grew from £5k to £11k to £20k and 18 months after my boy Oscar arrived in year three of my business on my princely earning of twenty-six thousand pounds at 24 I had bought us a house, a new car – and brand new beds in our brand new home.
Because I BELIEVED in where I was taking my family. I had pride in providing even the paltry lifestyle we had before, and I had the dignity to not want my journey to be one of dependence on the state. I wanted to set my children the example of hard work, and the result you get from it.
Henry Ford said if you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right. The more you tell people they are stuck, that their situation is helpless, that there is little that can be done – the more it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And people will deny their part in this situation – that it is not their responsibility for where they are – it is the benefits system, the government, the class they are born into.
Teach people that their situation is not hopeless. To set an example to their children of a good work ethic. The dignity and pride of self sufficiency. That hard work and providing for oneself are essential beliefs to instil in their children.
There is no quick fix– and that the crawl out from poverty can be a slow one, and you need to persist, persist, persist ..
Anyone in the country does have EVERY possibility to break away from poverty – and EVERY possibility to break away from this life they have been told they are pre-destined to endure. And in doing so they would be giving an incredible gift not only to them selves but to generations to follow. Most parents out there love their children. If they love their children, as I am sure they do, as passionately as I loved mine they would want a better life for them. Show them there is another way.
A bit of a caveat here in that I am not – as many right wing commentators state – saying people’s situations are their fault. This is far too critical. There is a gentle balance between responsibility and then condemning the poor for being poor.
But it starts with hope. Educations. Belief. And rebuilding work ethics and showing people how enterprise can change their lives.
Rant over. Now go change the world!
Author: Kate Lester