I HAVE followed your articles and the Readers’ Letters regarding poverty. Before we start trying to get rid of it, we need to know what it is.

Is it only having one car? Perhaps it could be only having a black-and-white television. Or can it be brought down to how much money we have?

In my day, it was not having enough to eat, inadequate clothing, no job, no education and not a lot of hope for improvement. There were few benefits and my father worked for less than he could get on the dole because it gave him the dignity of being in a job.

Mathew Laverack (Letters, November 28) was right to say that we did not see ourselves as poor.

We recognised that there were people with more than we had, but we didn’t broadcast it.

We also knew that the only way to get out of it was to work, which we did, taking any job we could to improve our stock.

However, if anyone out there can define what represents poverty in this country today, I would be grateful. Then we will know how to get rid of it.

Steve Helsdon, Howe Hill Close, Holgate, York.


• Mr Laverack’s letter of November 28 (“We had no money but were never poor”) appears to rehearse the old chestnut that poverty is only when you have no food, shelter or warmth (eg absolute poverty, rather than relative poverty). This argument that no one is in absolute poverty any more goes back to John Moore, Tory minister for the Department of Health and Social Security in the mid-1980s.

Many children in the UK will go hungry and cold this winter which, irrespective of one’s political standpoint, cannot help their life chances of ‘‘improving themselves’’. Learning is far easier if you have a full tummy and a warm environment. Since the 1980s, inequality has escalated, creating a more divisive population. There is an alternative.

As Dr John Sentamu said so eloquently in The Press, we are a better society when we invest in each other and research demonstrates a more equal society is a happier one – even for those at the top.

So, rather than accepting poverty will always be with us, I urge Mr Laverack to take a more optimistic view and help to campaign for a more just society, both in tackling relative poverty in the UK and absolute poverty abroad.

RKM Bridge Holgate Road, York


• Matthew Laverack had an idyllic childhood. We really had it tough. Bedrooms would have been a luxury to us. We were evicted from our hovel and had to live in a septic tank. Hand-me-down clothes were sold to buy meagre scraps of food.

We were sent to work sweeping chimneys for tuppence a month and had to buy our own brushes. But try telling that to people today and they don’t believe you. Poverty? You don’t know the meaning of the word.

John Jones, Sand Hutton Manor, York.