Blaming and shaming people in poverty has a long history in the UK and the US and is woven into the fabric of their societies. Greater awareness of what living life in poverty is like, having conversations and being open to others’ experiences can create awareness that our commonalities outweigh our differences. And the current Covid-19 health crisis can provide a turning point for good, allowing us to see the value of everyone in society.
In this episode, Mary O’Hara speaks about her most recent book ‘The Shame Game’. It provides a powerful analysis of the pervasiveness of shame and stigmatisation of people in poverty in the UK and the US and offers hope for how to turn this around, one story and one conversation at a time.
Mary is writer and journalist and has written about issues of poverty for more than 15 years. In her previous book ‘Austerity Bites’, she explored how welfare cuts and widespread roll back of public services in the UK sharpened the divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. In 2018, she started Project Twist-It, which is a multi-platform hub for stories about what it is like to live in poverty and for such stories to be told by those whose voices often go unheard.
Conversations about shame and blame associated with poverty are now timelier than ever. Covid-19 is set to increase poverty levels dramatically, leaving many more in a situation that makes them vulnerable to shame. At the same time, the pandemic has made evident the enormous contributions that carers and key workers – often on very low wages and experiencing in-work poverty – make to our lives, keeping us safe and healthy. This may just present a wake-up call for all of us to shift negative narratives about those living in or close to poverty, one story at a time.