As I hear about the death of Peter Townsend – sociologist, poverty campaigner and co-founder of Child Poverty Action Group and Disability Alliance, I’m reminded of Tony Blair’s sincere pledge ten years ago to abolish child poverty by 2020. I say “sincere” with . . . some sincerity because I believe his intentions were genuine but they’ve changed the goalposts so many times on account of probable failure to achieve targets that, at the time of writing, I just don’t know which pledge we’re currently in. I mean are we still working towards the ‘total eradication of child poverty by 2020’ or have we redefined low income again? Is it the ‘child poverty halved by 2010’ pledge or has it sneaked up to 2020 as 2010 closes in with little signs of success? Or could it be the ‘child poverty eradicated by 2020 if we stop claiming ludicrous expenses’ pledge? Or maybe it’s the inspiringly compassionate and equally important ‘stuff homeless kids, my ducks need a posh home!’ pledge?
Seriously though, some commendable progress has been made and there’s no reason why the government can’t build on that with some radical action but it’s not looking likely. And when they miss that 2010 target, they will be on a slippery slope. The target for total eradication will be all but out of sight and we’ll have another generation of failed children. While our government procrastinates, the poverty cycle turns. Peter Townsend would be banging his head in frustration.
Apart from when I was learning about relative poverty in my Sociology course many moons ago, I didn’t know much about Peter Townsend and it appears that he was quite a brilliant chap. His studies/writings on poverty have become standard references. He was dedicated to his causes and his tireless campaigning for equality and justice have led to huge social reforms that millions of people continue to benefit from. In short, his legacy is remarkable but no words of mine will do him justice so I will just quote what Alan Walker perfectly wrote in today’s Independent:
With the death of Peter Townsend, one of the global giants of social science and a leading campaigner for social justice, poor and excluded people everywhere have lost a tireless champion and complacent governments one of their sharpest critics.
Peter Townsend ~ sleep peacefully love.