Why language matters – especially during a pandemic

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As the coronavirus outbreak develops, we’ve all got lots to think about: from supporting elderly relatives or friends to looking after our own health, from financial concerns to restrictions on our daily movement. We’re adjusting to huge changes in our day-to-day lives as we work to deal with this ‘new normal’ and the way we talk about poverty and hunger is probably low on many people’s lists of priorities. But it shouldn’t be.  

The way we talk about things matters – even during a pandemic. Especially during a pandemic. The way we talk defines how we think about things and what we choose to do about them. As our news and timelines are dominated by statistics and analysis of the outbreak, it’s more important than ever that we think in new and innovative ways to meet the challenges we’re being presented with and pull together as a nation to react with compassion. 

It’s likely that more and more people will need the support of food banks as the outbreak progresses, especially those who aren’t eligible for sick pay or are in insecure work. More and more people will become locked in a daily struggle to make ends meet. 

More and more people will be at risk of being pulled into poverty. 

This isn’t right. As a society, we believe in justice and compassion, in helping others. During these unprecedented times, when many of us are feeling powerless and afraid, it is more important than ever that we don’t forget that behind the statistics are thousands and thousands of individuals and families who need support. And it is more important than ever that we see clearly what causes poverty and how we can solve it. Because this can be solved.  

By making sure that we talk about poverty in the right way, we can make sure that we address it in the right way. Poverty exists in this country and during this crisis many people are at risk of being pulled into instability.  

But poverty is a problem that can be solved: by redesigning our benefits system so that it works for anyone who needs its help; by making sure that everyone has enough money for the essentials; by creating a society without the need for food banks.  

During the current outbreak, it has been inspiring to see the outpouring of kindness, compassion, and community spirit that has made such an impact across the country. The pandemic shows the amazing resilience of our communities and the incredible things we can achieve together even in the most trying of circumstances.  

Poverty isn’t inevitable, and we all have a part to play in addressing it. And if we talk about it in the right way, focusing on the deeper structural issues driving it and the changes that could make a difference, we’re all able to see what steps we can take. This can change.  

If you want to help raise awareness and get involved, share this blog on social media and let your followers know what you think.