Good grief. I know A Christmas Carol is likely to be on telly soon to remind us of how little life has changed since Dickens depicted poverty. . . but rickets?
Some conditions carry considerable emotional baggage – in this case a Victorian valise set. Yet rickets is rising in this country. Leprosy is soaring worldwide. Tuberculosis is increasing. More are dying of pneumonia. Whooping cough is back with a vengeance as parents miss out on inoculations for their kids. Measles, too.
Rickets used to get rated in the same league as scurvy, one of those conditions caused by poor nutrition, lack of fruit, lack of sunshine, common in the industrialised north of old – or the London of Mary Poppins lore. Poverty stricken times. Plus ca change.
We need a darn sight more than just a spoonful of cod liver oil to make all the difference to a condition I thought had gone out of Lancashire with the cotton mills. The poorer you were, the less privileged, the more likely to fall prey to rickets. Malnourished kids fell hardest of all. Still do.
When Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn came up with the idea of free breakfasts for primary school kids – I was one of the council taxpayers who came over all Scrooge and bah humbugged it. Why should I subsidise poor parenting? But it’s not about poor parenting is it, really? It’s about investing in our children’s future so they don’t get saddled by the postcode lottery of Blackpool’s social deprivation blight from birth.
It’s about queues at food banks and soup kitchens of families fallen out of work and into poverty and just one unpaid bill away from being on the streets. It’s about the rise in food theft – one homeless man fined for wolfing down the fast food meal he nicked from the chap ahead of him.
It’s about the growth of loan companies with APRs so stratospherically high they give me nose bleeds to see them – 2090 per cent APR for one, for pity’s sake. And where’s the pity in the equation? Such firms thrive and advertise on telly and buy the services of trusted voiceover actors and actresses, to boot. I preferred the old pawn brokers.
Over in Wyre, one ward (and county) councillor Andrea Kay, a zealous campaigner for facilities for all age groups, is keen on getting chefs in to family support groups to help with the basics, and also help them save money - and improve children’s (and their own) health.
That’s a step in the right direction. One move in the wrong direction is the loss of two socially conscious competent Salvation Army majors who knew how to prioritise those waiting in line. Blackpool’s loss is Cornwall’s gain, alas.
I once met a young addict mum in just such a queue who couldn’t understand why her toddler was crying while eating her favourite salted crisps treat. It was clear her child had impetigo – a highly contagious bacterial infection which causes the skin around the mouth to blister. Salt in an open wound...