Poverty should not be a feature of our society.
The persistent nature of the deep-rooted inequality that we still see in our schools and communities should trouble us all.
This year, more than most, Challenge Poverty Week should prompt us to take an important pause and think about how the harsh effects of lockdown and the pandemic have made these problems even deeper.
Over recent months too many people have anxiously relied on furlough payments or been left with no income at all. Some have lost their jobs with little to no warning and thousands have struggled to balance work and childcare.
Key workers from all walks of life have put their health on the line by going into perilous settings at the height of the pandemic and many of them, most notably in care settings, weren’t paid a fair amount for their work and sacrifice.
When our nation ground to a standstill, the likes of which we’ve never seen before, we knew the priority should be to protect the weakest and most vulnerable. That principal should guide us every day, not just in periods of emergency.
The problem we have now is this pandemic is not going away quickly and while we impatiently await a cure we need to look at what we can do to ease the financial worries of millions across the country.
So what can we do now?
Liberal Democrats have been arguing for the introduction of a universal basic income would be an effective way to ensure that all of those who have fallen through the cracks in the existing coronavirus support packages are able to put food on the table.
We must pressure the UK Government to extend the furlough scheme and introduce support payments for the three million people excluded from government support schemes during this crisis for unjustifiable or ignorant reasons.
The Scottish Government should use the powers it has to improve social security in Scotland. It has been positive to see cross party work to shape the social security system, but it should have been up and running by now. We need to get people off the treadmill of the current system and lead the way in showing how this can work.
Ultimately the best way to lift people out of poverty and reduce inequality is through investing in their talents and wellbeing. In this difficult period that is going to necessitate new and innovative solutions.
We need to all come together and focus on what really matters – the health and wellbeing of every person in this country. There is a duty on each and every one of us to look around our community for avenues to support each other.
The recovery from this crisis will be long and arduous. For the sake of future generations, we must build a fair and inclusive economy that supports those who have been hardest hit.