May 22, 2024

Poverty in Great Britain: A former shopkeeper advises shops


Mirror of the world

As of: March 17, 2024 12:58 PM

And Britons are living in poverty and baby food and bread are being stolen from grocery stores. Farrah McNutt stole as a teenager – and now she advises shop owners who want to protect themselves against theft.

The British are financially worse off than they have been in decades. The harsh austerity policies of various Tory governments, combined with Brexit and high inflation, are driving more and more Britons into poverty. In its most recent study, the prestigious Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that 3.8 million Britons live in “poverty”, meaning chronic poverty with no prospects, and one million of them are children. The number has more than doubled since 2017.

But it also affects the middle class. Britons' real household income fell by an average of 3.5 per cent from 2019 – the most dramatic fall in overall national living standards since calculations began in the 1950s.

A symptom of Britain's current polycrisis: an alarming rise in shoplifting, which has reached record levels since last year. This emerges from recently published crime statistics in the United Kingdom. Accordingly, more than 400,000 shoplifting cases were reported in England and Wales in the twelve months to September 2023. The highest level since the counting of votes started.

And the reported cases are only a small fraction of the actual thefts because shop owners don't even bother to call the police. As they suffer from the crisis in public services and are chronically underfunded, they cannot be on site in time.

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Formerly a shoplifter, now a startup founder

That's why more Brits are now helping themselves, and Farrah McNutt is one of them. He founded a startup to help increasingly desperate shop owners. “Catch a Thief” is the name of her company. For a monthly fee, primarily small shops can learn how they can best protect their employees, which video surveillance systems work and, if in doubt, can be recognized in court.

McNutt knows all the tricks because she stole one herself as a teenager. On behalf of the elderly in their group. When she saw how many stores had to close as a result, she only got the idea to turn the pages and turn it into a business: “Old people still need these little stores, they can't drive somewhere. They buy milk, and I didn't even think about it at the time. You think: They take it to their insurance company. Let's report it. But it's not true.”

Because now mainly bread, milk and baby food are stolen, so it is not worth reporting to the insurance company. McNutt understands the plight of these people, but she believes mothers who steal baby formula should also be brought to justice. “People in poverty have assistance, and they can only find and take advantage of these assistance offers if you don't let them get away with it.”

The store owner shows a monitor where a surveillance camera broadcasts what is happening in the sales room.

“Soon we will build alms again”

But it's not that simple. Towns and cities across the UK are now going bankrupt as the government in London cuts funding to local authorities and public services. This means that social networks are already becoming more and more porous. In many places, it is lone fighters of social engagement that save people from total neglect. People like Helen. His bright purple-painted store in Sheffield, which at first glance looks like a junk shop, is actually much more. Contact point for the homeless, distribution of food to people in need. If you don't have much money, you can buy a jacket here for a few pounds. Helen helps everyone, intelligently and with great respect, but some days she becomes frustrated.

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“But I can't really give anybody hope that things will get better at some point, and that wouldn't be honest either. Because we've never seen poverty like this before. When I look at the Victorian series now and there are. The skinny kids with the holey shoes, I think, yes, we're back. Soon. We will build almshouses again.”

Great Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. And yet: social inequality, traditionally present here, has increased dramatically in recent years, and more and more Britons actually seem to be returning to the dark ages of England's past.

You can see these and other reports on Sunday evening at 6:30 pm on “Weltspiegel”.