‘POVERTY isnae jist a word fur politicians tae throw aboot tae git oor vote. It’s an illness ae the mind. Boady and soul.”

The cost of living crisis is nothing new to people who claim and indeed rely on state benefits. Historically, people dependent on support from the welfare system are faced daily with the choice between warmth and food.

You only need to read my novel A Working Class State of Mind to realise that the cost of living was always a crisis for such people long before this bleak circumstance ever became headline news. And that it only received the recognition it deserved after it trickled itself up to and into the pockets of the middle classes.

The very idea of what poverty means has since been hijacked by middle/upper-class commentators, who – ridiculously – have come to the belief that they now know what hardship is. When the truth is the closest, they came to experiencing poverty was that time, many years ago when they starred in their school’s production of Oliver Twist.

Recently, I read an article where an executive from a huge gambling corporation provided a cooking recipe for his employees in the patronising hope to encourage them to curtail daily costs of living. And according to this individual, you can feed 16 people for £4.50, including a pudding.

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As appealing as a pedigree stew and a docking leaf pavlova is, this statement is as insulting as it is soaked in classism.

Whether you are on a low income or not, individuals should be able to expect a decent standard of living. Instead, we live in a society that possesses 21st-century technology but the social conditions of the 19th century.

To quote my novel: “Poverty isnae jist a word fur politicians tae throw aboot tae git oor vote. It’s an illness ae the mind. Boady and soul.”

What I mean is that poverty in its most simplistic form is about economics. But there are so many other symptoms of it that are ignored or purposely forgotten. Poor mental health is a common condition amongst those on benefits, largely stemming from a habitual battle to survive.

You wake up every morning, just as the birds sing outside your window, knowing that today, like all other days, you simply cannot live your life the way you want to. Not when you’ve been placed on financial life support, that is.

Recently, Dundee made headlines when youths caused widespread anti-social behaviour. I would never condone such actions but instead of analysing the individual, we should be taking a deeper look at our society. Most working-class communities are underfunded and are void of any meaningful distractions for young people to keep them occupied. If you don’t provide distractions, then – predictably – they will create their own.

We as a society need to stop producing more Spuds from Trainspotting and start inspiring the next Irvine Welsh to pick up a pen instead of a weapon. People on welfare can often become victims of substance abuse.

If your entire life is a struggle, then it’s a natural reaction to look for an escape from reality. For example, I’ve heard critics quip ‘’How can people on benefits afford to smoke

cigarettes?’’ The question I would pose to them is: “Why do we live in a society where only a small percentage of the population is able to afford

certain things without being labelled an enemy of the state?’’

It comes down to the fact that this Tory government has weaponised the welfare system to demonise and isolate those in the crosshairs of the cost of living crisis. Simply because they view those most in need as

burdens on the state. Yet, if you have a seat in the House of Lords and bleed this country dry, you will soon find yourself being commended for your service. What this cost of living crisis has proven is that we very much live in a society divided across class lines.

Something as simple as accessing credit often disables those who are out of employment, allowing loan sharks and high-interest loan companies to prey on the most vulnerable among us.

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Gambling addiction, in particular, is something that can quite often take hold of desperate young working-class men.

Betting shops are an ever-permanent fixture and plague on our local high streets. They offer their cash-strapped punters a way to elevate their low income without being drawn into a world of petty crime.

Gambling can be identified by some as a way to earn “easy money”. But like any other street drug, it can quickly morph into an addiction that wrecks families, creating a malicious rippling effect across entire communities. It is just one of many examples of how the Government is willing to turn a blind eye to the engineers of social inequality so long as they fill in a tax form once they’ve finished emptying the pockets of their customers.

Those living in deprived areas are offered so many routes into poverty.

At the same time, they are presented with few resources to escape its clutches. Long gone are the industries that once promised the working class employment and a sense of identity.

Instead, school leavers today are handed government-funded schemes that pay them in lunch vouchers and bus fares.

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The encouragement of education is key. It alone can ensure that the new generation of working-class people can walk a pathway to positions of power which, by default, would give birth to a fairer society for all.

In the context of Scotland – and as someone who is a passionate supporter of independence – I believe that the current cost of living crisis serves as a mere reminder that all roads will lead to the widening of social inequality. Especially when you consider that this Tory government base their knowledge of working-class life on their favourite episodes of Eastenders.

Culturally, we are witnessing a new wave of working-class writers such as myself and my playwright brother, Michael Burnett as well as Peter Bennett and Darren McGarvey (inset) who are each using their work to document these troubling times. These writers are not afraid to challenge the narrative of the oppressor.

Colin Burnett is a writer from Bonnyrigg and the author of the novel A Working Class State of Mind.