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UK Child Poverty Means More Need Free Shoes

A new distribution technology isn’t evidence of an increase in demand

That’s one way to read this story. It’s also the way the story is being told. Finally, it’s the wrong way to read the story.

The argument is being made that child poverty is rising so much in the UK that there needs to be a free distribution of shoes. As one set of children grow out of them then they can be sent on to the next age group who are growing into them.

Well, OK, what’s wrong with this picture?

UK children in need of shoe donations as poverty levels soar
An extra million children could be living in poverty in Britain in less than five years.

Well, what’s wrong with the picture is this:

A British charity which distributes children’s shoes to those living in poverty around the world says it is seeing an increase in the number of requests within the UK – including from schools.

Sal’s Shoes was set up five years ago by mum CJ Bowry – who was unable to find a use for her son’s shoes when he grew out of them.

When the charity began, 5,000 pairs of shoes were donated – last year that number rose to more than 300,000, with shoes now sent to children in more than 43 countries, primarily in Asia, Africa and eastern Europe.

That’s all excellent of course, nothing wrong with it at all. It’s this:

But CJ told Sky News that increasingly the barely-worn shoes are needed closer to home.

She said: “Most children in the UK, at the start of the academic year, need a pair of school shoes, so we started this initiative at the end of the summer term which allows children in the UK to donate their school shoes if they are likely to outgrow them and we get them back into education somewhere else.”

Ahhh. We’ve now a new technology. And a rising interest in the use of a new technology is not all that much of a surprise, is it?

Do note that “a technology” is simply a manner of doing things. The moldboard plough is a technology, the mobile internet is one, the collection and distribution of used shoes is a technology. We also used to have a technology which did this, hand me downs, swapsies, ads in newsagent windows, classifieds and all sorts of stuff. Must have done otherwise Hemingway couldn’t have written the shortest story ever (“Baby shoes for sale, unused”). We now have a new and more efficient method of doing this.

Great, new technology, more efficient – it will be, as it operates over a wider area, thus increasing matching chances of size and form etc – so usage rises. But what we’ve not got here is evidence of greater need for used shoes. Rather, just greater demand for a different method of collection and allocation.

You know, like food banks. The rise in their existence isn’t because we’re all poorer these days. It’s because the new technology, which really only arrived in the UK around 2004, is new.

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1 year ago

People take free stuff that they would otherwise have to pay for shocker…….

1 year ago

Dramatic fall in number of siblings means fewer younger ones to “inherit ” outgrown shoes, clothing, etc. Gotta go somewhere.

Mohave Greenie
Mohave Greenie
1 year ago

Given my youngster’s play habits, shoes rarely last a term.

Bloke in Kent
Bloke in Kent
1 year ago

This already happens at a local level pretty much everywhere in the UK via Facebook groups. A pair of kids Clark’s shoes which cost £35 new will struggle to fetch £3 in good condition – to the point where my wife has sometimes simply given them away to the first person who wants to collect. Same system for everything else sprog related from school uniform to toys; it can drastically reduce the costs of bringing the little cherubs up.

1 year ago

Presumably then the existence of charity shops, websites like Freecycle, and the existence of local tips (all of which never existed in the days of my youth in the 70s) can be taken as complete proof that we’ve never had it so good? On the basis they are all predicated on people disposing of perfectly good stuff for nothing just because they don’t want it and its not worth their time attempting to recover its monetary value (if any)?

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