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.