THE horror unfolding in the Middle East puts many issues in this country into perspective. However, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on the level of destitution in this country was both staggering and shameful.

Poverty is of course relative and what is faced here is nothing to what’s endured in the developing world or the plight facing many in Gaza. But we are a developed economy and are not at war. We are a rich country and society, but the wealth isn’t divided equally.

Probably the worst thing to afflict the country of recent generations has been the growing inequality gap. These destitution figures are the very nadir of that journey and it’s where it’s brought us.

That people cannot feed themselves, heat their homes or even afford a roof over their heads is simply unacceptable in a civilised society. The statistics also can’t properly express the pain, humiliation and misery inflicted. Some TV reporting did of course speak to individuals and, even though highly sanitised, their despair and their feelings of hopelessness were evident.

Compounding all that is the number of children now born into these conditions. This is the third decade of the 21st century, yet so much is redolent of Oliver Twist and Dickensian Britain. Yet children are being born not just to fail but into a life of poverty from which escape will be hard if not impossible.

It’s all down to policy choices and forced austerity. Rather than addressing that, it’s being worsened. Proposed changes to Universal Credit rules will further hammer the poor. Many, indeed most, affected are working but still can’t make ends meet.

It affects us all as social ills, whether substance abuse or crime multiple. It’s well documented that more equal societies are healthier, wealthier, happier and better on almost every indice. It’s why austerity must be replaced by addressing poverty and inequality. We need a fairer world but equally a more just and equal country.