Leading article: Reasons for optimism over this austere winter

Your donations to our Christmas appeal give the lie to the notion that Britain has become a selfish society

Related Topics

It is more than a year since the recession ended, but many families continue to feel the chill winds of economic winter. The main earner in many homes is out of work. Though the economy is growing again, unemployment remains just as high as it was a year ago.

Times are also tough for many of those fortunate enough to have kept their jobs. Wages are stagnant, but inflation remains persistent, putting a squeeze on living standards. House prices are sliding again, although this offers little cheer to prospective first-time-buyers because the banks are still not lending. And there is more pain to come in the new year when VAT goes up and public spending cuts begin in earnest.

The Coalition Government is strapped for cash too. This week the public borrowing figures for November came in higher than expected. Concerns are mounting that the Government's deficit reduction policies are too hasty. More worrying is that the Coalition feels there is no need for an economic "plan B". If savage austerity does not succeed in jump-starting growth, ministers are likely to increase the dose. So there are good reasons for trepidation as families come together for the Christmas holidays.

Yet this break should also be a time for the counting of blessings. Most of us will spend the coming days in the company of family and friends. Despite the cold and snow, most of us will be warm and well-fed. For all the economic foreboding which fills the headlines, we are materially better off as a society than any previous generation.

That is not a universal reality. As our Christmas Charity Appeal over this past month has demonstrated, there are people in the world who have far harder existences than most of us in Britain will ever know. In recent weeks we have reported on homeless children of Kolkata railway station, girls abused by sex tourists in Gambia, residents of Haiti's ruined Cité Soleil, and the ostracised former "bush wives" of rebels in Sierra Leone.

And here in Britain there are young people who, compared with most of society, live intensely difficult lives too. We reported the case of Stacey Cuddy, from Leeds, who became the sole carer of her disabled mother at the age of 12. And we have put a spotlight on the lives of other children in this wealthy country who grow up in poverty, facing a daily struggle to evade the grip of crime and drugs.

The young lives of all those we have written about have been improved by the work of our three sponsored charities, Children on the Edge, Barnardo's and ChildHope. And they are lives that many of you will have helped to brighten through your generous donations to our appeal.

Your contributions will sponsor the work of inspirational figures such as Patrice Millet, who has dedicated his life to working in Haiti's slums despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer two years ago. It will strengthen campaigners such as Lucia Gavrilita, who singlehandedly civilised the state care of disabled infants in the former Soviet satellite nation of Moldova.

Your generosity will help to fund the work of the teachers of Cox's Bazar, who give child beggars in the Bangladeshi town the precious opportunity of an education. It will help sustain ProjetoLegal, which offers poor young men some protection from the arbitrary and casual violence of Rio de Janeiro's police force.

Your donations, at a time when wallets are lighter, give the lie to the notion that Britain has become an inherently materialistic and selfish society. For these acts of altruism, thank you. And we wish all our readers a very happy Christmas.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home