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每日跟讀#494: In Britain, Even Children Are Feeling the Effects of Austerity

英國厲行撙節 兒童也受影響

· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English
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每日跟讀#494: In Britain, Even Children Are Feeling the Effects of Austerity

It was half past eight, and the school day was just starting at Morecambe Bay Primary, a state-run elementary school in northwest England. Siobhan Collingwood, the head teacher, pointed to a cheerful boy munching his way through two slices of toast — his first meal of the day.

上午八點半,英國英格蘭西北部莫克姆灣公立小學的上課日剛開始,校長希歐班.柯林伍德用手指著一個開心的男孩,他正大聲咀嚼兩片吐司——這是他當天的第一餐。

Teachers, she said, had sometimes found him sifting through trash cans for discarded fruit. “He’d eat his way through whatever we put in front of him.”

柯林伍德說,老師們有時會發現他在垃圾桶裡翻找別人不要的水果,「不論我們在他面前擺放任何食物,他都會狼吞虎嚥」。

Some students trickled through without stopping; they had already eaten. But a few dozen headed straight to the food counter. Of 350 students, roughly one in three would not have breakfast unless the school provided it, Collingwood reckoned.

一些學生三三兩兩經過,沒有停留,他們吃過了,不過有幾十個學生直接朝取餐台走去。柯林伍德估計,在全部350名學生中,大約三分之一要是學校不提供,就沒有早餐可吃。

During Collingwood’s 13 years as head teacher at Morecambe Bay Primary, there were always a few hungry children. But two years ago, the staff noticed an increasing number of youngsters returning undernourished after spending school breaks at home.

柯林伍德擔任莫克姆灣小學校長13年期間,一直都有些沒吃飽的孩童。不過兩年前,職員注意到,孩童在家度過學校假期重新返校後,營養不良的愈來愈多。

Initially, Collingwood and her staff were puzzled: Many parents held jobs, even if they struggled to cover the bills. Then it dawned on them that the rising number of hungry children at Morecambe Bay coincided with sharp reductions in welfare benefits associated with the clumsy introduction of a new welfare program.

起初,柯林伍德和職員感到困惑:許多家長儘管付清帳單很吃力,總有工作。後來他們明白了,莫克姆灣飢餓孩童增加,與社會福利津貼大幅刪減同時發生,而社福津貼大減又跟粗糙引進新福利制度有關。

“As we spoke to parents,” Collingwood said, “it became clear that for many of them, it was caused by changes to the benefit system rolled out in recent years, which were forcing families into crisis.”

Across Britain, the number of children living in poverty has jumped sharply in the past six years, a trend that critics blame in part on the Conservative-led government’s policy of austerity, the budget-slashing response to the 2008 financial crisis that is steadily reshaping British life.

柯林伍德說:「當我們跟家長交談後,事情變得清楚了,對許多家長來說,小孩餓肚子是近年來推動的津貼制度變革造成,這些變革使家庭面臨危機。」在英國各地,近六年來貧困兒童暴增,批評者說,這種趨勢部分要歸咎於保守黨政府的撙節政策,這種為了回應2008年金融危機而大砍預算的政策,正逐步改變英國人的生活。

And there is no immediate relief on the horizon. The County Councils Network, a group of local governing bodies, warned recently of more than $1 billion in budget cuts nationwide next year, draining more money from social services, including some for children.

而且目前還看不到情況緩解的可能性。英國地方政府組成的團體「郡政府網絡」最近警告,明年全國預算將減少10億美元以上,社會服務經費會失血更多,包括針對兒童的部分。

To be clear, Britain is not Venezuela. Reports of hungry children showing up in Morecambe doctors’ offices with rickets have proved false. But that is cold comfort in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, one that over the years has made a strong commitment to child welfare.

當然,英國並非委內瑞拉,罹患佝僂病的飢餓孩童在莫克姆灣看醫生的消息是假的。不過,這在英國簡直起不到安慰作用,畢竟英國是全球最富裕國家之一,多年來堅決承諾照顧兒童福利。

While hunger is not the only social pathology associated with childhood poverty, it is perhaps the hardest to conceal. In that respect, it is a flashing signal of a deepening problem.

飢餓並不是與兒童貧困有關的唯一社會病態,卻可能是最難掩蓋的一個。就這方面而言,它是一個更深層問題閃亮的信號。

Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/333753/web/

文/Patrick Kingsley譯/李京倫

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