As a journalist, I’ve had my share of vicarious experience of the shadowy side of life: sign up for a courts round covering criminal cases and you soon realise how lucky you are.
Not that you need this exposure to be aware of how many people are doing it hard: just read the papers, watch the news, or see the people with their cardboard signs sitting despondently outside railway stations. But if I ever needed a reminder, spending time on the National Debt Helpline forcefully brought home that fact.
Listening to the calls that flood in to the helpline is overwhelming. By and large the callers are ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives in a system that seems to be stacked against them; a system they find impossible to navigate – a system that, often, simply makes no sense.
They generally feel powerless; and often that is because they are powerless. If you can’t afford to pay the electricity bill, you almost certainly can’t afford to pay for financial advice or the kind of information that keeps you in control of your life.