The British public believes that pensioners and children are society’s two most vulnerable groups.
In 2002 the Tory Party launched a campaign to ‘Help The Vulnerable’. But who are ‘The Vulnerable’? It may seem semantic but, before answering this question, it is probably better to talk of ‘vulnerable people’ rather than ‘the vulnerable’. The same is true of disabled, gay or clever people. People may be vulnerable or homosexual or clever but it is not necessarily their defining quality.
Who are vulnerable people?
A YouGov survey for the Centre for Social Justice asked the British people this very question.
First, YouGov asked respondents which of the following groups would they consider to be among the most vulnerable groups in society. YouGov then asked respondents to identify the most vulnerable group. The answer to the second question appears in brackets in the list below:
- Pensioners - 82% (32%)
- Children - 70% (22%)
- Single parents - 12% (0%)
- The mentally ill - 72% (14%)
- The homeless - 49% (6%)
- People living in high crime areas - 52% (8%)
- Ethnic minorities - 17% (1%)
- The physically disabled - 53% (3%)
- Sick people - 33% (1%)
- People in debt - 26% (2%)
- The long-term unemployed - 13% (0%)
- Gay people - 12% (0%)
- People with learning difficulties - 52% (6%)
- People released from prison - 16% (0%)
The survey found that people believed that pensioners, children, the mentally ill, people living in high crime areas and people with learning difficulties were society’s most vulnerable people (in descending order of most vulnerable). Groups constantly spotlighted by the permissively liberal media – notably gay people and ethnic minorities – hardly registered in the survey. Given that a representative number of gay and coloured people would have taken part in the YouGov survey it becomes clear that the media’s obsessions are not even shared with the people they seek to champion.
Pensioners are probably seen as vulnerable because of worries over financial security – particularly because of the western world’s demographic timebomb - and because of their vulnerability to crime. Although young people are more likely to be victims of crime, older people are more fearful of crime and less likely to recover from experience of crime. The demographic timebomb also threatens to expose more old people to ‘duty-to-die’ pressures if western societies embrace euthanasia.
We are all vulnerable and we are all responsible
As most of us will become pensioners – and all of us were children – we are all ‘vulnerable’ at some stage of our lives.
Crime, family breakdown, inferior public services and unemployment may cast most blight on the poorest communities but the leafiest of suburbs can be damaged by today’s often unchecked social problems.
One nation conservatives will fight for all people who are vulnerable. Unlike politicians of the liberal left, however, they will know that social justice cannot be guaranteed by the welfare state. It also depends upon the 3D care provided by families and other people-sized institutions. Unlike market fundamentalists they also understand the insufficiency of a jobs-generating market economy. We diminish ourselves when we hide behind feed-and-forget forms of social assistance.
The world’s most vulnerable people
The world’s most vulnerable people do not live in Britain, however. 852 million people in the developing world are hungry today. Most of this huge number of people are not starving but are chronically undernourished. This can make them defenceless against disease and can damage the development of unborn babies. Diarrhoea, acute malaria and measles – all preventable and treatable diseases – are leading killers of children. More than 90% of the world’s HIV/AIDS victims live in the developing world – mostly in Africa.