THE deprivation endured by some people in our region appears almost Dickensian.

In Victorian society, fear of poverty and destitution was an ever present threat for most working people. Mercifully this is significantly less pervasive today, but there are still massive disparities between the haves and have-nots.

Grinding poverty, punishment and injustice were live issues when Dickens penned novels such as Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol.

The 1834 New Poor Law, an Act which, for many liberal-minded Victorians, appeared to criminalise the poor, inspired Dickens to lampoon a system which believed that harsh laws would act as a deterrent so fewer people would claim relief. Sound familiar?

A modern-day Dickens would find plenty of subject matter on our streets; in our food banks, and in the stories of those drawn into the maddeningly complex and unfair web of Universal Credit, to fill his pages.

In the second part of this week’s special report between The Northern Echo and Church Action on Poverty, we look at the human cost of joblessness. Some newspapers focus solely on so-called “scroungers” – the tiny proportion of people who cheat the benefits system. This week we’ve told stories of people who are desperate for a chance to work and take control over their own lives.

To tackle the scourge of poverty we need – among other things – a fair and humane welfare system to act as a safety net for those in and out of work. It is tragic that 150 years after Dickens’ death we are plagued by some of the same injustices he railed against.