We have been talking to Helen Rowe, author of Eliminating Poverty in Britain to find out what motivated her to take on this ambitious project.

What kind of research did you do? How long did you spend researching before beginning the book?

The idea for the book came to me in 2013, so it has been ten years in the making! The first six years involved juggling internet research with pregnancy and a young family. Snippets of paragraphs, ideas and articles could be found on scraps of paper all over our home. When I did finally sit down to write, the pandemic struck and home-schooling took over. The turmoil of those strange days meant that I moved the focus of my research onto the toll that the poorest were taking, and I began thinking about how we could remould our society after hitting rock bottom with our skyhigh death toll. Once the lockdowns were lifted, I started interviewing front line workers who were dealing with the fall-out from Covid, in schools, churches and businesses.

There is so much that can be done. We have all the knowledge and connectivity that we require to end poverty in Britain. What we need now is broader social understanding and committed politicians. After that, the future is ours for the taking.

Can you share the statistic that shocked you the most during your research?

A study by Liverpool University in 2021 found that child poverty has been associated with 10,351 more children (under 16) in England being taken into care (2015-2020).  I found this statistic appalling. We know that serious financial difficulties can create severe mental health problems for adults and children alike, and the fact that it has led to the direct breakdown of so many families is incredibly sad. Children need a stable homelife to grow up physically and emotionally healthy. To know that so many youngsters have lost this basic need because our governments have not focussed enough on the right issues is completely unacceptable.

What did you find most challenging about the writing process?

There are 143 quotes in the book and each one required written permission from the publisher or author. It took six months to contact everyone and log all the responses. It was well worth it, as the quotes give the book an extra dimension of knowledge and understanding, but it was a slog to keep going during those dark winter nights.

Which chapters are you most proud of in this book and why?

The chapter on mental health and poverty. The impact of poverty-related stress is debilitating and rarely discussed in relation to NHS waiting times or government budgets, yet they are directly linked. Deprivation is an issue which the NHS cannot solve, but has to deal with the consequences of it on a daily basis. Two new fields of research: Epigenetics (how poverty affects our DNA) and the Neurobiology of Poverty (how it affects the brain) are breaking this issue wide open. It is important to bring the findings to a broader audience in an accessible way. The book is about challenging society’s assumptions on poverty and using scientific discoveries, alongside a realistic and compassionate plan to rebuild our society and economy in a sustainable and practical way.

How has writing and researching this book changed you? If at all.

The kindness of strangers has surprised and changed me. I was ready for a fight to get my voice heard, especially by people in the public eye, but the two overwhelming responses to the book have been either curiosity or support. People want poverty to be dealt with in our country. There is a feeling that it is time this happened and the book has caught the prevailing wind. It makes me feel very hopeful for our future.

How would you sum up Eliminating Poverty in Britain in three words?

Realistic. Practical. Compassionate.

What key piece of advice would you give other debut authors?

Consider using a book mentor. In 2021, I won the Page Turner Awards Mentorship Prize. I thought I knew how to write a book after spending years in the civil service writing papers for the government. However, writing a book is a very different beast altogether. Karen Williams at Librotas helped me to think about the book structure, my audience and the business side of being a writer. All of this transformed my chances of success. Nine months after working with her, I signed a publishing deal with Flint Books. The combination of Karen’s advice and winning the Page Turner prize created a spring-board to being taken seriously by publishers as an unknown author.

What is something you would like the average reader to take from reading this book?

Ending poverty in Britain is perfectly possible and it doesn’t require a revolution to get it. We can choose to end deprivation at the ballot box if a political party is brave enough to take the challenge on. It is a financially prudent option which will kick start the economy, protect our NHS and schools, and positively affect every person in the country. Everybody wins.