Saturday, 23 August 2014

Feeding the poor

From: Who cares?

The foodbank charity The Trussell Trust recently revealed that it had handed out emergency food to more than 100,000 people in the past six months in the UK.

Shockingly three new foodbanks are opening every week now in the UK to meet the growing demand.

The charity says since April 2012 it has fed almost 110,000 people across the UK compared to 128,697 in 2011/12.

And it anticipates things will get worse with the rising cost of food and fuel, high unemployment and the changes to the benefit system. It believed in 2012/13 it will end up feeding more than 200,000 families.

Charity Save the Children launched a report and started a campaign last month saying that one in eight of the poorest children in the UK go without at least one hot meal a day. One in 10 of the UK’s poorest parents cut back on food to ensure they provide for their children, the report found.

No doubt many of those struggling to make ends meet will be in social housing, or trying to meet their rent with housing benefit in the private rented sector.

Will people end up choosing between paying their rent and eating? And if keeping a roof over your head is better than getting a good meal, how are organisations like the Trussell Trust going to cope with such increased demand? Or, if the other way round, how are homeless charities going to cope? As the benefit cuts kick in, demand for these charities’ services will just go up and up.  

The trust’s chief executive Chris Mould does say that: ‘The good news is that at a time of growing difficulty for people on low-incomes, communities across the country are pulling out the stops to start new foodbanks and people are donating more food to help those in crisis on their doorsteps.’

But it does seem like it shouldn’t have got to this stage. People surely shouldn’t have to rely on food handouts to survive? It can only be assumed that the government doesn’t intend to reduce benefits safe in the knowledge that people will still get food from charities. (Can’t it?).

Mr Mould adds: ‘The Trussell Trust has seen first-hand the devastating impact of rising food prices on people in poverty. Day in, day out, foodbanks already meet UK parents who are going without food to feed their children, or are forced to consider stealing to stop their children going to bed hungry.’

It’s no fun at the bottom of the income scale, and the immediate future is not bright. Christmas is likely to be a grim time – luckily the Trussell Trust give out Christmas hampers during the festive season.

But what can be done? What are the answers? What is the best way to ensure people have the basic necessities of life - heat, housing and food?

Readers' comments (47)

  • Colin McCulloch

    The UK banking industry has paid £13 billion in bonuses since 2010.

    We have committed to spending £100 billion to renew Trident.

    We spent nearly £10 billion on the Olympic Games.

    Private (and social) landlords are coining in record rents.

    Starbucks and others don't pay or pay very little corporation tax.

    Footballers like Wayne Rooney earn up to £250,000 a week.

    So it goes on.

    There is wealth in this country, it's just despicably distributed. That people should have to resort to food banks and soup kitchens in 21st Century UK is absolutely disgusting and I hope the previous and ruling political parties (Lib/Lab/Con) hang their heads in shame at it ever coming to this.

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  • Chris

    Well done Emily for bringing this issue into the pages of IH. Their have been contributers recently decrying the existance of poverty in the UK who I hope can read this and understand just how quickly circumstances have deteriorated, and the worst of the cuts have yet to take place or impact.

    These are not just the unemployed or the unemployable, but the low waged poor who are at risk of starvation without such charities being in place to provide the very basics for sustaining lives.

    The answer to what can be done is for the labour and trades union movement to get off of it's knees (well that portion that has not got its nose stuck in the trough) and be as brave in pursuing the redistribution principles of its founders as the Tories have been of theirs. Colin points to the massive wealth of our nation, but it is held in only a few hands. No more can we permit these few hands to form of be the main influence on our government, but a government in the national interest should replace the self serving instead.

    There can be talk of half-measures, sticking plasters, and of a Big Society, but all these do is share the crumbs around a widening group have nots whilst the shrinking group of haves have even more. Seriously, what is the point of giving a starving person a Christmas Lunch when the lack of permanent solution would see them dead before Easter.

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  • Melvin Bone

    Maybe the most important thing is to identify why these people are in this situation.

    ie have they hit hard times or are they terrible at budgeting. The reasons are probably multiple but there is no one magic bean to solve this at a stroke.

    We have always had poverty and always will as the definition of poverty is always changing...

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  • Melvin Bone - you have some good points - many are poor because of unwise priorities - mobile phones, TV subscriptions or clothing, also people need to control family sizes if they can't afford to bring up children - multiple causes of poverty I am sure and as Chris says the gap between the haves and have-nots are widening - but our choices, and how we manage scarce resources contribute to the misery at the lower end of incomes. Chris probably wants to live in a centrally planned communist state where all available resources are distributed to all equally and the principle of "every one according to need and from everyone according to capacity/capability" can be practised and everyone equally rich or poor according to a central definition.

    We will all be living in Utopia then.

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  • 1) Ensure that if you work here, earn money here, generate profit here, own a business here, own property here, etc., then you pay tax on it here, at the full rate.
    2) Renationalise the utilities to ensure that everone can at least keep clean and warm.
    3) Ensure the banks use the money provided by the taxpayer for the purposes it was intended, not for continuing to pay massive bonuses, and
    4) Build enough houses so everyone can have a roof over their head.

    OMFG I've turned into a socialist!

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  • Chris

    Not so Venk, I'd prefer to live in a centrally planned through mutual consent Christian world where nobody need be in want; I do not understand why your philosophy is to keep us all in Hell!

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  • Re: Melvin's comment - "ie have they hit hard times or are they terrible at budgeting."

    We already know and have known for years if not decades that the money people receive either in or out of work in many instances does not meet minimum income standards. This type of on-going survey is carried out with reference to the views of the British public who explain what they think people need to live on to be able to be part of society (and this doesn't include things like sky tvs).

    benefits and the minimum wage do not provide enough for people to survive - its as simple as that.

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  • Rosa Hooses

    While I agree that life is a miserable struggle for many, I still find it hard to believe that UK citizens are unable to feed themselves. The Save the Children report is full of anecdotal evidence but no financial or other details. As Melvin suggests, we need to know more detail about why people are in this situation - and is there anything the people themselves could do to improve it?

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  • Chris

    Interesting Rosa - I'm sure that the same was said in the reception rooms of grand houses a few hundred years ago, and for precisely the same reasons.

    We are a wealthy nation. People prosper according to their own efforts. Therefore if there are those failing to prosper then there must be something wrong with them and it is no concern of ours.

    What will it take to make you believe these charities currently feeding over 100,000 UK Citizens who would otherwise be going without food - tripping over their corpses in the street perhaps.

    Whilst it is reasonable to want more detail as to how these people let themselves down and caused themselves to be in such a state of destitution, it is also in an element continuing the group denial that anything may be fundementally wrong with the system that keeps us benefiting from our own worthy endeavours and justifiable share of the wealth.

    There are those of course who have direct contact with these charities, or have read or seen the many documentaries about their works, or have even seen the news items (few and far between admittidly) featuring those in such need. Perhaps seeking out these sources may answer the questions you ask, but to help here is just one such example featured recently on the BBC.

    A young mother was the wife of a serving member of the armed forces. They had two pre-school aged children, but the father was still on the minimum army wage. His prospects were good, but progress had not been as quick as anticipated. However, after the latest tour of duty he could hope for a higher income, the income they had based having a family on. Meanwhile, the mother and children were adequately housed in rented accomodation, and the low wage was topped up by housing benefit. She could not find work that paid more than the cost of childcare so stayed at home with the children, but after meeting living costs from her husbands small wage there was less than £3 per day left for food. The children were being fed, but she was living on their left overs. After a couple of months she was understandably very ill, depressed and demoralised. Fortunately for her she heard about this charity, who has a food centre nearby. They not only fed her but were able to guide her to other avenues of help which as she says, saved her life.

    Yes, she could have gained the help of her husbands employer - but she was worried this would reflect badly on his chances of advancement, or on her ability to cope as a mother.

    Another instance was of a single man, under the age of 25, who could not gain support with housing costs so lived on friends floors and in hostels. he did not qualify for in work benefits, but worked over 16 hours per week so did not qualify for benefit full stop. After meeting his costs to be presentable at work, get to and from work, and visit his child at the weekend (the break up of his marraige is what led to him being homeless), he had less than £1 per day left to feed himself. The 'soup kitchen' charity he attended meant he could remain alive.

    Yes, these are anecdotes, but they are real people, and people who would die without such charity. There are currently over 100,000 such anecdotes to go on Rosa - how many more should there be before that in itself becomes a justified statistic in it's own right?

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  • Rosa - did you not read my comment?!

    I would suggest you read Hard Work by Polly Toynbee - it will tell you all you need to know.

    None of this stuff is anecdotal is all hard evidence

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  • We are now in breadline Britain. I know because my family and I are struggling and I virtually live on toast so my children are feed, have shoes on their feet and a warm coat. I am unemployed & a single parent, we do not have cash for mobiles, cable tv etc the cost of utilities and food eats up the cash.

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  • Melvin Bone

    IMHO most people lack decent budgeting skills. Learning these will not make them rich but at least make their time on a low income more bearable.

    Maybe this should be the first step?

    PS If you are living on toast I'd ask you if you baked the loaf of bread you made the toast from yourself...It's cheaper.

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  • Chris

    Melvin - that is a poor post even for you.

    Meeting others distress and suffering with condescension and sarcasm is below civilised behaviour.

    Even with the most expert budgeting in the world (and you will remember my own opinion that the poor are often better at budgeting because of their condition - after all it was not the poor who's poor budgetting crashed the economy, was it!) you cannot make the unstretchable stretch. Likewise, purchasing the raw ingedients to make a loaf of bread can be dearer than a loaf - it may make several loaves, but that is no use to you if you cannot afford all the required ingredients, including heat for proving.

    Perhaps taking your head out of your bucket may actually cause at least some empathy with people who but for one misfortune could be you.

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  • Melvin Bone

    There was no condescension or sarcasm in that post.

    Just advice and opinion.

    'Perhaps taking your head out of your bucket may actually cause at least some empathy with people who but for one misfortune could be you.'

    It was me Chris. I've had my electricity key on the reserve on a Friday with the knowledge that I have no money to top it up until the next week. I learnt to eek things out.

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  • another first step may be to ask " is my childrens father ( s ) unemployed and does he consider himself a single parent". you can divorce your wife or husband but not your kids. men or women for that matter who abandon their children should i think be prosecuted for neglect

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  • Chris

    Was that when you baked your own bread as part of your own austerity drive Melvin?

    If you were not being sarcastic, and were genuinely trying to help then perhaps this is an instance where the message heard was not the message intended. Still, if Michelle was not offended by your 'well intended' post then no harm done.

    More seriously though - should you not have used better budgeting so you did not need to use the reserve on your power key - or was such even beyond budgetting skills because of the simple lack of income. In which case, why is it so difficult to perceive the potential starvation point being reached by over 100,000 people as a result of not just the current cuts, but the policies of the previous governments also that have gradually led us to such a situation today.

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  • Rosa Hooses

    mfm - yes I read your comment, but I'm not sure how relevant "What people think is enough money" is, seeing as that is a very subjective view.

    Nonetheless, I will read Polly Toynbee's book, on your recommendation. I'm not a fan of hers, but I'll give it a go.

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  • Melvin Bone

    'should you not have used better budgeting so you did not need to use the reserve on your power key'

    Is that condescension or sarcasm Chris?

    The point is I that cut my cloth according to the situation I was in. Some people do not. Do you see?

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  • Chris

    That would be both as a return of favour Melvin.

    Yes, I do see, but that is because you had cloth, others do not, do you see?

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  • How anyone can try to excuse or support a position that has 110,000 of our fellow citizens, our neighbours, our friends and families faced with such deplorable situations is the real poverty of our nation.

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