Friday, 12 September 2014
62 Days To Go
Food banks - the growing phenomenon that is sweeping the UK. In 2013 the number of people relying on food banks to feed themselves and their families TRIPLED in a year, exceeding the expected forecast by over 100,000 people. In terms of figures, in the period April to October 2013, The Trussell Trust (biggest food bank operator in the UK) helped 355,985 people - including 120,000 children, whilst in the same period in 2012, that total figure was 113,264 people. Last winter, the British Red Cross were also involved in distributing food to British citizens, a first since WWII.
The thing about food banks though, it is not just people who are out of work and living on benefits that are using them - families from working households (known as the working poor) are also in need of these valuable charitable services. In a quick search on the Trussell Trust website, there are 16 food banks within a 25 mile radius of my front door, not including the local run independent/charity/church set ups - that is a lot of hungry tummies.
How did this supposedly wealthy nation end up like this? Swinging cuts to the welfare pot, extortionate price hikes in energy bills and food bills, big mortgages for owners and the buy-to-let, so therefore rents are higher, just for a kick-off. Prices going up all around, whilst the wages people are earning are not rising at the same level, if at all - the cost of living far exceeds the wages of the average family. Many people earn more that the 'average' but I think it is fair to say that they are not the ones trying to feed their families from food banks! Even worse (if that's possible), are the number of people returning to the food banks to exchange items in their food parcels, not because they didn't like what they were given, but some people have returned items that need heating prior to eating, as they don't even have the money to pay for the electricity bills for a cooker or microwave. Yes these people may be in the minority and in the worst case, but the fact that this is happening at all in wealthy west European country is disgraceful.
Our caring MPs however, need not worry about food banks for themselves, not with the grocery allowance of £165 they receive per week on top of their salaries! These are the same MPs who are happy to pose for the local press as they open another food bank in their constituency. Even more galling, is that some MPs (not going to tar all politicians with the same greedy brush, but there are many which deserve to be) believe that food banks are going to be and should be, the norm! Of course, why would any country not want their own citizens to be able to support themselves and their families?!
Not only that, the our caring sharing MPs in Wastemonster also rejected EU funding to assist those who were in most need:
This youtube video tells exactly what it means to rely on food banks, and is a video of one dedicated volunteer, Denis Curran, who runs a food bank - please watch the 12mins to appreciate what the reality looks like.
When I vote for Yes, I will be voting for a system that does not aspire to see food banks normalised, that is intent on fixing the welfare state so that the most vulnerable citizens are not punished, and are committed to ensure a living wage (not a minimum wage) is actually liveable. It obviously wont happen overnight and will take work to achieve, but food banks and the working poor need to be consigned to history in iScotland (and everywhere else on these isles), before the work house is resurrected in the UK.