Friday, 31 May 2013

Absolute poverty

Last weekend an 80 year old man told me about growing up in Middlebrough in the 1930s. He was one of 8 children, his father worked but was often unwell. If his father could not work the family had no money, there was no social security to fall back on, they had to go without. Even when he was working there was barely enough money to feed the family. Most weeks they took the father's suit to the pawnbroker in exchange for money to buy food. When the father was paid the first call was to the pawnbroker to redeem the suit ready for the next time. His father only ever had the same one suit. The family depended on their wits and especially their mother's skill and ingenuity to be clothed and fed. This, he said was what real poverty was like. He understood today there are not enough jobs to go round and people struggle but they have the safety net of welfare benefits.

Yesterday a report by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam reported more than half a million UK people may rely on food banks. It calls the amount of food poverty in the UK a national disgrace.

The report blames benefit cuts, unemployment and the increased cost of living for the growth in hunger and poverty. It attributes some of the rise in food bank reliance to unemployment, increasing levels of underemployment, low and falling income, and rising food and fuel prices. Oxfam says: "Cuts to social safety-nets have gone too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger."

The report was backed by the Trussell Trust, the UK's biggest provider of food banks. It said
more than 350,000 people required help from its food banks during 2012, almost triple the number who received food aid the year before. Children North East is finding that the families we work with are increasingly in need of food, we keep small stocks but refer people to the rising number of food banks.

Does anyone want to live in a country where people are reliant on handouts of food? Do we really want to return to the hardships of the past?

Responding to the report the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said: "Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities."

It added, "The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so no-one has to struggle to meet their basic needs." The department also defended its new universal credit system, which will be implemented nationally in October, saying it will simplify the benefit system and leave "three million households better off".

Yesterday Jayne Linney of the #STOPIDSLYING campaign announced on Twitter that her petition calling for Ian Duncan-Smith the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to be held to account for his use of statistics had been successful, she got over 100,000 signatures. He has been summoned to apprear in June before the Work and Pensions Committee.

John Lennon once sang:

'I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth.'

I know who I believe - who do you?

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