Mark: State welfare is failing our citizens and food banks aren’t the answer

Last Updated: April 11, 2014By


  1. Food Banks in England are only 3 vouchers in a year. If you are hungry one day, you are hungry every day. Elsewhere in the world the government and charities together feed the working poor and poor pensioners every day, with a cooked meal and hot drink in canteens. As Rickets has returned in children (an illness of lack of food) and people are being admitted to hospital for not eating enough, then the cost of starvation is rising far above just to cost to charities.

    The loss of state pension payout is loss of money to buy food.

    Half of women aged 60-66 are within the working poor, with flat-lined wages to 2002 levels.

    Majority reason women aged 60-66 not in work is due to being disabled / chronic sick and those benefits being lost or never gained.

    See if you lose most or all of your state pension:

    A new party I have come across is Left Unity Party –
    You might care to join and change their minds about the 2 votes loss to bring about the Adult Citizen Wage, automatic and without the billions of cost of welfare admin, so can properly and fully fund the NHS, elder and disabled home care and such like.

  2. […] Mark: State welfare is failing our citizens and food banks aren’t the answer. […]

  3. KRS April 12, 2014 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    I’ve been volunteering at a food bank for almost two months. While it operates a good system, in the sense that it is well-organised and the workers and volunteers are compassionate people, it is not an answer to poverty. Decent pay for those in work, decent benefits for those who do not have work, or cannot work, is the answer.
    The food banks are precarious in of themselves. Like the people they are trying to help, they are dependent, dependent upon the goodwill of donors and volunteers. Many of the volunteers are over 60. some much older, actually in their eighties. Pull the larger donors and the volunteers out of the picture and the food banks will collapse. As the demand continues to increase, I propose that the system will buckle and break. Then it will be soup kitchens. And may the curses of heaven rain down on the ConDems, on Labour and all of us for sticking our heads in the sand! Big Society does not work. Philanthropy and voluntarism won’t cut it and we should be up in arms about what is happening to people.
    Today our last customer was a mother with five children under the age of eight who arrived after the food bank had closed for the day. The eldest child, a boy was really thin and pale. His school uniform sweatshirt was tucked in at the waist, so as to keep his trousers up. He was astonishingly still and watchful. I think he was hungry and sadly we had closed the kitchen about ten minutes before they arrived at the food bank so we had nothing warm left to offer them. The mother was asked if she had a voucher and because she was in such a state she couldn’t find it. So she emptied the contents of her handbag out onto the pavement to find the voucher she had been given by CAB. The supervisor could not let her inside the building as other service users were still hanging around.

    The woman was flustered because it had taken CAB about an hour to verify that they were a family and that they were in genuine need. she had then struggled about 1.5 miles across town with a baby in a pushchair and her other children which caused her to arrive after the food bank had closed for the day. She was frantically pressing the buzzer when I opened the door to her and called the supervisor explained that we were closed and that she might only be able to hand out an emergency bag id the voucher could not be found. The woman declared that she had no food in her house at all so what was she supposed to do for her children. Her husband was at work but they did not have enough money for food.

    As she continued to search frantically for her voucher, a homeless young man we had served in the kitchen earlier that day, crossed the street and asked her for a light for his cigarette. She told him kindly that she didn’t smoke. He apologised and ambled away. Any woman will tell you that she cannot find what she is looking for in her handbag when she is under pressure and yet she was polite to the down and out young man. The voucher was finally produced after much scrambling through bag compartments, the handbag was hastily re-packed and three carrier bags of food were handed over to her.

    The vouchers exist to ensure fair shares for the service users. In principle I would rather just give to anyone in need, but I have been assured that food stocks would soon run out without some sort of system of allocation. The regular food bank workers have also admitted that they do sneak extra bags out to people when they can. So everyone involved finds the voucher system tough, although its especially tough for those who have to have the vouchers to get food. People without vouchers are given emergency bags which contain pot noodles, instant oat porridge , ‘cup a soup’, crisps, biscuits, tea or coffee and some UHT milk. The person will also be directed to sources of free meals across the town to tide them over until a voucher can be arranged by an agency.

    Upon receiving the food a new problem arose for the mother: how to transport the bags. Much of the food is tinned and those bags are really, really heavy. Many adults decant the tins into a backpack to cope with some of the weight. The mother stowed as much as she could under the pram seat and around the baby. The younger children were so excited that they were eager to help their mother. Have you seen a five year girl old struggling to carry a plastic bag full of tins for her mummy? Have you seen a wistful eight year old boy with no energy, who looks grey, trying to lift the bag from his little sister’s shoulder?

    That boy was fully aware that his mother was under tremendous stress, that this was a very serious moment for his family. He never raised a smile as his little sisters had done. If his mother had been unable to get food from our food bank, they would have had to either look for another food bank, which would mean getting a another voucher from an agency, which would mean having to go through the whole demeaning means-test and verification process again, or waiting until Tuesday afternoon when we re-open. Food bank vouchers are food bank specific, they are not transferable. So imagine this wraith of child, trudging around a town centre, trailing behind his mother across town, it was easy to see he was exhausted by it all. Even as he began to slowly walk away behind his mother and his siblings, he turned and looked back at us and there was a dead stillness about him.

    He brought to my mind something my late mother had said about the Hungry Thirties: that children weren’t so much obedient because of the stricter parenting methods of those days, as they were listless, quiet and subdued because they were hungry. So here we are, in a time when a mother has to knock on a church door and stand on the threshold, frantically begging for alms and proffering proof that she is worthy of charity. Is this 2014 or 1414?

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