Getting to grips with deprivation in Greenwich – Ann McGauran

In this part of London, food banks have steadily become part of the social landscape, writes Ann McGauran.

This will be surprising to some of the millions of visitors from all over the world who flock to Greenwich each year to enjoy the historic town centre.

Local politician Denise Hyland… leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich… talked to me about food banks, poverty, and the impact of the austerity agenda and welfare reforms on residents here. She outlined how her local authority works to support those most vulnerable to the impact of cuts to welfare.

“We try to be proactive and identify the people who might be most affected. When the welfare reforms started we contacted those who were likely to be impacted by the benefit cap. In Greenwich, 35 per cent of those affected were losing £50 or more a week. Most of the families affected by the benefit cap are in private accommodation. We also have people hit by the bedroom tax and we have families affected by the reduction in help with council tax benefits.

“We offer a holistic assessment, as people can fall through the cracks – for example when they are helped with housing but not necessarily with employment.”

More information about this council’s attempts to help, despite the government’s cuts, is available on Ann McGauran’s blog.

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4 thoughts on “Getting to grips with deprivation in Greenwich – Ann McGauran

  1. Jim Round

    Unfortunately austerity is not affecting enough people for anyone important to take notice. Again retail parks are full and the press seems to take delight in reporting kerfuffles over electrical goods and reporting record trading.
    Where is the coverage for those struggling to feed themselves and/or their family at Christmas, oh sorry, seeing them puts the masses off their Christmas puddings.
    I have a bad feeling that the Tories will sneak in come May as their sleight of hand and manipulation of the economy seems to be working on the gullible. (remember the income tax cuts from the mid eighties onwards?)
    Tory voters are unlikely to use libraries, meals on wheels and leisure centres etc..
    And the number of people who will “benefit” from the increase to their personal allowance outweighs those relying on benefits.
    Sad, but true.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Don’t forget also that this government is manipulating the release of information so you don’t get to find out about the bad things.
      Look at the DWP deaths – no new figures relating to any dates after November 2011; that’s three years ago!
      Look at immigration – Theresa May has been sitting on something like five adverse reports.
      There must be more but they’re slipping my mind.

  2. Jim Round

    There are more Mike, but the fact remains that those struggling in Britain are a grain of sand on life’s beach.
    You only have to go out any weekend in the run up to Christmas to see the crowds, but to see foodbank queues you mainly have to go out at night/evening time, also sometimes onto side/backstreets.
    I wonder how many of those on JSA/DLA/WCA, those affected by the bedroom tax etcc…will vote in May, my guess is very few unfortunately, so you could say we get what we deserve.
    Compare viewing figures for such tripe as Eastenders/Coronation St/X Factor etc… compared to the likes of Dispatches etc… people just don’t want to know.
    Who would have a large enough influence to get those deaths onto BBC/ITV News, has anyone rang any of the newspapers “got a story” numbers?
    If so, what happened?

  3. foodbankhelper

    Thanks Mike for featuring this article. I appreciate your ongoing support for my food bank blog. This is a council which does seem to want to ensure that the benefits of regeneration are passed on to as many residents as possible through schemes like skills training in areas including construction. Its Families 1st programme to help families with complex issues is also acknowledged as a successful one. It’s supporting the work of food banks in the borough in many practical ways, including providing the premises at a peppercorn rent. Labour leader Denise Hyland thinks it’s a disgrace that they are needed in a city that’s riven with inequalities. Sadly food banks are being seen increasingly as a ‘statutory’ service (vouchers via Jobcentre Plus in the main) that conveniently for the Coalition is being networked by charities and churches (with the odd exception), with food donated by good-natured members of the public and a few corporate donors such as Tesco and Barclay’s. How useful is that? Also, the fact that I’m seeing families come back to the food bank a year after I first saw them means that their financial position has worsened and/or they’re not able to get sufficient help with the underlying issues that took them there in the first place. It’s usually a combination of these two factors. This is in a borough where there does seem to be a genuine concern to provide targeted help to the most vulnerable. So how much worse have things got in areas of the country where that basic motivation does not exist? In reply to Jim, yes some of those affected could vote, but won’t for various reasons. I do feel that many believe their vote won’t change anything so why bother. Some of them can’t vote – such as one woman I met this week who is not a UK Citizen. She had her immigration application turned down. I’ll start talking to food bank clients now about whether they’ll be voting, and if not, why not…

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