This Writer has run out of time – lots to do on Thursday – so I can’t provide a decent commentary on this. All I can do is offer an excerpt and ask you to consider acting on it. Cheers!
I am a smug Londoner. Sure, I am not wealthy, I am not a homeowner, but I am an enfranchised woman with a voice and a disposable income, who ignored another woman as she sat begging on the street.How can I change that? How can I try to help people facing hardship in my own pitifully small way? Is there anything “smug Londoners” can do? I asked Dr Frances Ryan, a Pool contributor and writer on disability and inequality, what she would recommend. And here’s what she told me:
1. Give to a “clothes bank”
Donating to food banks (including giving sanitary towels) is a simple way of helping people struggling through benefit cuts, but it’s worth searching your local area to see if you have a “clothes bank” near you too. Bedding, old school uniforms and warm clothes are always needed.
2. Get involved in activism
Join a group such as Disabled People Against Cuts or @Dis_PPL_Protest (for non-disabled allies as well as disabled people) and put your fury to good use. This could mean turning up to Parliament to protest or something more low-key, like supporting a local campaign to stop the closure of a mental-health organisation.
3. Lobby politicians
Stopping government policy can feel an insurmountable challenge, but is possible. If you see a proposed cut in the news, lobby MPs and Lords – via social media, email or letter. Climb-downs do happen. Look at the abandoned cuts to Personal Independence Payments.
4. Become an appeal advocate
When people are rejected for benefits, an appeal is their only hope. But, with welfare advice centres cut and Citizens Advice under huge pressure, many have no one to support them at what’s an exhausting time. If you have legal knowledge or can simply help at filling out forms, search online to see if there are any groups in your area you can volunteer with (or start your own).
5. Donate to existing advocacy services
Alternatively, donate money to organisations doing it. Welfare advice groups like Fight Back 4 Justice are made up entirely of volunteers and can only survive on donations. And it’s vital – advocates are often the difference between someone getting the benefits they’re entitled to and being left with nothing.
6. Help someone who’s homeless
Buying a rough sleeper a sandwich is a kind, short-term fix but, for a more long-term approach, try StreetLink. It’s a simple idea: if you’re out and are concerned about a rough sleeper, call 0300 500 0914. The details of the location you provide will be sent to the local authority (if you’re in England or Wales), so they can help connect the person to local services and support.
7. Challenge anti-benefit stigma
Just like with sexist comments, if a friend or colleague is making comments about disabled people or benefit claimants, challenge it. It’s a long-term tactic but, as much as the benefits cuts themselves, we all need to tackle the culture that helps breed them in the first place.