Tag Archives: hunger

Why did ex-Gurkhas have to go on HUNGER STRIKE in DOWNING STREET over unequal pensions?

Hunger striker: the government agreed to talks after Dhan Gurung (pictured) returned to the hunger strike outside Downing Street. He had been admitted to hospital after his heart slowed.

The answer to that is simple: racism, ingrained into the way British governments treat people.

Allow me to tell you the story:

Once upon a time (1814), the British East India Company, then in control of India, declared war on neighbouring Nepal because of Gurkha incursions that had taken place.

The war was extremely civilised, with both sides controlling looting and respecting non-combatants.

The war ended in 1816 and both sides decided to build a friendship in which 10 Gurkha regiments were recruited into the East India Company’s Army.

After the partition of India in 1947, a tripartite treaty between Nepal, India and the UK meant four Gurkha regiments were transferred to the British Army.

Here’s the problem, though: the terms on which the Gurkhas joined the British Army were not the same as those for any UK-born soldier.

Those who retired before 1997, like Mr Gurung, currently receive a fraction of the pension the rest of the British Army receive because the Gurkha Pension Scheme (GPS) was based on Indian Army rates.

The Not New Labour government of Tony Blair tried to paper over this racist injustice in 2007, when it eliminated the differences between Gurkhas’ terms and conditions of service and those of their British counterparts.

The change was backdated to July 1, 1997, because that was the date when the UK became the home base for the Brigade of Gurkhas (it had previously been based in Hong Kong, which itself transferred to Chinese rule on that date) and changes in immigration rules meant retiring Gurkhas may settle in the UK after discharge.

The difference between pension rates pre- and post-1997 has long been a subject for grievance because it seems to be impossible to live comfortably on pre-1997 rates, either in the UK or in Nepal. Former Gurkhas who had served the UK as some of our most effective service personnel were therefore consigned to lives of poverty and misery because they weren’t British.

That is why Dhan Gurung, Pushpa Rana Ghale and Gyanraj Rai went on hunger strike on August 7.

Challenged to meet the hunger strikers and discuss their case, current UK prime minister Boris Johnson did what he always does when offer the chance to be a statesman: he ran away.

Previously, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had said he would be happy to meet  protesters, but argued no government “of any colour” had ever made retrospective changes to pensions of the kind they were demanding.

We can see from the actions of the Blair government in 2007 that this was a lie of the kind for which the Boris Johnson government is now justifiably infamous.

It seems the politicians’ position only softened when it seemed likely that one of the hunger strikers may suffer serious harm to their health on the prime minister’s doorstep.

Dhan Gurung was hospitalised after his heartbeat slowed, after refusing food for 12 days. It was initially believed that the diabetic veteran was having a heart attack.

He returned to the protest yesterday but shortly afterwards the government announced that it will hold talks with the group, and with the Nepalese government, and the hunger strike has now ended.

Further information on the situation is available in this House of Commons Library briefing.

I think it is important also to note that a petition, calling for Gurkhas to have equal pensions as other British veterans of the same rank and service, has reached the 100,000 signature threshold for a debate in Parliament.

How would any such debate run, if one or more of the protesters had suffered significant harm to their health because they had to go on hunger strike even to have their demands noticed?

And the discussion with Nepal seems dishonest, too. The four Gurkha regiments suffering the pension prejudice at the heart of the protest have been employees of the British Army since 1947; their pay and conditions are really nobody else’s business.

Whatever happens, this is another opportunity for Boris Johnson to drape himself in disgrace. He has already fled from dealing with this matter and his Defence Secretary has lied about it.

Who can doubt that they’ll concoct an excuse to short-change – once again – some of the bravest soldiers the UK was ever lucky enough to have?

Shock for Tories as they learn austerity affects THEIR voters too

Steve Baker: the pro-austerity, pro-Brexit High Wycombe MP is claiming surprise that his constituents are starving, and trying to blame it on Covid-19 rather than the policies he wholeheartedly supported.

Tories like Steve Baker, whose High Wycombe constituency has been found to be suffering high levels of poverty-induced hunger, are trying to blame it on Covid-19.

This is not true.

And the falsehood should be pointed out to them.

Yes, the claim that “Mother” puts, below, is correct:

But High Wycome – and Buckinghamshire in general – were identified as suffering from these problems eight years ago. That’s long before anyone ever heard of Covid-19:

So it seems that Tom Bradley has the right idea:

It seems some Tories are using the revelation (in fact nothing of the kind, as the information has been available since 2013) to call for the loss of the £20 Universal Credit “uplift” to be rethought.

Doubtless they will want more for their constituencies as well.

But can you see what this means, for austerity-loving economic incompetents like Rishi Sunak?

He’ll say the money will have to come from somewhere else, and will cut vital funding to constituencies that haven’t voted Tory. See if he doesn’t!

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While Sunak offers pointless meal vouchers they can’t use, child malnutrition doubles in six months

The offers in Rishi Sunak’s summer statement were intended to distract you from this.

Of course child malnourishment has doubled in the last six months, because more children are in poverty – and were, even before the Covid-19 crisis hit the UK.

The number of households with hungry children has doubled during lockdown because children reliant on school breakfast clubs and lunches have been deprived of them.

And their parents – already too poor to afford to feed their children in normal circumstances – have been left to support their families on a fraction of their normal pay (if they’re lucky) or on Universal Credit.

But if they’re claiming UC, they’ve had to wait at least five weeks for their first payment – and possibly as long as 11 weeks.

They won’t be able to benefit from the Chancellor’s “meal deal” vouchers because their parents/guardians can’t afford half the price of eating out – which is necessary before the vouchers can be used.

And let’s remember that Boris Johnson wanted to end free school meals for deprived children during the summer holidays, only relenting after a high-profile footballer’s campaign won widespread public support.

The detail that makes this news horrifying, rather than merely appalling, is the fact that fewer than two-thirds of all hospital trusts have provided information.

It means the number of malnourished children in the UK may in fact have tripled – or worse.

What if any – or many – of them die?

Tory voters: did you really want that on your conscience when you voted your beloved Boris Johnson such a huge victory last year?

Almost 2,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition in the first six months of the year – double the number over the same period last year – prompting fresh concern that families are struggling to afford to feed themselves and that the pandemic has intensified the problem.

Freedom of information responses from almost 50 trusts in England, representing 150 hospitals, show that more than 11,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition since 2015.

Almost 1,000 under-16s with malnutrition were admitted as inpatients to Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation trust alone, suggesting the affluent city has wide disparities in wealth.

Collectively the figures reveal 11,515 cases of hospital admissions of under-16s due to malnourishment. Fewer than two-thirds of all trusts responded, suggesting the real total figure is much higher.

Source: Cases of child malnutrition in England double in last six months | Society | The Guardian

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Families are going hungry because of Conservatism, not the coronavirus

Tories harm children: the coronavirus is just the latest excuse they’re using.

Why should we be surprised? The Tories have a history of lying when they say we’re all in it together.

It seems our caring government has engineered the coronavirus crisis to ensure that the number of households with children going hungry has doubled since lockdown began.

Millions of people are struggling to afford basic food items as parents lose income and both the school meal voucher scheme and food banks are overwhelmed:

New data … has revealed that almost a fifth of households with children have been unable to access enough food in the past five weeks, with meals being skipped and children not getting enough to eat as already vulnerable families battle isolation and a loss of income.

The strain on larger families, single parent homes and those with disabled children has been immense. A reported 30 per cent of lone parents and 46 per cent of parents with a disabled child are facing food insecurity and finding it difficult to manage basic nutritional needs at home.

With schools no longer providing a reprieve for children reliant on free breakfast clubs and school lunches, poorer families are at crisis point.

A government scheme to give pupils food vouchers worth £15 a week until schools reopen has been beset with problems, with many parents unable to download the vouchers or redeem them in supermarkets.

According to the Food Foundation, of the 621,000 children who were accessing free breakfast clubs before the pandemic, only 136,000 are being provided with an alternative. However, 31% of children entitled to free school meals are still not getting any substitute, leaving more than 500,000 children going without.

Food banks have been overwhelmed with demand during the lockdown. Last Friday, the Trussell Trust reported an 81 per cent increase in people needing support from its food banks at the end of March compared with the same period last year.

Demand from children for food-bank services had also increased by 121 per cent. The Independent Food Network reported a similar surge, with a 59 per cent increase in demand for emergency food support between February and March.

This is not an accident. The Conservatives are deliberately using the pandemic to punish the most vulnerable in society yet again – and to bring those who had been more secure down to the same level.

It’s ironic. Many of these families are likely to have voted Conservative in December, thinking they were bringing stability and security to the country.

Instead their votes have doomed their families – and themselves.

No doubt they’ll convince themselves that starvation is the price they’re paying to be free of the virus.

But Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock look very well-fed to me.

There is no need for anybody in the UK to go hungry. There hasn’t been any reason for hunger here since the 1950s.

The coronavirus isn’t causing it.

The Conservatives are.

Source: Exclusive: almost a fifth of UK homes with children go hungry in lockdown | Society | The Guardian

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Hunger striker hoped to highlight the faults of Universal Credit and PIP

Hunger striker: Angus Silverstone went without food for 47 days because the DWP wouldn’t pay him Universal Credit and PIP.

A Leicestershire man went on hunger strike for nearly seven weeks to highlight problems with Universal Credit.

Angus Silverstone, 58, spent 47 days without food in an attempt to show that people are dying because of the way benefit assessments are carried out and decided.

A former teacher, Mr Silverstone has mobility issues due to problems with his heart, lungs and limbs.

But his Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment applications had been denied and he had been allocated a second-floor flat that he struggled to reach, as it involved climbing two flights of stairs.

He took on fluids but no food during his hunger strike, which ended this week. Knowing the way the Department for Work and Pensions behaves, This Writer thinks he is lucky to be alive himself.

As he said (see the source article), the government is not listening and not acting.

If a Universal Credit claimant decides to starve himself to death, that will create what the DWP describes as a “positive benefit outcome” – because it won’t have to pay him any more.

Think about Errol Graham, who really did starve to death after his Employment and Support Allowance was cut off for no good reason.

In this case, though, the DWP saw fit to think again. I would suggest this was to put a stop to the bad publicity the hunger strike was generating.

He was living opposite a supermarket and had put a large sign in a window, reading: “UC/PIP HUNGER STRIKE”.

Mr Silverstone gave up his strike after the DWP relented, reconsidered his benefit applications, and he was provided a ground-floor flat.

The DWP is still saying it made no error in his benefit assessment. So why has it paid him £4,400 in arrears?

Because it “received further information”. That old chestnut.

But Mr Silverstone’s strike has succeeded; he showed us all how to beat the DWP when it cuts off benefits for no reason.

Publicity. The government is trying to make us think Universal Credit is a good thing. It can’t abide it when the public sees proof that this is a lie.

Source: ‘I went on hunger strike for 47 days because of Universal Credit’ – Leicestershire Live

If Tory policies are so great, why are so many more of us forced to visit food banks?

A food bank.

Boris Johnson tells us the UK’s economy is fundamentally sound, and only “small improvements” are needed, such as “addressing transport bottlenecks, improving rural bus services and broadband connections”.

None of that is true, though.

If it were, the Trussell Trust would not be telling us – on the same day – that more people are being forced to resort to food banks than ever before.

The charity has said problems with the benefit system run by the Tory-controlled Department for Work and Pensions have created a 23 per cent increase in the number of food parcels it has handed out, compared with the same period last year. It is the steepest rise since the organisation’s network of food banks was fully established.

That is not an indication of a “fundamentally sound” economy.

It is a sign that millions of UK citizens are on the brink of starvation, destitution, and collapse.

That is what nine years of unremittingly cruel Tory austerity has done to people like you and me.

The figures make nightmarish reading:

The trust distributed a record 823,145 food parcels between April and September, including 301,653 that went to children.

The DWP was responsible for all of the top three reasons cited by people needing emergency food: insufficient benefit income (36 per cent), delays in benefit payments (18 per cent), and changes to benefit (16 per cent).

It supports the findings of the Trust’s own State of Hunger report, that said benefit changes such as the imposition of Universal Credit and the Bedroom Tax were driving the increased use of food banks.

Of course, the link between benefit policies and extreme poverty is hotly contested by Tory ministers – despite the fact that it is clear to anybody capable of reason.

People only started going to food banks after the Conservatives cut tens of billions of pounds from the benefit budget. No other explanation presents itself and even if it did, this would be the simplest. Occam’s razor tells us that the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is most likely correct.

Labour has accused the government of pushing people into destitution, and promised to lift them out of it:

The Trussell Trust has called for politicians of all parties to protect people from hunger – but you’ll notice that the Tories don’t even acknowledge that as being an issue to be addressed.

And when the government of the day refuses to admit the existence of a very clear and obvious danger to its citizens, it is time for the electorate to remove it.

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Campaign group’s latest research shows the cruelty of Universal Credit

“Harrowing stories of people forced into debt, rent arrears, homelessness, crime, prostitution, hunger, people unable to afford fares to get to food banks, parents unable to get essentials for their babies, child poverty, worsening mental health, ex-service people considering suicide and even cases of actual suicide.”

These are the results of the Conservative government’s disastrous Universal Credit project, according to campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts.

The organisation has launched a new report in response to repeated attempts by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to “airbrush” the failed benefit’s reputation in the pages of the Metro free newspaper and others.

Here is what DPAC has to say:

“In response to the DWP’s lies trying to minimise the negative impact of Universal Credit (UC), by commissioning unbranded BBC documentaries and media articles highlighting UC success stories, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has compiled a damning record of UC systemic and catastrophic failures.

“This record draws on local and national press and media articles, government and research reports.   While the DWP bleat that UC is unfairly vilified the reality is that UC had always been a disaster for claimants and has already wasted millions of pounds.

“It has now reached a point where it is unable to adapt to claimants’ complex circumstances, and is forcing people with the least resources into further poverty, homelessness, and hunger.  These failures are driven by ideology. Making claimants wait for their first payment on the pretext that this mirrors the circumstances of working people is another DWP fairytale.

“Experts who have looked at UC have also identified design, management and IT issues which cannot be solved by tweaking the system.

“This is why DPAC is calling for UC to be scrapped. It has become a social security system, which not only does not offer security, but actively undermined people’s ability to cope with the hazards of life.

“So far DPAC activists have already removed many thousands of copies of the Metro and will continue to do so whenever a lie about UC is printed. RMT and UNITE members are monitoring each days’ delivery of Metros to help us with this.

“We are also calling for a boycott of Reach newspapers which have also in many cases published and republished one case study of one Job Centre manager saying UC works well. Reach’s Director, Helen Stevenson, is coincidentally a former non-executive director of DWP.”

Download the Report:

DPAC Report – Hunger Debt Homelessness Crime Prostitution and Suicide – Universal Credit Media Articles – May 2019

Source: Press Release: DPAC’s latest research shows the cruelty of Universal Credit – DPAC

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The Tory riders of the apocalypse may soon be complete

Nearly right: The Canary‘s satirical ‘Off the Perch’ column used Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to stand in for War, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove for Pestilence – but the Tories have created their own posts that, while not quite equivalent, are appropriate.

We may laugh because it’s funny – but we should weep, because it’s true.

Conservative government policies have necessitated the appointment of:

A Minister for Loneliness.

A Minister for Suicide (prevention).

And now we have calls for a Minister for Hunger.

Put them together with Iain Duncan Smith, who will always be the Minister for Death after his time as Work and Pensions Secretary, and the Conservatives have their very own riders of the Apocalypse.

We can’t call them “horsemen” because at least half of them are going to be women.

And, okay, Homelessness and Suicide have replaced War and Pestilence – and suicide is a kind of death.

But the imagery is exactly right.

And the Tory government has been apocalyptic, for thousands upon thousands of people.

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Food bank opens AT SCHOOL after famished children start stealing from lunchboxes

The food bank at North Denes Junior School in Norfolk.

Now even children are being forced into crime by repressive Conservative government policies.

Think it through: Schoolchildren are almost entirely dependent on their parents for nutrition and Conservative policies have pushed 14 million UK citizens below the poverty line.

This figure includes four million people who are in work.

We may conclude that this is because the Tories have deliberately pushed wages through the floor. Only last week, Tory ex-minister Dominic Raab was ridiculed after he claimed wages were rising at their fastest rate in eight years. They weren’t; and they’re still lower – in real terms – than in 2010 when Gordon Brown was prime minister.

Here’s the graph:

Fairy tale: Dominic Raab thinks it’s terrific that wages are lower now than when Labour was in office.

And the benefit nightmare the Tories euphemistically call “Universal Credit” only worsens matters. The Tories say there’s nothing wrong with it because, even though there is a five-week wait before people who are successful in claiming it receive the cash, they can apply for an advance of up to 100 per cent.

The problem is, they have to pay that advance back, meaning the amount they receive regularly drops below subsistence level – for months. It’s a poverty – and debt – trap.

And it leads to further social problems including poor health and rising crime; people who are starved of money often suffer from malnourishment, with all its attendant health problems, and may turn to crime, simply to feed themselves and their families. Their children may do the same.

The issue creates a huge problem for school authorities, of course.

Teachers are charged with pupils’ moral education, as much as parents and other figures of authority – and cannot, therefore, allow theft from lunchboxes to go unremarked, even if the thieves are starving. And obviously it must be heartbreaking to watch their pupils wasting away due to the policies of a selfish government of the rich and privileged.

So staff at North Denes Junior School in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, set up their own food bank for hungry pupils whose parents are struggling. It is thought to be the first at a British school

Half the school’s 420 pupils get free meals (although this won’t happen during school holidays, meaning that Christmas would be a miserable affair for them if they don’t get this kind of help.

Head Debbie Whiting launched the facility after seeing pupils so famished they were stealing from other children’s packed lunches.

Read more about the school’s food bank here.

But remember that, while the help for starving children is welcome, it is not a solution to the problem.

This is a problem that can only be solved by providing the whole workforce with wages that make it unnecessary for them to have to claim benefits – and by reforming the benefit system to ensure that those who are out of work can look for employment without having to worry about starvation or the threat of eviction.

That will never happen under a Conservative government.

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Benefit Sanctions Leave Clients Hungry For Months – The Guardian

The mainstream media are at last turning their attention to the harmful effects of DWP sanctions, with this report from The Guardian explaining how sanctions can plunge families into financial crisis, hunger, and dependency on food banks for up to half a year, far longer than the period for which they have had payments stopped, according to a new study.

Thanks to Nick Rhodes for editing the graph showing the rise of food bank use, to add in the most recent increases. The height of the image speaks for itself.

Thanks to Nick Rhodes for editing the graph showing the rise of food bank use, to add in the most recent increases. The height of the image speaks for itself.

The study, Cheshire Hunger looked in detail at the reasons why people had been given food bank vouchers and estimated the length of time they would be dependent on food aid.

It adds to a growing body of evidence directly linking welfare reforms with food bank use, and comes as a coalition of major churches call for an overhaul of the “inhumane” sanctions system.

The study, carried out by West Cheshire food bank along with the Trussell trust and the University of Chester, examined 1,711 referrals to West Cheshire food bank over a seven month period last year. It found:

  • Administrative and other delays accounted for 23% of referrals and typically caused a crisis lasting between one and four weeks.
  • Sanctions accounted for 11% of referrals and usually placed households in a crisis situation for between one and 13 weeks.
  • Benefit Changes accounted for 9% of referrals and crisis typically lasted between one and four weeks.
  • Employment Support Allowance stoppages accounted for 4% of referrals and typically lasted between two and 13 weeks.
  • The biggest crisis category other than benefit delays and sanctions was low income and debt (31%) caused typically by high utility bills and housing costs, with crises lasting one to four weeks.

Of those food bank clients whose primary crisis was caused by sanctions, half were pushed into financial difficulty for two to three weeks, while a fifth were expected to be in crisis for 13-26 weeks.

Unlike benefit delays, where in theory claimants can receive backdated payments to cover the period when they were without income, sanctions left already vulnerable recipients struggling with a massive hole in their finances which they had often filled with expensive credit, trapping them in a cycle of debt.

Read the full article in The Guardian.

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