Tag Archives: voucher

Ben Bradley’s meltdown: Mansfield MP tries to justify starving hungry children – digs own political grave instead

Ben Bradley: you’d think he would learn to keep his mouth shut after he called for poor people to be forced to have vasectomies and libelled Jeremy Corbyn.

This MP’s attempt to deny the reality of his behaviour suggests mental health problems to This Writer.

Ben Bradley (for it was he), the Tory responsible for the most-shared tweet ever by a Conservative MP – his apology for libelling Jeremy Corbyn – and who once suggested sterilising the poor, tried to justify his opposition to Marcus Rashford’s plea for free school meals to be extended over the holidays, to feed hungry children whose parents have suffered financially as a result of the Covid-19 crisis (and other reasons).

He tweeted a message to Rashford, offering to take him to visit a school where – he said – the head teacher agreed with his view that FSM (free school meals) would not solve the problem of hungry kids:

He doubled down on the offer the following day:

But in this tweet he made the mistake of mentioning the school: Oak Tree. This allowed an actual governor to put him straight:

Worse was to follow. He went on to refer to a school (although I can’t tell whether it’s the same one) as having pupils living in “a crack den” and “a brothel” – and when someone else suggested such places were logical destinations for the money from a free school meal voucher, he agreed:

… and then he denied it:

(I’ve opted to use the actual tweet, rather than a screenshot. I wonder if it will be deleted?)

Next, he took to Facebook to try to justify himself:

(It didn’t go down well.)

Now he has fallen into an argument with representatives of another school:

Finally (so far) he appeared on the BBC’s Breakfast News, where Naga Munchetty made an utter fool of him:

The public response has been to recoil as though his psychosis is contagious:

Perhaps the sharpest point is the following. Who is really more dependent on state funding?

If anyone at the school(s) Bradley has mentioned can find a way, This Writer thinks Bradley may find himself facing the sharp end of another legal letter in the not-too-distant future.

And his Corbyn apology shows he knows none of his denials or justifications will stand up in court.

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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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Backlash against Sunak’s ‘meal deal’ voucher scheme that ignores people in genuine need

Members of the public are speaking out against Rishi Sunak’s offer of vouchers supporting half the price of eating out – pointing out that people need to be able to afford the other half of the cost before they can use it at all.

It’s an upper-middle-class jolly that won’t help people who rely on food banks, or carers, or beleaguered NHS staff who Sunak’s own government is persecuting, they say – rightly.

And they say the decision to offer meal vouchers was in very poor taste when Boris Johnson was keen to stop providing such vouchers to parents of children who receive free school meals over the summer holidays, even though the Covid-19 crisis has put many of them in extreme need.

Here’s just a selection of the responses. See if you agree with them, rather than Sunak:

(Good point about the self-employed.)

https://twitter.com/CptPicardigan/status/1280947082879254528

Yes, what a world.

To think that we could have had fairness under a Jeremy Corbyn government instead, if only people had engaged their brains before going to the polling booths last year.

Come to that, isn’t it incredible that it is too much to hope for people to engage their brains before voting?

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Why are Tory MPs manufacturing outrage that parents want the government to feed their children? They expect the same!

Ben Bradley: you’d think he would learn to keep his mouth shut after he called for poor people to be forced to have vasectomies and libelled Jeremy Corbyn.

How many MPs are claiming expenses to cover the costs of having children?

This Writer doesn’t have the current figures but in 2013 I know 148 of them were claiming extra money to rent larger homes and cover the cost of youngsters’ travel.

According to the Daily Mirror at the time, MPs had claimed around £140,000 for kids’ travel between 2010 and 2013.

And Parliamentary standards watchdog IPSA was allowing MPs to increase the maximum allowance they could claim by £2,425 for each child they said lived with them.

Some MPs – including nine cabinet ministers – were claiming more than £10,000 extra.

I mention this because certain Conservative MPs have been kicking up a fuss about the comparatively small amount – per person – that will go towards extending free school meals throughout the summer holidays in England.

Tory Sally-Ann Hart seemed to think it was wrong for parents to “expect” the government to feed their children, even though she is part of a government whose members expect their own childcare to be paid by the public and not from their own pay packets.

I find this part particularly interesting:

[She] said MPs must “not shy away” from the issue that some parents “just do not or cannot prioritise their children’s needs over their own”.

And she said the Government must “turbocharge” its efforts to understand why such neglect happens.

Perhaps Ms Hart should turn to some of her neighbours on the Green Benches and ask them – just as a starting-point?

As responses from the public go, I don’t think you’ll find one better than this:

Another Tory – Ben Bradley – demanded safeguards to ensure that parents could not use free school meal vouchers to obtain alcohol and cigarettes.

Fine words from a man who belongs to an institution where people like himself frequently run up huge bills at the various Parliamentary bars, on expenses.

In fact, some of them have even refused to pay altogether.

But Ms Hart and Mr Bradley – who is also on record as calling for poor men to be vasectomised, and had to apologise publicly and pay money to charity after libelling Jeremy Corbyn – don’t seem to be aware of these facts.

Perhaps they should examine behaviour closer to their own homes, rather than accusing people before they’ve even had a chance to do anything wrong.

Source: Tory MP says some parents ‘expect the government to feed their children’ – Mirror Online

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Is the government cutting school meal vouchers for ALL deprived kids?

No square meals: vulnerable children will be forced to go hungry during the school holidays because the stingy Tory government wants them to starve.

School meal vouchers for deprived children in at least one council area are being stopped – because it’s half term.

Isn’t that typically short-sighted of the Conservative government (Westminster funds the scheme)?

The coronavirus crisis means more people than ever are short of cash, and this will only tip the most vulnerable even further into poverty.

This is a decision to starve children – and for no reason at all.

Here’s the Liverpool Echo:

Children in one of Britain’s most deprived boroughs will have to go without free school meals over half term.

Knowsley Council said it was unable to extend its voucher system over the break as the government would not fund the scheme outside term time.

Cllr Jayne Aston, the borough’s finance chief, said: “Despite our best efforts, and those of other organisations, we have been unable to persuade the government to recognise the challenge many families are facing and fund the vouchers over the school half term break.”

Although the government agreed to fund free school meals during the Easter holidays, it has so far refused to extend provision into either half term or the summer break.

How many children in other council areas will be affected by this?

And how much harm will the Tories cause by making them starve?

Source: Government won’t fund school meal vouchers for deprived kids over half term – Liverpool Echo

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School meal vouchers for poorest families ‘delayed’ – yet another Tory coronavirus fail

School meal: this image is from before the coronavirus lockdown. These kids are probably starving to death right now, waiting for their mythical Tory meal vouchers.

Oh, they’ve been delayed, have they? Funny, that…

Funny that the claim comes after This Site ran a poll asking whether anybody had received their vouchers – and two-thirds of the respondents said no.

Funny that the Tory government seems unable to supply anything that it has promised in the coronavirus crisis.

They promised plenty of personal protective equipment for NHS staff dealing with people who have the disease – and didn’t supply it. Medical professionals are dying, who should be helping to treat the virus, because of this failure.

They promised ventilators to stop people with the disease from dying of the pneumonia that kills them – and didn’t. This meant GP surgeries ended up asking some of the most vulnerable people in the UK to sign forms saying the did not want ventilators if they caught the disease – effectively signing their lives away.

They promised 100,000 tests per day to find carriers of the disease – and ended up turning away offers to supply test kits.

They promised to help victims of domestic abuse who have been shut in their homes with their abusers. No such help has been forthcoming.

They promised all kinds of financial packages to help businesses and employees hit by the pandemic – leaving gaping holes in the provision, through which many people are in danger of falling (if they haven’t already done so).

These Tories have promised the world, and delivered very little indeed – apart from at least 7,097 deaths so far.

So ask yourself: are they evil, or just monumentally stupid?

Many families whose children are eligible for free school meals have not received supermarket vouchers as promised by the government because of delays in the supply system, school leaders say.

Headteachers and school business managers in England said the problem was widespread, and many took to social media to complain about difficulties accessing the scheme and delays in delivering vouchers to the families who need them.

Until now there has been support for the government’s announcement of a national voucher scheme to ensure that children from the poorest families continue to receive free meals while schools are closed during the Covid-19 crisis.

Source: UK’s poorest families suffering as free school meal vouchers delayed | Education | The Guardian

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Coronavirus: Are poor kids REALLY getting food vouchers during the lockdown?

Fear of hunger: already vulnerable children have been going hungry during school holidays. Now – unless the Tories really have got their voucher scheme going, they could be going without due to the coronavirus lockdown.

How sad that we cannot trust the government to follow through on a promise.

Boris Johnson’s gang has promised that children who would normally receive free school meals will be supplied with food vouchers during the coronavirus lockdown.

We are told that schools are able to provide parents with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 for every eligible child, to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed.

But we were also told that people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus would be contacted with a view to being supplied with essentials by supermarkets.

This Writer’s brother is on that particular list – he’s just received a second letter warning him not to leave his home under any circumstances – but he hasn’t heard word one about help getting the groceries in.

So I’d like to ask parents if this voucher scheme is actually happening – or if it’s yet another promise that the Tories made without ever intending to put it into action.

Source: Poor kids to be given food vouchers during coronavirus outbreak – Welfare Weekly

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Help is available for people suffering Universal Credit-related money problems

Local councils have a duty to provide help for people with no income due to delays in Universal Credit payments – but they aren’t telling anyone.

Vox Political reader has written in as follows:

“With Christmas on our doorstep, the Universal Credit roll-out is going ahead as planned with people being changed over at the beginning of December, which could leave families with little to no money for up to 12 weeks.

“Please ensure that anyone you know who is struggling understands that THERE IS HELP.

If your money is stopped/late/delayed you can go to the council and fill in a Nil Income form.

“That will reinstate rent and council tax [they mean housing benefit and council tax reduction] and give access to further help like meter credits, food bank vouchers and emergency cash payments.

This info is not readily available sadly and it should be. The authorities will only deal with it if you ask specifically which is a disgrace.

“So if your benefits have been sanctioned or if you suffer cash flow problems from UC, then remember help is still available.

Also … never vote Tory again.


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Food bank blow is new low for the Mail on Sunday

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Isn’t it a shame that on of our national Sunday newspapers has chosen to disrupt everybody’s enjoyment of our Easter eggs with a specious attempt to expose abuses of food banks and make operator the Trussell Trust look hypocritical?

Isn’t it also a shame that the Mail on Sunday didn’t make a few inquiries into the procedure for dealing with people who turn up at food banks without having been referred?

The paper’s reporters and editor could have, at least, opened a dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word “charity”.

Under the headline, ‘No ID, no checks… and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims’, the paper today (April 20) published a story claiming that Trussell Trust food banks are breaking their own rules by allowing people to take food bank parcels without presenting a voucher from an approved referrer, and that they are allowing many times more than the maximum permissible number of repeat visits.

Unfortunately for reporters Simon Murphy and Sanchez Manning, both situations are – in fact – allowed, because food banks must be flexible in the way they deal with individual cases. They would have known that if they had done their homework – as yr obdt srvt (who’s writing this) did at several meetings on the organisation of food banks here in Powys.

The paper’s investigation claims that there were “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed”.

It turned out that this person had to fill out a form providing his name, address, date of birth, phone number and the reason for his visit before an assessor asked him why he needed food bank vouchers. In contradiction of the introduction to the story, he explained – not simply that he was unemployed, but that he had been out of work for several months and the harsh winter had left him strapped for cash and food. He said his wife had left her job and was not earning and that they had two children. These lies were sufficient to win food bank vouchers.

What the report didn’t say was how the details given by reporter Ross Slater would have been used afterwards. The CAB would have booked him in for a further interview with a debt advisor, to which he would have had to bring documentary evidence of his situation. When he didn’t turn up, he would have been identified as a fraud. The food bank would also have taken his details, to be fed back into the referral system. Job Centre Plus would have picked up on the fact that he isn’t unemployed. From this point on, he would have been identified as a fraud and refused further service.

You see, it is true that food banks run on a voucher system, but that is only a part of the scheme. The questions asked of people who need vouchers are used to ensure that they get the help they need to avoid having to come back – that’s why they’re asked. They also weed out abusers like Mr Slater.

If the paper’s editor had looked in a dictionary, he might have seen charity defined as “voluntary provision of help to people in need, or the help provided” in the first instance. However, reading further, he would have seen “sympathy or tolerance in judging” listed as well. It seems the Mail on Sunday would have no such sympathy and would have deserving cases turned away to starve.

It is telling, also, that the paper had to go to Citizens Advice to get its evidence. Far more food bank vouchers are handed out in the Job Centre Plus, where all a citizen’s circumstances are available to advisors. But not one word is said about the fact that the vast majority of food bank referrals are for people in real need and not newspaper reporters.

The paper also stated: “Staff at one centre gave food parcels to a woman who had visited nine times in just four months, despite that particular centre’s own rules stipulating that individuals should claim no more than three parcels a year.”

It continued: “Individuals experiencing severe financial hardship are able to claim food vouchers but there are no clear criteria on who should be eligible. Once received, the vouchers can be exchanged for three days’ worth of food at an allotted centre.

“The Trussell Trust has a policy that an individual can claim no more than nine handouts in a year, but undercover reporters found this limit varied in different branches.”

No – it is far more likely that it varied according to the circumstances of the person who needed the help. Rigid rules, such as one that limits people to only three visits, mean those who need the most help would be cut off while they still needed assistance. People working in food banks would be aware of who these were, and would be more likely to be tolerant towards them.

Meanwhile, the other support services – Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice, Social Services and so on – would be working to help them. With some people, it simply takes longer. It should be easy for anyone to think of reasons why this may be the case.

This may also explain the situation in which a worker at a Trussell Trust food bank said people “bounce around” locations to receive more vouchers. The assessment system is a way of monitoring these people and determining whether they need extra help.

It is not true that the criteria are not clear – the paper is misleading with this claim. Food banks, the charities running them, and referring organisations all have to agree on the circumstances in which they permit people to receive parcels. You really can’t just walk in the door and expect to get a free handout. That’s why the questions are asked and forms filled out – they will check up on everybody.

Another claim – that “volunteers revealed that increased awareness of food banks is driving a rise in their use” is unsubstantiated, and is clearly an attempt to support the government’s claim that this is the case. But it is silly. Of course starving people will go to a food bank after they have been told it exists; that doesn’t mean they aren’t starving.

And the paper wrongly said the Trussell Trust had claimed that more than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food from its banks in 2013-14, compared with 347,000 in the previous financial year. This is a misreading of the way the charity records its work, as the Trussell Trust records visits, not visitors. It would be hard to work out exactly how many people attended because some will have visited just once, others twice, a few for the full three times, and some would have required extra help.

The claim that many visitors were asylum-seekers is silly because food banks were originally set up for foreign people who were seeking asylum in the UK and had no money or means of support.

Of course it would be wrong to say that nobody is trying to abuse the system. There are good people and bad people all over the country, and bad people will try to cheat. Look at Maria Miller, Iain Duncan Smith (Betsygate), George Osborne (and his former paddock), Andrea Leadsom’s tax avoidance, Philip Hammond’s tax avoidance, Charlotte Leslie who took cash to ask Parliamentary questions – to name but a few.

The Trussell Trust has agreed to investigate the newspaper’s allegations – but it is important to remember that these were just a few instances of abuse, and only claimed – by a newspaper that is infamous for the poor quality of its reporting.

Nothing said in the article should be used to undermine the vital work of food banks in helping people to survive, after the Conservative-led Coalition government stole the safety net of social security away from them.

UPDATE: Already the Mail on Sunday is facing a public backlash against its ill-advised piece. A petition on the Change.org website is calling for the reporter who claimed food bank vouchers under false pretences in order to make a political point to be sacked. Vox Political has mixed feelings about this – it targets a person who was sent out to do a job by others who are more directly to blame for the piece, but then he did it of his own free will and this action brings all newspaper reporters into disrepute. Consider carefully.

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Conservatives in chaos over food bank stance

Credit where it's due: The vast majority of reasons for people being referred to food banks are attributable to the Department for Work and Pensions. Could that be why the DWP is so desperate to silence the food bank charities?

Credit where it’s due: The vast majority of reasons for people being referred to food banks are attributable to the Department for Work and Pensions. Could that be why the DWP is so desperate to silence the food bank charities?

Tories – what are they like?

The answer is, of course, even they don’t know – as evidenced by their current confusion over food banks.

David Cameron has enthusiastically backed their work at a Christian faith group’s Easter reception (and so he should, having sent so much of it their way), and Treasury minister David Gauke also praised them in an interview on Channel 4 News last week.

But the DWP says leading food bank provider the Trussell Trust is guilty of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity seeking”, with the rise in food bank use being the result of the charity’s leaders “aggressively marketing their services” and “effectively running a business”.

At least one commenter on this blog has been completely taken in by the DWP’s prattling, claiming that demand for food banks has not risen at all since Cameron came to office. No, it’s clear to this demented individual that opening a food bank anywhere is like opening a supermarket – if there isn’t one nearby already, people will flock through your doors.

This, of course, completely misconstrues the way food banks are used and assumes that anyone can walk through their doors, claim food poverty and take away a packet of supplies whenever they want. It doesn’t work like that.

Food banks operate on a referral system. As Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould put it in an Observer report: “You can’t get free food from the Trussell Trust by walking through the door and asking for it; you must have a voucher. More than 24,000 professionals – half of whom work in the public sector and health service, the police, and in social services – ask us to give this food to clients of theirs because they’ve made the decision that this individual or family is in dire straits and needs help. We’re not drumming up demand.”

This is absolutely correct and no amount of negative campaigning by the DWP can change it. In fact, Mr Gauke spent some time crowing about the fact the DWP rules have been altered to allow “signposting” to food banks by Job Centre advisors, in his Channel 4 News interview (although claiming credit for government employees sending people to someone else, rather than providing help themselves, is in itself a mean-spirited shot in the foot).

Once again, the Conservatives are getting stuck in the mire while trying to claim the moral high ground.

Not only have they created a poverty-driven starvation threat that organisations like the Trussell Trust have been forced to step in and fight, but the Tories have also tried to vilify those good people for laying the blame where it belongs.

It is a situation so twisted, there can be no wonder the Tories are tying themselves in knots.

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