Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Foodbanks prove that the welfare state is failing

Last year 88 new foodbanks opened across the UK. According to the Guardian, Britain's biggest foodbank network, the Trussell Trust, says it has doubled the number of food parcels it's issued and is opening new foodbanks at the rate of two a week.

Now, I can't claim to be an expert but I'd have thought that when you get so many people, including large numbers of families with children, depending on charity in order to be able to eat (and I should point out that foodbanks are quite strict in checking that people actually need food) it should be fairly obvious to everyone that the welfare system is badly broken.

I strongly recommend that, if you have the time, you read this article about some of the real life people depending on foodbanks, but if you don't have the time then this case, in particular, drew my attention:
Paul, 33, hasn't had a job since a car accident three years ago damaged his knee and made it hard for him to stand for long stretches; he has now mostly recovered and is looking to return to warehouse work, although he hasn't managed to find any, partly, he thinks, because of the recession and partly because his experience is now a bit out of date. Late last year, he was put on the government's new Work Programme, allocated a slot with the provider Sencia.
"They are supposed to be helping me find work; all they are doing is having me come in and look for jobs on the internet. I could be doing that at home myself. They weren't sending me on any courses," he says. He became rather jaundiced with the system and when his grandmother died in January, he failed to go back. "I missed a few appointments, so my benefits have been sanctioned until December. I wouldn't have done it if I'd known." He has two consecutive six-month sanction periods; most of that time the family gets a hardship payment of £160 a week (a cut of £120 from the £280 they received previously). But for complicated bureaucratic reasons this payment hasn't been made for the past couple of weeks and they have nothing to feed their twin six-year-old sons and their eight-year-old daughter. Sarah is five months pregnant.
Now look, I don't like the idea of people scrounging off the system and I support measures to prevent people from sponging off the taxpayer - but I don't see how it helps anyone for the system to leave a family with young children without enough money to eat through a combination of officials being overzealous with sanctions and administration errors.

Because a system like this, at its heart, robs people of dignity and freedom. It makes them utterly dependent on the system to work properly, to never drop the ball, just in order for them to have the bare essentials needed to survive. And the problem is that the systen doesn't work perfectly. It makes mistakes or people who happen to fall outside the pre-defined conceptions of need are denied support. Hence the need for foodbanks.

And the system needs to work. Leaving things to charity will only lead to a lottery where some people get help and others don't. We shouldn't depend on foodbanks to feed our own - the whole reason we pay tax in the first place is, in part, to make sure that we know that no matter what happens to use we need never fear the very real and life-threatening poverty that was so common less than a century ago. So when foodbanks keep on springing up it should be bloody obvious that that basic principle, that basic promise of the welfare state, has been broken. And it needs to be fixed for the good of everyone.

I can't claim to have some great insight or some genius idea to fix the problem but when, in 21st century Britain, we still have people going hungry, I'd say it's pretty damn obvious that something drastic needs to be done to rememedy the situation, and done quickly to boot.

Of course, if you want a reason as to why the system got like this in the first place, and why there are so many political obstacled to fixing it, then allow me to provide you with two tory perspectives on foodbanks:

Caroline Spellman - foodbanks are "an excellent example" of the big society in action.

Edwina Curry (who doesn't believe that there's anyone in the UK going hungy) - "Are you telling me people in this country are going hungry? Seriously? Seriously?"


  1. Its all a prelude to foodstamps as in the USA.Get people to a crisis,so they will be grateful for foodstamps.

    I thought I lived in the United Kingdom.But we get more like America every day.I often wonder if we will become another State of America.Seeing as our politicians like the American way so much.

    Why don't they just piss off and go and live in America,if they love it so much.Goodbye and good riddance to them.

  2. When did Labour's declaration of 'War on Poverty' become the coalition's war against the poor?

  3. I used to be proud to be British. I used to be proud to be Libera'. I used to be proud to be a fighter, even though I am disabled, I tried my best to get by every day.

    Now I am ashamed or 'Great' Britain. Well those who are in power and doing this. Now I am no longer Liberal, as the lines between the 'parties' are so blurred and melded in together all three are virtually indistinguishabe. Now I am just a nothing. Too scared to go out lest I am attacked, or whatever just because I am 'faking' (which i'm not) people do not see that other people are just trying to live the life they were 'given' People are now so judgemental because the papers say were all faking it.

    I used to be proud of our NHS. Well - I still am proud. I am just fearful of whether we will have an NHS in ten years from now. I usd to think that our welfare system cared (when it was DHSS now DWP - When it was abut the people more and not about forcing everyone in to part time work on minimum wage - I'd love to see Cam get outta bed for that amt for an hour of his time)

    It used to be about being the best you could be. now it is all abut paying more tax, and shutting up - and working yourself till you can't any more then called a shirker and thrown on the heap of the nothings.

    No longer is Britain 'great' Now it is just a matter of time till this country has been bled dry by the rich who get to make the decisions, and we're back in the 1700s where the poor work and work till they drop

  4. These sanctions are actually inhumane. theycan give you 3yrs of sanctons for doing virtually nothing. Yet.... Youare supposed to survive for THREE YEARS on air?

    I dont get that


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