Monday, 21 January 2013

Diary of a Food Bank Worker.the people, the issues, why the need

I had not planned to write about the Food Bank, it is a place that should never exist in a Country as rich as ours and yet without the work we do and the 3000 plus other food banks across the UK, people would die.
I started out on this journey after finding working people going through the bins outside my office, which faces a council estate.
Speaking to the people going through the bins, i was shocked to discover that they all had jobs, but with rents up by 10% transport costs up 9% , food inflation by 2% and Utility bills by 8%  whilst wages are frozen or on freefall, is it any wonder they tell me, that working every hour God sends....., we can not live and need to go through the bins for food.
The Goverment clearly has no idea about how tough some people are finding things, so i have decided to do a monthly diary as to who comes to the food bank and why  in the hope we can get the Goverment to do more to tackle food  &; fuel poverty and look more carefully as to how it  deals with people on low incomes and in Poverty.
Goverment figures show that 61% of working people are paid such low wages they need welfare top up, this is in effect sees  tax payers money  used for  welfare  subsudising the profits and the share price of large business interests putting it more simply, Tesco makes just under £4 Billion a year profit, and yet its workers claim £1.5 Billion in welfare payments, clearly by paying people a decent wage, we could reduce the welfare bill hugely by ending the payments to the staggering 61% of workers, giving them a decent wage, would raise more tax, and produce more money to spend in the wider economy, this is a key election policy of People Before Profit, and you wonder why when we are told that we are all in this together, that this abuse of tax payers money is not stopped.
Claiming food is very tough, you may think giving people free food and shopping would lead to wide abuse, and yet every one of our clients are carefully interviewed to insure this does not happen, the reality is that for almost all,  the shame of needing help, the impact of the need to ask for food for themselfs or there pets  leads to some people taking up to 3 weeks to come through our doors.
 I will change the names of our Clients for the readers of this blog, but think the story of the Food Bank clients needs to be read .
Betty is one of our increasing numbers of Pensioners,  in her eightees she can not go back to work, but clearly has had a hard life but worked from the age of 14. with children this Christmas she sort the help of the food bank. Betty had made jams for Christmas but as with many of our Pensioners could not ask for help, the jams she made were given as presents to family her good deed left her with nothing, with her pride insuring that none of her family were aware that without the food bank, she would have no food, the cost of heating her home is not short of £10 per day, Betty is not alone, proud, a worker and still with a sense of humour, but will only take what she needs and not a single item extra, many have jam jars that they drop coins to help towards Gas and Electric, But bills that were once £100, or less are coming in at £350, £400 for  people with incomes of less than £100 per week.
Barry has just got his first Job, but reporting his good news to the Job Centre has lead to all his benefit being stopped at Christmas, he will not get paid until 31 January,The welfare system is not helping him, it seems to think as he has a job, he should be left to get on with it. each day he walks in the snow to work, each week we give him food to get through the week, and every week he thanks us for what we do and pledges to give some money to help the food bank when he gets his first pay cheque.
Maureen is disabled the welfare system have decided even though she is wheel chair bound she must be reviewd, to do this,  all benefit is stopped without thought for how she will live whilst the review is underway, Boxing Day some crule sod stole her mobility scooter chained up outside her house, the police say they proberly stole it just for the tax disc, and scrap metal.
I hope this gives you an insight as to who is coming and why,  and that the system to help thous most in need has failed them, I will continue with my diary of a food bank worker the first week of every month.
This Saturday clients and staff are marching to save Lewisham Hospital facing closure due to the PFI contracts set up by the Last Labour Goverment, that has lead to the closure of the South East London Area Trust, the clients want to march to save the  Lewisham Hospital and collect food another time
Follow Ray on Twitter@Raywoolford
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