A raw nerve
For me it is very simple.
We have a welfare state that is supposed to be a safety net to catch those in need. It isn’t an anti work thing.
My Mother was a divorcee (oh the shame) twice over with three kids and on the social. Absent dad, free school meals and pretty much skimping from week to week. All the hallmarks of the broken home that used to be bandied about as a badge of low expectation. Sadly that broken home would be considered not too bad when compared to the chaos of some families today.
When we (I say we, but really when I was older – being the youngest) were older she went back to work in a factory working night-shift to provide. All good so far. There were jobs in the area. She managed. We got by and she sacrificed her wants to meet our needs. And we never really knew we were poor (people had less then and the world was in black and white, cue hovis music)
Fast forward to today and the situation for many is now a life of benefits with no prospect of that changing any time soon. It isn’t fecklessness or laziness but systematic economic policy failure over the last 40 years. Jobs have moved and changed leaving some areas as vacuums offering very low skill and low paid jobs (if any at all). Many can’t just get on their bike or pull their socks up or strive not shirk. The environment they have to navigate isn’t like that.
There are many issues around employment and poverty but the one thing that gets right to me is the need for foodbanks. I’ll say it again, foodbanks.
Alms for the poor is the medieval equivalent. Bring out the poor to the soup kitchens. Foodbanks show me that the inequality and dysfunction of our society is out of control.
In an economy with a safety net designed to support the vulnerable of our society we find it doesn’t and thousands of people are choosing between heating and eating. Or choosing between feeding themselves or feeding the kids. Intolerable just isn’t strong enough.
All the defecit-blaming, skiver bashing and its-for-your-own-good Austerity does not deflect from the central fact – thousands of people in our country cannot afford food.
CANNOT AFFORD FOOD.
It has now become cause celebre and a club to beat Dave-call-me-dave and his coterie of disconnected millionaires with, of course it might have more weight if the wielder of the club wasn’t a millionaire too.
People who use foodbanks are desperate and the attack on their self-esteem is relentless. Their need is not imaginary or exaggerated. Just imagine, for a moment, that it has all gone wrong and like old mother Hubbard your cupboard is bare. What then? you have a job but have no money and have to soldier on knowing it’s not enough. How would you feel about approaching a foodbank or being referred to one?
So just keep that in mind the next time welfare recipients are cast as living the life of Riley. Some might even be happy with it but most are closing their curtains at night desperate and distraught. It’s both the squeezed middle and the working poor and you cannot tell just by looking.
So here we are, 21st Century, 7th largest economy in the world with a distorted distribution of wealth in our society and we have over 200 000 people being fed through foodbanks. It’s hurting not working. Of course those of us better off won’t need to use foodbanks or be impacted by the changes IDS makes to benefits and we would be forgiven for not realising the tidal wave of misery that will sweep over many of our countrymen (and women).
For me this isn’t political, it is societal. Proof of a society that has ceased to work. My generation was mobilised to feed the world in the 80’s, how sad that this winter we need foodbank networks to feed our own. We have come such a long way, haven’t we.
In the society I want no one goes to bed hungry for want of food, cold for want of energy and scared for a lack of security. Foodbanks ought to be unnecessary but they are not, its time we were all working to make the need for them extinct.
So while punch and Judy go toe-to-toe over the poor, foodbanks will be taking up the slack.
Realpolitik in action.