Seasons greetings to you all.
After the turkey and trimmings and pressie giving splurge is over I want to draw your attention to a couple of issues.
Housing and Food.
First up housing.
At this time of year housing occupies my mind more than a little. Not the state of houses, not the number of bedrooms but the lack of them. More specifically how many of our fellow countrymen (and women) don’t actually have access to one to call their own. Homelessness (and its mate Rooflessness) are terrible issues for anyone to face. My surgeries are most often taken up with housing and homelessness cases.
We need to build more houses, I hear (and say) all too often. We need suitable houses not just little enclaves of executive housing for the doing-quite-well-keep-us-away-from-the-poor types but real attempts to build houses to meet the needs of our people. You know, not chicken coop sized rows and rows of battery houses but well designed and community building houses.
In Fife (Where I live and am a Cooncillor), we have more than 11000 on housing waiting lists. Part of our manifesto (at the local elections) was to build 2700 new homes over the next 5 years. A start but not a cure. Add to this the need to bring 60% of our houses up to Scottish Housing Quality Standards and you get an idea of the scale of the problem. Affordable housing (an awful term) has overtones of poorer quality (though this isn’t necessarily true) and isn’t viewed in a positive light. Councils need to build up their stocks quickly and take some of the heat out of the private let market. A market that has gotten huge benefits from the shortage in supply.
Fewer people are ‘roughing it’ but that doesn’t tell the whole story of those in Scatter flats and temporary accommodation. With no home to call your own the displacement and disconnection from society increases. Add to this those without homes often have many issues (no money and dependencies to name but two) that make fitting into and contributing to communities difficult.
Overarching these current problems lie the haphazard and poorly thought out (and implemented) welfare / housing benefit changes to follow soon. The uncertainty of a roof over their heads will be horrendous.
The march of the makers needs to be in the direction of council housing and bucket loads of it.
An announcement today to spend £4.5m bringing empty private houses back into use by the SNP Administration at Holyrood will, it is hoped, bring 400 private homes back into the affordable sector on the proviso that they are made available for 5 years to rent. Okay as far as it goes but a gimmick of a policy when the housing budgets to local authorities were slashed. something must be done media driven policy.
Anyway, I digress, housing and the homeless occupy my thoughts at this time of year particularly and hope they’ll intrude on yours too!
(Shelter website with many, many things to share)
More specifically the lack of it. I spent a very productive hour today with representatives from local churches and the YMCA discussing foodbanks and the setting up of one to cover Glenrothes. The need is there and currently being met by volunteer groups who’ll need a big help if the requirements keep increasing (and the stats suggest they will).
Demand for food support (ie food parcels) has gone up by a third in the last year.
Far too many are being failed by DWP and a benefits system based not on need but on efficiency and cuts. Telling people in need to appeal and the money will be back dated is really helpful especially when you are skint. Crisis support to feed people is a growth area (if only the economy was eh?) and foodbanks are springing up all over the land. A sure sign of a failing economic policy (and plan McB isn’t much better).
The Trussell Trust (http://www.trusselltrust.org/) are raising the profile of this need in the media and on TV. I am pleased they are doing so much because I hope it will shame the DWP and IDS into thinking again about the impact of their reforms (cuts agenda with a new badge). Savaging the weakest is neither fair nor acceptable.
By the way, many of the 200 000 or so who will be helped by foodbanks this coming year will be working. Read that again. Working and unable to buy enough food. Not on benefits, working. Makes you wonder about wage levels doesn’t it?
SO when the turkey sandwiches are served up today, and you groan not turkey again, spare a wee moment for those who’ve been visited by the foodbank fairy or those whose roof is borrowed, temporary or simply not there.
Merry Christmas to you all.
I wouldn’t want you to be too cheerful now, would I.