Posts Tagged ‘Church Action on Poverty’

Hunger and Starvation in Tory Britain

January 2, 2020

The Tory governments that came in after David Cameron’s victory in the 2010 election have caused massive poverty up and down Britain. Thanks to austerity, welfare benefits have been cut, wages kept low and workers placed on exploitative contracts, like zero hours contracts, which deny them sick pay, paid holidays and other rights. An ever increasing number of people are unable to pay for food, with the disabled and unemployed forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together after being found fit for work, sanctioned, or simply because they have to wait weeks before their first benefits payment. Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity gives some statistics on rising ‘food poverty’, and they’re horrifying.

In the chapter ‘Hunger and Food Poverty’, Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton state

Emergency food provision has been used as an indicator of the scale of food poverty in the UK. As the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty noted in 2015, the Trussell Trust, the largest emergency food provider, ‘has seen the number of people referred for emergency food rise by 38 per cent in the last year’. Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty calculate that 20,247,042 meals were given to ‘people in food poverty’ in 2013/14.’ While these are shocking statistics, they are likely to underestimate the numbers in food poverty in Britain; not all people who are hungry go to food banks and not all food banks collect data in a systematic way. The Poverty and Social Exclusion UK (PSE UK) 2012 study found that the proportion of households unable to afford two adult meals a day in 2012 stood 3 per cent, ‘back to levels found thirty years earlier having to dropped to negligible levels in the intervening period.’ In addition, well over half a million children live in families who cannot afford to fee them properly, that is, provide at least one of the following three meals a day; fresh fruit and vegetables every day; or meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent at least once a day. If many parents were not cutting back on their own food intake to protect their children, the number would be much higher… (pp.94-5).

Analysis by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that falling incomes and rising living costs mean that food is now over 20 per cent less affordable for the poorest 10 per cent of people in the UK compared to 2003. In 2012, when the proportion of the household budget spent on food peaked in the UK, those in the lowest income decile spent 22 per cent more on food than in 2007 and purchased 5.7 per cent less, buying significantly fewer portions of fruit and vegetables than previously. Further, the number of UK adults who have reported being unable to afford meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day (a measure of adequate protein in the diet) has increased between 2004 and 2012, that is, in the context of economic austerity and rising food prices. The PSE UK study noted above found that the proportion of adults going without meat or equivalent every second day  because they could not afford it rose from 2 per cent in 1999 to 5 per cent in 2012. In addition, 3 per cent of children went without adequate protein and the same proportion did not eat fresh fruit or vegetables every day because their families could not afford it. Reduced affordability of food therefore generally leads to a reduction in nutrient quality of food consumed and, in a growing number of cases, to hunger and reliance on emergency food provision. (pp.95-6).

This is a crisis of enormous proportions, and it is going to get worse. Much worse. Boris will continue and expand the policies forcing people into such desperate poverty. But yesterday the wretched Tory press were telling the world that he would bring in a golden age of prosperity. Which he will, for the profiteers at the top of the corporate ladder and the hedge fund managers that contribute so handsomely to Tory coffers.

But to pay for that, the rest of the country will be forced into grinding poverty. While the newspapers lie to them that there’s not alternative and they’re richer than ever before.

Vox Political: Channel 4 Documentary and Churches’ Report against Mass Sanctions

March 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece on a documentary tonight by Channel 4’s Despatches, Britain’s Benefit Crackdown. The documentary covers a recent report into the appalling consequences of the sanctions regime by a coalition of Baptist, Methodist, the United Reformed Church, and Welsh and Scottish churches, Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions. The churches condemn the sanctions regimes because of the hardship it inflicts on the poor, the sick and the disabled. They point out that the sanctions regime is worse than the criminal justice system and ordinary employers. The courts cannot order a convicted criminal to be denied food, and ordinary employers can’t stop peoples’ wages for petty infractions, like coming to work ten minutes late. But jobcentres not only can, but do.

And Mike is most infuriated by the harm this does to children. His piece is called Coalition government condemned over sanctions regime that tortures children. It begins with the horrifying statistic of the number of children, who have been the victims of sanctions.

Around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions between the beginning of April 2013 and the end of March 2014, according to a new report.

In the same period, nearly seven million weeks’ worth of sanctions were handed out to benefit claimants.

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, will feature in this evening’s episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, entitled Britain’s Benefits Crackdown.

The report – Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions – is published today by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. It contains new data on the severity and length of sanctions under ‘welfare reform’, and on how sanctions affect vulnerable groups such as children and those with mental health problems.

It features the stories of people like James [not his real name] who have had their benefits sanctioned: “During the first three weeks of my sanction I continued to look for work as I was required to.

“By the fourth week, however, I was exhausted, unwell and no longer had it in me. I was not eating as I had no food and was losing a lot of weight. I told the Jobcentre I was unwell through not eating, but was sanctioned for another three months for not looking for work properly,” he added.

The churches are also concerned with the degradation and humiliation inflicted by the sanctions regime, which they feel contravenes the proper respect and love due to all humans as created by the Lord.

“But sanctions don’t just have a financial impact. The people we’ve spoken to have told us of the shame, demoralisation and loss of self-worth caused by this system. As Christians we believe that everyone is loved, valued and made in the image of God, and we have a responsibility to challenge any structure or system that undermines that dignity.”

Mike also points out that the deliberate infliction of hunger also contravenes the UN Convention on Human Rights, Article 3, as also contained in the Human Rights Act. The British civil liberties organisation, Liberty, also considers this to be the case. Mike provides the link.

He also quotes Dr Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, who is also concerned that the DWP guidelines knowingly discuss the use of hunger and deprivation on benefit claimants. The good churchman also makes the point that the amount of suffering the sanctions regime has inflicted in Wales may be much greater, but he doesn’t have the statistics on it. They haven’t been released, despite requests for them under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mike’s article concludes

It is clear that the DWP is in breach of the Human Rights Act and is subjecting benefit claimants to torture as punishment for late attendance at appointments.

This report by the churches is to be welcomed. Now, what can they do to punish the government for torturing its own citizens?

It’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/02/coalition-government-condemned-over-sanctions-regime-that-tortures-children/.

No doubt after the Despatches programme tonight, the Tories will start their using moaning about ‘left-wing liberal bias’. They’ll say the same thing about the churches’ report. Just as they did to the 50-page letter attacking benefits drafted by the Anglican bishops under Archbishop Welby. The Tories like to pretend that they are the protectors of Christianity against secularism and militant Islam. In fact, as their behaviour to the various churches shows, they have absolute contempt for them when their social attitudes and theology is not in absolute agreement with theirs. And that’s shown in the derisory treatment the Archbishop of Wales and his team have received from them in the government’s blatant withholding of information. Just as they also treated Mike and the other inquirers with contempt and disdain when they requested this information.

The sanctions regime is a criminal, humanitarian disaster. It should be scrapped, and those behind it humiliated and forced to leave office.