Posts Tagged ‘East Kilbride’

Denis Curran, Head of Food Bank Charity, on Hunger due Welfare Sanctions

June 1, 2016

This is another piece I found on Youtube. It’s a charity worker for Loaves and Fishes, a food bank, before the Scots parliament way back in 2014, talking about his work delivering food to the absolutely poverty-stricken, hit by the government’s savage cuts and sheer exploitation by grasping employers. And it’s very powerful and moving stuff.

Mr Curran talks about people traipsing three or four miles from the town centre, just to get something to eat. A mother, who hasn’t eaten for three days, because she’s been trying to feed her children. And then there’s a man, who worked for two hours for a prospective employer, and, unbidden, cleaned up after himself, only to be told that ‘he wasn’t suitable’, and sent home without any pay for the two hours he’d put in. One man he saw had been sanctioned for eleven weeks. That’s eleven weeks without money. He talks about the rise in suicide from sheer desperation by the people hit by the cuts. He also talks about how some official agencies won’t store food, because their employees have left the room in a mess, and they don’t want to encourage it, or they fear cross contamination from the different types of food if they’re put together. Or they want it delivered, but they have to keep within their budgets, so there’s no help for it. Curran also states that he’s a pensioner, who uses two sticks and sometimes he can’t get about. But if he can’t make a delivery for a certain social work agency on a certain day, he’ll get told that he can’t make another delivery until Wednesday, because of the way that agency’s doing things. As a result, the family that needs it haven eaten up till then. He talks about people going to food banks to get baby clothes for a new baby. He states that the government see people on benefits as scroungers and layabouts, when this is not the case, and are penalising them for being poor. He describes how quickly the sanctions legislation was passed. They made the decision on a Thursday, and then five days later, the next Tuesday, it became law. He asks what would happen if MPs were forced to go without pay, their gas, water and electricity cut off, and their fridges emptied, so they were forced to use food banks. Not how they would cope financially, but how it would affect them mentally. He also states that he’s been coming to meetings like this since 1993, and the only thing changes is that he keeps coming to more meetings. And he expects to be coming to another one in 2016. He recalls that he and his wife grew up during the Second World War. And he criticises the government for making us a 21st century society, but with 1930s values. Back during the War they gave you a ration book. Now it’s vouchers for a food bank. ‘What’s the difference, eh?’

It’s powerful, angry stuff, from someone, who is on the frontline of trying to help people keep body and soul together. Mr Curran comes from East Kilbride, and describes how he travels about all over Scotland to deliver his food parcels. Listening to him, this viewer from south of the Border was reminded of Iain Patterson’s fictional Rab C. Nesbit and his acute observations on poverty, society and politics. Nesbit was a benefits’ scrounger, and the show was comedy, but it also took the opportunity to tell some very harsh truths about the attitude of the Jobcentres, smarmy politicians and clergy, who affected concern for the poor, but had little real understanding, as well as other manifestations of pomposity, meanness, stupidity and arrogance.

Unfortunately, this is all real. And its victims aren’t scroungers like Nesbit. And there’s nothing funny about this situation at all.

As for seeing how the MPs would survive mentally if you could off their household supplies, leaving them with only the food bank to rely on, it’s manifestly obvious that they couldn’t cope. And they know it. Thirty years ago when Thatcher started cutting benefits, Geoffrey Dickens was invited by Channel 4 to survive on the dole for a week. He couldn’t. By the end of the week, his water and electricity had been cut off, and the food cupboard was empty. But the Tories have learned their lesson. Unfortunately, what they’ve learned is not to take up such challenges. One Tory MP, it might have someone from IDS’ wretched department, was invited to take part in a similar experiment for television. He turned it down, saying it was just a stunt. He knew he couldn’t survive, and didn’t want to give the opposition and viewing public the opportunity to watch him have to eat his words, ’cause there was precious little else he had left. But that’s the only thing that’s changed. The rhetoric of reproach hasn’t. Mr Curran talks about how ministers accuse the poor of going to food banks because their lazy and scroungers, when the truth is far from that. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Edwina Currie has been saying, to give one example. When Panorama did a programme on the rise of food banks, she appeared on it to give her view that people were using them simply because they could, and they didn’t represent a rise in real poverty. Well, they are an indication of the grinding poverty and hunger that’s gripping Britain. And Currie’s a disgrace, along with all the other Tories, who claim otherwise, and especially Ian Duncan Smith and Stephen Crabb, Cameron’s heads of the DWP, who are responsible for the implementation of the cuts.

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