This morning, I attended another online meeting about the escalating inequality, poverty and associated misery in England and the rest of the UK. That is, I was 15 minutes late, so I missed a few things.
It was also about how useless the UK government’s response is, as usual.
The only “advantages” coming out of the pandemic are going to the pals of the politicians who get large contracts to supply services and tangible products that they have no previous experience with. (This has led to a lawsuit, as you know, with the court ruling that the UK government is breaking the law through the lack of transparency. The judge wrote: “The Secretary of State spent vast quantities of public money on pandemic-related procurements during 2020. The public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded. “)
14 million people in the UK live in poverty, it was said. That’s slightly under one entire quarter of the population.
Severely disabled people are currently five times more likely to be food-insecure.
Comments from food-insecure people have included that they’d much rather have cash or vouchers over parcels. They are much better at stretching money than they are given credit for, getting cash or vouchers enables them to take food allergies into account and also allows them to buy fresh fruit instead of the obligate tinned peaches and mandarins, cereal instead of cornflakes and helps them avoid the cookies – or “the bloody biscuits” as the person in question put it.
From the chat:
“Let them eat biscuits.”
“The global humanitarian sector has been significantly moving away from food parcels to food vouchers. Cant believe in UK we still at food parcels discussion.”
“Most local authorities in Scotland have been providing cash payments to families, food parcels are not the go-to everywhere in the UK.”
Personally, I have found that besides a lot of genuine generosity, also a lot of contempt lives at the UK’s food banks and free meal places. I have been to two of the local food banks and to five of the local free-meal locations, to several of them quite often. (Not in order to carry out research, although sometimes people do turn up there who aren’t there for the food.) You get to see and sense so much misery that you may not always be able to sleep afterwards.
You have no idea how much you can be looking forward to these things when your entire life revolves on figuring out where your next bit of food is going to be coming from. The only thing that is still on your mind is finding food, no matter how many miles you have to walk for that.
You do not help people by marginalising them. Pushing them to the fringes of society does not improve their situation. To the contrary.
Some pastors who hang out at these food places are deliberately mean and enjoy lashing out verbally at poor people in so many often subtle ways (such as making jokes at the expense of poor people, sometimes in the knowledge that the poor people in question likely won’t even get it; they’re convinced that all pastors are well-meaning kind people – but being a pastor is just a job and it’s one that pays pretty well, too). Volunteers must be sung for and applauded. Yes, literally. People with food allergies get ridiculed for being so picky.
Locally, I have heard it said with some pride that Southampton was not doing any of the free meals. Maybe there is a very good reason for that.
(Also, where is the pride in making a man who can barely walk shuffle through the pouring rain for a bit of food?)