THE NEWSDESK: We're living in a 21st Century version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
I CAN'T help but feel that if we take away the superficial advances in technology, Charles Dickens would have recognised a great deal in this country this Christmas.
The twin children, Ignorance and Want, which exist beneath the cloak of his Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol are still stalking our streets.
My evidence? The huge boom in the use of food banks in the past year.
While IPSA proposes an 11 per cent pay increase for MPs, bonuses are still being paid out in firms despite losses, while the Prime Minister is preaching permanent austerity from a golden chair at the sumptuous Lord Mayor's banquet, hundreds of thousands of British people are having to go to Trussell Trust food banks because they have no money to feed themselves or their children and 13 million people live on or below the poverty line in the UK.
In 2012-13 the trust's almost 400 foodbanks fed 346,992 people nationwide. Of those helped, 126,889 were children. This compared to128,697 in 2011-12.
And the trust is pulling no punches for what it sees is the reason: social fund reform which came into effect in April.
Before the changes came into effect, this is what it said: "All local authorities will be trying to find other ways of supporting people in crisis who would previously have been supported by loans from the social fund.
"Some local authorities have already approached Trussell Trust foodbanks (in London, Wales and a few other places) to explore if we can work together to support people who previously would have been helped by a social fund loan.
"With less funding available, the locally-administered replacements to the social fund are likely to help fewer people in need of temporary assistance. Foodbanks expect frontline care professionals to refer more people in crisis to them as a direct consequence irrespective of whether a local agreement between a local authority and a foodbank has been developed.....
"The Trussell Trust expects demand for support from foodbanks to increase significantly. This will put increased pressure on food stocks in our foodbanks. Foodbanks will need greater support from the public to sustain our ability to meet local people’s needs when they are in crisis."
Oh how tempting it must be for the trust founded by Paddy and Carol Henderson in Salisbury in 1999 to say: "We told you so".
Here are just a couple of case studies of those the trust has helped.
William, 27, gave up his job at the Odeon to start a career in the Army to provide a secure future for his family.
His income decreased as food prices rose. Whilst he was away on basic training his wife Annie,25, started going without food to feed their two young daughters. The family had not been provided with army accommodation and were living in a one bedroom flat with their two daughters aged four and 18 months. Determined not to get into debt, Annie was forced to go without food to pay the bills and feed her children. The increasing stress and hunger overwhelmed Annie when dropping off her daughter at nursery one day. She broke down in tears and they referred her to the foodbank.
She said: "Now that I have food I feel able to face the rest of my difficulties."
The family are now in military accommodation and are back on their feet.
When 13-year-old Sophie’s father became terminally ill, her mum gave up work to look after him. When he died, the situation got dramatically worse as the grieving family found themselves crippled by funeral costs and unable to afford food.
Chesham Foodbank gave the family enough emergency food to help them through their crisis. Sophie said: "t was such a massive help and the people there were really kind.’ She said that the food parcel helped them to get back on their feet and that without it ‘it would have been impossible to cope."
No one doubts the vital work that foodbanks are doing - and there is no doubt that we should all support them.
But what a stain it is on our country that people are going hungry in one of the richest nations in the world.
Forget any misconceptions you have. Many of the people being helped by foodbanks are in jobs. Some of them have more than one job. Yet they still cannot make ends meet.
And while those in power try to widen the nasty little divide in people's minds between the "deserving" and the "undeserving" poor, a divide which sickened Dickens in his day, we let them get away with preaching austerity while we suffer and they do not. And that Ignorance breeds Want.
Here's my Christmas wish: that next year, those in power take care of those who are in need without them having to turn to hand-outs.
Comments are closed on this article.