Foodbanks aren’t just for Christmas

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Victoria Pearson

If you’re a regular reader of Ungagged, you’ll remember that we asked you to  donate to your local foodbank during our Activist Advent campaign, and you didn’t let us down: the Trussell Trust received over 13 tonnes of food donations last December.

This week, however, Ungagged became aware of a desperate shortage of food at NW Glasgow foodbank.

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NW Glasgow foodbank shortage – the line represents two weeks supply of food parcels

The line in the picture above indicates two weeks worth of food to feed hungry families, including children. As you can see, NW Glasgow is falling far short, and struggling with the huge increase in demand.

Almost 26,000 three day emergency food supplies were provided to local people in crisis by Glasgow NW, Glasgow NE, Glasgow SE, Glasgow SW and Glasgow City Centre foodbanks during 2016-17, compared to 21,838 in 2015-16. Of this number, 10,325 went to children.

The foodbank is run by The Trussell Trust network.  They provide three days’ nutritionally balanced food, cleaning products and essential toiletries to those in need in the uk, as well as signposting people to other agencies and services able to help resolve the underlying cause of the crisis; most commonly benefit changes or sanctions.

Kyle McCormick, Project Manager of Glasgow NW Foodbank said:

“It is deeply concerning that we are still seeing an increase in the number of three day emergency food supplies provided to local people in crisis across Glasgow over the last year, at North West this has been an increase of 62% on the previous year.

One family came to us following their benefit being stopped, resulting in no income while their case was being reviewed. The foodbank provided the support for the family while their Member of Parliament and the Citizens Advice Bureau were involved to resolve the situation as soon as possible. The foodbank supported the family until the point when their crisis was resolved. We are extremely grateful for all the donations that we receive, largely by customers leaving donations at our supermarket collection points. Donations are particularly great at Christmas, when we saw 13 tonnes donated in December, from various workplaces, schools and churches organising collections. The reality of the Foodbank is that we are open 52 weeks of the year across the city, you can see the startling figures of those that we are all helping, we need continued support to always have food on our shelves. In the last quarter of 2016-2017 Glasgow NW foodbank spent over £2,000 to keep the shelves stocked, as donations drop almost instantly at the turn of the year.”

Many people in crisis who access the foodbank are struggling because of circumstances out of their control, and Trussell Trust can be a lifeline when they’ve nowhere else to turn.

  Audrey Flannagan, Foodbank Manager of Glasgow SE Foodbank said:

“I received a phone call from a gentleman asking if we could help. He had had a relationship breakdown but his daughter and grand-child were living with him. He was working, but on minimum wage, but still paying full rent etc as partner had been working before the split and they didn’t qualify for housing benefit. His daughter was waiting for her benefits to be sorted and was unable to contribute much to the house. I told him to come and see us. We were able to help with food and as he had a prepayment meter fuel as well. We were also able to signpost both of them to the local law centre for benefit checks etc. He said he did not know what he would have done if the foodbank hadn’t been there.”

With massive rising demand, and donations tailing off as soon as the Christmas period is over, foodbanks in Glasgow are struggling to assist everyone who needs it, so are pooling their scarce resources to try to help as many people as possible. It’s brilliant that the foodbanks are coming together in this way, but they urgently need our help. Foodbanks are expensive to run; as well as the costs of food, toiletries, cleaning products and sanitary protection, foodbanks must also find the money for warehouse space, to sort and stock donated food, a van to pick up donated food and deliver to distribution centres, and other overheads like utilities and insurances and salary for the part time managers (who, as Ungagged discovered when we delivered our donation, are so dedicated to their calling, they have even been working through unpaid holiday time to keep the foodbank operational).

How to Help

  • The foodbanks will continue working together in the coming months when they will be collecting money for foodbank funds at Glasgow Central Station on the last Friday of the month from April to November excluding September.
  • The Foodbanks welcome any new offers of help with funding – local businesses, organisations and individuals interested in supporting the foodbank’s work can find out more at the individual foodbank’s website.
  • You can donate food at various collection points. Donations the foodbanks need in general are:

TINNED: fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, tomatoes,

JARS: pasta sauce, jam,

DRINKS: UHT Milk, diluting juice,

toiletries,

cleaning products

Food banks generally have enough soup, beans and pasta.

At time of writing, no political figure had responded to the desperate shortage of food in Glasgow’s foodbanks. We find that appalling. Lip service is not enough, people are going hungry. The time for action is now.

It is election time, so is the ideal time to let our representatives know we won’t tolerate people going hungry because our MPs refuse to address the causes of poverty, and refuse to fund foodbanks.

We are the fifth largest economy in the world. We shouldn’t have to rely on charity to feed our vulnerable people. But right now, you are all these people have. We know our audience are kind, generous, good hearted people and we know you’ll dig deep.

Foodbanks are for life, not just for Christmas.

 

If you’d like to donate through Ungagged, please leave your donation here, write “Foodbank” in the “add a note” section, and we’ll be sure to pass it on with donations we have collected from our contributers, just as we did earlier in the week.

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Our co-producer, Neil Scott, meeting with Kyle McCormick of NW Glasgow foodbank, to give in our team’s donations.

 

The Meaning of Life, Part 1: Cosmic Perspective

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Chuck Hamilton 

This trilogy is not like the Monty Python version, there will actually be more parts.

Lots of folks say we need to abandon American exceptionalism. Some, like my Dear Uncle Napoleon, prattle on about British exceptionalism. Today, rather than taking on either of those two comparitively minor annoyances, I hope to kick the shit out of both Homo sapiens sapiens and Planet Earth exceptionalisms.

A single member of the H. sapiens sapiens race is, on average, 664 billionths (10-9) km3 in volume, with an average lifespan of 67.2 years. There are currently 7.3 billion (109) individuals of that race on Earth, or Terra.

Earth, or Terra, is 1.12 trillion (1012) km3 by 4.54 billion years. It rotates on its axis at a speed of 1674.4 km/h while revolving around Sol at 108 thousand (103) km/h.

Sol, our system’s star, is 1.4 quintillion (1018) km3 by 4.56 billion years. The Solar Planetary System is 1.7 duodecillion (1039) km3 by the same 4.56 billion years.

The Milky Way Galaxy is 8 sedecillion (1051) km3 by 13.2 billion years. Of its 200 billion stars, 40 billion support Class-M planets, with 8-10 billion of these hosting life-forms analogous to Humans, making some 61.6 quintillion (1018) sapient beings in our galaxy.

There are 2 trillion (1012) galaxies in the Universe with 80 sextillion (1021) Class-M planets hosting 123 nonillion (1030) sapient beings in the Universe at any one time.

The Universe, the ‘Verse for short, is 213 duovigintillion (1069) km3 by 13.8 billion (109) years. It is expanding outward at a rate increased by the like-polarity of the electromagnetic fields of different galaxy groups. And it is just one of innumerable such cosmic bodies making up the Omniverse (aka Multiverse), and is currently the only one we can measure.

* * * * *

The Universe is formed of a single matrix called spacetime.

Everything in the ‘Verse not of the matrix of spacetime is composed of energy. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed but only change forms. All matter that exists is but alternate forms of energy.

Spacetime and energy are thus the fundamental building blocks of the ‘Verse and everything in it, the emanations from which all that is evolves.

There are four basic dimensions—height, length, width, time—which define the point in the spacetime matrix at which we are at any given moment. Energy flows to and from that single point in spacetime—forward and backward, up and down, left and right, past and future—along each of these dimensions.

The force of gravity provides the cohesion for the ‘Verse in a relationship with the dimension of time that is correlative if not causal. Without gravity, there would be no time; without time, there would be no gravity.

* * * * *

Life is a function of energy, of thermodynamics. Given appropriate conditions, life is inevitable, because energy in the form of matter will spontaneously self-organize through abiogenesis.

Once manifest, life evolves into more complex forms which themselves evolve further, with those most adaptable being the best able to survive, reproduce, and flourish.

Life has existed on Terra for 4.1 billion years, and in the Universe since 10-17 million years after the Big Bang.

The essence of life is change and evolution, growth and decay. For individual organisms, birth and death define the boundaries of life. Without death, life has no meaning.

Whether or not there is another form of existence once the organic shell has been shed in death and life on this plane ends does not matter; Humans debating those questions are like fetuses discussing questions on life after birth.

* * * * *

In 5 million years, the H. sapiens sapiens race, and along with it the H. sapiens species and the Homo genus, will be extinct due to degradation of the Y-chromosome, if we have not already destroyed ourselves and/or our biosphere or suffered a mass extinction we don’t cause.

In 800 million years, multi-cellular lifeforms will have vanished from Terra.

In 1.3 billion years, eukaryotes will be extinct and life on Terra reduced to prokaryotes due to CO2 starvation caused by chemical disruption from Sol’s increasing luminescence.

In 2.4 billion years, the Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy will collide and merge into one Milkomeda Galaxy, altering the structure of everything in them, though most stars and planetary systems will remain intact.

In 5.4 billion years, Sol will enter its red giant phase, incinerating Mercury, Venus, and possibly Terra, destroying any remaining life on Terra if not. The habitable zone will move out to Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan may become habitable.

In 8 billion years, Sol will collapse into a white dwarf, expelling half its mass into the interstellar medium, making elements available for nucleosynthesis and forming an emission nebula. Any remaining planetary bodies will be stolen by passing stars, leaving the Solar Nebula.

In 14.4 billion years, Sol will be a totally dead black dwarf star.

The Universe will eventually end in the next Big Bounce (a Big Crunch facilitating another Big Bang) in around 60 trillion years, dying so another can be born anew as it was formed before.

All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again, and again, and again.

Coming soon: “The Meaning of Life, Part 2: Ain’t No Power in the ‘Verse”.

The Hitchhikers’ Guide To The 2017 Local Elections

Since 2013 these ‘Hitchhikers’ electoral guides (for both Scotland and Australia) have become a bit of a tradition on my blog.  I’ve now covered two Australian federal elections, a European Parliament election, a Westminster general election (No.2 coming soon), a Scottish Parliament election and of course two very different referenda. This will be the first time I’ve written a guide to local elections, and the first one I’ve also shared with ‘Ungagged’ readers, but it would appear the need is great, so time to step into the breach.

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Judge Tories on their Record

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Victoria Pearson

Theresa May is in hiding, too scared to appear in public, refusing televised debates, public appearances or questions from the electorate, asking that we judge her on the Tories record instead. So let’s have a look at that.

May has been PM for nine months, and during that time she has consistently insisted she is a strong, safe pair of hands. The reality does not match up to May’s fantasy, however, as during her time as PM we have seen absolute chaos.

Under May we have seen zero hour contracts rise by one fifth, putting nearly 900,000 people in positions of insecure working hours, but struggle, because they are in employment, to qualify for any help from the state. This has pushed almost a third of the UK population below the poverty line.
Obviously people not having money in their pocket has knock on effects to our economy. We aren’t spending, because we’ve nothing to spend. Businesses are collapsing, so more people are going into insecure work, and round and round we go. Add that to the instability in the markets in the US due to Trump, and Sterling tanking due to Brexit, and we’ve all the ingredients for a global financial crash before Christmas. So go far, so stable, I guess?
The knock on effects, unfortunately, don’t just stop at destabilising our economy. We have seen a massive rise in foodbank usage, with Trussell Trust reporting a million people being forced to feed their families donated food this Christmas. Period poverty has soared in the UK, with girls being forced to skip school due to inadequate sanitary protection and women risking infection using tissue paper, socks and old rags because they can’t afford pads or tampons. Health visitors are also reporting parents struggling to afford nappies, leading to babies being changed less frequently and ending up with serious health complications through infected nappy rash.
Rather than helping desperately struggling families, Theresa May – who promised a society that works for all just a few months ago – has capped tax credits claims to just two children. This will save virtually no money, due to the administration – but will see families already struggling become even poorer. The cap not only means that a mother will be forced to fill in a form stating that her third or subsequent child was the result of non-consensual sex if she needs the extra £13- £20 per week, but also that she will have to name that child on the form, and prove she was raped. This move is not just heartless, it shows wilful disregard for advice from women’s charities and the low reporting and conviction of sex crimes.

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The child cap doesn’t just attack rape victims though – it also places yet another barrier on parents trying to escape violent or abusive relationships. Someone with three or more children who are already claiming tax credits can continue to claim, but if their circumstances change, they must submit a new claim, and will only receive support for their first two children. That means that parents who already have more than two children are effectively trapped in their current relationship, unless they can afford to make up the shortfall. If you are in an abusive, controlling relationship with more than two children, you now have to be able to find very well paying work before you can get your children out of a dangerous situation. If nothing else, trapping children in abusive households is a mental health time bomb.
The Tories like to see themselves as strong on the economy and good for business, so while our economy is crashing down around our ears, and they have tripled the national debt to £1920billion despite promising to wipe it out, the Tories have lowered corporation tax again, making us by far the lowest corporation tax in the G7. Having borrowed more than any government in the last 70 years, and reduced corporation tax to a trickle, there is now no money to spend. Still the Tories have decided we have £370million available to refurbish Buckingham Palace, £200million for Johnson’s garden bridge vanity project, and suggested that we spend tens of millions from our foreign aid budget on a Royal Yacht.

Jake Berry, the Tory MP who is leading the campaign for the yacht said

“But here in Britain – the fifth largest economy in the world – we feel it [a royal yacht] is something that we can’t afford. I feel that is a national disgrace.”

Personally, I think it is a national disgrace that, in the fifth largest economy in the world, we have an NHS that is so underfunded that doctors were forced to leave a two year old with suspected meningitis in A&E on two plastic chairs for 5 hours because there were no beds. I think it’s a national disgrace that paediatric surgeons have been forced to cancel babies heart operations because there are no paediatric intensive care beds available in the country. I think it’s a national disgrace that people are being discharged from hospital because there are no beds and dying in the hospital car park. I think it’s disgrace that people in severe mental health crisis are calling up hospitals for help with suicidal thoughts only to be told there are no beds, try again next week if you are still alive. I think it’s a national disgrace that over Christmas The Red Cross described the chaos in NHS as a “humanitarian crisis”.
But the Tories have never cared about the NHS, many of their parliamentary party have argued for an insurance style system in the UK. The Tories have always prided themselves on law and order though. After seven years of a Conservative Prime Minister we should have a strong, well functioning justice system.
Instead we have a prison system in absolute crisis, with overcrowded conditions and inexperienced staff, radicalisation and drug issues worse than they have ever been. We saw five major incidents in six months, culminating in Birmingham prison seeing the worst prison riot since Strangeways 25 years ago. The Tories will argue that this is due to factors they can’t control, but the fact is they have repeatedly ignored pleas from front line staff for mobile scrambling equipment to stop the use of drones bringing drugs, weapons and mobile phones into jails, they’ve sacked the majority of experienced officers to replace them with cheaper, inexperienced staff who don’t know how to deal with the problems, and cut funding for mental health programs and drug rehabilitation in prisons. Things are at such crisis point, prison officers are threatening industrial action, a catastrophic blow for the prison system.
The justice system has been further undermined by Liz Truss’ refusal to back the Article 50 judges when certain ‘news’papers branded them “Enemies of the People”. Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd said;

“I can understand how the pressures were on in November, but she has taken a position that is constitutionally, absolutely wrong.”

It is was Truss’s duty, as lord chancellor, to defend the judges, he said.
One of the most senior judges in the UK agreed.

“The Lord Chancellor has a particular duty to speak up in those circumstances”, Lord Neuberger said.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd has since butted heads with Truss again, saying she had misrepresented changes to the law surrounding victims of sexual violence giving evidence in court. Lord Thomas said her department had “misunderstood the thing completely”, forcing him to write to all judges to correct the mistake.

“It was a complete failure to understand the impracticalities of any of this. And that is very troubling,” he told an inquiry by a House of Lords committee.

Despite this breathtaking incompetence, Downing Street not only backed Truss, but insisted her misrepresentation of events was in fact correct, with their spokesman insisting the Prime Minister had full confidence in Ms Truss – and that he believed the legal profession had full confidence in her.
The Tories aren’t just failings on the economy, NHS, and law and order though. Schools have been hit with the biggest cuts in 20 years. 99% of schools have had their funding cut, by an average of £103,754 in primaries and £470,433 in secondaries.

Schools have been asked to find an extra £3billion in funding, and many are writing to already squeezed parents to beg for help – by fighting Tory cuts and by funding everyday necessities like pens and paper. One deputy head in a well off area, who wished to remain anonymous, told Ungagged exclusively that she hasn’t seen a crisis like this since Thatcher’s day.

“Its heartbreaking to see.” She said “there are children coming to school hungry, and I’m having to ask their parents for money. We don’t have adequate books, pens or paper, let alone computers or enrichment equipment. These children are being failed and there is nothing teachers can do about it.”

Helen Ingham, head of Ivydale primary in Nunhead, south London, told parents in a newsletter that the school faced a 14% cut in its budget by 2019-20.

“To put this in context, that is 30% of what we spend on teachers each year or 65% of what we spend on TAs.” She said,  “Since staff costs make up 70% of our budget a reduction in funding of this magnitude leaves us with impossible choices which will inevitably impact on your children’s education.”

Despite protecting school budgets being in the Tories manifesto, the Tories firmly have their head in the sand, with their only “solution” to the crisis bring to propose new grammar schools, which of course disproportionately advantage wealthier children and draw scarce resources from where they are needed.
The Tories ask you to let their record speak for itself, and hope you’ll just focus on their shambolic brexit and ignore all the real problems in the country. I say I’ve looked at your record, Mrs May, and I’m appalled. The Tories have failed on health, social care, education, welfare, the economy, the justice system, and inequality. Everything that we can be proud of has been neglected, sold off or run into the ground. If May really wants us to judge her on her record, I can only assume she is unaware of it – or is hoping we are.