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.

 

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.

GE17: The Brexit Distraction

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Victoria Pearson

And so Theresa May has made yet another u-turn, calling a snap general election just 7 weeks from now, despite promising not to just 4 weeks ago.
There has been much speculation over the timing of her announcement, with many saying she has chosen this moment because she is ahead in the polls, and believes she could win. On the surface, this would seem like a reasonable explanation, however, a closer look quickly makes this narrative collapse.
Just hours after the announcement, the CPS told Channel 4 news that they are considering pressing charges against more than 30 individuals regarding election fraud. The allegations were passed on by the Electoral Commission, after they fined the Tories £70k, and, if proven, may result in criminal charges and even jail time.

Any investigation would have triggered a wave of by-elections which could have seen May’s already slim majority drastically reduced. The CPS has said a snap election will not halt their investigation, but May has today refused to say, when pushed by Denis Skinner MP during PMQs, whether MPs currently standing are implicated in the fraud scandal. So much for her assertion that the electorate have a right to know what they are voting for, her reasons for denying Scotland an Independence referendum just a few short weeks ago.
May has found it nigh on impossible to control the dissent from her back benches, facing constant back-biting for being unelected – even by her own party – despite criticising Brown for not calling a GE as soon as he took over leadership of the Labour party. As she loses control over her own party in regards to her hard Brexit, the income based child cap that sees rape victims forced to name and shame their children as being the result of non-consensual sex for a pittance (as low as £13 per week, depending on circumstances) and traps vulnerable parents and their children in abusive homes. Her own party forced her into u-turns on NI contributions, leaving a budget black hole she has yet to bridge. It seems increasingly likely May had to jump into a snap GE, or be pushed out of the leadership.
The Tories are doing their best to present a strong and confident face to the electorate, but less than 24 hours after the GE was announced, the wheels already came off the their campaign. Despite crowing about Labour being weak and the SNP being a single issue party, May has refused to debate the other party leaders on TV. If Corbyn is so weak and the SNP are so ineffectual, why wouldn’t a strong, confident PM want to debate them? It’d be the ideal opportunity for May to showcase her Debating skills, which will ultimately underpin what kind of deal a post-brexit UK will achieve. If May is too afraid to debate party leaders she has spent months disparaging as weak and incapable, what does that say about her leadership? Or her ability to debate with and persuade all 27 member states of the EU?
It says she knows she is weak on schools, housing, poverty, inequality. It shows she is not up to the task of doing the day job. During May’s time in office we have seen the income based child cap come into force, seen £30 per week taken from disabled peoples pockets, zero hours contracts rise by 1/5th, doctors cancelling babies heart operations because there are no recovery beds in the whole country, they’ve even started stealing people’s wheelchairs. May knows that all of these points, every single Tory failing, would be brought to light and scrutinised. She knows her only chance of forming a government is to keep the conversation firmly centred on brexit. She is hoping that by keeping the campaign as short as possible, all of her many, many failures will be kicked under the carpet.
May is clearly hoping that holding a general election at such short notice will allow her to avoid scrutiny. The Conservatives even said they won’t participate in the televised debates because “The choice at this election is already clear.” It’s clear to me the Tories think they are entitled to your vote. That they can mercilessly crush the poor and vulnerable as long as they keep brexit red, white and blue. They think that will be enough to get them a majority. Maybe they are right. But I don’t think the electorate are that stupid, or that apathetic.
Screeching “Brexit means Brexit” and having tantrums because the opposition are opposing you, and our legal and political safeguards are keeping you in check is just not good enough, Mrs May.

We deserve a government that will respect our laws and look after the vulnerable. That’s the day job. Trying to dangle Brexit like a shiny bauble to distract from the appalling human rights record of the Tories is not going to work.
We’ve never had a PM with such breathtaking arrogance. We’ve never had a PM show such open disregard for the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable. We have a chance to pull back from the brink. We can end the Mayhem now. Let’s make June the end of May.

 

 

Mayhem in England

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Victoria Pearson

If you were to glance at the front pages today, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a bit of a slow news day in England, dominated as they are by stories about the class action suit against VW and the shocking story that we might experience some snow this January. To glance at the papers today would lead you to believe that everything was ticking along nicely in Tory England.
The truth is, England is disintegrating.
London is crippled by rail strikes, with commuters reporting 5 hour journeys to work. Clapham Junction became so dangerously overcrowded staff were forced to evacuate the station.
Sadiq Kahn, the supposedly Labour mayor of London – who made the fact his father was a bus driver a key part of his mayoral bid – has posted, at time of writing, ten tweets calling the strike “unnecessary.” With the mayor being so unsupportive of the unions fighting for public safety, it seems likely that the dispute will continue for some time.
The travel chaos and associated lost revenue to the capital should be a top news story in its own right, but it isn’t even close to being the most alarming thing happening in England today.
While mainstream news outlets report on the expected snowfall, the Queen attending church and the VW case, they are ignoring the fact that the NHS in England is on life support, in a crowded corridor and one severely overworked junior doctor to tend to it.
You may have missed the story a few weeks ago that every single paediatric intensive care bed in the country was full. Paediatric cardiologists were cancelling operations for babies in tears, because they had no means to care for them post-surgery. Neither Theresa May nor health Secretary Jeremy Hunt felt that was important enough to warrant comment.

Far from this being a much needed wake up call, Number 10 have allowed the crisis to deepen still further. In wake of reports of vulnerable patients being discharged at 3am with no care plan in place, no food in their cupboards and no social safety net, a patient reportedly dying on a trolley in an A&E corridor after a 35hour wait, and A&E departments being forced to close their doors to patients 140 times in December alone, the red cross were drafted in to help ease the pressure of what they called a “humanitarian crisis.”
The Department for Health left it to NHS England to comment, who played down the crisis by saying that “on an international scale” the NHS is not yet at the point of humanitarian crisis. Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders responded:

“For the Health Secretary to remain silent as this crisis unfolds represents either a complete denial of reality or utter embarrassment that this has happened on his watch.
Jeremy Hunt cannot say that he wasn’t warned that this crisis was coming. Every major health organisation has been warning for months that the NHS was heading for disaster unless it got more funding.
He has decided to ignore those warnings and we are now seeing a meltdown in our NHS that he is refusing to acknowledge. Patients, the staff and the public deserve better.
Jeremy Hunt should urgently come up with a plan and resources to match to end the crisis.”

Theresa May’s response was quite extraordinary. Rather than address the concerns of the NHS staff, the Red Cross and patients who are crying out for her to address the funding gap that has caused this unprecedented crisis, she chose instead to give a speech rehashing Cameron’s “big society,” rebranding it the “shared society.”
As we have reported, millions of people are reliant on food banks to eat in austerity England.

With no social care provision, our vulnerable elderly are left to fend for themselves.

Charities are propping up our NHS.

There are no beds available for critically ill babies.

Mental health provision is woefully inadeqte.

The UN has called austerity a breach of human rights legislation.

Prisons are in unprecedented crisis, with overcrowding and staff cuts causing officers to lose control in Bedford, Hull and Birmingham in the last few weeks.

It’s clear that to the Tories, a shared society is about sharing our assets out with their friends while we share the burden of trying to fix what they have wilfully, cheerfully broken.
Main stream media outlets seem determined to paint Theresa May as a safe pair of hands, and concentrate on her “brexit means a red, white and blue brexit” nonsense while England disintegrates. Meanwhile, in the real world, people are dying.
This isn’t governance. This is Mayhem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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