I’ve said before that I can never predict what will happen outside Ashton Jobcentre whilst we hold our weekly demo, and it would be very wise never to attempt this. We never know what to expect, and this week did not disappoint.
I arrived in Ashton at around 9am after dropping my daughter off at school and I use the hour before the demo to prepare myself the best that I can, to have a chat to my friend and to also chat with any of the people that we meet before the demo. People know where to find me, and you know I quite like that.
I had noticed a group of people already hanging around across the road from the Jobcentre. They were in need of food parcels. But the mood wasn’t good, so I was a bit nervous.
As I arrived at the Jobcentre, one of them walked over and asked if the food parcels were there. They clearly wern’t and I advised that they would have to wait a while longer. They agreed to this.
I was soon joined by our regular food parcel users. They are a fab group of people, hoping that their situation improves. One man is hoping that his pension comes through next week so that he will be able to manage better. He said that he will be only £24 a week better off but that will make a difference.
The food parcels arrived and the queue was quite big. A lovely lady called Angie arrived with three more food parcels, so nearly all of the people waiting collected a food parcel. I did signpost a few to a local homeless organisation for a hot meal and tents.
We spoke to many people today, it was cold so understandably the mood wasn’t brilliant, combined with having to visit the Jobcentre its very understandable that spirits were low.
I must say that everyone that we speak to is important, and we do offer much needed help and advice. But this gentleman’s story really does stand out, even though it is not unusual by any means.
He had been watching us for a while from across the road, this is often the case. It’s not easy asking for help. He said hello and it was obvious to see that he did struggle to walk over. He said that he was desperate, he had had trouble with his ESA claim, he was going to be loosing his carer in the near future also because he can’t afford to pay them £20 a week. He didn’t go into great detail with this, we need to build our trust up with him. But he will be returning next week.
He told us that he was hungry, that he had ate his last pieces of bread out of the freezer. Because he had no food he went to the local Citizens Advice for a foodbank voucher. There should be no problem with this, well thats what I’m sure that most people would think.
He was refused his voucher because he had already had his allotted three around two years ago. He wasn’t specific about the date, he’s stressed and to be honest it’s not important. What is important is that there should never be a three food parcel limit. A person’s situation as to why they haven’t got any money is often very complicated and as we all know true DWP take a log time to resolve any issue. This I feel is done purposely.
We, however handed him a food parcel and he will be given one every week for as long as is needed.
Now I’m aware that many, mostly non Trussell Trust food banks do offer more than three food parcels, and often without many questions or judgement. I’m also aware that some Trussell Trust food banks also do this. My issue is simple. There shouldnt be a three parcel limit.
We saw this week in the news the released figures from the Trussell Trust relating to their foodbank usage.
Disgusting as it is, I can safely say that we can at least double this amount. These figures do not take into account non Trussell Trust foodbanks, pop up soup kitchens and sandwich stands, and food parcel collection points like ours. For example we give out at least 300 food parcels per year.
I caused a bit of controversy this week by stating this, and for also thanking the independent food banks etc for all the hard work that they do. They don’t receive much, if any publicity, and aren’t often endorsed by well known people. They also don’t receive any funding, nor have they had to pay to become a member of the Trussell Trust organisation. They just feed people. They support people, in the way that they know best and often out of their own pockets. Often they are the backbone of the community.
We should not need food banks, and we need to challenge this.
Now I’m not saying that the Trussell Trust food banks don’t do a good job, far from it. But please let’s remember these other groups and also remember that the food bank figures are most likely double the amount that have been released.
A quick book recommendation for anyone able to afford to buy a book. I thoroughly recommend a book called Foodbank Britain. It explains everything very clearly.
Anyway, rant over and I’m sorry for going on a bit.
We also spoke to a lady trying to help her son to appeal his ESA decision. Good advice was given, and he will be ok.
We spoke to many people today like I said, we never really stop. Food parcels going straight away is the norm. It’s truly awful and I will admit that today I was a tad angry.
Massive shoutout to the guys in the BASW union. Some members walked 100 miles this week to protest about austerity. They asked me to speak at their annual conference which I did. Things do need to change and you are all a fab bunch and you will do this I’m sure. A big hi to Maggie!
A massive thanks to everyone that reads, shares and supports my blog. On days like today it really does mean a lot to me, thank you!