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Anorak | Food banks – a stain on our society or a godsend?

Food banks – a stain on our society or a godsend?

by | 14th, June 2018

We’ve another of those reports – from the Joseph Rowntree folks this time – telling us how appalling it is that so many live in poverty in a rich country like Britain. A subject we can make two points about. The first being that they’re not actually talking about poverty, they’re talking about inequality.

Despite the language being used no one at all is really saying that anyone in Britain lives at the level of those starving people we see on the TV in Africa or wherever. Nor is anyone living like most people did 100 years ago. Our definition of poverty here is having less than other people – less than 60% of average household income in fact – instead of having near nothing. Yes, everyone says “poverty” but it’s really not what is being talked about, instead it’s inequality.

The much more interesting question though is about these food banks. Are they an appalling stain upon Britain? Or a sign of how well we’re doing?

Nearly 4 million adults in the UK have been forced to use food banks due to ”shocking” levels of deprivation, figures have revealed for the first time.

An exclusive poll commissioned by The Independent reveals one in 14 Britons has had to use a food bank, with similar numbers also forced to skip meals and borrow money as austerity measures leave them “penniless with nowhere to turn”.

The findings come as a major report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows more than 1.5 million people were destitute in the UK last year alone, a figure higher than the populations of Liverpool and Birmingham combined.

“Destitution” in that report includes having only one meal a day for two days in a row because there’s no money to buy more food. And the report does say – but doesn’t really try to emphasise – that a major reason for that is how badly the government manages to hand out the welfare money. They keep getting the amounts wrong that is. Which is the very thing which leads to the question about food banks.

We could say, as the general conversation does, that their existence shows how appalling Britain is. There’s such poverty that people must rely upon charity, government should be doing better, benefits must rise. The other way around is to say that it’s government causing the problem. It’s not the amount of benefits, it’s the incompetence with which they’re administered. It’s also nothing new – anyone rich in maturity will know that the dole and associated offices have always got the numbers wrong. And it can and always has taken weeks and weeks to get benefits to start with. At which point, well, maybe food banks are just a new way of dealing with something that has always been a problem? The rise in the number of them being a sign that we’re getting better at dealing with this problem.

Back in the 80s I had friends who had to wait 8 weeks to even start getting their dole. That’s a long time to go without money for food unless a few friends chip in. Food banks, to me and with those experiences, are just a better way of dealing with that long term problem, how crap the government is at giving away money. Opinions may differ here of course….



Posted: 14th, June 2018 | In: News Comment | TrackBack | Permalink