Guest blog: Food banks are feeding families - the government needs to face its responsibilities

(96 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 05-Jul-13 11:11:05

Food banks were in the news earlier this week, after Work and Pensions minister Lord Freud claimed that the recent hike in the number of families resorting to food handouts was not necessarily linked to growing poverty.

Mumsnet blogger Jack Monroe - whose blog A Girl Called Jack charts her family's life on the breadline and who recently gave evidence to parliament on poverty and hunger - says the government is shirking its responsibilities.


"Half a million people are reportedly reliant on the distribution of emergency food from food banks - but the Government seems intent on blaming feckless parenting and a 'scrounger mentality' for the rise of food poverty in Britain.

First, Lord Freud commented in the House of Lords that there was no link between the recent welfare cuts and the rise in demand for food banks.

Despite the evidence from the Trussell Trust that food bank use has soared 170% in the past year - with many referrals for help coming directly from the Department for Work and Pensions - Lord Freud insists that people don't really need the help.

In a gross slur against desperate families, he claimed that people were turning up just because there was 'free food', and not out of necessity - which simply isn't true. Surveys show that many people suffering from food insecurity wouldn't consider turning to a food bank for help: they find the stigma attached to 'asking for food' too humiliating.

And on Tuesday Michael Gove blamed child poverty and hunger on reckless, irresponsible parenting. In doing so, he denies the reality that most people using food banks do so as a result of benefit delays, sanctions, low income and unemployment. Other factors such as illness and domestic abuse certainly play a part - but these are the key causes, cited time and time again by food bank users.

Many parents tell of going hungry themselves in order to feed their children, as biting austerity measures cut deeper and deeper into family incomes, or lack thereof - hardly the picture of 'feckless parenting' painted by the Education Secretary.

I was a food bank user myself for six months, while unemployed, seeking work, and surviving on just £10 a week for food for myself and my son.

He didn't go hungry during that period - but I did, frequently, sobbing in bed at night in a freezing cold flat, suicidal, desperate, and alone - but adamantly clinging on, for the sake of the then two year old boy fast asleep in his bed.

If food banks become a permanent fixture, the responsibility for feeding the poor and vulnerable will have shifted from the shoulders of the Government, to the shoulders of charities and not for profit sector. Although it's admirable that these organisations are coming together to meet a real and desperate need, they should be seen as a temporary sticking plaster - not a license for the Government to shirk its civic duties towards its citizens.

In terms of feckless parenting, it is this Government, and not the casualties of the shrinking welfare state that are shirking their duties - and sending its children, its citizens, to school, to work, and to bed hungry. Gove, Freud et al need once and for all to look child poverty and hunger in its hideous face, and commit to tackling the underpinning root causes, instead of casting around to see who else can be blamed.

The Government ought to be taking steps towards investigating and tackling poverty, rather than tossing the blame around from Labour to the Tories, from those rogue charities handing out free food, to the feckless parents squandering it on God only knows what. It's easy to say 'it's not my fault'. It's more difficult to come up with solutions.

Or is it? Because I came up with fourteen off the top of my head in Parliament last month, and I'm sure there's more if I think hard enough.

Increasing social housing. Paying housing benefit monthly instead of four weekly to align with rent and mortgage payments and assist with cash flow problems. Payment of benefits quickly upon application, especially with the death of the Crisis Loan earlier this year. A commitment to a living wage would mean more families paying tax, less claimed in benefits, and a better living standard for all.

We need to stop just pulling people out of the river.

It's time to go upstream, and find out why they're falling in."

Jack Monroe
Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

madhairday Fri 05-Jul-13 13:28:31

Great post. In my local churches together food bank there is seriously not enough time in the day to sort everyone out or enough food for everyone who needs it sad I think the payments of benefits quickly is a key point - many are going short because of clerical error or simply red tape and the slow grinding of the system. It's also a big problem for disabled and chronically ill people who cannot get ESA as 'fit to work' yet cannot get JSA as 'not fit for work' hmm

noisytoys Fri 05-Jul-13 14:06:21

Great post from a fantastic person. I know Jack in RL and she is the kindest, most honest, most genuine person I have ever met. Despite the problems and challenges she herself faces she gives and gives and gives. If we all gave just a small amount there would be no food poverty at all!!

NatashaBee Fri 05-Jul-13 15:50:02

Agree wholeheartedly with everything you've written! Great blog.

HeathcliffeItsMe Fri 05-Jul-13 15:55:42

Great post, I completely agree.

timidviper Fri 05-Jul-13 15:56:39

I agree with this for many of the people who need help but there is a sizeable number of people who need help through poor choices and lack of responsibility.

Our nearest town has a large number of HMOs and a big "benefits culture" (bad enought to be featured on several tv programmes recently). I never cease to be amazed at some of the lifestyle choices and priorities of a sizeable proportion of the people I meet in my paid work and voluntary work. It is awful to think of deserving and undeserving poor but, in times of austerity, how long do we go on throwing help into the black hole of that part of a society that won't help themselves.

I hate a lot of things about this government and the punishing of people who are suffering hard times is one of them but, if we could find a way to tackle the "underclass" we would have more to help those in genuine need.

JakeBullet Fri 05-Jul-13 16:31:29

Fabulous post, I utterly agree with everything in it.

What made me laugh most about Lord Fraud yesterday was his blinkered idea that people used food banks because they then got free food. No understanding that people in most cases have to be REFERRED to a food bank by another agency who finds that they person or family involved WILL go hungry without it.

ProfYaffle Fri 05-Jul-13 17:26:52

I've a volunteer at the CAB, we're one of the Agencies who refer people to the food banks. We are a tiny bureaux in a relatively affluent, rural area yet the pace at which we're getting through the food vouchers is frightening.

Many people don't realise that food banks aren't like soup kitchens, you can't turn up and get fed anytime you like. An individual can only access a food bank 3 times in a year. We're now reaching a point where many of our clients have used up their 3 visits, what happens then?

A food bank user is also only issued with 3 day's worth of food, yet typically we're referring people who haven't had any money for several weeks. Last week I saw a lady of 60 whose JSA was stopped for 2 weeks because she hadn't made any online job applications - she doesn't have a computer at home and continued to make numerous paper based applications. Another client I saw last week (again around 60) hadn't had any money for a month because DWP had lost his ESA application, he probably won't get it sorted out for another month. 2 months with no money and access to just 9 days worth of food. He left shaking and crying with panic at his situation.

The situation's only going to get worse, I can't imagine what we'll be seeing in 6 months' time.

noisytoys Fri 05-Jul-13 17:38:17

Prof it breaks my heart that it affects old people too. I know it's logical and all ages can have poverty and hard times, but 60 year olds should be helped and supported not punished and humiliated sad poor people.

Ragwort Fri 05-Jul-13 19:23:49

Not all food banks have the '3 times only' rule. I volunteer at an 'independently' organised food bank (run by local churches) and we use our discretion about how much food we give out - some of our clients have been coming to us for two years. sad.

I know that church run schemes aren't popular on Mumsnet but in my opinion these are the volunteers who are taking the time and energy to organise food banks.

goldenoriole Fri 05-Jul-13 20:39:46

There's a very good article by Polly Toynbee in today's Guardian on this topic.....
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/05/nhs-65-chaos-queues-mounting-costs

Forgetfulmog Fri 05-Jul-13 20:43:42

Having just read this & some of the blog, I am utterly appalled. We are a developed, wealthy country ffs - how is it possible to have people and children going hungry? It's an utter disgrace. The government is supposed to take care of its citizens.

edlyu Fri 05-Jul-13 21:24:25

I agree with noisytoys that illogically I feel most sorry for the older generation who are presented with what seems like new rules every time they turn around. Specially those who are alone and who just got on with their job before disaster hit.

There is no allowance made for these people cast adrift on the high seas of the government war against benefit scroungers. It makes not one bit of difference if they have worked all their lived up to the point where they are forced to claim .They are still thrown in with the long term claimants and they struggle to keep up with the demands imposed on them.

They do recognise the importance of job hunting etc but they are expected to hit the ground running from day one ,including getting online and looking for a substantial amount of jobs . If they dont hit the target ( remember ,targets are all in the claim game) they will be sanctioned -which means no money for at least 2 weeks a time. This affects their housing benefit and before very long they run the very real risk of losing their long term home. But not to worry .They wont need it for long as they dont have food or money for fuel either. All this on top of losing their job which gave them a focus in life.

My heart really does go out to them and no-one seems to stand up for them at all.

Brilliant blog. It's shamefull that anyone goes hungry as there's enough food to go round. It's horrifying that we allow people to potentially starve in such a rich country as this.

Viviennemary Fri 05-Jul-13 21:55:22

I think it is easy to fall into a trap while waiting on benefits that fail to be paid on time. But a lot of people do not budget carefully. I saw somebody on TV talking about being penniless and she had no money for food. In a very smart kitchen and nice clothes.

JillApple Fri 05-Jul-13 22:21:27

I too work at a CAB but in an urban area. We too regularly run out of food vouchers and there are limits on how many vouchers we can issue. Unfortunately, this situation is set to get worse. Bedroom tax of 25% rent when there are no 1 bedroom properties available to move into; council tax being paid by the poorest of £4 pw ( try paying that, your utility and water bills, TV Licence, food and bus fare out of £71.70 pw!) universal credit being paid monthly in arrears instead of weekly; people forced into zero hours' contracts where you do not know from one week to the next how many hours work you will get... I hate the way this government divides the poor- working and unemployed, deserving and undeserving, migrant worker and white British worker, working single mother and stay at home single mother... We need to keep campaigning. There is a lot of work to do. Ms Jack Monroe - you are a trooper and an inspiration.

joanofarchitrave Fri 05-Jul-13 22:51:36

Vivienne it's perfectly possible to have things and then lose your income. You can't eat a skirt.

JakeBullet Sat 06-Jul-13 00:13:28

Wow vivienne am presuming that if you EVER lose your income you will sell anything which seems "naice". Perhaps break up the smart kitchen etc.

Ever considered that people DO fall in hard times occasionally....in fact more than occasionally.

Forgetfulmog Sat 06-Jul-13 08:10:09

Vivienne - read jacks blog, you will notice that she too had nice things before it all went pear-shaped

YoniMatopoeia Sat 06-Jul-13 10:49:09

Brilliant blog. Totally agree.

MrsHoarder Sat 06-Jul-13 12:00:46

I've saved a local paper cutting to discuss with my local (Tory) MP at the next election: with a headline that the foodbank in reasonably affluent local town has given out 50% more food than last year. Its disgraceful that this is happening.

creighton Sat 06-Jul-13 12:06:58

i suppose vivienne expects people to rip out their kitchens and sell them on ebay before they are allowed to ask for help

MrsHoarder Sat 06-Jul-13 12:19:54

Of course. And once one has sold one's fixed assets for 10% of their purchase value one should buy cheap Primark clothes for more than the clothes sold for and eat take-aways due to not having a kitchen.

Viviennemary Sat 06-Jul-13 13:13:55

There have been times in the past where I have been hard up but have always had enough money to pay for basic food and bills though it was difficult. But other things had to be sacrificed. Such as smart kitchens and cars and nice clothes.

LuisSuarezTeeth Sat 06-Jul-13 13:40:59

What would you suggest Vivienne? Sell the kitchen?

LuisSuarezTeeth Sat 06-Jul-13 13:45:33

At the supermarket today, they were collecting from my food bank. I got a leaflet handed to me, which I placed in my bag and took out my calculator.

As I returned to the front of the store with my value brand items, in mental agony about feeding the children over the weekend, it occurred to me I may see the food bank people again soon.

Great blog, thank you.

LuisSuarezTeeth Sat 06-Jul-13 13:46:24

Sorry, collecting FOR my local food bank

elisaemerson73 Sat 06-Jul-13 15:57:41

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Darkesteyes Sat 06-Jul-13 22:43:05

They were collecting for the food bank in my local Tesco yesterday. They gave me a leaflet too.
I bought some pasta and tinned fish and gave it to the collector.
I felt very weepy when i walked out. I remember telling the young Tesco cashier that being 40 i grew up with Thatcher as PM and yes it was bad but she wasnt pulling the benefits away like Cameron et al and yes there were food banks but they wernt as in demand as now. So sad that this is what its come to.

Vivienne i suppose an old work skirt could substitute the meat and half a bottle of old perfume would make a great gravy and some formica or granite could substitute the potatos.
Cant wait to see you in the press with yr ideas taliking about how youve solved all these problems. hmm confused

WafflyVersatile Sat 06-Jul-13 22:51:55

Seems foodbanks used to be for when people had fallen through the net. The intention of the state was that they would be provided for but for some reason the process had gone wrong.

Not the case now. They are designed into the Welfare state. Job centre staff have quotas for people to sanction. The whole situation is disgusting.

I get even more pissed off when I hear of trussel pitched up outside Tesco (though I do understand why they do this) and see Tesco benefiting from this situation with extra sales from charitable customers.

JakeBullet Sat 06-Jul-13 23:01:48

Agghhh..*vivienne*, do you really not understand that someone might fall on hard times AFTER tgey have their nice kitchen etc. Did you miss the recession and the number of people who have lost jobs?

Perhaps some of them have nice kitchens. ....doesn't make them immune from the rerecession. And unless they had a crystal ball they might not have predicted the job loss.

Then they appear on TV to talk about using a food bank and you promptly judge them. Nice!

joanofarchitrave Sun 07-Jul-13 00:27:56

A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers...

Darkesteyes Sun 07-Jul-13 01:03:30

And i wonder how many of the people having to use the food banks have been/are on workfare at Tesco.

crazynanna Sun 07-Jul-13 13:17:13

Great blog.

I gave at the Tesco collection yesterday, and after realising once, for me isn't enough, I went back in and asked for the neatest foodbank to me so I can donate a bit more regularly. Just a few pounds a week. And luckily, it's only a few bus stops away on my oystercard weekly buspass.

crazynanna Sun 07-Jul-13 13:17:48

nearest not neatest fgs

scottishgirl69 Sun 07-Jul-13 14:12:07

That's it? Pay housing benefit 4 weekly and a living wage and everything would be ok? Im sorry, but there far more to everything that's going on in the UK than housing benefit. MPs get £160 a week grocery allowance. Anyone read Bercows expenses, £100 000 a year of taxpayers money and the bankers who caused all this are still getting large bonues. The amount this Government spends on war and propping up regimes where people are killed and tortured. Im really sorry for anyone who has gone through tough times. Ive gone through plenty myself and I live on a very low income. But someone who has kids is better off than someone who hasn't. I have a neighbour who has 6 kids and who rakes in 14 000 plus a year on child tax credit alone. When I was unemployed I got 71 pounds a week JSA and that was it. Yes there are people in poverty but there are also people who do very well on benefits. People should not be better off out of work than in, but some people are. I am on forums and some people who have 7 kids plus are on there boasting about overpaying their mortgage. A living wage. Yes, pay Hb in a better way. But stop companies who pay no tax, stop the gravy train and that includes MPs, stop paying billions of pounds out to fund wars. Stop the bedroom tax and stop penalising the people at the bottom of the pile. And Im sorry, but when my mum was bringing me up and she was on benefits for a couple of years, she got child benefit and the couple of quid my dad gave her for me and she had to go to court to get him to pay that. Some people get £500 a week in housing benefit and its still not enough? A lot of people who use food banks and are in poverty work. Drop childcare costs, we have one of the highest childcare costs in Europe. And as for the author of this blog, I applaud you for getting yourself out of a situation, but you work full time. You are in a better position than many people in the UK and yes I understand that you live in an area where rents are high. But I did almost 2 years of living and running a flat on £71 a week and there wasn't much left over. Even when you were on benefits you had more income coming in than Ive ever seen. And if you really actually want to do some campaigning, get a handle on what this Government spend on other things, get a handle on how many companies in the UK don't pay tax, get a handle on the tax breaks for millionaires that the Govt allows. Because this is a far more complicated issue than just paying Housing Benefit every 4 weeks and introducing a national minimum wage and if you think it is, I think you have a lot of campaigning to do.

WafflyVersatile Sun 07-Jul-13 14:20:19

You realise housing benefit goes to landlords not the people on benefit, yes?

I'm not sure why on one hand you're right on the money about wars and corps and say not to go for people at the bottom of the pile but on the other are criticising people for claiming the benefits they are entitled to.

scottishgirl69 Sun 07-Jul-13 14:23:01

Oh and as for the supermarkets, someone could campaign to get them to give their stock that's almost out of date to food banks. I wont be buying anything from a food bank from Tesco to give to a food bank, I'll be buying and donating it elsewhere.

Yes there is a lot that's broken in Britain but if people think this is a new thing, not. I used to work with young homeless people who were barely scraping along the bottom and I did that for almost 20 years.

Yet some people in the area I live, which is deprived swan around with their designer gear on and its not charity shop designer gear believe me. I go into my local shop and I see people on benefits paying for alcohol and handing over £40 at a time. And Im certainly not against a safety net. But this safety net works very well for some people and not others.

Ive also seen people go into shops and buy booze with milk tokens. Poverty and social exclusion and lack of education and lack of hope often go hand in hand.

Ive been on a low income for a while now. I buy food from sites such as food bargains. I don't have a TV, I rarely socialise. I haven't bought new clothes in a very long time, Im not a smoker either.

Im not on JSA but I get some housing benefit and WTC, probably adds up to about £5500 over a year. I worked for a long time and was made redundant 4 years ago and have had a couple of spells of self employment since then.

This Government do not care about poor people and neither do Labour. One is as bad as the other. And I applaud anyone who tries to bring poverty and its associated issues to the table for people to do something about it.

But as I said, some people exist on next to nothing and other people live a benefits lifestyle. And some people can claim certain benefits having never worked a day here or paid one penny of NI into the pot and when the backdated cheques are given, the DWP do not check whether the person receiving the benefit still lives here.

I was speaking to someone who works in the DWP and who told me that.
I can make meals for a £1 a day or less. I have to.

But me doing that isn't going to solve whats wrong with the UK, I actually have no idea what is. Because I worked so long with people in chaos who had issues and no hope and some of them did sort out their lives and are ok now. But many more are dead and as soon as one person leaves a hostel, another one comes to take their place.

This economy could be kick started in a number of ways, like cutting VAT again, but it wont be.

Some other countries are rising up to protest, not here, because people are just beaten really. We have accepted our lot and got on with it.

Me, I have a degree and two post grads and I still cant find work in the area Im qualified to do and that's with 20 years plus experience. I retrained, Ive done minimum wage jobs, anything to get some income in.

This country is a mess and Im not sure 20p risotto recipes are going to solve it. That will just help people survive on the little they have, it wont change the little they have.

scottishgirl69 Sun 07-Jul-13 14:28:02

Im not criticising people for claiming the benefits they are entitled to.
Im saying its wrong that we live in a society where some people make a very nice living from being on benefits and some barely get by.

And I also did say, the cost of childcare keeps people in a poverty trap. Ive seen it often enough working with young people who want a job and cant afford childcare.

I do realise that housing benefit goes to landlords. I worked in supported accommodation for a long time. But some people get the equivalent of £20-30000 a year on benefits and then some.

What incentive do they have to get a job (assuming there are jobs to be had) if they cant afford childcare and they are better off on benefit.

As I said before, my mum was on benefits for a couple of years. She brought me up and was on supplementary benefit as it was in those days, a couple of pounds a week in child support and child benefit.

No one should be poor on benefits, but people shouldn't be rich either and some people are, even if they are in the minority, some people do very well on benefits

And Im aware that a lot of people who use food banks work and are in poverty. I worked for a year part time last year, I was worse off than I would have been on JSA due to my travel costs, having to pay more rent and the minimum wage I was paid.

WafflyVersatile Sun 07-Jul-13 14:38:41

I don't know anyone who makes a very nice living on benefits (except possibly landlords) and the DWP's figures themselves say fraud is tiny. Anecdote is worth diddly squat in my book.

Better paid jobs would be an incentive.

I'd prefer to pay for someone to stay at home and look after their children if that's what they would prefer than this situation where single parents are being forced into shitty work they don't want that sees them worse or no better off.

MummyDuckAndDuckling Sun 07-Jul-13 15:18:00

Wondeful post.

There was a food bank collection in my local tesco yesterday. The lady simply asked that I buy one extra thing to donate. She handed me a list with some ideas but said anything would be much needed.

I handed in a few tins of soup and some pasta. Cost me a few extra pounds but I don't mind, as I know it's going to a family who need it more than me.

The government really need to address this problem rather than passing the buck

WafflyVersatile Sun 07-Jul-13 15:20:56

The government do not see this as a problem, but a solution.

LuisSuarezTeeth Sun 07-Jul-13 15:32:54

If people are living well on benefits why do we need food banks? confused

Forgetfulmog Sun 07-Jul-13 15:37:16

It's the standard DM reader attitude though isn't it? One story about a single mum with 100 kids & a goat living in a mansion & suddenly everyone on benefits is tarred with the same brush.

Xenia Sun 07-Jul-13 16:08:52

Scottish, that is true.
The bottom line is when paid properly benefits do feed people.
However it seems to be benefits delays (or sometimes claimant failure to manage money) which cause these problems.

www.independent.co.uk/environment/freegans-the-bin-scavengers-467108.html

It certainly should remind us all always to try to save for a rainy day and there are lots of good tips on mumsnet to save money. I and the children only drink tap water for example which saves a small fortune over time.

LuisSuarezTeeth Sun 07-Jul-13 16:26:20

The bottom line is when paid properly benefits do feed people.

Er, no they don't always. Like when your utilities go up and you are squeezed to the limit. Or the rent goes up.

LuisSuarezTeeth Sun 07-Jul-13 16:37:43

But hey, they can rummage in bins for food and stop buying the Evian. That will sort it hmm

Leithlurker Sun 07-Jul-13 17:55:49

What the heck does "paid properly" mean??? Like they should take less time to put through a claim, cutting the time between claiming and destitution? Or maybe not imposing sanctions for being late to sign on as your bus broke down and you could not walk the 5 miles to the job centre?

Possibly backdating for a year as the claims and appeals can and very often do take that time and longer to resolve. All the while debt, rent arrears, food, clothing, school related costs, all go by the board. Maybe we should even have a proper rate lets say £150 a week JSA with top ups for disability, children, foster carer, emergency items like bedding. Naw Xenia that would be lala land would't it.

Except prior to the milk snatcher herself coming in we actually had that it was called supplementary benefit, it was a one size fits all with additions for specific reasons, sound a weenie bit familiar, that's right universal credit. One size that firs no one cos it's shit, it's paid in arrears especial to those who cannot budget, it covers non of the additional costs, it penalises the working poor especially self employed, but hay if were gonna turn the clocks back lets make it the biggest cluster fuck we can eh!

Leithlurker Sun 07-Jul-13 18:00:44

Scottish Girl please give an example not of an individual in your street or someone you were told about in the pub, but a general idea of the type of person who in your words "live well" on benefits? Age, gender, kids, rent or owner, carer, living in a multiple occupancy household or living on their own. cmon tell us who you see that is doing so well.

Leithlurker Sun 07-Jul-13 18:04:30

Before the DM living breathing devotees of all things "scrounger" start howling for proof, just toddle of the the Joseph Rowntree foundation, or the Child Poverty Action Group, web pages so much evidence that it will make your eyes bleed if not your heart.

PeachActiviaMinge Sun 07-Jul-13 18:16:47

2 children one 10 weeks old. Currently under a four week sanction the children are fed and happy but we're going without so DH can carry on attending job interviews. He's been told he needs to take agency work which really isn't an option with small children at home we need a reliable wage.

I didn't ask for the mental issues I suffer from which have led to DH being unemployed but we'll be begging at the feet of rich men for our pittance until we repent and he finds the legendary creature known as work.

FasterStronger Sun 07-Jul-13 18:19:20

Or maybe not imposing sanctions for being late to sign on as your bus broke down and you could not walk the 5 miles to the job centre?

but if the bus breaks down, I would still walk 5 miles to work and have done during the London Underground strikes. anyone of working age, without a disability, can walk 5 miles to sign on or for any other purpose.

WafflyVersatile Sun 07-Jul-13 18:31:31

But you'd be late and so sanctioned.

FasterStronger Sun 07-Jul-13 18:37:26

if they are that unreasonable, then I would always be early.

learnasyougo Sun 07-Jul-13 18:37:43

I've been turned away from the jobcentre because I was late (I'd left my book at hime so went back to get it). I was drenched from the rain but was told to ring for a be appointment on Monday. I rode my bike there. if I'd taken the bus that would have been another £4.40 to find.

alreadytaken Sun 07-Jul-13 18:48:50

you can be of working age and not classified as having a disability but still be unable to walk one mile, let alone five.

If I was unemployed I would take any work, even agency work, to pay the bills. You then try to get a different job while employed.

However the current system is not working. Benefits are paid late to people who have no savings because they didn't earn much when in work. They have no safety net and their friends may not be in a position to loan them money. So I buy something for the food bank every time I shop.

LuisSuarezTeeth Sun 07-Jul-13 19:18:00

if they are that unreasonable, then I would always be early.

I'm sure public transport would accommodate that. Except rural areas, small towns...oh wait that's quite a big area.

WafflyVersatile Sun 07-Jul-13 19:24:25

Dropping the kids off at school an hour early would be fine too.

LuisSuarezTeeth Sun 07-Jul-13 19:25:18

The advisor gave DP the wrong time on the appointment card. He was 1 hour late according to their system. He lost 4 weeks money.

We are 15 miles from the JC. There is 1 bus a week. We did not choose to live here, we had to take the offer from the council or be homeless.

We were so close to food bank vouchers but I borrowed and got creative in the kitchen. How the hell we are going to make it through the next month I don't know.

Anyway, I'm sure DP can walk there, be ritually humiliated, walk back and doff his cap to the generous government.

Do excuse me while I pop out to feed the goat some caviar.

WafflyVersatile Sun 07-Jul-13 19:29:42

Doesn't he enjoy the humiliation then, Luis? Surely it's worth it for the good living you have though, eh?

noisytoys Sun 07-Jul-13 19:33:26

There just aren't jobs to be had anymore. 5 years ago I worked in London as a banker on a very good salary. Today I work as a cleaner, on minimum wage with a zero hours contract. I haven't had a day off in months because to say I'm exhausted and need a break would mean they would cut my shifts right down. I see it happen all the time. We have to beg for shifts or we don't get them. We get no company benefits, no holidays (paid or unpaid) because of the zero hour contract we don't count when it comes to employment law. This is 2013!! sad

Leithlurker Sun 07-Jul-13 19:35:47

Ah yes the old "If I can do it so can anyone else" routine. Well Jolly good faster stronger, I am so glad you will never have any kind of unexpected event in your life. I am also pleased that you can control the weather so it never snows or floods.

The point is you and Xenia and Scottish (Still waiting for the identikit btw SG) believe that the vast majority of people CHOOSE to play the system and so they need to be punished for not obeying to the letter of the law exactly what the rules say. Further more people should be grateful and thankful that they receive less than they actually need and should show how grateful they are by setting aside their individuality and humanity, after all they cannot afford either eh.

LuisSuarezTeeth Sun 07-Jul-13 19:36:53

Yes Waffly. Only yesterday I commented over my glass of champers how lucky we are to have ALL THAT MONEY to buy TVs and shit.

It's just amazing how you can make your fillet of beef last a WHOLE DAY.

Leithlurker Sun 07-Jul-13 19:38:53

The parish and the poor house owners could never understand why people were not grateful to them either. Funny that, it seems the underclass must be incapable of showing proper respect huh?

Xenia Sun 07-Jul-13 20:15:18

I don't think most people play the system. I have never said that at all. There is a huge problem in finding work at present particularly for young people. I also said above that the lack of food comes about due to benefit mistakes and sanctions (but that the benefits themselves if paid on time do allow enough money for people to eat).

I suppose having to turn up on time is good practice for a job. If you keep being late you lose your job. Plenty of us will cycle for an hnour if the tubes are down in London or end up 1.5 hours early for things sometimes because of fears of transport being late or walk if transport is not available for work things.

In terms of advice to people save save save if you are lucky enough to be in work and have even a few pounds over each week, to cover future problems. Be frugal. You never know when those savings may be needed although of course too many savings preclude you from claiming any benefits which is another difficulty with the system.

LuisSuarezTeeth Sun 07-Jul-13 21:29:29

Xenia if I got any more frugal, I'd be living for free. Do you have any idea how condescending you sound? Good practice for a job?

Did you read my earlier post? That despite benefits being paid on time, expenses outweigh income? No matter how well you budget?

If you want to save a few bob I can give you some advice. I'm an expert by now. Bit like you maybe?

jchocchip Mon 08-Jul-13 05:56:38

My son tried to sign on a year ago. He attended filled forms in and was supposed to get a phone call for an interview. He still hasn't managed to sign on or get a job. I need him to get some help as he is depressed but it seems like the job centre is not set up to help people.

Telling people to budget is easy to do, but how can you budget on £71 per week?

I'm lucky enough to be on a decent wage (at the moment, although I shall look up tips on what sauces to serve with my pretty dresses just in case I'm made redundant) but I rarely eat meals that cost more than 40p or 50p. However, that's because I have enough money to go to the supermarket and stock up on special offers as well as buying in bulk so I can batch cook. I think nothing of spending £100 or more on a huge trolley full of veg and other basics that will feed me for a couple of months when cooked and frozen - I think that the likes of Gove and IDS expect people on JSA and other benefits to do this too.

Problem is, and I don't know if these politicians are too uncaring or too stupid to understand - people on JSA etc can not afford this, no matter how well they budget. £71 a week, less, for example, £15 water bill, £8 council tax, £20 gas and/or electricity (the meters still need to be fed, even in summer), £6 broadband/phone (which is essential. If they don't have internet access, their money may be subject to sanctions. Libraries are being closed so they're not an option) leaves £22 per week for food, toiletries and everything else. I hope they're not subject to bedroom tax!

I can go to Tesco and take advantage of an offer for, say, 12 tins of Heinz beans for £4 while someone on JSA has to scrabble together 72p for 2 tins of Basics beans. Or I can afford to buy occasional BOG2F offers that reduce the cost of other premium brands to far below the price of basic ones. Someone on low benefits does not have the opportunity to reduce their long term food bill like I can, because they can only buy what they need day to day, no matter how good their budgeting skills. So conversely, being rich helps you to be frugal while being poor can stop you being frugal.

Xenia Mon 08-Jul-13 07:53:07

I am sure that is true. I have never said it's easy being on benefits at all.
You can drink only tap water as I do and that might save a bit of money for those on benefits and it improves your health as most things people drink - caffeine, alcohol, fruit juices, squash, fizzy drinks are bad for you. That is just one idea.

I agree that single person benefits are particularly small compared to what families have.

It certainly pays if you can when you're in work to save up. Don't go part time. Never take long maternity leaves. Keep saving. Most importantly make sure teenage daughters work very hard at school and pick high paid careers.

Spread risk if you can. Several sources of income/jobs (if you can get any at all) is protective. Seeing the weekends as working time too (if you can get a job of any kind) helps too. It is only recently we moved to 2 days off a week. Plenty of us work more than 5 days a week and evenings too and we tend to do a little better than those working just 9 - 5 in the week.

I do agree with many of your points, Xenia. I know I'll encourage my DD to get a good career. For many poorer people though, there's a poverty of opportunity as well - they don't succeed, but not through lack of intelligence or hard work, because there is no chance for them. The top careers are taken up by people like us and there aren't enough of them for everyone! I know; I'm from a WC background in a deprived area and I am so very lucky to have got where I am.

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 08:36:44

It certainly pays if you can when you're in work to save up. Don't go part time. Never take long maternity leaves. Keep saving. Most importantly make sure teenage daughters work very hard at school and pick high paid careers.

Xenia you are correct. its what you do in the 'good times' that helps with the bad times.

if you run up debts you can afford during employment, they are obviously going to become a problem during unemployment. if a couple chose to have only one earner, household finances are more vulnerable to unemployment.

But if you don't get the "good times," what then? When the only jobs are minimum wage with no prospects and you're lucky to even get one of those? Sadly, that's life for millions of people.

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 08:48:36

you look at what migrants who come to this country do with no money, maybe little education or English whose children go to university and become lawyers, doctors etc.

They were able to get (steady) jobs, which isn't necessarily going to be the case now with soaring unemployment figures and zero-hours contracts.

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 09:41:46

unemployment is falling not soaring.

Leithlurker Mon 08-Jul-13 09:43:32

Says who?

Figures are the highest they've been since, well, the last Tory government. Employment is apparently high but those stats are massaged by zero-hours and work programme.

Leithlurker Mon 08-Jul-13 09:49:40

Exactly UP, plus the numbers who are being pushed in to workfare, part time education, self employment, and those that withdraw their claims for ESA as they cannot face the invasive and stressful claim procedure.

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 10:01:32
Leithlurker Mon 08-Jul-13 10:15:31

Pffft you do realise that they are as good as a chocolate tea pot.

From the link you gave: "Not in the labour force 8.99 million"

"Vacancies 516,000" On the face of it that would suggest we have a massive amount of people who will never be employed. We know however that the 8.99 figure will include people who cannot work, or who are not even looking for work. The data is only good for educated guesses. What would be better is for the data to tell us where those that say they are now employed or at least are saying they are not unemployed, actually went. I am sure as hell not convinced they all went in to paid full time employment above the min wage.

Leithlurker Mon 08-Jul-13 10:20:09

Besides which this is a milady amusing diversion, but the point is that many of those who were unemployed will now be asking for help from food banks as even with employment they are not able to make ends meet. The working poor are the highest growth sector for those taking up assistance from food banks.

Dear old Lord Fraud though would tell us that this is due to them having to much time on their hands and not working hard enough.

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 10:45:08

if you dont like the ONS, what is your better source of data?

Mercedes519 Mon 08-Jul-13 10:46:50

if a couple chose to have only one earner, household finances are more vulnerable to unemployment.

Thanks FasterStronger I'll be sure to mention to my disabled DH that he's making us vulnerable. I'm sure that'll perk him right up.

Have you ever been really poor fasterstronger? Not that it's a competition but I'm not sure that you really understand that so many people don't make choices. They just get by and then shit happens and then they can't.

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 10:56:02

Mercedes - I am have not commented on people with disabilities on this thread because as far as i am aware it is not what the op is about.

DF had a condition with the same symptoms as Stephen Hawkins so I am well aware of disability. also DP has a condition that mean his bones don't grow normally and he would have died in childhood without surgery to increase the size of his rib cage. since then he has developed another condition that historically led to death.

so you are right many people don't make choices and that is very sad. but many people do make less than sensible choices.

Leithlurker Mon 08-Jul-13 11:28:56

To answer your question FS, I did not say I did not trust the figures i said they have so little detail as to be useless. Now you can answer my question what bad choices are you refering to? If your willing to exclude people with disabilities in your sweeping view of the feckless then who exactly do you think make these bad choices. See I am chasing this down as I bet I or other MN posters know who you think are the worst "users" but I want to give you a fair shake.

alreadytaken Mon 08-Jul-13 11:56:10

2.51 million people looking for work and 516,000 vacancies. Some people are going to have very severe problems finding work. Sanctioning them doesn't help with that very simple problem.

LouisSuarezTeeth did you appeal against the sanction for being late when given the wrong appointment time? I have no idea how successful appeals are but googling throws up sites like this z2k.org/free-help-advice/appealing-benefit-sanctions/ and this www.turn2us.org.uk/information__resources/benefits/working_or_looking_for_work/jobseekers_allowance/jsa_sanctions_-_turn2us.aspx suggesting you have gounds for saying there was a good reason why sanctions should not apply.

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 11:57:50

I dont believe it is the job of the State or anyone else's business to morally police others. so I don't care if someone had 4 children by 4 different men.

but I think if someone makes choices as an adult and puts themselves in vulnerable position (so not disability, MH, death etc.) where they are dependent on others (who may choose to withdraw their support, though relationship breakdown or voting for a different govt) they need to take responsibility for their choices and learn from it.

the converse is someone remains vulnerable and dependant.

WafflyVersatile Mon 08-Jul-13 12:09:05

However 'bad' someone's 'choices' I think a humane society provides a minimum level of care for them. Foodbanks aren't it.

There aren't the jobs, or the hours or the level of pay available for everyone to support themselves, and punishing, humiliating and dehumanising the people without work isn't going to change that.

Leithlurker Mon 08-Jul-13 12:10:14

Choices Like what FS, buying a house? Getting Married, Going to university? Taking out a loan? Working for low pay? Not applying for Jobs that they cannot do or have no skill or aptitude for? WHICH CHOICES FS?

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 13:01:01

Leith, you seem to be arguing that people in the UK don't have any meaningful choice in influencing the path their life takes. have I understood you correctly?

MiniTheMinx Mon 08-Jul-13 13:08:06

Faster you might think it isn't your place to judge the choices that others make but Tory ideologues think otherwise. Their justification for leaving people to starve all hinges upon the idea that some people are morally inferior and make poor choices. They choose not to work, to work for low pay, to work on zero hrs contracts, they choose to give up their rights, bash the unions, buy tatt on credit to shore up the shoddy lie that is capitalism and then cut their own throats, "what morally corrupt people they are" says IDS. And yes there maybe some truth in it too. For those of who support free market ideals and would swallow this deception without question, despite the fact that it hurts us, are indeed morally corrupt and without good judgement.

Leithlurker Mon 08-Jul-13 13:09:15

Exactly the opposite FS, I am arguing that in order for people to make those choices they need to know that a welfare state exists not to undermine them but to support them when things go wrong or that events outside their control like the implosion of the banking system overtakes them. In other words no to charity such as foodbanks and yes to better level of benefits and locally run democratic social services.

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 13:33:13

mini when the bbc surveyed, over 95% of people in the uk support having a welfare state. but it is always going to impossible to get right.

the main reason being purely practical: IT systems of this size and complexity are pretty much impossible to get right. and I don't see that changing under any govt , in the next 10 years.

the gap between what they deliver at the moment and what would be required to meet reasonable expectations is absolutely huge.

Leithlurker Mon 08-Jul-13 13:46:53

FS, we can agree on the folly of throwing technology which is inherently expensive at the problem. Hence why the universal credit scheme is going to be the train crash that everyone is predicting.

MiniTheMinx Mon 08-Jul-13 13:53:02

Is there greater pride and empowerment in collecting giros or in receiving charity? I would say that neither is ideal.

There are two choices, pay higher wages to workers so that demand rises/leads to some new job creation and higher tax revenues or tax those with the wealth and give to those in need. In view of the fact that option A is unthinkable to those who hold the reigns and option b seemingly beyond the understanding of employers and workers alike.........what can be done? Bemoaning and denying the fact that some people are casualties of this failing system and then blaming them whilst hanging yourself out to dry by extolling the merits of the free market is ignorant.

Never mind the bad choices the poor make, what about the ignorance of those who "think" they benefit from this system that is increasingly placing so little value on life. If you make the right investments & the right decisions you will be lucky enough to line the pockets of the rich through your own labour and spending and you'll just keep making those investments and taking on that debt in competition with others, if you make poor choices you just go hungry. But at least the moralisers will die trying, does that make them better people or just indoctrinated & docile wretches.

I support having a welfare state but two things are starting us in the face. 1) capitalism creates welfare need 2)neo-liberalism is impoverishing the state.

So welfare need is rising, the ability to meet the need is diminishing and all the wealth is finding its way into fewer hands. The state finds money to prop up the failing economic system, bail out banks and pay for R&D, military spending and corporate welfare all the time knowingly feeding the very thing that is creating poverty.

If it wasn't real and actually killing people it might seem like a sick joke.

FasterStronger Mon 08-Jul-13 13:56:07

Leith - the latest approach of a very small area with only very simple claims is correct from an IT perspective. until you can solve a simplified version of the problem don't kid yourself you are actually solving the main problem.

you are just billing the govt, delaying the problems being found out, looking for a new role etc etc.

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