“A pensioner has lost her purse with all her benefit money in it. She has no recourse to funds to pay her bills.”
“A man and his partner have been sanctioned from benefits for four weeks. No job, no home. Staying with relations or in a tent.”
“A woman and her teenage son have left home due to domestic violence, but are being located into temporary accommodation today. They are starting from nothing and waiting for benefits to come through.”
“Steve is an ex-para from the Falklands war. He has health problems and his benefits are in a mess under the new system.”
“One year ago Sue had a partner, two children, a job and a mortgage. Then she became ill and was admitted to an acute mental health ward and diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anorexia. She lost her house, her job, her children and her partner.”
These one-liners from a food bank log book give a brief insight into the kinds of experiences that throw people into crises that mean they need emergency food aid. This log book is from just one of more than 20 food banks currently operating across the Diocese of Oxford, and these are just five stories out of hundreds. The records attest to the fact that human beings are vulnerable and our lives are precarious.
Our circumstances can change overnight, and our carefully built security can dissolve frighteningly fast.
The Mail on Sunday (MOS) chose Easter Day to “infiltrate” a food bank and “expose” purportedly lax systems that allowed an undercover journalist to walk away with free food without going through the bevy of identity checks he would have been put through to receive public money.
Clearly the MOS expected moral outrage amongst the public, hoping presumably, to incite indignation among hard-working families about the undeserving poor, gaining freebies that should not have been due to them.
Such attacks on the poor (including the working poor) are, sadly, not unusual in contemporary politics — with the toxic language of ‘scroungers’ being contrasted with ‘strivers’.
The opposite happened.
Public outrage was directed towards the MOS and its journalist for lying to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau then, in effect, stealing from the food bank.
The result was an additional £100,000 in donations to the Trussell Trust (the largest franchiser of food banks in the UK).
Generosity triumphed over mean-minded persecution of those in greatest need.
The message, ‘There but for the grace of God go I’, has rightly won over, ‘It could never happen to me.’ A Happy Easter indeed.
This article originally appeared in the Oxford Mail.
Click here to pledge your donation – it will support public hearings where people give evidence to the National Inquiry Into Food Poverty.