Neoliberalism and its brand of response to economic crisis, austerity—both legacies of the recently deceased former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—are creating a U.K. where one in five mothers regularly goes without food in order to feed her children.
Hunger is rising rapidly in the country. In the last 12 months, the Trussell Trust, the largest operator of food banks in the U.K., has fed 350,000 people—100,000 more than were expected and 170 percent more than it fed during the previous year.
Most of the people who seek help from the Trust are unemployed and have had their social support cut by the country’s leadership, a group of officials who refer to people who have been shut out by the economy and are struggling to survive as “scroungers.”
One man who gets assistance from the Trust and now works as one of its volunteers is a former taxi driver. When his wife became ill and disabled, he tended to her full time. He lost that caretaker salary when she died last year and had no income for seven weeks while he waited for the government to activate his unemployment benefits. He says he lived on three bags of food provided by the food bank during that time.
Project coordinator James Herbert is indignant about the British government’s abandonment of such people. “It’s reprehensible,” he said. “Ultimately people should be ashamed of themselves. Local and national government should be ashamed of themselves, to leave people in a situation where they have to rely on charity to feed their families.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
Matt Carr at Inter Press Service:
Colin Hampton, coordinator of the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centre, agrees. “The situation is worse now than it ever was in the 1980s. People are coming to us asking for food in desperate situations, and we refer them to food banks. But while we appreciate that people are trying to help, our biggest worry is that unless we express our outrage, this will become the norm, and people need to ask why this is happening.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron has praised the Trussell Trust’s work, but food banks are a direct consequence of government policies that are designed to force people off benefits, regardless of consequences. Labour MP Peter Hain recently accused the government of “terrorising” the unemployed in his constituency by forcing them to choose between starvation and low-paid work.
The 19th century Poor Law system once had a similarly punitive and deterrent attitude towards the industrial poor. Today, hunger is a consequence of manufactured poverty in the seventh largest economy in the world, and the poor are once again being victimised and punished.
Nanagyei (CC BY 2.0)