Poverty, Food Banks & Falling Through The Net

Amelia Gentleman, a journalist for The Guardian attempted to answer some questions regarding something of great concern in the UK: “Five years ago, food banks were a rarity. Now there are more than 1,000 across the UK. Who uses them, who donates, and how do they feel about it?”.

In it, she writes:

“According to the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest network of food banks, with more than 1,000 affiliated food distribution centres, about 43% of people who come to them seeking help cite benefit changes or delays as the cause of their difficulties; around 22% say it is simply the result of low income.”

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This is obviously a very difficult situation for the many thousands of people affected.  Living in poverty and dependence on food banks can, especially when combined with facing other disadvantages such as mental or physical health problems, or discrimination and stigma on the grounds of racism, sex, gender, etc – can leave people on the sidelines of society.  Perhaps you have experienced this yourself, or know someone who has?  It is true that there are safety nets designed to catch people in troubling circumstances – but sometimes these are not effective and people fall through.

But what can we do about it?  There are many voluntary organisations and charities such as the Trussell Trust stepping in to try and fill the gap that should not be there in the first place.  And here at Vision, we certainly want to do what we can to help too – if any of these issues are important to you and you feel like you have an idea of how to help, feel free to get in touch with us!

However, we also need to think about the long-term.  While we can all do what we can to help people with complex needs for the moment, we need to ask ourselves what is at the root of these problems in the first place?  The LankellyChase Foundation makes arguments that suggest people have fallen through the net due to systemic, structural and cultural problems.   This means that while quick-fixes are certainly helpful in the short-term, they do not address the faults in the system and in society that are causing people facing multiple and severe disadvantages to end up in these situations in the first place.  As in the world of health – prevention seems to be the best medicine.

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As LankellyChase have discussed in their literature:

“At the sharpest end of society are people who face interlocking disadvantages – such as homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, poor mental health, violence and abuse – who are poorly served by services.

A number of recent studies have identified a significant minority of individuals and families (some studies estimate up to 2% of the population) who are experiencing a multiplicity of severe social harms over extended periods of time. This intractability is widely understood to stem in large part from the way services and systems are designed”.

They have outlined a Theory of Change which hopes to address these problems, working with other organisations to bring about genuine change in the system, structure and culture of how we approach these issues.  There are no easy answers, but these questions are fundamental to helping the most vulnerable people in society and it is vital that we ask them and talk about them.

Do you consider yourself to be affected by any of these issues, or know someone else who has?  Leave a comment below or get in touch with us on the About Us page.  

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about these kinds of issues for a while and you have an idea of how you might be able to help, even if it is in a small way?  Let’s open up this crucially important discussion, start talking and take action.

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