Last week (end-June 2019) I tuned into radio 4 at 7am. I wasn’t paying too much attention, until I heard the report of a boy in school who’d fainted in school, when he got there on Monday morning. It transpired he hadn’t eaten anything since his school lunch on the previous Friday. Obviously the school got him a sandwich and an apple to tide him over until lunch. He made short work of the sandwich but put the apple into his school bag. The teacher reassured that it’s, “alright to eat the apple as well.” The boy said, “my sister hasn’t eaten anything either and I’ll give her it later on.”
I was truly shocked by that story. I don’t know anything about the boy or girl but what a dreadful, terrible indictment it is of England. This truly is the face of austerity, which has been meted out over the last decade. What possible justification could there be to do this intentionally? Poor people are paying for the financial meltdown of the banking sector in 2008 it was caused by reckless criminal behaviour. The banking sector got all the support that they wanted, which amounted to tens of billions and none of them went to jail.
I said to Jan, my wife, “Do you think there might be children on this estate who go to school hungry?”
She replied that she didn’t know, but she’d make enquiries. A day or two later she identified a woman who’s child passed the TMO office, on his way to school, clutching a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps. I happen to know this woman and her background. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised to learn that she might have financial problems. She’s a single parent, who’s partner left the estate after being caught fiddling the electric meter.
The revelation is a problem for the TMO. We can’t just ask the Mother about her personal financial situation, as that would be intrusive. And we don’t have any interventionist rights as a TMO. She might feel offended, that someone on the estate, has identified her to PETRA, which could be shaming.
Knowing the estate, I’m confident that many would be quite willing to help, either directly with cash or indirectly, with food. Or just moral support. Indeed I’m considering asking our committee that £1000 be put aside for family’s to call upon if they’re desperate. Obviously there’d have to be checks and balances, but I don’t see this as being an insurmountable, unachievable project.
Britain is the 5th largest country by GDP with $2.94 trillion and yet we have 3rd world poverty. What’s at stake is the ability to provide a decent standard of life for everyone in Britain. It’s affordable and should be done.