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“Calling your cuts a war, is an insult to my father, and to my brother, and the service they gave this country. This is not a war. It is a massacre.” Conservative Party address, Jack Monroe.

The question we were asked to answer today, was “are food banks a sign of hope or failure?” I think we all know the answer to that – or at least we think we do. Here’s my story. You might think you know it already, but listen carefully. Here it is without any media spin, without any internet commenters, without any details carefully left out by left wing or right wing newspapers that don’t want to upset their readers.

I’m a girl called Jack. I’m 25 years old, and I was unemployed for 18 months and claiming benefits. However, I had my first job at the age of 14 or 15, working as a waitress in a local restaurant owned by a family friend, earning myself some pocket money on a Saturday and Sunday. Before that, I had spent weekends at my grandfathers guest houses, folding sheets and making tea for a tenner in my back pocket. I have worked in retail, in coffee shops, and eventually, Essex Country Fire and Rescue Service.

I left the Fire Service after having my son. I returned from maternity leave to find that working two day shifts and two night shifts, on different days and nights every week, with an 18 month old boy to look after, was next to impossible by myself. Comments on the internet imply that I sailed out of my job because I knew the welfare state would pick me up. I did no such thing. I hung in to my job for months, with my son’s father, his family, my family, my friends, and the local Sure Start nursery, taking turns to look after my son from 7am when I left the house to travel 30 miles to work, until 8pm when I got back through the door. And that was just the day shifts. My Filofax was full of names and numbers, and up to three different people would look after that baby in a day. The Sure Start centre wouldn’t be flexible around my shifts, so I paid £175 a week for that childcare – childcare that didn’t really suit my needs or cover my working pattern.

So I applied for flexible working hours. Other people on my watch worked flexible hours, starting at 9:30 instead of 9am, finishing earlier or later around their partner’s shift patterns or childcare needs, so I put in a request. I wanted to start slightly later and finish earlier on days so I could leave my son in nursery and leg it to the train station, and make up the hours on my night shifts. The Fire Service turned down my request. I asked if I could apply to go for a ‘job share’ post, working just one day and one night for half the salary, and was told that there was nobody to job share with. I applied for day work roles that came up on the internal noticeboard, doing home fire safety checks at Rayleigh closer to home, working with young people in a behavioural scheme at Southend fire station, and my applications were rejected. I still talk about my job, I loved it, and I think it’s fair to say that I tried everything I could to keep it. I most certainly did not just “walk away”.

In fact, I resigned from a hospital bed at 2 o clock in the morning. My GP had signed me off sick with stress a fortnight before; I had gone to see him with a migraine and he listened to me for five minutes before concluding that I was a wreck. One too many incidents of Friend A forgetting to pick Small Boy up from nursery, or someone getting sick and letting me down, or picking up my son after what felt like a week away from him and wondering what the hell effect it was having on him, being passed around like a package from one day to the next. I woke up having overdosed on a combination of prescription beta blockers and sleeping pills, and decided that my health and my son’s welfare came before trying to cling on to a £27,000 salary. I wrote the email on my mobile phone, and felt simultaneously relieved and terrified. What now?

My friends and colleagues told me that I would be okay. “You’ve been in the Fire Service”, they said. “Employers will chew your arm off.” “You’ll get a job closer to home, with better hours.” “It’s the best decision.” Friends that had watched me decline into a wound-up madness, told me to take a week to relax and spend time with my son, and get my head straight. I did.

I felt a surging pride, updating my CV, that I could type “Essex County Fire and Rescue Service” into my recent work history. A well-respected, uniformed organisation. Hundreds of people had applied for my job back then, and I got it. I thought I was going to be okay.

But the novelty wore off quite quickly. After you’ve typed “Essex County Fire and Rescue Service” into a few hundred online job applications, you no longer feel proud of the uniform you once wore, but resentful that the name of the organisation is so bloody long.

 

Poverty in modern Britain was historically punished. Poor Laws saw infant children split from their parents and sent to work and live in work houses. Gradually we civilised, moving to a more supportive structure that is now demonised by the right wing press as a “welfare state”. Like it’s a bad thing. Now there is a failure to recognise that adequately fed and housed people are more effective workers than those who are hungry, or their jobs insecure.

George Osborne spoke on BBC Five Live yesterday about “drawing the battle lines”. We are all familiar with the phrase “war on welfare”. My father is a Falklands veteran. My brother has just returned from yet another tour in Afghanistan. It is frankly an insult to their service to this country to describe the savaging and damaging cuts to the support structures of this great nation, to compare the two. This is not a war. It is an assault against the unarmed, a massacre of hope and dignity.

This “war”, like every other, waged mainly by middle class men in suits, disproportionately claims the livelihoods of women and children. The single mothers did not cause the banking crisis. The elderly and disabled are not to blame for tax avoidance by big companies. My son did not sell off the social housing and refuse to build any more. But the real casualties are hidden from headlines and public view as we are told that the economy is recovering. For who? At what cost?

Wars are the result of decisions made at desks, in offices, people shuffling statistics and ideas around with scarcely a thought for the implications on the battle ground, only the outcomes that they desire. Casualties are reduced to numbers, as ink is far easier to live with than bloodied hands. But what use – and we heard from our friend at the end of the table earlier that there were ‘only 565 food bank users in Cambridge’ justified as he mentioned the population of 82,000 people in his constituency – what use are numbers? There’s ‘only’ half a million food bank users in the UK. Less than one per cent. What use are numbers, when you are one of the 565, not the other 81,000 or so? What use is a one per cent chance, when that one per cent is you? What sort of a society do we live in where people who go out to work every day to provide for themselves and their families cannot afford to do so, but their situation is justified in a statistic? Why are you not ashamed, Sir, that there are FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE people in your constituency who desperately cannot afford to feed themselves and their families?

Because that’s what it boils down to. As much as the likes of Lord Freud and Edwina Currie would have you believe that ‘anyone’ can turn up to a food bank to top up the Ocado delivery with a couple of tins of dented tomatoes and some slightly black bananas, the reality is very different. The reality is that you need to be identified as being in need, by a social worker, a health visitor, a child care provider, your doctor. Someone needs to recognise that without their intervention, your family are going to go hungry. They direct you to a food bank for help. A lot of people don’t go, because of the shame and the stigma attached to queuing up outside a community centre to beg for food. Because I’ll tell you now, even after months of attending, it feels like begging. No matter how kind the volunteers, how discreet the carrier bags, you have to look someone in the face who knows that you are desperate and not coping and that your life is falling apart.

You pledged, the Tories, to continue the Labour Party’s aim to end child poverty by the year 2020. Far from ending, three years in, the number of children in poverty has leapt by 300,000.

When I say ‘poverty’, you probably conjure up images of children far away, of TV appeals and ruthless dictators. But this, this is a country riddled with poverty. Turning off the heating and missing days of meals is not cosy frugality. Try it. Turn off the fridge because it’s empty anyway. Sell anything you can see lying around that you might get more than a quid for. Walk everywhere in the same pair of shoes in the pouring rain, with a soaking wet and sobbing child trailing along behind you, into every shop and pub in unreasonable walking distance and ask if they have any job vacancies. Try not to go red as the person behind the counter appraises your dirty jeans and tatty jumper and tells you that there’s nothing. “Not for you”, you add in your head. Trudge home. Pour some tinned tomatoes over dome 39p pasta and try not to hurl it at the wall as your son tells you he doesn’t want it. “I want something else Mummy,” but there isn’t anything else. But aren’t we just supposed to be grateful for our little scraps of tax payers money, and keep calm and carry on? Because that can’t possibly be poverty, not in the sixth richest country in the world with the benevolence of the welfare state. That’s austerity, isn’t it?

Many parents tell of going to bed hungry themselves in order to feed their children. Michael Gove would call that reckless parenting. Edwina Currie would call them opportunists. They repeat, despite the alarming amount of evidence to the contrary, that it has nothing to do with welfare cuts. The three food banks opened a week by the Trussell Trust can’t possibly be related to cuts to Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, the Bedroom Tax, benefit sanction, can it? For a party that claims to have such a brilliant grasp of economics, I don’t understand how you can fail to realise that when you sever a portion of someone’s income, they have less to spend. That some people don’t have the £14 a week to make up for the Bedroom Tax. That the policies that you voted for, the battleships you moved around maps in offices or the soundbites that sounded so good from a charismatic leader appealing to your hard working nature – that those policies are the reason why half a million people are going hungry. Why my son, went hungry.

You ask if there is a subsidy that can ‘plug the gap’ – and I am astounded. Astounded that you can pull a rug out from under someone’s feet with such glee, and then have the audacity to look bewildered that they have fallen over and ask if they need a hand up.

So to answer the question – food banks are a hope. They are a society in action. They are all that half a million families have, plastering over the wounds inflicted by “austerity”. So donate something to them. UHT milk, formula milk, sanitary towels, nappies, tinned tomatoes, tinned pulses – anything ambient or non perishable. Because if the food banks grind to a halt before the mess is sorted out, where will we be then?

But food banks are also a disgrace, and the underpinning issues that lead people to their doors need to be addressed. More cuts to the poorest people in our society is not the answer. Instead of “making work pay” by penalising those who happen to find themselves out of it, why not campaign for a living wage instead? Use your power and influence to ensure that people who work don’t have to rely on charity food handouts, but instead have an extra £38 a week to spend back in their local economies? To buy food for themselves and their families? To reduce the welfare bill through less eligibility in benefits, because of higher wages, not more draconian rules.

Food banks are doing a brilliant job of pulling people out of the river. But you need to now go upstream, and stop anyone else from falling in.

 

Jack Monroe, Conservative Party conference address, 1st October 2013.

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160 replies »

  1. You`re such a brave young woman, Jack, to say out loud the things that we, the silent majority, are too scared or angry to voice. The injustice of this government chokes me, and (almost) makes me ashamed to be British. But I am British, and I won`t be bowed, and I will do anything I can to crush this lot at the next election, if not before. Thank you for what you do.

  2. Applause is cheap, back-slapping is cheap and eye-catching.
    Its not enough, its nowhere near enough, no disrespect intended Jack. i’m not sure how you were able to stand there and talk to these architects of the destruction of our welfare state and their disciples.
    What motivated you to do such a thing? If these folk were capable of empathy then I’m not sure they would have driven through these hateful acts – do you really, REALLY think you can facilitate change in them? I see nothing but an even greater lurch to the right from them – worrying and frightening times.
    Regards Phil

    • Because someone needed to interrupt it all and say what was really going on. It was absolutely the right thing to do – would you rather nobody stood up, spoke out, tried to get the message over? Wow. And they didn’t applaud either of the Tories who spoke, by the way. It’s not that cheap after all.

      • Absolutely agree Jack. Speaking out has to be better than not speaking out. Speaking only to those who think the same as you do is pointless. You go for it girl.

      • I admire your stance I do – I’m not being provocative. I just think that they KNOW what their actions are, they KNOW the hurt they are causing, they KNOW the damage being done.
        Its platitudinous to just applaud you for doing what you did but the question remains the same – do you really think you can influence change?
        The cynic in me thinks you may have been set-up as a stooge, as an offering, something to patronise and go ‘oh, there, there’ to.
        I don’t think these leopards can change their spots – the evidence form Gove, Pickles, Gideon, Dave et al is writ large in their actions this week.
        PLEASE don’t think I am having a go at you – I think you are brave and I admire you. Good luck to you.

      • I think you have already answered this Jack in your previous post:

        The Tories did try to stop me from going to Manchester, but judging by the number of people who shook my hand, congratulated me, and said they were grateful I was there – some of them will take up the challenge. It’s no good preaching to the converted all of the time. Sometimes you have to stick your head above the parapet and get a little uncomfortable.
        … I left Manchester this morning, with a back pocket full of business cards and invitations to meet lots of different people to discuss an urgent parliamentary enquiry into food banks, a sit down chat with an MP who wanted to tackle some issues in his constituency, and ideas about all-party parliamentary groups to discuss UK poverty in gritty realistic detail, I felt as though some of the Conservative Party were willing to listen after all. And that surely, isn’t a bad thing.

        There are those who find it easier to condemn and write off than to get up and talk to individuals and change minds one by one. Fortunately you are one of the latter.

      • Yes, you did right to try and give them a dose of reality. If nobody says anything, they think it’s acceptable.

    • I am glad they had you there, but as Phil, I thought that they have “used” you for their “marketing” purposes. You were in a pool of sharks and I just pray that someone there acts now after a speech so clearly made.

    • Phil,
      I understand where you are coming from but silence is easier than standing up, in fact I think they rely on it.
      Jack you are a legend.
      Jen(Eire)

  3. I still cannot get the image out of my head of a little blonde baby helping himself to one of the savers fromage frais pots out of the fridge. He recognised something slightly more colourful and tasty than the usual fare. I used to waste money on food you have changed all of that you are a true inspiration, I wish you and youre son all the very best.

  4. It IS a war Jack, and those food bank Tommies in the trenches are deemed acceptable collateral damage by Tory politicians and pawns to promote a good fight by the Labour party. I brought up four sons and had to have two jobs most of my life to keep the food on the table (nobody queues up to look after 4 kids!) and I often came across people who played the benefit system, even within my own extended family. But for decades governments have not wanted to address the unpopular action needed to throw effort into weeding out the few. So when the money men created mayhem it gave the Tories a unique opportunity get out the tar brush and reclassify all the disadvantaged in our society as benefit scroungers. Gutless politicians allowed abuse of the system for years simply because the majority of the country had enjoyed a reasonably good standard of living, so it wasn’t worth the political risk of rocking the boat. Stay with that tremendous effort you are making Jack in reminding the sound-bite politicians that they have a responsibility to ALL their citizens. An excellent conference address. Keep your foot on the accelerator of determination and your head well above the parapet :)

    • The scroungers are few and cheap compared to the tax-avoiding corporations who lobby to line their own pockets at the expense of their employees and of the people who actually pay their taxes.

    • Do you realize how incredibly sexist your question is Tony? Would you be asking a man ‘where’s mum?’ if that person were writing about the same issues?
      Your follow up questions here are alluding to worthy and unworthy recipients of welfare – that the scenarios that lead to poverty should dictate the kind of assistance someone gets. That notion, of needing to divide people into worthy and unworthy (strivers and skivers!) leads us back to the workhouse mentality that we should be aiming to leave behind. It leads to politicians feeling able to impose legislation that permits benefit sanctions because we’ve dehumanized the recipients of government aid.
      Being a widow wouldn’t have made Jack’s little boy any less hungry and I’m frankly boggled by your attempts to dig yourself out of your hole with that statement.

      • Do you realize how incredibly sexist your question is Tony? How is it sexist?

        “Would you be asking a man ‘where’s mum?’ if that person were writing about the same issues?” Yes, I would. I suppose “where’s the partner” is a more all encompassing question.

        It is simply easier to look after a child with two people.

        “that the scenarios that lead to poverty should dictate the kind of assistance someone gets” Exactly. I’m not saying they shouldn’t get any assistance but the way that assistance is provided should differ depending on how the person got into that situation.

        “Being a widow wouldn’t have made Jack’s little boy any less hungry”. Correct, but the assistance to solve this problem would have been different.

      • @Jack Monroe (MsJackMonroe)

        Do you have stats on the demographics of the food bank users? That’d be interesting to see.

    • In reply to your comment below, it doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks about financial responsibility, does it? Best laid plans go awry and many people need help raising their children, whether partnered or not. The only choice for wider society is whether to let children die of starvation or whether to support them. We are one of the richest countries in the world yet we have been moving ever closer to the unthinkable.

      • @misspiggy I agree with you that children through no fault of their own need help, I’m not disputing that. It’s how the help is provided and from which pot. I disagree that it doesn’t matter about financial responsibility. There is financial responsibility from both parents, they can agree one parent will provide financially and the other with care and time or they share both. I’ll admit I am being irresponsible by not having any life insurance, that is something I’m going to remedy immediately.

        It is also irresponsible to leave your partner with a child in a financially tight spot, almost criminal in my eyes. It may be Jack left her partner for tons of reasons, I don’t care why. But if he is still earning he should be made to pay enough so the child is provided for. If, for any reason, I were to leave my partner I would still provide them what I provide now. There may be caveats, for example if she were violent towards me and I had to leave would I still provide financial support to her? No. But also the child would most likely be in my custody anyway and then she should be made to contribute financially should she be earning.

      • I’m just trying to figure out if you mean two living wages should be enough for a family or one (assuming one dependant child).

      • Financial problems arise when there are single parents. Usually one income with one person caring for the child or two incomes and paying for child care is enough. But single parents (as I’m guessing in Jack’s case) run into difficulties. @sandyfaithking If help is required then it becomes someone else’s business, because to help they need to understand the situation you’re in. Should the missing parent be made to contribute more? My opinion is that if you’re put in a tight spot (or rather, the child) because someone else shirked their responsibilities then they should be made to help out financially rather than the state. On the other hand it could be the other parent tragically passed on in which case there should be additional help from welfare. Is there help from the state if a parent dies? I don’t know, can someone enlighten me. Which reminds me I need to get life insurance sorted.

      • Oh that’s were I went wrong. I left my wife beating alcoholic husband to bring up my children myself, whilst working & continuing my education. Yes it was very very hard, but oh so worth it.

        For the record both are in further education & their dad has not worked for more than a month in the 20 years since I left him.

        Its not what I would have chosen for my childrens upbringing, but its the best one I could give them!!

      • @Wendy I hope I’ve detected the sarcasm in the first part of your post correctly. I never said it’s the fault of the single parent that they’re on their own. I have no idea how you managed to bring two kids, work and further educate yourself, that’s quite amazing. I think if you read my post further down @ 2.27pm you may understand what I’m getting at. I’m not quite as articulate as Jack.

      • Can people please cease attempting to explain to Tony. His view is formed as a soliloquy, seemingly unchanged by debate. Tony, you need to really examine your view in the light of all debate and see if it really stacks up. You can’t buy insurance for an unformed soul.

    • The word sexist and feminist get bandied around too lightly- I think Tony has been respectful, unlike some of the replies. His point is both parents have a responsibility to financially support the child. I didn’t read any thing judging people being single parents. It crossed my mind too if the Dad was helping out financially- not in a judgmental way, but just trying to understand Jack’s situation, and how this level of poverty happens, as it is unacceptable and people want to know the facts in cases so they can do something about it.

      Tony- recent changes in maintenance have made it harder in many ways for resident parents to go after maintenance as they now have some of it docked if they use the CSA. Parents on large wages can also pay into pension pots and arrange their finances in certain ways to reduce maintenance. In many cases, parents split due to financial pressures and maintenance starts at 10% of net income after tax and NI and pensions are deducted and if the other parents is out of work and on benefits, maintenance is only around £5 a week, There are fees for using the family courts and mediation is encouraged, which can give a difficult partner lots of scope to delay proceedings. Although i think most people would agree with you that both parents should be financial responsibility, there is still usually the issue of not enough money coming in, even when both parents are doing their upmost. Put it this way- how many single people have enough money to fully support a second home- not many, hence even with the support of a partner, this level of poverty can happen. And there are many two parent families where both parents are out of work or simply just not earning enough- poverty isn’t just confined to single parents or those out of work.

  5. Thank you for speaking up on our behalf Jack, I think if there were more people with your attitude in Parliament, we would have a more just and fairer system.
    You are a star.
    Gary x

  6. Amazing, true lily inspirational. Perfectly put and having the balls to stand up and tell the Tories what the majority of people are thinking. I hope there are many more people like you who will speak out for those of us who aren’t as brave

  7. Amazing speech! So inspiring. Was just thinking how proud I am that you’re from Southend. Then I felt ashamed, as you’re from Southend and all the hardships faced by you and Small Boy were happening on my doorstep. You are doing a wonderful thing by putting these issues out there and trying to get change to happen.

  8. Wow! Tell it like it is. My perception is that the bunch of hard-nosed Tories in power now are hell bent on turning back the clock to put us workers in our place. The Hungry Thirties is (grammar ok) here with us again and can only get worse and worse. Anyone with the guts to speak out against it will end up vilified by the Daily Mail and the like. Look out Jack – yours will be coming soon, I guess.

  9. It’s very important that you’re doing this. Demonising one political party or the other gets us nowhere. There’s poverty of the same kind here, in Socialist France. Unless business, banks and communications are convinced, nothing changes. They run the show anyway…they create jobs…they pull the strings.

    • Exactly. Demonising and talking about ‘those people’ makes it easier for the status quo to continue. Those who want change must engage with anyone who also wants change. Labels get in the way of real interaction. Oh you’re a Tory/leftie therefore you….fill in the gaps. It’s just not like that when you get down to really talking to someone as an individual. So can we stop the smug and frankly childish name-calling which our politics seems to have become on both sides and talk to each other, strengthen society, hold politicians and businesses to account, take whatever actions we can to make a difference in our own lives and those around us….we have the society that WE create, so support the things you believe in (stop buying from Amazon for example?) and things will improve for everyone.

  10. Best speech you’ve ever done, Jack. And that’s saying something. I may be naively optimistic, but I can only hope there are some decent Tories out there who are embarrassed by the ideological cruelty and indifference of their political masters.

  11. For any one thinking you were wrong to speak up – remember it was as part of the Oxfam fringe and fortunately or unfortunately this movement has a face which makes it harder for the mutant masses at the Con Conference to ignore. When I visit the Telford food bank tomorrow to pick up my 7th 3 day parcel at least I can feel I am being represented . It may be distasteful to some but you have to shake hands with people you may not agree with to get things done. Viva la Revolution!

    • Good grief, your ignorance is inexcusable. I was married before I had my children. We had a good income and financial security. Through a series of circumstances I had no control over I was a single mother at 26 with 2 children of 4 & 2. I dealt with uninformed comments like this for years – I am proud to have raised 2 caring, intelligent and non-judgemental adults. Jack – you are very inspiring and brave. :)

    • Actually, I *was* married before having three children … and then divorced and left with nothing *except* three children to feed, house and clothe.

      And as Jack has said over and over again, the father helps out, which is more than my own children’s father ever did.

    • Oh really? So spouses never lose thier jobs which of course are always full time and pay well above minimum wage and never see cuts of any sort.
      They never become sick and disabled or die prematurely, gamble or drink away their pay or run off and leave masses of debt behind.
      Rent, food, heat and utities and transportation costs never ever increase faster than the average cost of living and child care is cheap, plentiful and always availabe to suit you job hours.
      Where is this idyllic place? I so want to move there.

    • Yes, because, as we all know, married people never have to use food banks or sign on for benefits or borrow money from family or friends to feed their kids.Once you sign that register, you are welcomed into a magical land of plenty and tax breaks. Catch onto yourself; poverty doesn’t care about your marital status or your morals or your self-righteousness. It can happen to anyone, especially in Austerity Britain.

    • Nesa, It’s not that simple. Married couples divorce, and sadly not all fathers put their hands in their pockets to contribute to the raising of their kids. My ex husband left me alone with 3 kids several years ago and I’m still fighting for maintenance money for them. I’ve been exactly where Jack is…. in dire, dire poverty struggling to feed 3 kids. It’s not funny, it wasn’t our fault, we didn’t choose it, and judgemental attitudes lacking any compassion or understanding don’t help anyone!

    • Comments like this miss the point – if you’ve worked, you’ve paid NI and tax to fund benefits. If you insure your house and then it burns down, the insurance company may check for fraud but they don’t refuse to pay out because you have a rich uncle who could rebuild it for you.

    • Yes, yes, keep on believing that Nesa Simon David. Tell that to my Mum who struggled to feed and clothe me and my brothers after my Dad dropped dead. They were not just married, they were Roman-Catholic, no-sex-before-marriage, no-divorce-thinkable, wife-stays-at-home married. It didn’t feed us, or put shoes on our feet, or keep the house warm. And my Mum’s really interesting career (secretary to a Prime Minister, a diplomat and a top civil servant) didn’t help her back to the job market at 52. So yes, married people never have misfortunes, do they?

    • Really? Seriously? MARRIAGE is the answer to poverty, child hunger and unemployment. Well, halleluja!

      I am married, not that it matters, as being married doesn’t protect you from bad economy, lack of flexible working conditions or unemployment. But perhaps if it was Jacks ‘husband’ who strove and strove and then lost his job in a factory, thus being unable to feed his family, you would feel that he deserved ‘poor relief’. Goodness me! We do not make distinctions between the deserving and underserving poor anymore- but this is what you are doing. Shame on you.

      For the record, marriage does not guarantee you a particular income or protect you from widowhood, domestic violence, hunger, abuse, disability, unemployment- or ignorance, it seems.

    • i DID marry my childrens father. he fucked off with a teenage girl, knocked out three more kids and never paid a penny for any of them! marriage just makes it harder to pretend that someone never existed. and just so you know, the CSA have never been the slightest bit of use in getting any money out of him either. walk a mile in someones shoes you judgemental idiot.

  12. Why the perverse, nay, prurient obsession with paternity and/or marriage – it wouldn’t be a none too discrete attempt to divert attention away from the matter in hand would it? Would it?
    Honest, you right-wing types you are so transparent!
    Love Philx

  13. You are so articulate. Your speech is wonderful. And with reference to what Phil said in comments above – one speech will change nothing by itself, but it is a beginning that can be built on. People will go away and consider what they heard and communicate something of what they heard to others. In that way the effects will ripple out into the community.
    I remember when people began to speak out about smoking and it’s harmful effects. They were ridiculed and opposed. But the opponents of smoking were persistent and now it has been banned in public places. Any campaign to effect change takes time.
    And to stand by and say nothing is like watching the playground bullies throwing stones and not intervening – it makes it seem OK.
    I am not as articulate as you, and I could never do what you have done, but I post items from your blog and others on my facebook, I speak to people on a one-to-one basis, I try to encourage people to give to foodbanks and to think about why they are nnecessary. But the spin from this government is so powerful, you’d think it was people who receive benefits who caused this financial crisis.
    Please keep on doing what you do so well.
    I have followed your blog from its early days and I have seen how your life has changed for the better. My life is very difficult at the moment, but reading your blog gives me hope and makes each day bearable. Thank you.

  14. An excellent speech Jack, I watched a number of speeches yesterday on the telly and I found the buck passing, self congratulatory back slapping and overt denial of any responsibility from themselves for the ongoing crisis that affects so many, whilst in government or opposition, positively nauseating.
    If Mr Cameron is so sure that his party is a party of the people and a party of truth then he should have made sure that your speech was given the exposure to the media that was there.
    Never give up Jack, you are a voice for many, keep that voice loud and hopefully many more will join the chorus that will make the powers that be listen and act…..
    From an old Southender over here in Ireland, Keep it up, Take care and total respect……..Séa……..Peace

  15. This is the Tory Party Epitaph – The Cameron quips “for hard working people” “something for nothing” are an insult to 85% of society. My something for nothing was working non stop for 44.5 years when illness took hold and I could work no more. The benefit “systems” are geared to treat your application as fraudulent. The people who process the “welfare” are trained to give you short shrift as if you are suddenly no longer a person. The plea “let us finish the job” is a pathetic way to beg for forgiveness of the most disgusting victimisation of the weakest sections in society when pandering to the financial sectors and big business. NO NO NO Mr Cameron what your party has done is not forgivable.

  16. a brilliant post, well done you for writing so eloquently. I am appalled though that the Fire Service were able to block your flexible/part time working requests. This surely goes against what employers are supposed to do and in my (NHS) and husband’s (Private sector) experience, a good employer would rather keep a skilled trained employee in the hours that suit them than let them go.

  17. The article and film ‘The End of Britain is Nigh’ (in http://www.cumbriacrack.com) sheds light on why this fascist government are systematically dismantling the welfare state. The rich and powerful are protecting their own. The unemployed, ill, disabled and elderly are merely collateral damage in a process that is gathering momentum. Like Jack, we must refuse to go quietly into that good night…. Encore Jack… More!

  18. Absolutely brilliant speech, it had to be said and you were the best person to say it. Thank you for daring to stand there and tell it like it is.

    ‘Where is the dad’ indeed …… what a tosser, there are ALWAYS some who have to comment along these lines. Ignore them all.

  19. WELL SAID Jack! Trouble is, All political parties are the same when it comes to the down trodden! As a 73 year old I have seen it down the years. Blah blah and nothing done. The elite have no idea and have NO INTENTION of finding out what life for the average BRIT is really like. They live in there own cocoon.

  20. I suppose my first comment should have been longer.

    Yes I agree food banks are doing a good job, I’ve even thought about donating (and will take action to do since I’ve read this article). I agree it’d be great if people didn’t need the food banks. But I disagree that financial responsibility for all hungry children should be put onto the state if the fault for the financial trouble lies with someone who is trying to dodge their responsibility for that child. Instead, in that case the state should force that person to contribute enough so that the child is well cared for. May I ask if anyone has been in the position of being a single parent in receipt of Child Maintenance? Was the Child Maintenance enough to provide for the child?

    • I was (my children are now adult) and I was fortunate. It was enough for food, shelter, clothing and treats. My ex was also fortunate to be in a well paid profession so he could afford this.
      It could have been very different though and it is for many people.
      J x

    • Tony – while I would agree that both parents have responsibilities to their children, failure of one of them to live up to that responsibility should never be visited upon the child. Let the state pursue absent parents and make them contribute but in the meantime it should ensure that there is sufficient money for food for the family.
      Perhaps you should have asked ‘where’s the partner’ but you didn’t and the fact that you didn’t reveals your mentality.
      You are trying to lay out the causes and effects to avoid reaching conclusions that your world view might be wrong.
      Well your world view is wrong.
      It isn’t easier to raise a child with two parents if one of those people is abusive or a workaholic, or an alcoholic or disabled, or depressed or any one of a number of other things that might mean that person can’t or doesn’t make life easier. Your premise is wrong.

      I understand that there are people who are lazy, feckless, cheating – that some people don’t want to do a day’s work and are happy to take benefits and watch telly. But you know what, there’s a lot less of them than you think and those that are there are part of the price we should be willing to pay for ensuring that no child in this country goes hungry, simply because of lack of money. You can take other measures to try and get long term unemployed people into work and if they are good ideas, that will improve lives than I’ll support them but we should never be allowing people to go hungry. It’s obscene and that’s all there is to it.

      • Corporate welfare is costing far more than any other kind. How much has it cost to keep the banks and investment companies going, after they ruined themselves through bad management? How many of them are on the food bank lists? None. They got bailouts, the poor got taxed. Time to stop talking about unemployed people being feckless, etc. Time to put the blame where it belongs, with those profiting from taxpayers who are barely making enough to live on.

    • Child Maintenance is 5% of salary. If you think 5% of someone’s wage can feed, clothe, house and pay the childcare for any child… well, you are extremely rich. And if the absent parent is able to contribute anything much, if the resident parent needs benefits, the money they get from the other parent is deducted with a tiny (less than a tenner) set-aside. It doesn’t touch the sides, especially as housing benefit is almost always less than actual rents. The money will reduce the taxpayer’s bill but it doesn’t help the child in most cases, no. Not unless both parents have good jobs and the child is school-age.

    • Yes Tony, I am in receipt of Child Maintenance (intermittently) and it’s calculated on a percentage of the absent parents income, so it’s only enough if they are on a reasonable wage and don’t know all the tricks of dodging a fair assessment. If an absent parent has a low, intermittent or non-existent income then the maintenance will reflect that and the repsonsible parent is expected to pick up the shortfall.

      It is a complete MYTH that only single parents are on the poverty line. Financially my situation was far more dire trapped in a relationship with a financially irresponsible partner. . As a stay at home mother I had no control over the income and very little control over how it was spent. I am a single parent of three children now. I started studying full time as soon as I became a single parent in the hope that I will eventually pull myself out of the abyss that is benefits. As a single mother on benefits life is very difficult but at least consistent. I’m in my second year of college and next year I will start university, to do this I will have to come off of benefits and raise three children on a student income of loans and grants. My income as a student will be greater than my income on benefits.

      It is very easy for people to think of those who claim benefits as scroungers. The reality is that for every one “scrounger” there are ten people like Jack who work hard and would do anything to improve their circumstances.

      Don’t even get me started on what happens when that unexpected bill lands on your doorstep. When your income only barely covers your outgoings… then the government reduces that by £200 a month… then your landlord decides to sell the house you live in and you are expected to find agency fees and enough money for a new deposit (thats if you can find a landlord willing to take someone on benefits, 90% wont) …where is that money supposed to come from? … because there’s no stash of reserves under the bread line. The bread line is all there is. DEBT is what happens next, suffocating, debilitating debt.

      Thank you for speaking out for us Jack. People have been suppressed by those in power for years by being made to think they dont have a voice or cant make a difference.

    • the CSA have been `chasing’ my employed, solvent ex husband for 19 years and promised me all sorts of sanctions to make him pay. ive never had a single penny.

  21. Dear Jack

    I followed the link from an article about you in the Guardian. Just wanted to say that this speech is brilliant and sums up so much stuff that I feel. Well done and thank you!

  22. Be proud of what you did, what you said, what you believe in.
    You have a cause, a good cause….never give up until you want to give up. You are to be respected.

  23. What an inspiring address. I wish you well in your hunt for a job, I hope someone reads your speech and offers you a position

  24. Wow, just read this on the bus home. I had to stop myself from crying as I felt your anger and frustrations at dinner time with your son. We need more people to voice up like you jack. Stay strong and carry on!!!

  25. As a professional supplying foodbank vouchers it is becoming disheartening that after families have had their 3 vouchers in 6 months very often nothing has changed. Where it used to be just that people needed the vouchers because something unexpected had happened, now families just don’t have the resources week in week out. Whilst others sit and judge them for their choices these individuals desperately strive to feel equal to the rest of their community. Payday loans are certainly not helping, these are all that desperate people can get, no better than the loan sharks of years ago but now somehow made respectable. What is the answer though? I would say better regulation of payday lenders, a benefit system which helps people live in a way which boosts their self esteem and compassion from local communities, neighbours and friends

  26. A great article! Speaking as a journalist, I think this is excellent. As a moral human being, it’s brilliant and long overdue.

    Best wishes,
    Mike

  27. Great Speech Jack, Your words show that you understand the world and the way bad policies effect us all. People do not always choose not to work but it seems that all the employed people want the disabled and unfortunate to work for nothing. It seems to me that the days of the Victorian workhouse are being brought back…Food banks in this day and age clearly shows that support systems are failing those that need it. Cut backs to services and support has hit the very people that need help. Something needs to change. But starving the poor seems to be far to drastic. I hope your speech made people think. Thank you for your hard work and courage. I can’t tell you how much it means to those of us that are unable to voice our opinion. Please know millions are behind you.

  28. You are a wonderful person your speech was fantastic well done. There is no work. My son-in-law was made redundant from the Navy a year ago and still has no job, He has a severely disabled wife and a 4 year old son. If he doesn’t get a job soon they will loose their house that the council has adapted for my daughters use. Despair doesn’t even come close.

  29. Jack as always you have done a fine job. Politics is this country has sunk into a cess-pool and it is only people like you that provide hope for the rest of us.

    Keep on speaking out. Shouting from the rooftops. The more you speak the more support you will get. These bastards have to be stopped

  30. Really fed up of people complaining today about how hard up they are. I work long hours every week, do not see nearly as much of my family as I would like to and pay a huge amount in taxes that I simply will not get back and is not benefiting my family.
    We have gone hungry and opened empty fridges and cupboards, fed the kids and not ourseslves. we have sold many of our belongings including clothes and shoes to keep a roof over our head. yet still we have never thought it up to any other person or the government t provide fir iure family.
    Everyone in this country who enjoyed the ‘boom”is responsible for the credit crunch, the bankers serviced the greed, they did not create it.
    So yes you should be greatfull for the “little scraps of money from the tax payer” yeas you should be greatfull to me and the millions like me who spend long hours away from our loved ones to generate the wealth that eventually pays salaries, taxes and hence you.
    Benefits are there to help you scrape by, not to live comfortably. This is a privilage not a right to be enjoyed at the British tax payers expense.

    • congratulations. You are in the same boat as myself and many millions of others. I have a family, I work long hours in mental health (A private company) I pay taxes, i have served in the military and i have an autistic son. Despite all of my ‘box ticking’ I am still enlightened enough to know that the only thing a Tory represents is the worst aspects of self concern and greed.

    • I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. I think the point of Jack’s speech was that nobody should be going hungry in this wealthy country, and that giving tax cuts to millionaires and setting hard-up people against each other is a disgraceful way to govern.

    • I wonder how you would feel about that if heaven forbid you were to be made redundant next month. Or have a terrible accident that meant you couldnt work and support your family? I wonder then if you will turn to the government for support or expect your long paid taxes to benefit your family?

    • I’ve been made redundant twice. When I got made redundant the first time I was told that on average the majority of people would be made redundant 4 times in their life time. I’d been working for a large, successful insurance company, that decided to close the office I was working in and relocate it to a town in the south – I’m in the Midlands.

      It could easily happen to anyone. And that’s not counting the probability of becoming disabled or chronically ill.

      And whilst I agree that benefits shouldn’t be luxury – at the moment with all of the issues and cuts you can’t even describe them as enough to scrape by.

  31. Well spoken Jack but dont worry ~ we live in a democracy and we will all have a chance to vote at the next election. You know the the current options so think carefully about your choices now and decide what to vote for ~ a punch in the face or a knee in the groin. I wish politicians started listening to people like yourself and did what they were elected to do ~ work for the good of all and not just themselves and others with big purses & wallets intent on their ‘I’m alright’ mentality. Good luck with your search for a resolution to your situation.

  32. I’m a lifelong Conservative voter ….. until now. (Cameron is so incredibly arrogant there is no way I will vote him in again.)

    Generally I am against the large welfare state as it gives enormous power to the state which I’d rather was spread around. Somehow we have to find a way to provide for those who are in a fix and need a bit of help to get out of it; we need more organisations like the Trussell Trust. No-one is safe from poverty today; when my dad was alive he could rely on having a job. He worked for the same firm all his life and they rewarded him well for it, but that is not true of his children.

    I know personally of one case (from the leafy suburbs not the inner city) of a parent who had trouble providing lunch for a child to take to school; in another instance the larder would have been bare at the end of the month, but for a gift of food from another member of the family. So it isn’t just a problem for the inner city or for those who spend on drink or drugs; it’s something that can happen to a “Conservative voter”, too!

    I believe very strongly that if you are fortunate enough to have, it is your privilege to give to those who have not and you have a moral obligation to do so (and do so without being condescending to those you give to, so to give through an organisation is maybe safer). I wouldn’t necessarily tax the rich up to the hilt – some do give their wealth away and we need people with money as they can be more flexible than the state, which has to have thresholds and limits. (In the two cases I refer to above, the people were not eligible for benefits because their entitlement was based on what they had been earning, so when they went from earning a lot to earning nothing there was a huge gap until they could claim – the system just can’t cover everybody’s circumstances; someone with money or a charity maybe can.)

    Just my twopennyworth ……

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. One point to remember is that charities are mainly funded by ordinary people and government. I’ve worked in many charities, and rich individuals are absolutely the hardest donors to get money from, particularly for poverty issues in the UK. Maybe the mindset that makes you rich means you’re not going to share with others, who knows?

      But the problem now is that government grants to charities are massively down, and ordinary people can afford to give much less (although people do still try to give despite tight budgets, which is amazing). Where government cuts and constraints are driven by ideology and result in children going hungry, they have to be challenged.

      This is the kind of thing being pushed by government now, to reduce the number of people claiming benefits: http://stupidsanctions.tumblr.com/

  33. I am a veteran as well Jack and I applaud your guts in telling it as it is many of my ex collegues cant see what is happening to the poor people in this country ” just another bunch of leftie scroungers ” they say. I have my war pension to live on as well as my service pension, I still have to pay tax even though I am too sick to work I ” earn” £3.06 to much to get any help off the state so we just struggle on. I help out as a welfare rights advisor to try and help some one who cant hel them selves. I cannot go past the veteran begging in the street without giving him what change I have in my pocket. I would go without myself to help anyone who needs it. Why cant my government do the same as me, Just help people when they are in need. But no I forgot they are the Conservative party vengeful, spiteful and moreover hateful. Keep blogging Jack people will hear you in the end.

  34. My hope lies in the fact that Jack is able to write such a powerful commentary on life in Britain today, and counter the presentation of the poor as the architects of their own ‘downfall’ by the media-owning classes.
    My distress lies in the fact that the Mail Online is the world’s most frequented ‘news’ media portal.
    We do live in a sick society – not because of the welfare state, but because Britons believe such utter rubbish!

  35. It’ s perhaps salient to mention that it was New Labour who instigated the welfare reforms which are leading to the immiseration of millions and driving people to foodbanks and worse(many suicides, see Craigs List) Housing Benefit cuts, ATOS, the introduction of ESA, even the imaginary wheelchair test(if you can propel one you fail the question) was introduced by Yvette Cooper. I hope Jack as a member you are challenging them just as robustly, though I do admire your work

  36. jack said

    “I left Manchester this morning, with a back pocket full of business cards and invitations to meet lots of different people to discuss an urgent parliamentary enquiry into food banks, a sit down chat with an MP who wanted to tackle some issues in his constituency, and ideas about all-party parliamentary groups to discuss UK poverty in gritty realistic detail, I felt as though some of the Conservative Party were willing to listen after all. And that surely, isn’t a bad thing.”

    Surely, that’s because the tories believe in charity, they are not all monsters (though many are) did any of them talk to you about how wrong and brutal the welfare reforms are and how they can be stopped, I doubt it. F/B’s may be necessary eveil now, but they are not a substitute for a comprehensive welfare state, as i’m sure you agree

    btw, how do you reply to posts/

  37. I am humbled and sad at your eloquent words. Too many of us sit in our houses with our doors closed and blinds drawn, oblivious to the desperate state that some lives have deteriorated to. Too many of us just dont see poverty and dont even know it exists beyond a random number thrown at us from a TV screen. I feel ashamed of where our society is.

    Job well done Jack

  38. “Why are you not ashamed, Sir, that there are FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE people in your constituency who desperately cannot afford to feed themselves and their families?”
    Exactly. This is the point and you put it so well.

  39. One reason it’s so important to make this kind of speech is that a lot of wealthy people simply don’t understand the ins-and-outs of daily poverty.

    I was on benefits due to disability for 3.5 years, until I started an insanely flexible part-time job a month ago (woohoo!). While I was incredibly grateful for the benefits I received, they were not enough to get by on. I depended a lot on the generosity of family and friends to make it by.

    My father was quite wealthy when I originally injured myself. When I had run through my savings and retirement savings, he helped me a lot financially (paid for private surgery, gave me money for rent, etc.) but as my pain and mobility problems became chronic, and I succumbed to my (previously well-controlled) depression and anxiety* he started losing interest in helping. When, over the years, he said crazy things to me, like, “Well, I’m sure if you budgeted better you could afford to come and visit us (in Canada!)” I would try to describe to him the way I lived.

    I told him that I usually ran out of money for food before the end of the month, that friends were dropping by with “extra” veggies from their allotment on a regular basis, that I mostly subsisted on lentils, rice, and cheap-just-before-their-best-before-dates veg and fruit, and that I got my clothes from charity shops. I told him that even when I was physically and mentally able to leave the house, I often couldn’t afford a bus ticket. I told him that my tiny transport budget was often eaten up by having to take a taxi to an important appointment when I was physically unable to take a bus. I told him that I usually couldn’t afford the massages that reduced my pain and kept me mobile, resulting in weeks spent so drugged on pain-killers that I couldn’t stay awake or follow the plot of a sitcom.

    He didn’t believe me. He told me that nobody is that poor in the UK (or Canada). He told me that I must be doing something wrong. (I admit, I did, very occasionally, do something like flip out and buy a bottle of wine to get drunk on when I was really depressed. However, these things were few and far between.) “Nope”, he said. It just wasn’t possible to be that poor nowadays. I told him about benefits cuts. I told him how I was doing dribs and drabs of permitted work (selling wool online, proof-reading, doing surveys and studies for money), but that these things weren’t making me much. He said I needed to try harder. He eventually stopped helping me because he assumed that I was being irresponsible with money. He didn’t believe that it was as hard to live below the poverty line as it actually was. He even laughed at me and called me called me “cheap” sometimes (like the time I objected to him making pasta sauce out of imported fresh roma tomatoes, and said that I would have used canned tomatoes).

    My Dad is not a bad person. He’s highly intelligent and highly educated and well-informed about the world. He grew up poor, in London, during WWII. It’s just that he’d had money for so long, that he lived in a town full of other wealthy people, that his social circles involved people who joined yacht clubs and played polo, that he was so far removed from poverty that he didn’t get it.

    I suspect that a lot of our (almost entirely wealth-enabled) politicians are the same. Hearing how difficult it is, first-hand, may just get through to some of these people that almost all of us who live on benefits are far from being scroungers – we’re genuinely struggling to make ends meet and get back on our feet, through some really tough situations. When my Dad visited me for a week, he finally got it. (Unfortunately, by that time the 2008 financial crash had eaten up most of his money.)

    Jack’s speech, highlighting the actual struggles of a poor woman and child living on benefits to the wealthy elite, may just start some of them thinking about their assumptions. It can only help. Thank you Jack. You rock.

  40. Great speech Jack. Well written, considered and almost Churchillian, except with an Essex accent no doubt! And you are better looking than him as well!!!

    Seriously, I think of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. You are preaching to people for the most part who have derogated their conscience and must feed off prejudice and contempt for poor people. They are making people poorer, and then they have contempt for the people who are poor as a result of their divisive policies. You couldn’t make it up. But, it had to be said. What they are doing is unjust and cruel and they are adding insult to injury. Congrats on getting a book deal.

  41. Some people should be ashamed for some of their comments on here, either they are too narrow-minded or down right ignorant to see what is really going on around them in-fact under their noses.. it is people like Jack who will make a difference and look at how many positive responses she has had already to which are unfolding from her speaking her mind and having the courage to stand up and actually TRY and do something about this BS that is going on! people have lost hope and togetherness and that is what this country is lacking.. people like Jack.

    blimey, @ Tony get real for goodness sake, next you will be saying ‘bring back the workhouse’ Rationing, 2 child per family law (China) to a degree they are trying to do this now anyway after 2nd child no more benefits.. hell, why not bring back child labour so they can feed themselves!.. yes shit happens in the real world and why should we not fight for something that once many before us fought so hard to get just for it all to be taken away again to give it back to corrupt, Indian giving imbecile’s who are lining their own back pockets and sitting having top nosh dinners whilst people in the real world worry about paying their next bill.. makes me sick! jobs what jobs.. extra hours to cover bills, not enough hours, childcare, no room not enough staff! vicious circle of BS.. keep it up Jack you were born with a voice and you have made the right decision to use it not sit there and watch this country fall back to 1940′s. x

  42. Every indignity you suffered before today was never for naught.

    And no disrespect to the combat veterans in your family, but I think you’re the fiercest warrior of them all!

    I don’t quite understand that even after your very well-publicized story that ppl still don’t see welfare as a means to an end, at least for productive people who want to fully participate in society. I suppose if your son had been passed around like a hot potato and developed emotional problems because of it, it is cheaper for the state in the short term. But in the long run, it would be far more expensive to the state.

  43. I despise ppl who game the system as much as anybody else, but what use is it to make your child suffer in order to deny the scroungers? Honestly.

  44. Jack, interesting & thought-provoking as always. Out of interest, did either of Southend’s MPs attend your event?

  45. Thank you for having the courage to stand up and say what so many people know in such an articulate way. I hope your audience heard!

  46. Great Britain is no longer great nor on the whole british ! It,s corrupt from the very top,where all that matters is self serving over priviliged oiks ,Real people are not born with a silver spoon in their mouths nor do they have parents who are corrupt when it comes too dodging financial matters that may take some of their ill gotten gains ,nor are they lucky enough to marry into a dynasty of ill gotten wealth.How dare wealthy people pontificate on the welfare and morality of others when they are so morally corrupt themselves..Honest people are suffering hardships.We are way below the so called breadline and we know how to shop for the bargains or knock downs..Thank god for lidel or we would be stuffed.Our house hold consists of a early retireree ex hardworking chef,With heartfailiure,diabetes,neuropathy in legs and feet and numerous other things I will not say too embarress them..An ex hardworking Florist with fibromyalgia and a dot on the brain with unknown causes but symptom of multiple sclerosis,and a 23yr old son with autism ..We have had a mortgage and worked our selves to an early grave not by I hasten to add walking all over those less worthy ..Now we are living in social housing because our lives have been so bloody hard..We were the backbone of this country .And I hasten to add that we have never smoked or taken illicit substances nor have we frequented pubs and off licences….Our lives are not a soap opera ,but far too real for scriptwriers of fiction such as a lot of the national rag mags that we no longer buy but could possibly use as toilet paper as that is all they are really good for..Yes I am old enough to remember that as a child from working class parents who struggled too.Blooming good for you Jack! I for one would be with you ..Britain has been brought to it,s knees by people living in la,la land.I would stand beside you ,we need reality back in the houses of lords and Parliment.How can you be a lord if you have paid for the privilige of title ?How can you tell less fortunate people how to live if you have never known poverty and real hardship it,s a no brainer .You made people feel uncomfortable ..And if they feel that they must be doing something wrong!

    • ‘How dare wealthy people pontificate on the welfare and morality of others when they are so morally corrupt themselves..’ And that’s where all the hypocrisy comes from, slimy, oozing and by the bucket load.

  47. Jack, you mentioned food banks. Although poor, I often give to charities and would be happy to donate stuff to a food bank. Perhaps, if you know, you could write a small post on this issue itself, merely telling us how to donate, or anything else along those lines. Don’t need to publish this comment.

  48. ALL OUR NATIVE PEOPLE WITHIN THE UNITED KINGDOM HAVE FATHERS GRANDFATHERS AND GREAT GRANDFATHERS GOING BACK GENERATIONS. WE ARE THE PEOPLE THE PUPPET GOVERNMENT FORMED AS A COALITION ARE THERE TO SERVE US NOT DICTATE WITHIN A TOTALITARIAN FASCIST LIBERALIST AGENDA STATE. WE THE PEOPLE WILL REMOVE AND PROSECUTE THOSE WHO HAVE BROKEN OR CHANGED THE LAWS OF OUR SOCIETIES FOR THERE OWN AGENDA. PEOPLE NEVER FORGET THE BAD THAT WAS DONE TO THEM AT THE ELECTION BOX. POWER TO THE PEOPLE UNITY IS OUR STRENGTH AGAINST THE GREED OF THE PYRAMID CAPSTONE OF OUR SOCIETY TODAY. WE WILL PREVAIL AGAINST DARKNESS WITHIN THE GOVERNMENTS SELFISH SHELLFISH

  49. Jack, it’s a shame you didn’t seek out help to challenge your employer. You were clearly discriminated against and forced to leave your job. You should’ve joined the Union.
    Well done for standing up and being counted, like the 50,000+ who were outside demonstrating and who got nearly no coverage whatsoever. Keep up the good work! And remember, if you get work again in the future, to join your Union! (yes, you guessed it, I’m a union rep and a campaigner, also a single mother)
    Vanessa

  50. Those 565 were referred, you can not use a food bank, certainly not where I am without being referred by social work or whoever, So I think more would be using it but cannot get access. You do not simply turn up. In my opinion more people would simply turn up but cannot get referred.

  51. I meant people in desperate need, would turn up but can not , because of the hurdles and stigma involved. There is a greater need than those who are being counted.

  52. I mean this in a genuinely curious, rather than an aggro way – but do you have a rough idea of how you spent the benefits you were entitled to?

    You said your son went hungry, and I’d love to know how that happened. Was the inevitable result of the government not doing enough to protect the most vulnerable in society, or was because you mismanaged your expenditure?

    (again, curious, unsure of what to think, and not trying to be mean)

    • Yeah I know what I spent it on. Rent. Bills. Food. And then when the housing benefit cheque was £100 quid short for no reason, it all went wrong. When the housing benefit is £200 lighter than your rent, but you can’t move because to move would mean rustling up a deposit of £600+ plus £600+ rent in advance plus around £250 ‘admin fees’… If you don’t have £200 to plug the rent arrears, you don’t have almost £1500 to move. You’re stuck, in a cycle of no heating, empty cupboards and bailiffs, while the general public assume you ‘mismanaged’ your finances. All the while every bounced bill adds a £25 bank charge to everything else you can’t pay. The bailiffs and letting agencies add charges for late payments. Once you’re there, it’s a downward spiral of piled up letters and bailiffs and debt and monies owed – I sold everything I had to try to get back on my feet, so no, it wasn’t ‘mismanaged finances’. Not mine, anyway.

      • Join the save the 2RRF campaign and talk to Joe Eastwood? He is one of the soldiers kicked out of the Tory party conference on that Sunday in Manchester . He is fighting for the battalions that are going to be axed but if we all join forces we will find that we are all fighting for a common goal – to live in a Britain that we can be proud of, that we can defend and that we have the right to work in for a decent living wage. We don’t want to go the way America is going – with the government shutting down and a country that is bankrupt. That frightens me and I don’t want it to happen to us. Keep going and, yes, pease join a party because by God we need fighters like you.

  53. Tim, and another wanting to donate food but don’t know where – Look in your nearest supermarket for a donation bin near the door, inquire at the nearest church or Quaker Meeting House, google the Trussell Trust and see if there is a food bank in your area, ask in a charity shop. Someone will direct you.

    Harking back a good many posts to Nesa’s comment on marriage, I think that he/she (?) is just a deliberate pot stirrer.

    The comments on requiring the absent partner (usually a man) to support the children are pretty naive- or just ignorant. Did not the government in the nineties set up a body to extract maintenance and did it not fail miserably to do so?

    And of course, if the partner is dead how are families to ,be helped? Since biblical times, the care of widows and orphans has been preached by many religions, but no society has really succeeded in this. Only those fortunate enough to have rich relatives can hope for much. My father died when I was ten in 1947. My mother simply struggled on. What else was there to do?

  54. I’m not completely unsympathetic to your position , and I am quite astonished that an organisation the size of the fire service didn’t have some position that would have suited better bearing in mind all the shuffling of personnel that goes on in a sizeable organisation.
    It is unclear why you are a single parent, I may have missed that in the text , if so apologies.
    My wife was a healthcare (now a nurse) and at one point we had a combined income far less than yours. She did(does) do shifts but obviously I could deal with the nursery run as needed.

    On finances, I have had various run ins with people on benefits who complain how short of money they are….only to find out they have more disposable than I do!

    On housing, if we continue to live in our place after the kids have gone then it is up to us to pay for the costs involved in that, so in principle I don’t see the issue. The practicalities do seem to be a bit of the usual governmental dogs breakfast however.
    I don’t think this is specifically a Tory phenomena, just a government one. Just think Tax Credits for a labour administrative dog’s breakfast for example.

    As for the overall economic situation, well , I sometimes say, oddly poignant here , that blaming the current government is a bit like blaming the fire brigade who are putting out the fire for starting it in the first place!

    • People are angry with the Tories not because they are in power and governing, they are angry because they are blaming the people at the bottom for the mess the people at the top made, the bankers, the financial institutions. The rich got drunk, but someone else got the hangover; i.e. the rest of us not wealthy, privileged or connected in some way. All parties have their own agendas and get jobs for the boys, yes sure, but giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires whilst cutting funding to vital services and the fact people are going hungry in a wealthy country is something of the past or should be. That’s why people are angry.

      • The content of your response is not entirely incorrect but it is more emotional than factual. If you did change the taxation system to , say, 85% tax and remove the various tax incentives to be based here then you would pretty much double unemployment in about a week and , this may actually be to a certain general benefit, pop the London property market as all the corporate machinery heads for the airport.

        The top 1% currently pay about 1/3 of all income taxes, so it hey start yo leave in any numbers the impact will be disproportional.

        The lower 50% pay no net income tax as a group, the amount collected is LESS than the HB bill.

        Roughly the same proportion of government spending is on welfare and, as a former recipient, I do know much of that is badly managed by the recipients, and the HB component is in an act of epic self defeat, is under the cover of “making rents affordable”, propping up the bottom end of the property market….making the property too expensive for lower income buyers and making in necessary to charge higher rents to cover the investment of a BTL purchaser.

        This was going on BEFORE 2010 , so “people are angry with the Tories” chant merely indicates that the lumpenvoters have the 11 second memory of the proverbial goldfish.

        Fundamental point is “the government” doesn’t have any money. It merely promises to give the groups that vote for it money from the groups that don’t.

        I’m not saying the Tories are blameless, but they are not solely culpable either. It might be a good idea to spread your scepticism to include the left….unless you think it is more in your interest to receive more of my money from them.

    • “blaming the current government is a bit like blaming the fire brigade who are putting out the fire for starting it in the first place!”

      The problem with that is that the current government didn’t see the problem with the housing bubble while they were in Opposition (and, indeed, Osborne is trying to start it up again)

      And there was a recovery after the recession right up until mid 2010 (wonder what happened then?) – the current government turned recovery into stagnation and unemployment, and are now trying to pretend weak growth after three years of failure is what they were going for, all along.

      So it’s a bit like blaming the fire brigade who tell you they have to burn down the house in order to save it.

  55. Jack Monroe shines a light into all the dark corners and they don’t happen to be in in the poorest places

    The public at large never endlessly question exactly WHERE those at the top get *their* benefits from
    Is it fiddling the taxpayers? Offshore accounts? Claiming spouse’s expenses? Shady deals with private companies running government operations? Fancy restaurant tabs? IDS’s receipts for underwear?
    How many gaps could all that plug-eh?(including pants)

    No-the public and the Tories are cowards and go after the softest of targets-”what are you doing with an extra bedroom after living there paying rent and taxes for 40 years?” “Were you ever married you single mother?” “How are you even still alive after all the cuts? You MUST be cheating somehow”

  56. When people at the top make money corruptly, the first thing they want to do is point fingers somewhere else, and lay their guilt on someone else who can’t fight back. It is the classic bullying tactic.

    Boris Johnson is apparently using millions of pounds of taxpayers money to pay PR companies in his bid to be PM. Good old Boris hey, a rich privileged silver spoon using someone else’s money to make himself more richer and more powerful. Don’t we all just love that, when some rich posh boy gets richer and posher and especially when they are spending someone else’s money in the bargain. What was that about scroungers again? Only scroungers if it’s poor people needing food or to pay rent, not scrounging if it’s a super wealthy semi-aristocrat who already has piles of wealth anyway? Double standards? You bet!

    If they were just selfish and greedy, and didn’t try to point fingers at everyone else, there would be less problems. But with the Right wing especially, there is the hypocritical morality, the phony churchgoer, who pretends to be good and kind and respectable whilst making money off someone else’s misery and then blaming the person who is impoverished for their own poverty. In short, it like going back to the 18th century and blaming the slaves for the Slave Trade basically. The least most of us can do is continue to point out their hypocrisy and their greed and selfishness and expose it for what it is.

    Until we start questioning the whole nature of privilege and the class structure and the skewed economic system that means rich people get more and the rest of us keep getting less, we are all running around in circles.

  57. Some people cannot work, they have a genuine barrier keeping them from working, and they deserve to be helped. That is after all what our system is for, and we do have a fantastic and unique system that we should be proud of.
    However, for some people, yes benefits can help you during tough times. But you CAN get a job. There are jobs. They may not be your dream job, but there are jobs. The problem is people want their ideal jobs and are not willing to start at the bottom. Beggars cannot be choosers.
    I have worked from the age of 14, paid taxes, and have got nothing back. I continue to pay taxes, I am a teacher, who works for the government. What do I get in return? Nothing. I have studied, because I wanted a career for myself. I am in debt from studying. I am committed and work extremely hard. My job is demanding, stressful, I work long hours, I don’t get to see my family as much as I would like to, I can’t pick my children up from school as I am a working mother. Yet some people are stay at home mothers, living off of benefits. Some have no intention of coming off of the benefits. And that is the problem there. I waited until I was qualified and had a career and a secure job, a place to live and financial security before I decided to have a child. I would have loved a child earlier, but I couldn’t. Yet some people want a child, and they have one! No thought of being financially ready, the council will support them. Then they complain. If you can’t afford to have children then don’t have them! Funny how the majority of children I teach are on benefits, yet they all have iPads and xboxes and Nike trainers. Funny that. Or not.

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