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Holiday Hunger: No Laughing Matter

August 16, 2017

 

We're seven years into turbo-fuelled austerity measures (or four decades if you want the unofficial start), and poverty and everything associated with it are back with us once again. Things we thought we'd left behind a generation or two ago are making a return.  We should be worried by what we're seeing, because the government doesn't seem to be. The numbers of skurvy outbreaks are on the rise in England, according to official figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The most recent research suggested admissions related to scurvy went up by 27% and in line with percentage increases in hospital admissions for malnutrition and gout - a common Victorian complaint traditionally associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.


Families are really struggling to feed their children with the healthy foods they need. Fruit and vegetables are important sources of vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) which the body needs to keep our bones, skin, tissues and blood vessels healthy. Without it, we lack a protein called collagen which can't be replaced and we end up with symptoms that were common hundreds of years ago in sick sailors and malnourished children. Diseases such as rickets and scurvy are having such a direct impact on our children that we're now left wondering what century we're actually living in. The depression-hit 1930s isn't enough for our current government; instead they're whizzing past that and heading straight to Dickensian London. The Conservatives, the party of the permanent past, really have excelled themselves this time.  


Food banks all over Britain are running out of food and struggling to keep up with demand, but as always it's children who bear the brunt of Tory austerity the most. Those who'd normally be entitled to free school meals are missing out during the summer break. Some may suggest the answer is to ban school holidays altogether. After all, schools are increasingly being called upon to ensure children not only don't go hungry, but also to provide the sorts of nutritious meals that parents are struggling to serve up at home. While many children from poor families are eligible for free school meals during school term times, the NUT (National Union of Teachers) has heard anecdotal evidence from its members of a growing problem of hunger among children during the holidays. 


Absolute poverty is a quantifiable. The definition used by a number of international organisations (such as the UN and the World Bank) is that you cannot afford the basic needs of life, such as food, clothing and shelter. Although the British government doesn't agree with that definition. Instead it sticks to relative poverty and defines by working out median incomes in the current year. Relative poverty is slightly trickier, but thanks to the crash of 2008 every man, woman and child handed the banks the equivalent of almost £20,000 each. There is going to be a price for that. And that price is the closure of libraries, youth clubs, SureStart centres, fewer jobs, and of course a commensurate increase in food banks.

 

Up to three million children are at risk of going hungry during this summer, and just as if it couldn't get any worse, we now read rickets and scurvy are on the increase. What chances do we offer our children?  We once had a social care system in Britain which looked after us all from cradle to grave, but what happened to it?  Which private consortiums now make money from the misery of others?  How bad does it have to get before we do something about it? 


Kid's don't understand why mum and dad can't afford to buy food or clothes. They don't understand why sometimes there's no electricity or gas to cook food or light up their homes in the dark. Children, those very people who will form the next generation of voters, have no idea what is happening, or why their choices in life are so limited. What is it we must expect from that generation? Surely if we offer nothing but poverty and degredation we shouldn't expect much at all. Tory ideology at play isn't it, laid out bare for all to see in it's most wicked form.


Who mentioned families where no adults worked? Actually, i am and i'm just getting to it now. It's a shocking state of affairs to have both parents not working and please don't think it's only because parent's don't wan't to work. There are many reason's why neither parent work's without always assuming the worst case of idleness; But still decision's at the end of the month are being made to decide on what to cut back on. Will it be food this month, or will it be heating? Thankfully these summer months offer some respite to troubled parents suffering insurmountable high anxiety and stress. Unfortunately, and once again it's the chidren who lose out the most. Like a perpetual circle of motion, it must feel like it's never ending. Many adult's with kid's in this situation will often go hungry just so their children won't. It's tragic.

 

Oh my, but what about those families who want to work but can't? Perhaps those families where either or both mum and dad are disabled? What kind of stress must they be under every time they awake from their escapism that we know as sleep? Those who each day face the wrath of fools by agenda driven bating and derision on behalf of a callous government whose intention's are to ensure a return to pre-1900s class establishment at all costs must surely be experiencing hell on earth, but only ever truly understood by those suffering the worst of it. And my goodness they are indeed suffering. 

 

 

Those in our society who elected Theresa May must do so with a knowledge that their actions are causing great harm to Britain's young. A malnourished generation who now see poverty as a way of life and not some poor excuse for the likes of Iain Duncan Smith to twist it all into a pretentious reason for change. The only way change will ever come to Britain is if we rid ourselves of such hated nasty politics which has so often blighted us all. The Neoliberal age is over, and it was a disaster for the poor. It helped create a nation of collaborators, heavily stressed parents and extremely rich people who buy yachts in the same way we might buy a cheap banger of a car with little chance of passing an MoT.  


Even many families where both parents work full-time struggle. How can that be? What sort of state are we in when two 37-hour a week jobs are not enough to feed, clothe, heat and shelter a family? What sort of government allows the housing market to be so out of reach for ordinary people? Allows cheap food to be the only option available? No wonder we're seeing a return to 19th century living conditions and the diseases that go with it. This is totally avoidable, and yet the government regard it as just another political choice to be made. 

 

Times have to change and they must change. We must stand together and we must have courage. We must help ourselves in the best way possible, and the only way of doing that is to ensure we elect a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbybn. Poverty porn fills our screens as well as our streets; it's entertainment for the better off so they can point and laugh at the poverty-stricken hordes and their strange ways and funny accents. A decade after the money supply was deliberately cut off is where we are. We still have a voice and we still have a choice, and that choice is to rid ourselves of the terrible, uncaring Victorian values-obsessed Tories, before our malnourished children, already blighted by suffering rickets and scurvy, start dying from poverty and everything associated with it.

 

 

Dave Beamish for Political Provocateur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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