Rob Hallam

Food Banks and Poverty, Poverty and Food Banks

Difficulties often come hand-in-hand, like poverty and the use of food banks. This week saw the kick-off of our food banks campaign, which is something we’ve not looked at in any detail in my many several some years with GU Amnesty. Way back in the campaigns meeting one of the reasons suggested in favour of choosing food banks as a campaigns was the locality of the issue: in 2009 there was one Trussel Trust food bank in Scotland; in 2013 there were 42, with another 17 in development (1). Recent public events in Glasgow have seen en-masse donations to food banks, underscoring a level of interest and appreciation of the issue from the public. At least, that’s the hope.

Food Banks in Scotland Infographic

In Scotland food banks and related services have expanded greatly even in the last few years.

The issue is both huge and uncomfortable. In the UK, mobdro free download estimates put the proportion of the population below the poverty line at 1 in 5. This is nearly 13 millions people, or nearly two-and-a-half times the population of Scotland. Those numbers are shocking, but can be hard to relate to; so let me put it a different way. Let’s say there were around thirty people at the meeting on Tuesday. If the group is representative of a national average (which I don’t think we are, but that’s not important here), it would be likely that one or two of the people you were sitting with at your group’s table is in poverty. Now, there’s admittedly a fair amount of hand-waving and inaccuracy in there, but the point is: one in five in poverty is huge.

Not quite as large but just as uncomfortable is the number of people using food banks in the UK. Sources put it at around 1 million, and we’re not alone: compare with 1.5 million in Germany. That’s a million people who most likely have a choice between a food bank, or going hungry. A choice between going hungry, and the potential social stigma associated with using a food bank- to be accused of being ‘too lazy to work’; ‘wanting something for free’; or the loss of pride felt at being unable to provide for themselves and their family. These aren’t choices any person anywhere should have to make, much less in the prosperous UK. It’s bad enough that the UK has been accused of violating the basic human right to food as a result.

Why have we gotten to this stage? One of the common definitions of poverty, includes those living at or below 60% of median household income (2). While this is both somewhat arbitrary and indirect, it would in itself point to a reason that an ever-higher proportion are in poverty: widening income disparity. But this still says next to nothing about the causes of poverty. There is a veritable laundry list of reasons put forward: disability, illness, racial discrimination, lone parent, or simply a person being born into poverty means it’s much more likely that they will remain in poverty. Tougher financial times will also have a significant impact on the standard of living, disproportionately so at the bottom end of the scale. One of the big reasons that came up in both videos we saw (Breadline Britain and Julie Webster discussing Maryhill Food Bank) was that benefit changes, reductions or even delays mean people are put in a situation where they may have to seek help with food.

Trussel Trust: Reasons for Food Bank Use

Stated reasons for accessing food banks vary

I could continue to quote statistics from the meeting we had on Tuesday – 4 million kids Mobdro Online TV living in deprivation; 2.5 in damp homes; 1.4 in homes that aren’t adequately heated; it goes on – but the case is clear enough. Fortunately, as ever with our campaigns, we can do something about this. This being a campaign with a very local focus, we can perhaps do even more than we could otherwise. It was extremely heartening to see both the generosity of food donated, and the enthusiasm for continuing to drive this forward. Breffni O’Connor voiced both her and the SRC’s support for widening the campaign for food donations; both she and others had some great ideas for how to go about this. There is potential for Glasgow University to come together and do something meaningful and of tremendous benefit to the community.

I really hope we do.

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  1. http://www.understandingglasgow.com/indicators/poverty/food_banks 
  2. http://www.poverty.ac.uk/definitions-poverty/income-threshold-approach 
Ruth

BBC News – FGM: UK’s first female genital mutilation prosecutions announced

BBC News – FGM: UK’s first female genital mutilation prosecutions announced.

Ruth

Gay asylum seekers face ‘humiliation’ | UK news | The Observer

“I’m horrified by the nature of the questions that have been highlighted. It’s more like an interrogation than an interview…This is an unacceptable investigation of a gay asylum claim. Clearly, something is going terribly wrong here.”

via Gay asylum seekers face ‘humiliation’ | UK news | The Observer.

Rob Hallam

Cabinet Split Over 42 Day Detention Limit

As part of their campiagn against the 42 day limit, Liberal Conspiracy<\/a> brings us the news that there is a split in the cabinet<\/a> over plans to extend the limit that terror suspects can be detained for without charge.<\/p>\n

The news comes after Home Secretary Jaqui Smith had stated that the terror threat to the UK was growing<\/a>. In a statement to the News of the World, she said:<\/p>\n

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blockquote>

“We now face a threat level that is severe. It’s not getting any less, it’s actually growing. There are 2,000 individuals they are monitoring. There are 200 networks. There are 30 active plots. That has increased over the past two years. Since the beginning of 2007, 57 people have been convicted on terrorist plots. Nearly half of those pleaded guilty so this is not some figment of the imagination. It is a real risk and a real issue we need to respond to. We can’t wait for an attack to succeed and then rush in new powers. We’ve got to stay ahead.”<\/p><\/blockquote>\n

However, her views are at odds<\/a> with the Conservatives, Lib Dems, a growing number of unhappy backbenchers, former attorney-general Lord Goldsmith and the Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken McDonald. There have been arguments made that the new proposal will create ill-will in the Muslim community and actually cause the amount of intelligence supplied to drop. Lord Goldsmith also commented that it could be percieved as an attack on the Muslim community and used as a recruiting tool for terror organisations.<\/p>\n

However, Home Office minister Tony McNulty stated that he thought MPs ‘will buy<\/a>‘ the new limit.<\/p>\n

I find the language used by McNulty pretty scary:<\/p>\n

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“This is a very, very serious thing and I think once people understand the bulk of the model and the temporary nature then people do buy it.”<\/p><\/blockquote>\n

It (and other statements from the proponents of the proposals) rings very much of “There are lots of threats against all of us, but let us have have this for now and we promise it won’t be used too much…”. The law has to be renewed after two months (“The new limit would only be available to police for two months unless it was renewed<\/em>“, source<\/a>), but if it is passed the bar will be lowered and it will end up being renewed.<\/p>\n

The proposals are a big step up from the (already too long) 28 days to a month and a half. These proposals have to be opposed. There is talk that if they are defeated it will be very damaging for Gordon Brown and so forth, but politics aside, they have to be defeated. The limit is too long already, and (without being alarmist) extension would be another blow against democracy in this country.<\/p>\n”Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Rob Hallam

Appeal Frees 5 Students Jailed For ‘Jihadist’ Material

Five British Muslim students jailed for downloading extremist material from the internet were released today, after the Appeal Court ruled their convictions were unsafe. The Lord Chief Justice said that although the evidence was clear that the five had accessed the jihadi websites and literature there was no proof of any terrorist intent, the BBC reports.

In a statement today via his solicitor, Malik said: “As I said when I was arrested, I do not, have not and will not support terrorism in any form against innocent people.

“My prosecution was a test case under the 2000 Terrorism Act. Today’s decision means no first year student can ever be prosecuted again under this Act for possessing extremist literature.”

Freeing the men, the Lord Chief Justice said there was no proof of terrorist intent. The lawyer for one said they had been jailed for a “thought crime”.

Critics inside the Muslim community and civil liberty campaigners say section 57 of the 2000 Terrorism Act has been used as a blunt instrument to prosecute young Muslim men where there is no proof of genuine links to terrorism. Imran Khan, solicitor for Mr Zafar, said the five had been prosecuted for “thought crime” and that the ruling would have an significant impact.

He said:

“Young Muslim men before this judgement could have been prosecuted simply for simply looking at any material on the basis that it might be connected in some way to terrorist purposes.”

The Islamic Human Rights Commission said it hoped Thursday’s judgement would stop the “criminalisation of Muslim youth for downloading and reading material that is widely available to everyone”.

Chairman Massoud Shadjareh said:

“Our anti terror strategy should target and bring to account those who plan criminal acts of terrorism. Instead individuals who write poetry, read blogs or download material from the internet are being targeted because of their ethnicity or religious affiliation.”

From the BBC, The Register and The Times Online.

Since this was a test case, it will hopefully have impacts on later cases. We may laugh and sigh at banning books (and rightly so), but the same thing is happening here. The lawyer said it was a thought crime, and so it was. Reading material of any sort should never be conflated with planning terrorism and it certainly should not be a crime.

“Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”
~Potter Stewart