Proud to Live In the UK – Discuss!!
I wrote recently that there are many things in 21st century UK to be proud of but sadly much of it is overshadowed by those we should be ashamed of amongst which are the fact that over 300,000 people are suffering and have been treated for malnutrition in the UK.
Add to that the shameful situation of over 500,000 families who are reliant on food banks to put food on the table because of this Coalition Government’s economic policies are unable to make ends meet and you start to ask should we be proud to live in the UK.
Is it really acceptable that almost 350,000 people have received at least three days emergency food from Trussell Trust ‘food banks’ during the last 12 months, nearly 100,000 more than anticipated and close to triple the number helped in 2011-12.
The real data shows that 346,992 people received a minimum of three days emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks in 2012-13, compared to 128,697 in 2011-12 and up from 26,000 in 2008-09. Of those helped in 2012-13, 126,889 (36.6 percent) were children.
This was a question that was brought home to me again when a friend who served with me in the Royal Navy and who now lives in the USA asked just what is wrong with the UK having read that a former soldier had his benefits stopped.
It seems unfathomable to me and too many ex- servicemen that anyone would think that stopping Mr Stephen Taylor’s £71.20 a week Job Seekers Allowance because he volunteered to sell poppies outside of an ASDA store was a sensible idea.
This isn’t one of the slivers or shirkers the Government are so keen to promote all of those on benefits as being, but a 60-year-old veteran who served in Northern Ireland at the height of ‘ the troubles’ when service personnel were under constant threat.
and it would be wrong to blame the Jobcentre workers who decided to withdraw the payments; they after all were “only obeying orders”!!
OK, I am being facetious, blindly ‘obeying orders’ is and should never be an excuse and has been tried throughout history to justify unacceptable actions and activities.
Fortunately without a great deal of success.
I wrote about the events of Remembrance Sunday and being stood between a Jew and Hindu with two Muslims sat nearby and thinking how great it is that we live in a country where everyone is accepted.
The problem of course is that in seeing what is happening across the country and listening to all political parties posturing over who is the most welcoming and tolerant in the pursuit of their votes I can’t help thinking my friends got it right and buggered off.
Was this the kind of country they served in the Armed Services for?
A 21st Century country where there are over 3 million children living in cold, damp and overcrowded homes and where over 1.5 million children complain of being cold.
The stigmatization of poverty, not only for the adults but more importantly for the 3 million children, a figure that many charities are expecting to rise is demonstrated in the latest research which shows that 55% said they felt embarrassed and 14% have suffered bullying because of their situation.
It was common in the UK during the post war years and into the 1950’s when rationing still existed, and there wasn’t any work for people who those of us call the ‘baby boomers’ understand what it is to come from families who lived and accepted the prevailing austerity.
It was a time when parents regularly went without a decent meal themselves to ensure that their children had a hot meal at least once a day and my family was no different to all of those around us.
It forged a community where neighbours supported each other through tough times working on the theory that ‘ no one had anything but were willing to share it’.
For our parents it was simply the penalty of fighting a just war, but which also drove then to make sure that we had a better life and future, something the majority of the current generation of parents cannot aspire to for their children.
To see a return of families having to submit to the embarrassment and indignity of being means tested in order to get a voucher for a ‘food-bank’ is something we and especially politicians should be ashamed of.
Are they? Are they hell
Of course they aren’t and to see a picture of a smiling Danny Alexander the Treasury Minister who along with George Osborne is responsible for the economic policies that has led to 3 million children in poverty apparently being proud of opening a ‘food-bank’ just turns the stomach.
And who can forget the comment by Phillip Hammond, the Minister of Defence claiming that the public support of ‘food banks’ is confirmation of the success of the Governments ‘Big Society’ policy.
As an aside whatever happens to the ‘Big Society’?
Taking it to its logical conclusion the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition would argue that the Red Cross distributing food parcels for the first time since the Second World War across the UK is also a sign of the success of the ‘big Society’
The plight of the children in poverty is best summed up by Matthew Reed, the chief executive of the Children’s Society, when he said:
“For millions of children up and down the country, poverty is a grinding reality – and it is getting worse. Many families are facing stark and unacceptable choices, like heat or eat. This is disgraceful in any country, especially in one of the worlds richest.”
In a separate report it showed that greater numbers of disadvantaged families are using services offered by local children’s centres, despite continuing local government funding being cut.
The research published by the charity 4Children, which runs family and children’s services across Britain, revealed that although 73% of children’s centres say they worked with an increasing number of families over the past 12 months, 66% are operating on a decreased budget compared with the previous year. About a third expects to be able to provide fewer services in a year’s time.
In other words, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that the economic policies are driving more and more children into poverty and needing increased support the Government are continuing to cut the very funding and services needed.
Which brings me back to the question about being “Proud to Live in the UK”
Proud that ex- armed service personnel are being sacked just before they are entitled to their pension? NO
Proud that ex- armed service personnel are being penalised for selling poppies in remembrance of their fallen comrades? NO
Proud that 300,000 people are suffering poverty relates illnesses to the extent that Doctors are now having to ask patients if they are having enough to eat? NO
Proud that 500,000 families are reliant on ‘food banks’ or Red Cross parcels? NO
Proud that an estimated 30,000 elderly people will die this winter because of poverty and cold? NO
Proud the 3,000,000 children are living in cold, damp and overcrowded conditions? NO
Proud that on average 2 Sure Start Centres a week are closing penalizing our young children’s futures? NO
Proud that 1,000,000 young people are unemployed and unable to get either a job of adequate vocational training? NO
Proud that the number of families with children who through no fault of their own are homeless and have to suffer the trauma of being stuck in Bed and Breakfast has increase by 35% in the last 2 years ? NO
Proud that young people from poorer backgrounds are now because of the £9,000 a year fees excluded from recovering a university education? NO
Proud of the Country I served for over 22 years? HELL NO
Proud of the people I served with both in the armed services and prison service and those who are currently serving? HELL YES
Proud of all of those who care? ABSOLUTELY
I have very little, bordering on NO confidence in the ‘professional political class’ who see power over morals as a result and record of success in its own right and the pursuit of power by in the words of Malcolm X “any means necessary” is acceptable.
So as I approach my 65th birthday am I proud to live in the UK?
But it is the Country of my Birth and I remain perhaps overly optimistic and believe in the inherent tolerance, kindness and common humanity of the majority people of the UK.