Sunday, 30 June 2013

Telford Food Bank: a real life experience

Earlier this year I was contacted by a newly-arrived resident experiencing some real difficulties settling in to her new home in Brookside with her son.

The pair of them were forced to move from their previous home in quite appalling circumstances which I won't go into and decided to make a new life in Telford.  All was going well until her son was offered a job and the Jobcentre decided to stop his benefits while he was waiting for some background checks to be completed and a start date to come through which left them both with literally a few pounds a week with which to feed themselves.

Being a councillor doesn't remove endless layers of bureaucracy, nor does it count for much with the likes of the Jobcentre with their remote and dispassionate call centres.  I did my best for these people though and they tell me that what I did was a help but it didn't seem like enough at the time. The biggest help of all, though, was something that I can't take the credit for - Telford Food Bank.

The food bank is part of Telford Crisis Network which is run by Ironbridge councillor, Jake Bennett.  He spends hours coordinating food parcel deliveries, collecting donations and taking enquiries from people like me who want to help someone but aren't sure what services are the best to direct them to.  If they haven't started polishing his medal at Buckingham Palace yet then they'd best get a move on because the man is a saint.

I was surprised to find just a few months ago that I was the first councillor in Telford & Wrekin to make a referral to the food bank.  Probably not as surprised as Jake was that the first would be a UKIP councillor as the media likes to portray us all as posh right wing ex-Tories! (For the record, I've never voted Tory in my life and I'm certainly not posh).

I know that the food parcels donated by Telford Food Bank to these particular residents was a huge help and without them they would have both gone hungry.  They didn't have a choice to make between paying bills and eating, they had no money for either.  They weren't frittering away their money on booze, fags and nights out - they simply had no money because of a broken system and intransigent Jobcentre staff who made a mistake and wouldn't put it right.

I'm pleased to say that the lady and her son that benefited from the food bank this year are back on their feet now and want to make their own donation to the food bank to help other people.  There is no doubt that there are a great number of people who take advantage of the social security system and live a life of relative comfort without a care as to who pays their bills but equally there are a great number of people who find themselves in such dire straits that they have to go without food through no fault of their own.  These are the people that need our help and I would urge anyone in a position to do so, to support Telford Food Bank.

If you or someone you know is in a similar situation and needs the support of the food bank then please do get in touch with me.  If you live in the Brookside area and want to make a donation to Telford Food Bank then please let me know and I will be happy to collect what you have and make sure it gets to a food bank collection point.