While the debate on poverty and the benefits system in the UK continues, as many as 8 million people are estimated to be living in dire conditions unable to afford food, rent and basic necessities.
Last Christmas, a London radio channel received a call on-air from a 35 year old man who could barely afford to eat. This was after he was made redundant and his marriage broke down. He was unable to get a job and he didn't know what to do.
This happened on the same day that a shocking report revealed the scale of food wastage in the UK. According to research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the number of those on less than the minimum income threshold in 2012/13 was up by more than a third from 5.9 million in 2008/09. Moreover, families headed by lone parents are under the greatest pressure, with 71% (2.3 million individuals) living below the required level, up from 65% (2.2 million).
If you find yourself living in poverty or unable to keep up with debt driving you into poverty, there are many organisations and charity to help cope and gradually improve your situation (and that of your family/dependents).
Food Banks: A recent initiative by The Guardian sought to create a map of foodbanks across the UK using help from people around the country to pitch in with information. Here is a map of foodbanks across the UK, which you can refer to. You may also find it useful to contact The Trussell Trust who now have operations across 400 centres.
If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot feed yourself or can’t afford keep the family fed sufficiently, it is alright to visit a foodbank. According to Trussell Trust, over half of children living in poverty in the UK are from working households and many of the people helped by foodbanks are in work. Rising cost of living combined with no rise in wages have caused many to hit a crisis where they can’t afford to eat.
You will be required to undergo an assessment whether you are entitled to food vouchers (food bank staff will help arrange assessments). It will help to know that food banks, such as those under the Trussell Trust offer food packets created with advice from dieticians. It is a myth that foodbank packets are unhealthy, substandard or near-dated.
Help available to cope with poverty
If you are struggling to make ends meet and you find coping with your situation is taking its toll on you, help is available. Many charities exist to help people with their unique circumstances.
Home-Start UK offer support to families struggling to cope, while Save the Children can provide much needed help for children and AgeUK can assist the elderly with living on a low income during the later life.
For many individuals and families, their circumstances can be new to them and which can be a cause of immense worry and psychological distress. These can manifest in difficulties particularly for the children in the household if they aren’t looked into. You will find many charitable organisations as well as advisory centres, such as Christians Against Poverty, who will assist you whether you're feeling the weight of debt, struggling to find work or just need a bit of help budgeting.
The most important thought to keep in mind is not to blame yourself or be hard on yourself. It is not always our fault (rather the difficult economic situation) and you are certainly not alone in your situation.
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