Stepping into the Newcastle West End Foodbank made famous by I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s scorching film about the victims of Tory austerity, a humble little old lady held a cheque.
Aged 80 and living nearby, in a faint Scottish dialect she modestly declared a regretful life had been made harder than in her salad days so she wanted to support families less fortunate than her own.
Manager John McCorry, who runs the venue Church of the Venerable Bede in the Tyneside city’s Benwell area thanked the pensioner and coaxed out her address to send a polite letter of appreciation. He noticed the cheque was for £250, but she asked him not to publish her name as she was doing only what was right and warranted no public recognition.
She was one of the fortunate ones because she got a nice council house and a decent job, and now a modest pension, and she’d wanted to go to the Church for weeks, and believed that it was evil what was happening to people, and that they should be helped, not punished, and that formulating poverty is inexcusable.
Earlier a couple of handsome siblings in stylish trainers and designer threads, sauntered into the food bank located in the Church of the Venerable Bede in the Tyneside city’s Benwell area, and builders Behzad and Behnam Emami, 29 and 34, started to clean up.
Four years ago they had been asylum seekers from Iran who began volunteering when banned from paid employment, but they continued volunteering after the Home Office let them stay and find employment, and when they’re available they simply come to help out because helping people is great.
Later in the city’s famous indoor Grainger Market, with its famous Marks and Spencer’s Penny Bazaar, an old man in shabby garments also wanted to help. He had a handful of coins as he meekly approached a unit the food bank operates with Newcastle United fans to collect “Toonaid” donations from a Geordie nation doing what the Conservative government isn’t, and the kindness of people is amazing and completely touching.
The food bank gives life-saving packages from two centres, including the Church of the Venerable Bede, and a warehouse in Newburn co-ordinate delivery, but without these amazing volunteers and all the people collecting and donating food and money, it makes you question what might happen to the people in genuine need and that are going hungry.
It’s not only adults, but it also’s the children too, and demand is growing, and poverty is growing as well.
The Newcastle West End Foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust network and the biggest in the country, serving close to 50,000 families this year with 106 tonnes of food worth £209,000.
Hot meals are served and packages are given to take home. Meanwhile, an integration programme seeks to sort out problems with landlords, benefits, health, both physical and mental, plus treatments for addictions, and the gut-wrenching stories of families left in desperation by gaping holes ripped in the welfare state by the Tories are commonplace everywhere in the country.
Slum landlords, DWP sanctions, bad bosses and Universal Credit are evils either endured or administered by self-righteous Conservative Ministers, and people sleeping on the streets or in cars and vans is expanding.
One mother was £3,500 in debt after the council charged her £30 a week bedroom tax despite her readiness to move into a smaller property the local authority couldn’t find, then if you look around Newcastle’s West End food bank you’ll see two unkempt young men who were once soldiers and are now living rough.
One was ready to give up, feeling rejected by the country which put him in a uniform and sent him to war and then dropped him like a sack of potatoes, but to those people out there who are going about their everyday life and have a job, it’s not always that apparent to them that there are people out there that are struggling.
People simply don’t have the time to consider stuff like this, it’s like material that comes out of a Dicken’s novel, and it’s expanding at such intensity that people are blind to what’s going on.
Christine Wood, a retired library worker proud of her MBE, represents herself in I, Daniel Blake’s food bank scenes, and she sees genuine people being treated badly, and sometimes you’ve really got to bite your lip when they tell you what’s happening, now they’ve got no money and are very desperate.
You could cry but you can’t afford to cry or let yourself go downhill, and you couldn’t help them if you did. So you show compassion and try to put a smile on their faces.
We all know who are formulating this misery, and what the government’s doing, and they’ll never be forgiven, but ordinary people have the ability to change these things, and we all need to stop voting Tory.
Austerity is not over, but then Theresa May doesn’t appear to think that people going to food banks is a problem, but then the Tories simply don’t care because they’re cruel.