1) Red Cross launches emergency food aid plan in Britain
For the first time since the end of the second world war, the Red Cross will collect food for hungry Britons this winter as the economic downturn and cuts to welfare push more people into poverty, forcing them to turn to food banks.
The Red Cross will send out volunteers into supermarkets at the end of November and ask shoppers to donate dry food. The food will then be distributed by FareShare, a charity already working with Britain’s largest food bank – the Trussell Trust.
Around 500,000 people now rely on food banks across the UK, a number increased from 40,000 last year. As austerity cuts deeper and winter approaches, families are expected to find it even more difficult to make their money stretch with increased heating bills. The Trussell Trust and other food banks worry that they may not be able to cope with demand, and asked for help and a plan for the coming months.
Some Tories seem to shrug off the link between the welfare cuts and increased use of food banks, with Michael Gove commenting that those struggling simply need to manage their finances better, and Lord Freud said that families were simply after a free meal.
Bekele Geleta, the Secretary General of the International Federation of the Red Cross, warned governments, saying “While we fully understand that governments need to save money, we strongly advise against indiscriminate cuts in public health and social welfare, as it may cost more in the long run.”
2) New campaign speaks out for benefit claimants to ‘change the debate’
Over 70 charity organisations have joined to launch a campaign that aims to ‘change the debate’ on benefits and welfare because damaging media and government rhetoric is causing people to deny and feel shame about asking for help and what they are entitled to.
The campaign website says:
“We all need support sometimes. Yet too often those who have been helped by benefits get ignored, misrepresented or at worst blamed for their situation.
“But if the millions of us who have needed benefits share our stories – and those who haven’t express their support – then together we can change the debate.”
3) Cabinet shake up receives mixed response from disability campaigners
Disability Minister Esther McVey has been replaced by Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, a former spin doctor who worked for Iain Duncan Smith. McVey has been promoted to Employment Minister replacing Mark Hoban who was recently sacked, which means she will still have a large role to play in disability welfare and is also handling the department that runs the controversial Work Capability Assessments.
Labour’s Liam Byrne has also been replaced as shadow work and pensions secretary by Leeds MP, Rachel Reeves. The move was welcomed by many disability campaigners who believe that Byrne had followed the Tory Party hard line on social security spending and welfare reform.
“A DPAC spokeswoman said: “Byrne may latterly have started raising the devastating impact of so-called welfare reforms on disabled people, but it was too little too late.
“Byrne represented a New Labour approach barely distinguishable from the Tories in being tough on welfare when what we need is an opposition that defends social security and challenges rather than reinforces myths about shirkers and workers.”
4) Government adviser says expensive Work Programme is failing disabled people
Liz Sayce, head of Disability Rights UK, has called on the government to re-think it’s expensive Work Programmes and plans to help disabled people find paid work, as the current systems are failing the most vulnerable in society.
According to data released last month, 93% of disabled people within the work programme failed to find work. Sayce, a government adviser said the Work Programme was “a non-work programme – at best it is heading for an 88% failure rate with people on out-of-work disability benefits. Some providers do very good work, but perverse incentives stop them spreading it. Disabled people want to play a more central role, working with employers, to secure job and career opportunities and use their talents, to the benefit of everyone.”