I was trapped by the swirling flow of benefit cuts and changes

Arthritis forced Anita to stop work and she says cuts have been drastic

We visited the Parson Cross Initiative at Mount Tabor Church in Sheffield one Friday morning, and spoke to eight people who have had cause to use the centre’s food bank. Here, Anita talks of holiday hunger, missing meals, and the tightening grip of the benefits freeze.

I live near here and I’ve been coming here for five months now.  

 

I went to Citizens Advice because my PIP (Personal Independence Payment) had been stopped so when I got my (Employment and Support Allowance) it had deductions. It was a bit daunting the first few times I came. They were helpful but I felt uncomfortable because I felt I should not need to be here. I felt other people must need it more than me. Now, we’ve started coming here on Tuesdays. They do art and this week did a health and hygiene certificate day. 

 

I get £49 a week after gas, electric, council tax, council tax fines and an old social fund loan from before. I come here some weeks and I had friends who helped me out over Christmas. Friends did shopping for me so I didn’t need to come to the food bank then. 

 

They need to stop doing what they are doing with benefits. It’s drastic. It’s like living in the 1980s. If this was not here I would get stressed more and worry more and get depressed. Before I went to Citizens Advice I had sold a table and chairs and unit to fund myself.

 

I think it’s been getting more difficult in the last three or four years for everybody who is on benefits and has long-term illnesses, depression or anxiety. It’s getting harder and harder to live. I was on Jobseeker’s Allowance, work-related incapacity benefit. I stopped work five or six years ago. I had been a qualified industrial cleaner but I got arthritis in my spine and have no protection on the nerve system on my spine.

 

I get £49 a week and I have to get the cats food and litter, pay rent, and then the bus fares are £4 a day and the rest goes on bread and milk. I sold a lot of my old jewellery and at Christmas I pawned things but could not afford to get them back. I miss meals quite a lot but I try not to complain about missing meals. 

 

The Government needs to get rid of PIP but I also worry about what will happen when Universal Credit comes in here in November.

 

The bigger picture

Anita was one of eight people we spoke to on a recent visit to the Parson Cross Initiative, which works with community groups and churches in its part of Sheffield to help meet local needs. The project grew from, and is based at, Mount Tabor Methodist Church. You can read the others here:

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What would it mean for your church, or for the church as a whole, to become a church of the poor? We researched this in 2016, and published this report.

Anita talks about the impact of the benefits freeze. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year projected that the freeze would mean an extra 500,000 people being swept into poverty by 2020, but identified alternative Government actions that could protect families from that rising tide

Stories like Anita’s help to shape our work, such as the End Hunger UK campaign.

The campaign sets out nine potential Government policies, all of which would help to reduce hunger and poverty, all of which are based on the real experiences of people like Anita. Please take a few moments to look at those nine ideas, to contact local groups working to alleviate poverty in your area, and to speak to your MP to ask them to help end hunger.

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