“They need to really listen to people’s experiences and situations”
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, one single mum of three tells how she seeks a second chance, and of her weekly struggle to stretch her income far enough
People end up in debt through credit cards, or Brighthouse. You get something and it says it’s only £5 or £10 a week, then you end up paying £2,000 for a washing machine.
I have got court fines coming out of my benefits because I lost my driving licence, and I’ve also got social fund loans coming out and council tax, it just feels like debt after debt after debt.
I get £48 a week child benefit, £150 a week child tax credits and about £80 a fortnight in income support. That’s for myself and three children, who are eleven, four and seven months. Baby milk alone costs me £10 a week because I can’t use Homestart vouchers for the milk we need. Then there’s the rent, the gas, the electric.
So three weeks ago I went to a food bank for the first time. When I first went, I thought ‘Oh God’. It was scary. But the people I met were nice, just talking about babies, and random stuff.
We need an end to benefit cuts, but they also need to look deep into people’s situations and see how much they need the benefits. And employers need to give people a chance. Some people want a second chance. I want to go back to college and do hairdressing but I don’t know of any grant or anything I can get because I’m nearly 30. There should be more ways to get work experience.
My son is going to high school this year and it’s £40 for the blazer, then there are the shoes and whole uniform and tie. I get no help from his father, and then the holidays are expensive as well. Any trip out is so expensive. You can pay £100 before you even get to the seaside, so stuff to help in the holidays is needed.
I miss meals. I feel I hardly eat anything now; I just cook for my kids rather than myself. I never eat breakfast in the morning and quite often do not eat dinner; I just make sure I eat some tea.
I think the politicians need to really listen to people’s experiences and situations. There maybe are some people who do not need benefits but there need to be more job offers and more help.
The bigger picture
The interviewee above 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:
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.
The woman above (and the other people who we interviewed) spoke about hunger, and the various factors that led to them and their families becoming trapped in poverty.
This interview talks about the impact of companies such as Brighthouse. There are alternatives, such as Fairforyou, which was launched in 2016.
Stories like this interviewee’s have helped to shape the End Hunger UK campaign, with which we are involved. Tragically, this mum is far from alone in missing meals. A recent YouGov poll found one in four parents had missed meals, with one in eight going without food for a whole day.
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 who have experienced hunger first hand. 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.