It’s been over 6 weeks since Saira applied for Universal Credit. Ever since, she has been turning up to the Food Bank literally every day. Dishevelled and forlorn, she sits for hours, sunk into a folding chair next to the disabled toilet.
Universal Credit hasn’t quite rolled out in most of North West London, but Saira recently moved from Brent to Islington and was forced to switch to the new ‘flagship’ scheme.
To be fair, the overall aim of Universal Credit is noble (or should I say economically expedient for a government determined to cut costs). Universal Credit aims to simplify access to the benefits system, make work pay and help those in itinerant employment receive some extra help as and when they need it. But frankly, it’s an absolute shambles. A Universal Shambles.
Saira’s first challenge is that she must apply online. She doesn’t have a computer. She doesn’t have internet. And even if she did, she wouldn’t know how to use it.
And then there’s the big waiting game: applicants must wait 5 weeks to receive any money (it was 6 weeks before, but Mrs May, bless her socks, felt that a 5-week wait was sufficiently punitive for the poor). It is therefore no surprise that food bank use in areas afflicted by Universal Credit has seen a 50% increase in demand.
All this, alongside computer glitches and multiple changes to rules and regulations (one DWP official at the local job centre confessed that he couldn’t keep up with the chaos), has left people in debt, rent arrears and financial ruin. And at risk of suicide, according to this article in the Guardian.
From 21 November, Universal Credit is coming to the London Borough of Brent. So, if you’re applying for benefits for the first time, or your circumstances change, you can say goodbye to the Christmas cheer. You won’t be eating a traditional turkey dinner. You won’t be switching on your heating or boiling the kettle. You won’t have any credit on your phone. And your landlord will be threatening you every day that he’s calling the bailiffs.
With all the government’s Brexit woes, will anyone be thinking about these families in need?
What happens inside a Food Bank?
On Wednesday 12 December 2018, Sufra NW London is hosting the award-winning drama production “Food Bank As It Is” by Tara Osman, at Queens Park Community School. The play will give an insight into the reason why people end up in food poverty – and what it means to have to turn to a Food Bank for support.
The event includes a drinks reception, an art exhibition and a panel discussion led by Food Bank guests. Discounted tickets are available here, for just £1. Use voucher code “ILOVESUFRA”. No need to blush.
Warm Home Discount – £140 Fuel Credit
We’re offering all our Food Bank guests (and anyone else who is eligible) support in applying for the Warm Home Discount. This is one of those hidden opportunities where utility companies offer £140 fuel credit to low-income families on certain benefits.
As the weather gets colder, and it becomes more difficult to keep up with the cost of heating, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
If you know anyone who needs help in applying for the Warm Home Discount, get in touch. But don’t leave it too late. Some utility companies have already reached their quotas!
Pizza Night at Community Kitchen
Restaurant Pizzapolli at the Best Western Plus in Wembley is sponsoring our Community Kitchen on Friday 7 December 2018. Pizzapolli’s chef will prepare hand-tossed, clay-oven baked pizzas for our guests. A true restaurant experience. No need to reserve a table. Just turn up from 6:30pm.
This Sunday is Mitzvah Day – the International Jewish Day of Volunteering. Food collections will be taking place across North West London, and our first collection will be at Brent Cross Tesco on Hendon Way.
Thank you for all your support.
Mohammed S Mamdani