“We’d like to be done out of a job” – life on the foodbank frontline.

“We’d like to be done out of a job” – life on the foodbank frontline.

With hundreds of thousands of visits to foodbanks occurring every year, coupled with benefit cuts and delays, how do staff on the frontline cope, reports Charlie Wetton

It’s not often you find people who will so openly preach about wanting to lose their job. But for the coordinator of a Kennington foodbank – Rebekah Gibson, it is something that she longs for. I sat down with her during the middle of a standard two-hour session of the Oasis Centre in Kennington.

 

Foodbanks, benefit cuts and delays and endless parliamentary debates have kept foodbanks in the news for years now. Those on the frontline of this ongoing struggle are left to pick up societies pieces. According to the Trussel Trust, more than one million three-day emergency food supplies were issued between April 2016 and March 2017. In the six months following, another half a million were given out as the true reality of the Universal Credit switchover bore out.

 

Rebekah is the only paid staff member of the Waterloo branch of the Trussel Trust. With her are a group of up to 50 regular volunteers. She explained why so many people offered their time.

“A lot of our volunteers have recently seen the film I Daniel Blake… They saw that and thought ‘I didn’t realise how big this problem was’ and they felt the couldn’t sit back.”

 

Throughout this 20-minute sit down, it was refreshing to hear the passion of someone talking about their career. Even when asked about the hard times and how the job can affect her.

“Lots of the people coming in here are in really horrible situations, they’ve had really tough and really traumatic events happen to them… When people open up and share those stories with you, it’s great that you can be a part of their journey, a part of their story but obviously it does affect you emotionally and does cause impact to you. “

 

There is no doubt to her that cuts and delays to benefits have been the primary driver of people to foodbanks. This interview came just two days after Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced the switchover period to Universal Credit would be reduced to five from six weeks. Rebekah described the six-week wait as “crippling” to people living hand to mouth. The end of the interview leads to me to ask bluntly. Is this a battle you can win?

“All foodbank managers would like to say that they would be done out of a job. Our vision is to see the door of the last foodbank close”.

Unsurprisingly she qualifies that this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

 

Downstairs in the store room, plastic tubs full of cereals and canned goods adorn the shelves. I see the laminated sheets that spell out how much of what different groups of people should get.

 

The laminated sheets tell the volunteers what quantity of what products should be given out

Down there, I meet two volunteers, sifting through large boxes of donations. One of them, Katie told me that being in-between jobs means she wanted to do something with her spare time. The bureaucracy of the benefits system is castigated, how heavy handed it can be because you may miss one appointment or fill out a form incorrectly.

“Just doing something and not knowing it’s the wrong thing to do. The idea that you can end up not being able to feed your family because of that is just awful”.

Last chance for police front desk

Last chance for police front desk

Residents have until Friday to reply to the Met’s consultation plans to close Southwark police station’s front desk.

 

Residents in Southwark only have until Friday to register their views regarding the closure of the front desk of the police station on Borough Road as part of City Hall’s drive to save hundreds of millions of pounds. The changes will mean residents will no longer be able to report crimes directly to an officer on the desk.

 

Southwark Police Station on Borough Road

 

The station is situated only a few hundred yards from the site of the London Bridge and Borough Market terrorist attacks that killed eight people and injured 48 others in June. Local resident Anne Walters said. “I can understand why they are closing the front desk as barely anyone ever goes there. But I still don’t like the idea that no one will be able to report anything direct to someone there”.

 

Borough Market was targeted by terrorists in June. Eight people died.

 

The Metropolitan Police has to make £1bn of savings by 2020 due to cuts from central government. The Met says that the front desks are rarely used by members of the public to report crimes. Their closures would free up money that would be put back in to frontline policing. They also said they people are now able to report crimes using smartphones, tablets and computers.