Passing through the eye of a needle

“There is so much wealth and so much misery at the same time, that it seems incredible that people can endure such class difference, and accept such a form of hunger while on the other hand, the millionaires throw away millions on stupidities.” – Frida Kahlo

Do you remember a time in the UK when we didn’t have Foodbanks ? And it would have been thought impossible to have them in Orkney ? – but we do – Foodbanks, Food larders, emergency vouchers – all of this in one of the world’s richest countries.

Some of those Foodbanks are run by The Trussell Trust – here are its latest figures for the UK:

  • almost 3 million (2,986,203) food parcels were given out – more than ever before
  • more than a million of the parcels were provided for children
  • The number of parcels provided between April 2022 – March 2023 is more than double the amount distributed by food banks in the same period five years ago

This is the most parcels food banks in the charity’s UK-wide network have ever distributed in a single year and represents a 37% increase compared to last year.  

More than 760,000 people used a food bank in the Trussell Trust network for the first time, a 38% increase in people who have needed support for the first time, compared to the same period last year.  

Percentage change in number of parcels distributed in the Trussell Trust network by nation 2017/18 – 2022/23

The value of Universal Credit has been allowed to erode over time and is now at its lowest ever level as a proportion of average earnings, with almost half of households seeing their payments reduced even further due to a range of deductions and caps. (Response to written Parliamentary Question UIN117529 by Rt Hon. Stephen Crabb MP, answered 16 January 2023 (2023), Opperman, G MP, https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2023-01-06/117529)

In their research into poverty in the UK The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report that Northern Ireland and Scotland have lower poverty rates than England and Wales – within England the highest rates of poverty are found in the North East and in London.

The JRF have identified that the elements in the benefits system which are actually contributing to the shocking increases in poverty includes the two child limit in income related benefits – which is also known as the rape clause. The two child benefit cap, the bedroom tax and other limits to UK welfare payments are supported by the Tories in Scotland but which the Scottish Government has to spend millions in order to counteract their effect on people’s incomes, health and wellbeing.

The UK Benefit Cap is a limit on the total amount of benefit you can get. It applies to most people aged 16 or over who have not reached State Pension age. It affects:

  • Universal Credit
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance (or Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widow’s Pension if you started getting it before 9 April 2001)

The Scottish Government will spend up to £84 million in 2023-24 on Discretionary Housing Payments to mitigate the UK Government’s bedroom tax and the on-going freeze to Local Housing Allowance rates. It also has additional benefits which it pays for out of its limited budget to try and mitigate the worst effects of the UK Government’s policies.

Social Security Scotland currently administer the following benefits:

  • Carer’s Allowance Supplement – an automatic payment made twice a year to people who get Carer’s Allowance through the DWP on certain dates each year.
  • Funeral Support Payment – money towards the costs of a funeral at a difficult time like this for people on certain benefits who are responsible for paying for a funeral.
  • Job Start Payment – £294.70 for 16 to 24 year olds who have been on certain benefits for six months or more to help with the costs of starting a job.
  • Young Carer Grant – an annual payment of £359.65 for people 16, 17 or 18 who care for people who get a disability benefit from the DWP for an average of 16 hours a week or more.
  • Child Winter Heating Assistance – a £235.70 payment to help families of a child on the highest rate care component of Disability Living Allowance for Children to heat their homes.
  • Scottish Child Payment – £100 every four weeks to help towards the costs of looking after each child under 16 for families who get certain benefits
  • Child Disability Payment – extra money to help with the costs of caring for a child with a disability or ill-health condition. It replaces Disability Living Allowance for children in Scotland that was previously delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Adult Disability Payment – extra money to help people who have a long-term illness or a disability that affects their everyday life. It replaces Personal Independence Payment people in Scotland previously delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Winter Heating Payment – a yearly payment of £50 to help people on low income benefits who might have extra heating needs during the winter.

There are also a wide range of other services free in Scotland which do not exist elsewhere in the UK such as: free NHS prescriptions, free bus travel for all those under 22, no tuition fees, The Baby Box – free to every mother who wishes one – and a host of other actions taken to reduce inequality and increase opportunity.

For some in the UK their personal wealth is growing – the great gulf in equality that is increasing the divide in our society.

Even before his coronation on May 6, Charles now oversees some $46 billion in assets and inherited at least $500 million from Queen Elizabeth, including her castles, jewels, art collection and a horse farm—all of it tax-free. – Forbes

And the Sunday Times Top Ten Rich List for 2022 includes eye watering amounts of wealth

This shocking imbalance between the rich few and the rest of society being driven further into poverty is causing ever deepening harms to our citizens. Today, 6th May 2023, the coronation of King Charles III takes place in London. The cost in financial terms has not been revealed but has been estimated by some sources as around £100million. The nations of the world will be agog at the pomp and splendour of golden coaches and ceremony that are taking place. But what kind of legacy will King Charles III’s reign be remembered for ? Will it be for one day in May or for a UK where he reigns over an ever increasing poverty stricken people?

 it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24

Fiona Grahame

4 replies »

  1. Absolutely. The concept and acceptance of the rich disgusts me. The fact that people will hoard vast quantities of riches they would need a hundred lifetimes to spend, whilst happily knowing others will suffer lives of deprived misery or even death from want, is utterly beyond me.
    The best quote on the subject I have heard is:
    ‘It is not that we cannot feed the poor, it is that we cannot satisfy the rich’.
    And today many of them, including the jewel-bedecked Charles, the titular head of the Church of England, will gather in the Abbey in a Christian service, utterly ignoring Jesus’s instructions to ‘give all you have to the poor and follow me’.
    If there’s a more prominent example of blatant hypocrisy I haven’t heard of it.

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