"Gonne have a wee bit of a rant here, already had this rant with a friend but thought it might be good to share here as the purpose of this platform is to record such experiences afterall. To understand the rant here's a little back story, for context, our local community center, through the youth club that my kids attend outside covid, sends weekly food bags to families whos kids who go to the youth club. They also have a little food bank set up at the community center for anyone in the community to go and use. They normally deliver to youth club families each week and anyone else visits the centre. Last week they contacted me and asked me collect from the center as lasts week was an Easter bundle, multiple bags, they still ended up needing to help me carry the bags back home as they're often quite heavy (which is why they normal deliver, plus social distancing needs). They also delivered an extra bag for everyone a couple days later (normally two bags on different days during school holidays, one bag term time). Monday was the special Easter bag and Wednesday is the usual bag/center food bank day. Last Monday they asked us to collect and last Wednesday they delivered. Today being Wednesday. No delivery. By 1pm my neighbour text to ask if I'd heard from the center about if we were meant to collect today, I replied that no one had contacted me and normally the lady in charge contacts me as I often take in bags for people on my street who are out when deliveries occur. I told my neighbour that they normally let us know before two. But to be safe I sent a message to the lady from the center who normally contacts me asking if we're meant to collect or await delivery cos we'd not heard anything. I checked the center's Facebook page, as they normally out updates in there, nothing. Neighbour n I both have anxiety issues and even in the message I sent to the center lady I was full of apologises for bothering her, for asking, for texting. We're anxious asking for help, we're anxious of being seen as greedy, ungrateful, selfish, etc. So I didn't want to text, I felt shame and guilt doing so. I assume my neighbour felt shame and guilt asking me if I knew anything, but as we're friends she likely felt safer asking me than asking the center itself. 2:30pm I get a reply from the center lady I usually talk too. She told me she's off this week, responsibility for contacting families was with another member of her team, this other person was supposed to contact us about today's arrangements, the center is closed now til next week and she's "really sorry about it". Ofcourse I politely replied with the usual "oh, no big, thanks for letting me know", a big rock in my stomach as I now needed to convey this news to my neighbour. My neighbour who has even less money than me and needs these bags more than I do. I apologised to her, feeling bad for the situation she was in, wishing I'd inquired earlier so we could've avoided this outcome. Blaming myself for someone else's mistake. And ofcourse my neighbour said to me "no worries, it's not your fault". And she's probably feeling just as shitty about the situation as I was feeling, she probably felt bad for my feeling bad, she's probably blaming herself for asking me instead of checking directly with the community center herself, probably blaming herself for putting me in this middle man position. Probably blaming herself for being poor, the same as I've been conditioned to blame myself for being poor, the same as many others are thusly conditioned. Then I started thinking about the faceless person who was actually the person responsible, in the absence of the usual lady on the center team, to contact us and let us know that's attachments had changed again this week. How might she be feeling. I wanted to say, she probably feels bad about it, and that's probably true. I know all the people on that team, I made a point of getting to know them all when my kids went there for youth club so I could feel safe leaving my kids in their care. I know them on a professional/service user type relationship level, and they are a lovely well-meaning and kindhearted people. They're humans, empathetic and caring and genuinely seem to have a grasp what life is like on an estate like ours is like for us. So if I was in this team, the advice I'd give this faceless lady who made this mistake today would be to say to herself something along the lines of "oh no, I made a mistake, I will learn from this and put steps in place to prevent this mistake in the future, it was a one off, accidents happen. I missed two out of 30-50 houses (I'm not sure how many houses are in their books ofcourse for data reasons), it's a shame, u feel bad and that's okay, but I still did a good job today. I can learn from this and not beat myself up. Better to focus on the good u did than the mistakes I made." If I was her team member, that's is how I would encourage her to thing about the situation, cos beating herself up doesn't help anyone anyway, accidents do happen, it's not fine but it is done now and can't be undo. Move on. That is a healthy way to think through the situation, from a professional provider point if view. She probably does really really bad, she probably does empathise and regret the mistake, and I don't want her to feel bad longer than she needs too. But I wonder, empathy aside, does she really realise what a difference these seeming small bags of seemingly cheap food does make to households like mine and my neighbours? From a service user point of view it's much more complex. There's the "oh dear, now we've less food til next week" conundrum. There's the shame and guilt side of if things. There's the sheer guy wrenching panic of "how will I make things strench" side of things. In this situation, my neighbour and I are pretty close, we'll share and help each other and we'll have enough food to get us through, our kids won't go hungry. But we're lucky, what if we didn't have each other, what if that food bag was the difference between us going hungry to feed our kids, or them having a day or two with no meals. What if we weren't as lucky as we are. See the bit that upsets me, that I want to rant about in this whole situation, isnt that a person made a mistake and I wanna Karen out or feel entitled to a bag of food that I didn't pay for, etc. The problem is the principal if the matter. It's not just about the food, it's about the relationships between all of these issues. It's about the welfare system. The ladies at the youth club are lovely ladies, as individual people, and they're doing good work and try are trying to help. I can't fault them. They're doing the best they can within their powers and abilities. But the principal of the issue is that the system is rigged, on a national level, against low income households. Here we have a welfare system that is so pathetic that families are scared and hungry. Where we are forced, by circumstance of being on benefits or not earning enough in work, to turn too and rely on food banks and charitable food aid, which is known to be prone to human error and be unrealibable long term. When the first system fails us, the welfare system which is meant to be the ultimate failsafe but so isn't, we turn to charitable systems that will one day run out, or change or make mistakes. Only as it's a charity, when mistakes happen, there is nothing we can do about it. Take today's example, my neighbour and I, we can't complain about not getting a bag today because well it's a charity, accidents happen, they help more than they hurt. On a national level, it's no big deal. Not even factoring in the emotional, social shame aspect of the dynamic. Nothing we can do about it. We're powerless and unimportant. When we do factor in the emotional, social shame aspects, say if I were to post this rant on social media for instance, we'd be shamed publically, with probable comments being along the lines of "it's your own fault your on benefits, work harder, do better, it's your fault you're in this situation, beggers cant be choosers, be grateful for what help you are lucky to get, no one owes you charity," you dare complain and you're demonised for daring to ask for more. We didn't learn this lesson when Dickens wrote about it and we've still not learnt this lesson now. The poor are not to blame for being poor. My neighbour and I didn't choose this lifestyle, we were forced into it by circumstances outside our control. By circumstance of our birth, our health, our location, our gender even, our educational, our childhood traumas that led us to making the only choices we had available to us that then led us to being where we are now. We were forced by situation to rely on benefits to support ourselves, benefits that do not fully support us, so we seek additional support and we rely on them too, and when they fail us we fear hunger, we fear shame, we face guilt. Even being quiet, passively accepting today's situation without complaint we still feel the same shame as if we had complained, because we think about complaining, because those prejudices and stigmas are so much a part of life and of being on benefits that we feel them anyway, even if we don't complain or take our issue public we still feel that shame and stigma just by vertue of being on benefits. Being seeing how others who complain are treated in media, by seeing how we are treated by policymakers and papers. By virtue of being powerless and unimportant, time and time again. For generations. Today one person made a mistake that meant two households go a little hungrier. Is it that person's fault? Do I hate that person for their mistake? I could, it would be easily to say it was their fault, easy to focus my frustrations in one person, afterall it's really not hard to send a text or put a post on Facebook. But I don't hate that person, they're human same as me, they're doing the best they can within their circumstances same as I am. They are a faceless byproduct of a failing system. Much as I am a faceless part of the unworthy class of our society. It is the system that is the issue. If the system, the welfare system in this case, was actually enough to support families then we wouldn't have to turn to food banks or charity aid. Today's situation, the hunger and fear and shame my neighbour and I are likely to have to deal with in immeasurable increments over the next week, the next month, the next year, however long it takes for us to either be earning enough to be deemed worthy of being part of society or the magical day when we're no longer shamed for our reliances and circumstances. Today's situation is a direct result of a flawed and failing welfare system that punishes the poor and condemns us for daring to even think about asking for more. "There's a dark thin winding staircase without any banister, which we'll throw him down... He'll rue the day he dared ask for more" No wonder our mental health is so damned and damaged. What's the point in fighting for our basic rights when we're socially deemed to be unimportant. When we're regularly reminded how powerless we are. Small pockets of society do care about the poor parts of society, people like those that work and/or volunteer at food banks and youth clubs and charities. But it's not enough to make government listen and change their policies. Sometimes I wonder what I couldn't been if I'd had just a little more chance as a kid, if I'd have been able to afford the debts if university, if marriage hadn't been my best option for food security in my late teens, if I'd ever been taught at school that I am actually worth more than people's uses for me. If my hobbies hadn't be deemed unsuitable for women, I used to design buildings and write stories, I'd often be told "if you were a boy you could be an architect." Instead, I was taught that the safest, most food secure path for a girl like me, someone ugly and unhealthy and stupid, was that of mother and wife. Only I married an abusive man, which is still somehow my fault even though he and everyone around me lied and tricked me, it's still my fault for marrying him, for having kids, for leaving him, etc. It took me too long to release how much value I actually have to offer and now I'm unable to actualise my protential, for many reasons. I do try to teach my children the lessons I wasn't learnt, in the hope that they can actualise their protential and not be trapped by their health and circumstance like I am. Maybe one day my barriers will be overcome, maybe one day I'll be strong enough to break out if this rutt I'm in. Til then I'll keep doing what little I can, bit by bit and day by day, even if all that is is ranting away on here for someone to maybe read one day and say "hmm, wow, I can relate, we can do better". I know it's unlikely change will come in my lifetime, the way the poor have been treated within society has changed very little in over 100 years anyway, it's statistically unlikely to change in my lifetime. But change it will, someday. I wonder, I feel shame when I think back on what my ancestors did to slaves, natives around the world and women and the poor of the past. I wonder if future generations will look back in shame on our current systems. If they don't than then they're the ones unworthy of their place in society, not the poor faceless poor. I wonder how many of them will be able to see that."

Victoria B
Apr 7, 2021

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