Friday, 18 September 2020

SOS - Lack of Care

 


This weeks blog post comes from one of our Community Members, Susan, in which she shares a story that she found shocking outside of a local accident and emergency wing of a hospital in Scotland early Summer.

"I was appalled, for this man who had just had a stroke, it was COVID 19, 10 o'clock at night, -1 degrees, and he was just left there to go and find his way home. Left there with nothing."

 Susan lives in Glasgow and is a grandmother, carer and active in her local community. She is a community member with The Poverty Truth Community and a board member of Faith in the Community Scotland. She also a member of the UK co-research team as part of a 3 year international participatory research project in partnership with Oxford University looking at Understanding Poverty in All Its Forms. Susan is currently involved in a collaborative project with, ATD Fourth Word, Amnesty International and Just Fair.

'I had been up at accident and emergency with my dad. I wasn't allowed to go in obviously because of the COVID 19. So I had to wait outside. While I was outside (I was there for a while) different people were coming back and forth. 

I went inside the hospital doors because it was absolutely freezing that night, it was really really cold. There's a phone on the wall that you use for the taxi service. So a man came out and he's on the phone and I can hear him and he's saying “but my partner will come down, I'll stay in the car, whatever, I don't have the card, I don't have any money, but the money's in the house, I had to go straight to hospital, I've left everything in the house,” and then he's put the phone back and just put his hands up.   

I said “is he no giving you a taxi” and he said, I've no got a bank card with me and I've no got any money so they'll no book me a taxi they'll no get me one.”

Luckily before I left the house, I had put £10 in my pocket and I thought I'll just give him the £10 so I said take this money. He was refusing and he was saying I cannae take the money.  I said, look take the money. He proceeded to tell me how he'd been in the hospital that day cos he'd took a stroke and I could see by his face and that he'd took a stroke. It was quite clear. I was actually appalled by the fact that he was just released from hospital.  It was COVID 19, it was 10 o'clock at night, it was -1 degrees in our Summer and he was just left to go find his way home. 

And I was shocked at the taxi service  who weren't very understanding and wouldn't let the taxi come either. And I just feel that it was really quite brutal and he was left, it was late at night, everything is deserted, even if he had bus fare, buses weren't running as they normally would, so he could have waited, and he couldn't get a direct bus from where he was anyway, and he'd just took a stroke.

 I was really shocked about the whole set up and I thought I can't believe that somebody was released after being in hospital with a stroke and just left and that nobody checked that he had the money to get home, they didn't finish off the service they were giving him. He was left there with nothing.

I was just glad he took my money and we phoned and the lassie called him a taxi and that was him he got home I imagine okay. But the whole thing to me I thought was just really appalling that just the lack of care, just the lack of care.'

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Covid Refections

 Our latest blog comes from a friend of The Poverty Truth Community - reflecting on what we have learned so far from Covid 19 and our experiences of lock down,

"The Scottish government did the right thing when they announced on March 23rd 2020 that the country was going into lockdown.  It was crucial to protect our elderly and vulnerable from the global pandemic of coronavirus . After all this was a new virus. No one knew how it was going to affect any of us and the transmission is spread easily and very quickly.  

Prior to the country going into lockdown we had the schools close early to protect our young children from passing this virus on to vulnerable relatives .  Home schooling was to be the new way of working. What they didn’t take into account was the children who did not have internet access . How was this going to work out? The guidelines were “Do not go out unless it is essential to do so”, “Do not go into another household” and the elderly and those with underlying health conditions had to shield and have not to go outdoors .  This would have left many families who were dependent on their children grandparents and other family members  and friends  without that support .  

We never realised until this pandemic  how much home internet  would become very vital . When we are on a low income and already plunged into poverty, having  broadband connection simply was not an affordable option .  “You  can collect home work from the school” they said. They were so many pitfalls to this.  If you are in the shielding group we are told “Stay indoors”. How can they then go to the school to collect homework?  What if the school wasn’t in walking distance?  We were told “Essential travel only” . We couldn’t leave young children with grandparents because they were shielding.   We had charity organisations working alongside  low income families working within a budget  trying to  stretch their money as far as they can while having to make difficult decisions .  These organisations  were applying for emergency funding to help families get connected to the internet  and to buy a device for the  families in order that the children were not left behind .

While the lock down was absolutely necessary to contain the virus and stop the spread .  Some people started panic buying  food and especially toilet rolls,  kitchen roll, soaps and detergents like bleach and disinfectant. Shops were forced to restrict how many we could buy at any one time . The panic buying also meant  if we could not  get the items we wanted in one shop we had to travel to multi shops, which of course posed a greater risk of infection.

Again lack of internet at home or like the elderly who had never done an online shop had no other option but to physically go to the shops . When they were at a greater risk of becoming really unwell with the virus .   Delivery slots were being booked weeks in advance so even if anyone shielding had the capability of  doing online shopping they couldn’t wait up to a month or longer for a  delivery when they had to feed themselves and families . 

Hand sanitiser was another item that was near impossible to buy with some companies increasing the prices as much as 3 times or more in many stores of the original value  pre- pandemic. The same with face masks and surgical gloves .  NHS  workers in hospitals , care homes and caring for the elderly at home still had to work , hand sanitiser was crucial for them while they traveled into work and back home. Working with the most vulnerable they just could not afford to risk catching the virus and transmitting it to vulnerable patients .  There are of course more than nurses and Carers who are essential workers.  

We have the supermarket workers who had no protection  at a time when Covid 19 was at its peak and the police who had to implement safety measures to keep us all safe. Fire and ambulance services could not work from home , which was the default position of the Scottish governments guidelines .  Panic buying also saw food banks not having the donations that they normally receive and depend on for families who rely on this service . This was a very worrying time for both the food bank providers and the families . They could not afford to bulk buy food to keep them going through the pandemic  when we are already living from day to day .

What we also seen through this most difficult time was the way communities came together to support each other .  Emergency food parcels were delivered to those who were most in need of them . We saw money being raised for charities by people walking around their gardens , clap for the carers at 8pm on a Thursday evening , and  fantastic videos of grandchildren doing social distance dancing with grandparents outside their houses.  It has brought people and communities closer than ever before . It has shone a light on how when it is needed, we gather our strength and courage to look out for each other .  Communities have forged relationships  that weren’t there before the lockdown . The elderly and vulnerable where checked in on - socially distanced of course . The bond of these  new relationships  will be still be in place long after the pandemic is gone .

 As we gradually  come out of lockdown and the future is uncertain. Our economy is taking a big hit with businesses not being able to survive lockdown even with the job retention scheme , created by the UK government to keep people in work and the UK government paying 80% of the wages . It is now winding down and will end on October the 31st of this year , including help for the self employed.   

What we also saw was children who would have free school meals . Depending on what local authority in Scotland you came under, Glasgow and others issued vouchers for Farmfoods while Edinburgh gave direct cash payments into the accounts of the families on a low income using the data they already held. During the early closure of the schools , and when the school summer holidays arrived, the Scottish government  kept the scheme going with some councils like Glasgow  switching to direct cash payment. After being put under pressure from charity organisations  calling for this to happen, Glasgow gave the payment along with the school clothing grant , while Edinburgh made the payments every two weeks to ensure that families could stock up on meals throughout the school holidays . The UK government also created the eat out to help out scheme. Where throughout August, we could dine out on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and have a discount of 50% up to £10 worth of food and soft drinks . This is to help the hospitality sector keep vital jobs for their workers . This is only good if we have the money to dine out in the first place and many families are not able to take advantage of the offer .


We all want to live a caring society and both the UK and Scottish governments have provided us with that during the pandemic and still are as we ease our way to a new normal way of working, living and shopping . We are still advised of measures to protect ourselves and others with face coverings being mandatory while we travel and shop.  We all haven’t agreed with all the of the decisions that have been made and unfortunately job losses are inevitable as we go into the biggest recession the UK has ever had . However we have all shown compassion and empathy throughout this . We can rebuild our communities and our own lives showing the same understanding and shared values to keep our families and our communities safe ."

Monday, 3 August 2020

Dear SQA

 

Glasgow

 

3 August 2020

 

Dear Scottish Qualifications Authority,

 

My exam results arrive tomorrow.  

 

I was in 5th year when the schools closed -  the year school always tells you is one of the most important of your academic life. It should have been the year I sat 4 Highers and a National 5, but in the end it was a year that turned out like no other for any of us. 

 

It feels like the year and my exams have been taken away from me.  I have been so stressed and worried.  And I haven’t heard from you in all this time.

 

When I get the text tomorrow morning I’ll probably feel like throwing the phone against the wall.  I’m not very optimistic.  I know I could have done so much better than my prelims if I’d had the chance to keep working.  

 

I’d had a bad year at school.  There were personal issues which made it very difficult and stressful, but I still had time to turn things round.  

 

Before lockdown when I was feeling optimistic and thinking about how the exams could go, I thought I might get C’s and maybe a B.  I thought I would have the chance to keep working through March, April and May. 

 

Last year I got mostly A’s for my National 5’s, and that was what I was thinking I would have the chance to do this year, to strive better in the exam itself.

 

 I think I’ll just be reading ‘FAIL’ when I open the text tomorrow though.  This has all been a bit of a nightmare and caused me so much worry.

 

I remember back in March the feeling of disbelief when my friends were telling me the schools were  shutting.  I had already been self isolating for a week as I had symptoms of the virus, and couldn’t believe I wouldn’t get back in again.  That week was horrible. I mean, now we’re all used to it, but that first week, it was dreadful.

 

Then I heard the exams were cancelled.  My first thoughts were ‘Yes!  No exams!’ – sheer elation.  But as I thought about it I was like – ‘Oh wait, last year I did better in my exams, but now this is it all over, I don’t have any extra time to study. There’s nothing I can do.’

 

My friends told me at first, and then there was an official statement, but I didn’t hear anything from you at the SQA directly to me or to young people in general.  No official acknowledgement of the impact that decision was going to have on my life.  

 

I think my mum got one text from the school, but that was it.  When I think about it now, that’s kind of messed up.  Such a huge decision taken about my life and I wasn’t consulted or told about it – just left to stress my head off.  Left with all that uncertainty on top of all the uncertainty I had about what was happening to the world in general.

 

Although I’m dreading what the text will say and what will be in the envelope – although I’m pretty sure I’ve failed, I actually have no idea.  I still don’t understand how the exams have been graded.  That’s something else you have failed to tell me or explain to me.

 

The school said something about prelims and predicted grades.  As I said, I had a really hard year and I failed hard on my prelims.  Maybe if the teacher likes you and thought you could have done better they might have boosted your predicted grade.  But I don’t know.  

 

And that’s the problem.  I don’t know.  Surely I should?  Surely you should have spoken directly to young people, explained to them how this was going to work?  Not leave us guessing, stressing and making it up.

 

I’m just glad I have the opportunity of another year at school if this has gone badly wrong.  I can hopefully sort it all out.  I’ve been offered a Foundation Apprenticeship in Childcare.  That means I’ll be in school 3 days, college 1 day, and on placement in a nursery 1 day – I’m really looking forward to that, I really enjoy working with children, I hope I can make a career out of it.  

 

I can’t imagine what it must be like for 6th Years that needed specific grades.  If they’d had a bad start to the year like me and were hoping to be able to pull it all back for the exams.

 

My exam results arrive tomorrow.  It feels like one of the most essential years of my life has been cut off.  These last few months not knowing what was going on and hearing so little from the school and the SQA have been so stressful.  At times it has been overbearing.

 

 But I worked through it by saying, ‘whatever happens happens,  I’ll sort through it as it comes.’  That helped me let go, but before I developed that mindset, it was tough.    It affects your mental health, all that confusion, waiting and worrying.

 

My exam results arrive tomorrow.  I’ll finally get my communication from you.  

 

Jack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, 3 July 2020

The Right to Work




I hear how so many people in lockdown are struggling without work and a sense of purpose. That their mental health is affected by not being able to contribute. That this is leading to depression.  And I understand exactly how that feels, but for a different reason.


I am an asylum seeker and have lived in this country for 6 years.  Because I am an asylum seeker, I do not have the right to work, even thought I want to contribute.  


I understand how people are feeling now in lockdown, because it is how I have felt for all these years. 


Being able to contribute to society, feeling involved, that is so important for your mental health.  My children can go to school here, I have a grandchild born here, but I am limited in my potential and in my life. I am limited in moving forward, and am living with the effect that has on me.


I hope others understand now something of how it feels to be in the asylum process, because now they have felt it too in their lockdown experience.  

Friday, 19 June 2020

Now I don’t want to Keep Quiet Anymore - Black Lives Matter


Before coming to Scotland, I did not know what discrimination and racial discrimination were.


Some events led me to associate discrimination with my status - I was then a person seeking asylum. I thought, I was treated differently because of my status. Then I got my leave to remain I still was treated differently I then started thinking of colour but I found it difficult to accept that I was treated unfairly because of my colour.  


To me there is no difference between white or black we are all from the human race, we are all human beings.


When I finally understood what racism is in terms of it being the fact of treating someone unfairly because of his/her colour I was in a denial. I was in a denial because it was hard to accept that racism exist.


When I finally accepted that racism existed I kept quiet when experiencing or witnessing it. I kept quiet because I was scared of not being listening to, not being believed and not being supported.


In housing for example, I experienced people being allocated difficult to live in houses because of their colour or because of them being poor.  I kept quiet because of fear and my heart was bleeding.


In term of employment, I have experienced not being properly trained and supported in my role and yet being told I am not making any progress.  And I kept quiet!


Now I don’t want to keep quiet anymore.


I believe that I can contribute to the flourishment of Scotlandbut for that I need to be supported, I need to be treated fairly, I need people to work in team and in partnership with me.


I also believe that the racial discrimination that we are facing is due to ignorance. With education, with conversations about racism, people can be aware of their biases and prejudices and overcome them by doing the right thing.


I also believe on the other hand that some people are deeply racist. For this minority, we, as individuals, as a community, we need to break the silence and let them know that racial discrimination is not ok in the UK, is not ok in Scotland.


I am willing to join my voice with other people, to share my experience and also to listen to their experiences and together raise our voices to say: Racial discrimination, discrimination on the ground of people’s ‘characteristics’ is not ok.


Poverty Truth Community Member


 

Monday, 1 June 2020

What does The Poverty Truth Community mean to you?



(Brian stands second row left)


Hi everyone, let me introduce myself, my name is Brian Scott and I was born, and still live in, Glasgow.  I have two boys - one a teenager and the other a ‘wannabe’ teenager’ and a mad cat called Ali, who, like me, has a dodgy back and dodgy legs.

I first became involved with the PTC (known as the Poverty Truth commission then) about 3 years ago.  I can honestly say that in that time I have met some fantastic people, made some new friends and achieved an awful lot.  If you had told me 3 years ago when I first made my baby steps into volunteering with the PTC that I would be meeting Scottish Government Ministers, Senior Civil Servants and delivering talks to conferences I would have said you were ‘having a laugh’.  But I’ve done all that, and more, during my time with the PTC.

When asked to write this short bio piece about myself (Carol emphasised ‘short’ as I could talk about myself for pages!!!) I was asked to write about my highlights, the kind of work I’ve done and anything I thought could be done better by the PTC.  

Let’s tackle the last part of that sentence first – what could the PTC do better.  We can all do things better but, in the case of the PTC, I really can’t think of anything they could do more for their volunteers etc.  Even during lockdown Elaine, Carol and Davy have went out of their way to keep in contact with us, making sure we are keeping well and had everything we needed etc.  The guys in the office, to me, have done so much in encouraging my journey with the PTC and giving me opportunities to take part in campaigns, meetings etc without any pressure put on me.  Talking to my colleagues in the PTC I am sure I’m not the only one who shares that view.

So, what have I been involved in during my time with the PTC.  In a simple word – ‘lots’.  I’ve listed below just some of the opportunities and campaigns that the PTC have allowed me to take part in over the past three years, though I’m pretty sure I’ve left a lot out:-

• Working Groups on the Assessment and Benefits System
• Taking part in various pieces of research on the physical and mental health implications of poverty.
• Addressing a national Joseph Roundtree conference on the uses of the Framing Technique.
• Opportunity to take part in a media course facilitated by ‘On Road Media’.
• To be part of a Q&A session addressing the Scottish Parliament Advisory Panel on Education concerning the issues surrounding childhood and poverty.
• Taking part in the Mutual Mentoring Scheme.
• To meet with other campaigners from not just around Scotland, but the rest of the UK.
• To meet with Scottish Government Ministers at the very highest level to discuss issues surrounding poverty.
• To be part of the Scottish Parliament’s Advisory Group on Fuel Poverty
• To be part of the advisory sessions regarding the Scottish Child Payment Scheme.
• To take part in both TV and Radio documentaries discussing poverty

And, finally, to meet all you wonderful people (all donations accepted – especially over £5).

Now what has been the highlight of my time with the PTC.  Difficult to choose just one, but I’ve done it!  The most enjoyable, informative and eye-opening thing I’ve been part of over the past three years has been the ‘Mutual Mentoring Scheme’.  Here the PTC partnered with civil servants working within the Scottish Parliament to pair up PTC members and civil servants.  I was partnered with a lovely chap from the Scottish Government called Tom.  I was lucky enough to take part in ‘Mutual Mentoring’ at the same time the Scottish Government was putting into legislatiothe stages of taking over welfare responsibilities for DLA/PIP/AA and Housing Benefit.  Through, Tom, I took part in working groups discussing poverty, was asked to address the Directors and Heads of several Civil Service Departments on life in poverty and growing up in an inner city housing estate and, generally, got to see the inner workings of government that I would never have been able to see otherwise.  For my part, I brought Tom to Possilpark on several occasions to discuss the issues growing up and living in the inner city.  Introduced him to local people, local groups as well as local activists and, hopefully, gave him much to chew to over when he went back to Edinburgh.  I was anxious to show Tom that life, living in a housing estate, isn’t all bad and that there are many, many people within the area who will, willingly, go the extra mile to help their neighbours.

Hopefully, I’ve given you an interesting overview of my time with the PTC.  It’s been exciting and fulfilling but there’s still work to be done out there.  So, join in, (if you haven’t already).  In the words of the late, lamented comedian, Rikki Fulton (yes, I am that old) – ‘It’s going to be one hell of a party’!

Not to be missed please see attached link to view Brians excellent version of a classic Stray Cats song:

Monday, 19 November 2018


In Case You Missed It - launch of Report into effects of two child policy and benefit assessments on 13 November
 
 
 
click on link here for Stories From The Benefits Front Line Report
 

Battling for Fairness and Dignity
 

A common theme of the stories that the Poverty Truth Commission, in Scotland, hears from individuals and families who have a lived experience of poverty is that of having to fight for fairness in a welfare benefits system that often deprives them of dignity and treats them with disbelief. Children inevitably suffer and as one of our testifiers put it “… the poor and innocents should not be the first people penalised with these immoral cuts.”

 The Poverty Truth Commissioners believe that what is needed instead is a benefits system that starts from the premise that all of us may need support from benefits at some point (s) in our lives and that therefore we have a shared interest in ensuring that benefit applicants are treated with dignity and respect. Thus, our Commissioners seek an approach that fully and meaningfully recognises people as individuals who are in possession of rights as well as responsibilities. Indeed, rights and responsibilities are critical to creating a dignified system of social security as opposed to a demeaning system of 'welfare.'

Today the Poverty Truth Commission’s Cuts and Assessments working group publish their Report titled 'Stories from The Benefits Front Line - Battling for Fairness and Dignity'. It makes several recommendations arising from research that includes stories/testimonies gathered by members of the group.  The focus of its research was two-fold, namely the two-child policy and the long assessment process for disability benefits for young people transitioning to adult benefits. One PTC Commissioner summarized this traumatic process by saying “I have never come up against anything as complicated, frustrating and stressful as I have with the whole Employment and Support Allowance process. My mental health suffered. I really didn’t need this on top of caring for my son.”  To seriously begin addressing these issues, the Report recommends:

  • Unfreezing benefits and uprating them annually, at least in line with inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).
  • The immediate abolition of the entire Two Child Policy for Child Tax Credits and Universal Credit.
  • A more holistic understanding within government of disability and its impact on the financial, social and health needs of benefit claimants applying for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and/or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
  • A major reduction in the current minimum benefits assessment period of 13 weeks for ESA.
  • The back payment of eligible benefits to the date of first application. 

Alongside this call for action we have written  to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to invite her to meet us in order to discuss our Report and the recommendations that flow from it. We know that this is a challenge to current thinking and policy on Benefits for the Secretary of State. Nevertheless, we hope that many people and organisations will want to support us as we invite Ms Rudd and the DWP to a mutually respectful dialogue about our recommendations. We will let you know how the DWP responds to our request for a meeting.