Monday, 28 June 2010

Stories behind the Manifesto

We believe that the deep-set problems and far reaching consequences of poverty will not be truly tackled until those living this reality are seen as part of the solution - not as part of the problem. We believe that people affected must participate in the policy making process from beginning to end. Only by doing this do we believe that real and lasting change is possible.

We understand that violence is a public health issue linked to the growing levels of inequality in our society. As a result we know that it cannot be adequately dealt with through policing alone. We want communities and the public sector to come together to support initiatives which will help to ensure a long term reduction of all forms of violence.

Poverty is an issue that can affect anyone, in anyway, anyplace. When I was approached to be a testifier for the Poverty Truth Commission I wouldn’t have actually classed myself to be one living in poverty. One thinks of poverty and images of starving, naked Africans come to mind. However, when poverty is explored it brings to light the fact that poverty has many different guises. Bringing the issue closer to home, although I wouldn’t like to admit it or want to be associated with it, I am an example of someone living in poverty.

I am a person who fits into many communities. I am a female, Asian, Muslim, single parent, from Govanhill and poverty can affect any of these communities. One of the significant things that has left in this position is my single status. Normally within the Asian community a girl is looked after by her daddy and when she marries she is looked after by her husband. I left my husband in order to survive as I was a victim of domestic abuse. As I don’t have the traditional support of a husband I have to rely on the welfare state. I don’t think one would normally associate domestic abuse with poverty yet it can be a cause.

Poverty affects me. I rely on benefits to survive and ensure my daughter and I are looked after with the basic necessities – a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, clothes on our back. Having to live within the constraints of benefits means that the essentials are naturally a priority but having to worry about when the brown envelope is going to come and will the cost be within the confines of benefit payout.

It is only after the bills have been paid that the fridge-freezer and cupboards are allowed to be stocked and that is to a limit and this requires careful planning – which shop is the cheapest for which product.

Clothing only gets renewed once the water leakage into the shoes is a considerable amount and the trousers that are supposed to be below the ankle are now above the ankle and the full sleeve tops are now ¾ sleeve tops.

Those are examples of poverty that affects my daughter who has just turned 8 years old. This is not fair. My daughter has not done anything to deserve this. She has been unfortunate to be born into poverty. Poverty ensured that my daughter wasn’t able to get a birthday party with all the trimmings in a children’s play area like her peers.

Poverty ensures that I cannot take my daughter on holiday, not even to places which are so common, and cheap to some, such as Benidorm or Majorca. Poverty ensures I cannot buy my daughter the toys she desires or ensure she has the appropriate school uniform with the school logo instead sufficing for a version that is merely the same colour.

One of daughter’s friends didn’t go on a school trip as the mother couldn’t afford the £3.00 fee. This then singled her out as the one who didn’t go on the school trip and didn’t join her friends. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that point for my daughter but recognising the fact that it very easily could.

People listening could very easily say ‘get a job’. That is not a solution as poverty affects even those that are in employment. Issues that would then concern me would be childcare foremost. As many working parents will be aware childcare is an issue in itself. To initially source childcare, dropping and picking up the child and most importantly paying the childminder. This can work out expensively. The first thing that comes to my mind regarding childcare is the quality time that I would lose with my daughter and this is before the reassurance that my child would be safe and well-looked after. Dinner and bedtime isn’t sufficient to ensure parent and child have a strong, emotionally stable relationship with good communication and assurance for the parent that all is well with the child. So in this case poverty would rob me of time with my only child. I am also aware of the many reports that children whose parents are in employment do not do as well emotionally and at school as those children whose mother or father are able to devote time to them. This shows that poverty affects education and the well being of a child.

To be able to get to work would require money for travelling and this would naturally amount to a great cost over the course of a week. Therefore travel expenses would also play a part in ones road to poverty.

Coming from the Asian community I am able to identify some of the barriers to employment even before childcare and travel expenses would be tackled with. One of those barriers being a lack of confidence and this could be due to language, never been in employment or having less chances compared to our white counterparts which unfortunately does happen. Exclusion based on cultural or religious differences is a fact and this fact leads to poverty too.

A lack of respect from self and others due to ones situation leads to other problems. Hope can be washed away having to accept ones situation. The knock on effect could be that the next generation is compelled to accept that poverty is in their fate too. A vicious circle.

What worries me is that if I went into employment then I would be liable for my own rent, council tax would increase, I would have to pay for regular travel expenses, pay for childcare, and miss out on quality time with my daughter. Being so close to my daughter, as we only have each other, prevents me from gaining employment too. I don’t want to be apart from her.

I am aware of the governments drive to get people off benefits and into employment. This should not be seen as a solution on its own. For many being on benefits have its advantages. Would a salary be able to give the same amount if not more comfort? There are many changes to be made and some of these changes will be highlighted by my fellow testifiers.

Ghazala Hakeem

Monday, 21 June 2010

Stories behind the Manifesto

We are deeply dismayed by the statutory support provided for children being looked after by kinship carers. We call upon all levels of government – and all political parties – to work together to give these children the support and resources that they deserve.

20 years ago when my son was troubled with addiction his other granny took my grandson into her care. He was 2 years old. Throughout his life he suffered the effects of his parent’s choices and the environment he was exposed to, and at 17 he was the victim of a murder. I feel that if there had been support and recognition for us to intervene earlier in his life this tragic story may not have happened. Kinship carers are doing a free service for the state and they would do nothing less for these children. But they deserve at minimum psychological help, basic allowances and support and recognition to prevent another lost generation.

Many kinship carers don't come forward to jump the hurdles for support that they desperately need, because they would feel like failures in their natural duty to the kids in their care.
When we decided to form a kinship care support group 6 years ago we had no idea that any help was available. We have come a long way with talks and meetings with the relevant people but barriers keep appearing and blame gets passed from pillar to post. Nobody wants responsibility for these children's rights as human beings, and seem to forget that they're the future of the UK.

Through the Poverty Truth Commission kinship carers have now got a strong voice on behalf of the children they love and care for, and also a vision to end the discrimination and stigma that kinship children are suffering through ignorance and inequality. People in power should realise that they are not being accountable to the children's needs. Invest in early intervention and we can look forward to fine upstanding citizens that we can be very proud of in the future.

Jean Forrester

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Stories behind the Manifesto

We understand that violence is a public health issue linked to the growing levels of inequality in our society. As a result we know that it cannot be adequately dealt with through policing alone. We want communities and the public sector to come together to support initiatives which will help to ensure a long term reduction of all forms of violence.

From Ruchazie to Malawi

I can't walk round the corner without going into someone's territory, and if you go into that territory, then you're going to get chased out. Unlike when we got the chance to visit Malawi through the Church, it's totally different there. When you go out there you can walk for miles, and no-one will say anything to you, nothing at all. And if people do see you, they'll come over and shake your hand and be nice to you. And that was a really big shock, and it's really opened my eyes.
In Ruchazie when you walk by, people put their heads down. Whereas in Malawi they came over and shook you by the hand and were dead happy, in Ruchazie they're scared. They put their heads down and try not to look at you. Just ignore each other basically, as if you're not there. There are plenty of places here in Ruchazie where we just can't go. I've got family in Ruchazie, and I can't even walk to where they live because of not so much fear, but common sense. Cause if you walk up there, and it's the wrong crowd, I wouldn't even like to say what would happen. It's quite scary. I mean, people have actually been killed through this, and other people have been injured. It really takes it out of people, really knocks their confidence.
It's not just with boys; it's with girls as well. There’s girl gangs that fight as well. It's bad for everyone. Even grown men, women, grans and grandas fighting.
It's really intimidating when you walk by and they all stop talking and look at you and you've got your head down. It's not a nice place to be.
In Malawi it made me feel really happy and full of confidence when all those people were shaking my hand. But it also made me feel really bad for where I stay cause I was there for a few days and was walking for miles, and I've been living in Glasgow all my life, and can't even walk 500 yards to see my family. It could cost me my life to go and see my family.
The people from Malawi came over to visit us in Ruchazie as well. They really have got nothing and they came over here and made the most of everything. It
really makes me think to myself - why can I not do that? Anything they get they're grateful for.
I want to go and make the most of my life now. I think I've learned more from them than they have from us. Even though, we may have the latest technology and the best education, but they've taught us much more than we taught them. Just shows you that money's not everything. I've realised that life isn't all about money and possessions. They have inspired me to get on with making a difference where I am, and to encourage others to do the same.

William Barrowcliffe

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Charity Dinner for West Glasgow Grandparents Support Group

Our friends from the West Glasgow Grandparents Support Group are holding a Charity Dinner in the Clyde Suite of The Marriott, Glasgow on the evening of Friday 2nd July.

The group will use the funds raised to support Kinship Carers who need specialised help for their vulnerable grandchildren.

Tickets cost £30 per person which includes a buffet meal and entertainment.

For more information please contact Sally Brisbane on 01419548737.