26 October 2013
Commissioner from the PTC – Presentation to C. of S. Church and Society Food Poverty workshop, St Matthews Church, Perth
Benefits are not adequate to meet basic needs. I am not living on benefits but struggling to survive on them, and with the introduction of the “bedroom tax”, I have less to spend on even the basics like milk and bread, let alone healthy fruit and vegetables.
I am in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) as I have a chronic illness. I receive a reduction of £6.00 a week on my bedroom tax, but in order to meet the shortfall I often only eat toast 2 days a week. Last week I felt I was being penalised for being poor + disabled when I had to pay £10 for a doctor’s letter. It was money I did not have, so it had to come out of my food budget. Foodbanks were not an option for me, as many can only be accessed through Social Work Services, and if I don’t have money to buy food how would I find the money to travel to them. There is also the stigma attached to them. I would be ashamed if my family found out I was using them. Foodbanks are “modern malnutrition.”
I want to feed my family a healthy diet, but rising food costs prevent me from doing so. I can buy 20 sausage rolls for the price of 1 melon, or 5 packets of biscuits for the price of a loaf of bread. The unseen costs of cooking meals are also a barrier I face. I have a prepayment meter. It costs me £4.00 to cook a chicken in the oven, so instead I opt for unhealthy ready meal chicken dinners, which only cost 12p to cook in a microwave.
Accessibility to food is also a barrier to those on benefits. Small local shops both urban and rural, sell poor quality expensive and short life foodstuffs, yet in order to access large supermarkets with high quality, cheaper products, it often costs 7% of your food budget, so it is not a viable option. What annoys me is politicians and the media saying “people are not managing their benefit payments properly if they have to resort to foodbanks,” when the reality is that the amount you receive in benefits is inadequate to sustain you.