The free food that Gateway’s pregnancy outreach workers provide to some women has attracted a lot of attention in thepress recently. It’s always something we’ve done as a matter of course. Part of the practical way we do our work.
It’s not a food bank in the sense you might imagine – stacks of tins in a warehouse. It’s actually a basket where our staff pop the odd tin or packet.
We are starting to find that food poverty in Birmingham has patterns.
Typically on a Friday mums or mums-to-be are short on food – facing a weekend with no money or access to money. That’s the time we’re most likely to need to take them something to tide them over – see them through a tricky week.
So why is this happening in Birmingham in 2012? Why are people so poor or short of money that they can’t afford to feed themselves or their families.
Below are the five main reasons we have found – in no particular order:
Women in between sources of income: This could be a change in the benefits someone is entitled to, leaving work or any other change which means a gap in the money they receive.
Women new to the country or the city: When you have just arrived in the UK it takes time to get registered for support, some people might be avoiding the system altogether.
Domestic violence: This can range from needing to leave home in a hurry without any money to being controlled by an abusive partner in how you spend money.
A partner losing their job: This is another interruption in the reliable flow of money into a family. Their is often a gap into the time it takes to receive jobseekers allowance and as unemployment has risen more families find themselves stuck in this temporary hole.
Delays in the system for registering births: This is relatively new. Because it now requires an appointment to register a birth that alone can take two or three weeks. Following that it takes time for any relevant benefits to become available. Both of those delays can mean a family finding themselves very short of money.
Do you know of any others? Which, if any, are easily fixed?