Failings in the system fuel food poverty

Failings in the system fuel food poverty

 

A Menu for Change has produced a report which contains heart-breaking stories of poverty

A major new report on the causes of food insecurity in Scotland has found that inadequate and insecure incomes are key triggers in causing people to turn to emergency food aid.

A Menu for Change’s report Found Wanting is the result of sustained engagement with people facing food insecurity in Scotland and is the first research of its kind. It identifies key failings in the system, with opportunities to prevent food insecurity being missed.

The report reveals the deep physical, psychological and social impacts on individuals and families of food insecurity and, critically, identifies the various shocks to people’s income which can cause them to become unable to afford food, as well as other essentials.

A Menu for Change – an innovative partnership between the Poverty Alliance, the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Oxfam Scotland and Nourish – says the findings can help ensure better support to help stop people from reaching crisis.

While the researchers found that people who are food insecure find great support from informal networks, as well as from housing, education and health providers, they are keen to emphasise the need for system change so that people benefit from early intervention and therefore do not reach crisis point.

The report highlights the importance of a wide range of services in preventing food insecurity and is released ahead of a major meeting of stakeholders in Glasgow today (Wednesday), where it will be presented to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell MSP.

John Dickie, A Menu for Change board member, said: “The deeply personal stories captured in this report are as a heart-breaking as they are avoidable and bring into sharp focus how we must do so much more to protect people from the income crises which fuel food insecurity and hunger.

“The social security system is failing even as a safety net to support people who experience a shock to their income, meaning that insecure employment or changes to personal circumstances, like a bereavement, too often push people into needing emergency food aid.

“Low wages, combined with zero hours contracts and long delays in accessing key benefits, are tightening the grip of poverty and stopping people from building up their resilience to day-to-day shocks.

“The mental and physical tolls of going hungry are often extreme, and further dent people’s resilience to the challenges of inadequate and insecure incomes. “

The report makes a number of recommendations for the UK and Scottish Governments, local authorities, public bodies and employers, including: restoring the value of key benefits and then uprating them in line with inflation, removing the five-week wait for Universal Credit (UC), and abolishing both the benefit cap and two-child limit.

It also wants to see the National Living Wage increased to the Real Living Wage, better support for people who develop mental and physical ill-health to remain in work, as well as a ban on exploitative zero-hours contracts, and compliance with agreed minimum standards of employment amongst employers and recruitment agencies.

Emergency help from the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) provided valued cash support to just over half the interviewees when facing income crisis, but the report also highlights the need for additional investment and learning from best practice to strengthen the Fund as an effective safety net.

Overall, the report emphasises the need to improve incomes to stop people from reaching the crisis point where the need to turn to emergency support.

Insecurity is fuelling poverty

Researchers tracked individuals from Dundee, East Ayrshire and Fife, the three local authorities where the project runs, over the course of a year. Participants stressed the importance of being treated with dignity. The findings show that delays in receiving UC payments, insecure income from zero-hours contracts and shift work, combined with personal crisis, like bereavements, all caused participants to turn to foodbanks.

• One woman, a lone parent with two disabled sons, told how she lost her Personal Independence Payment, her son’s Disability Living Allowance was downgraded, and her Carer’s Allowance withdrawn. Her son then attempted suicide, before her PIP was reinstated and she received a higher rate of DLA. She told researchers: ‘I’ve felt suicidal more times than I’ve had hot dinners and that’s no joke’.

• Another woman described going seven weeks without receiving shifts via her zero hours contract cleaning job, then left her job and faced a seven week wait for her UC payment. She fell into rent arrears and, despite securing a 16 hour a week job at a petrol station, had to take out a UC loan to pay for new glasses to do her job, and was forced to use taxis to get home from late shifts, which meant she could not afford to eat.

• A man who lives alone with his 18-year-old son said he felt ‘punished’ for being in temporary employment. He described being pushed from a six-month job to a two-week job and a three-month job, during which period he got a UC cheque for one pence, and went on to face a nine-week wait for a UC payment, and relied on a SWF award. He said: “I just wish I could get
a full-time job, you know, where it was permanent rather than temp. It’s all just temporary jobs at the moment so it’s not my fault that this happened. It’s contract ending. I’ve no’ been sacked, I’ve no’ walked oot the job or anything… but I’m being punished.”

 

Dundee-based mental health project Foolish Optimism launches new films with message of hope

Dundee-based mental health project Foolish Optimism launches new films with message of hope

VIDEO: People across Dundee urged to join forces to help prevent suicide

VIDEO: People across Dundee urged to join forces to help prevent suicide

Documentary fronted by Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey will focus on Dundee’s drug death crisis

Documentary fronted by Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey will focus on Dundee’s drug death crisis

Mary Beard: Look to rising poverty to explain the mental health crisis

Mary Beard: Look to rising poverty to explain the mental health crisis

Speaking to The Big issue, the classicist said austerity is pushing people into illness

 

Famed scholar Mary Beard is clear on how we should tackle what she calls an “anxiety epidemic” in the UK.

Speaking to The Big Issue ahead of the return of pop culture show Front Row Late, she pointed out that spiralling mental illness figures must be considered alongside austerity and underfunded services in order to see the full picture.

The classicist asked if “you can talk about anxiety and mental health issues without thinking about all the other things people are suffering”.

She continued: “We have an anxiety epidemic and talk about those things very differently now, but it is not that anxiety didn’t exist.

“There is a rather basic, self-evident point, which is that people who haven’t got enough money to live on are anxious. I can remember what it is like if you put your card into the machine and it says, “Bugger off, you haven’t got any money.”

She also gently warned against placing all responsibility for the planet’s future on young environmental activists.

“It is very easy to think that the next generation will do it,” she said.” I remember one Cambridge meeting where we were choosing an early-career candidate and they all looked brilliant. The chair wisely said, don’t worry, we all looked like that once.

“There is a lot about the way this country is heading that worries me a great deal. But we are a collaborative species. Some of the things we are seeing at the moment I hope are a blip.”

Read the full interview in this week’s Big Issue, available from your local vendor or in the Big Issue shop.

Dundee’s Wullie

Dundee’s Wullie

Oor Wullie’s no feeling great!

His heid is in an afa state!

He’s sitting there jist haeing a greet!

Life’s no iwiz reilly on the street!

 

When times are tough, and life is sare,

there’s iwiz somedee wa will care.

A problem shared is a problem halved,

Yir mind can often drev yi daft!

 

Our local cooncil care not a jot!

If it wiz up tae them, yid be left tae rot!

With cuts to athing we hold dear,

It’s enough to ful yir hert we fear.

 

What Dundee needs maist o a!

Is a space to gee yir mind a blaw

A non-referral crisis centre.

a safe place anyone can enter!

 

But mind, when times are tough and hard,

Play Dundee Wullie’s cunning card

Instead of telling life tae fuck it!

Stick yir heid inside a bucket!!!

 

 

Wullie can be found at the junction of Strathmartine Road and Mains Road. Or directly behind Lesley’s snack bar.

.

 

Concern as more than 1,000 vulnerable young people in Angus forced to wait for mental health care

Concern as more than 1,000 vulnerable young people in Angus forced to wait for mental health care

Fears have been raised over the welfare of vulnerable young people in Angus after new figures revealed more than a thousand under 18s have been forced to wait longer than three months for mental health treatment.

More than 2,157 young people in the county have been referred for mental health conditions since 2016, with 1,053 waiting longer than 12 weeks to receive care for a range of potentially life-threatening conditions such as a depression, eating disorders and anxiety.

Fewer than one in five of the Angus patients were treated inside the county, with more than 1,637 of the young patients asked to travel to other parts of Tayside for treatment.

The figures, released after a Freedom of Information request, do not include data for 2019, meaning the total is likely to be higher.

Kirstene Hair, Conservative MP for Angus, said the figures highlighted the “failings” in mental health treatment for young people locally.

Ms Hair has campaigned on improving treatment for eating disorders and other mental health issues.

She said: “These figures expose the failings in mental health treatment for young people here in Angus.

“The families affected are very often waiting for months on end for treatment, while patients routinely have to travel outside of Angus to get the help they need.

“It is not good enough. Waiting times must be addressed urgently if these young people are to get the immediate support and treatment they need,” she added.

The national target waiting time for treatment to begin is 18 weeks. Separate figures recently published by the Scottish Government for the first quarter of 2019 show only 57.9% of young NHS Tayside patients started treatment within that window. The national standard is 90%.

The Angus statistics, however, show some improvement locally. A total of 383 young people waited more than 12 weeks in 2016, 403 in 2017 and 267 in 2018.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) clinics are available in three locations in Angus: Whitehills Health and Community Care Centre in Forfar, Carnoustie Health Centre and Links Health Centre, Montrose.

Children and young people in Angus who need specialist care are assessed and treated in the main Child Health Outpatient unit at Dudhope Terrace in Dundee.

An NHS Tayside spokeswoman said: “There has been a lot of work undertaken by staff to improve access to services for young people in Tayside over the past 12 months.

“We have been working closely with a Healthcare Improvement Scotland team to deliver an improvement plan which will reduce waiting times.   This includes a full CAMHS service workforce review and recruitment drive to key posts, to ensure that the team are fully equipped to manage the service demand and enhance the experience for children and their families.

“We are determined to continue making improvements to ensure all our children and young people receive the best quality care without delays and we hope to reach the national standard in the near future,” she added.

Joseph Gilgun: ‘In a working-class community, often you’re accepted for the oddball you’ve become

Joseph Gilgun: ‘In a working-class community, often you’re accepted for the oddball you’ve become

The This Is England actor on reliving his colourful youth for his new comedy series Brassic, being diagnosed bipolar and why it’s hard to find love in a derelict house in the woods

Joseph Gilgun
 ‘It’s hard up here – this head of mine never rests’: Joseph Gilgun. 

Only a minute after meeting Joseph Gilgun, he starts to tell me about his Grandma Sadie. He says my Dictaphone looks like a beard trimmer and it reminds him of Sadie because she used to shave her beard with one. “I loved my Grandma Sadie, she were amazing. I think she was quite a tough old bird, really.” He conjures up a memory of his grandparents’ council house in Chorley. “It always smelled of stale Superkings, because she smoked in the house, and this strong smell of tea, because she used to reuse her tea bags.” He goes back to being eight years old, in trouble, with his cousin, shut in the bedroom. “I think we were being bollocked, me and our Carl. And we check the drawer, and for whatever reason, there’s a fucking machete in it. Like, a huge machete! You could chop a child’s head off with it. And me and Carl were at an age where one of us might actually use it on the other,” he grins. He sits back in his chair, his tattooed legs stretching out. “Anyway!”

This is a typical Gilgun yarn. He is a warm and vivid storyteller who could chat for England, all packaged up in puppyish enthusiasm. Whether he’s explaining the difficulties of sourcing an antique, Grecian-style dildo that a canine co-star could wrap its jaws around – a saga that turned out to be far more fraught than you might expect – or speaking frankly about his bipolar diagnosis, he is never lost for words, which is how he ended up creating Brassic, a loose and fond reimagining of some of the adventures he got up to as a teenager in Lancashire.

Back in 2014, when he was shooting the film Pride, he started to tell his co-star Dominic West about the attempted theft of a Shetland pony. West wisely suggested Gilgun turn it into television, so he did. He paired up with Shameless and Clocking Off writer Danny Brocklehurst, who gave the ideas some shape. At Gilgun’s insistence, West appears in the show as a terrible, self-involved GP.

Gilgun is 35, but he’s been acting since he was a child, when an educational psychologist suggested he should take part in drama workshops. He joined Coronation Street at 10, and then Emmerdale in his early 20s, but it was his turn as Woody in This Is England that made him into a star, of which that familiar “Lol” tattoo is a reminder, spelling out the name of his character’s true love.

Gilgun with Vicky McClure as Lol in This Is England.
 Gilgun with Vicky McClure as Lol in This Is England. 

For the past few years, he’s been spending time in the States, playing Cassidy, the alcoholic Irish vampire in the big-budget comic-book adaptation Preacher, but the fourth and final season has finished shooting. Brassic, then, is a return of sorts for Gilgun. “It’s pretty autobiographical,” he nods. “I can’t go into the criminality. I’ll leave that to the viewers to decide what’s real from what isn’t,” he says, smiling, “but a lot of that shit has gone down.”

Watch a trailer for Brassic.

Gilgun grew up with his two sisters in Rivington, a few miles north of Wigan, where his dad worked in a metalworking factory that made parts for boilers. “He was a fucking hero. He’d cycle to work, all the way to Wigan. He was a strong man and he’d work these long hours at the foundry, cycle back, play for hours with us kids. He was a brilliant dad. And my mum was a very sensitive, liberal lady, always has been. Puts on a posh voice, depending on what company she’s in.”

When he was 11, his parents split up, and around that same time, his dad was made redundant. “Tough age, you know. Couldn’t figure it out. I really struggled and I was very angry for a long time, but my job has afforded me the opportunity to do a bit of therapy, and that’s just been fucking huge.” The trouble with therapy, he says, is that it’s not nearly as accessible as it needs to be. “There’s not that many therapists and there’s so many people with mental health issues. You need talking therapy, but it’s just not available. If I go to my doctor and say, ‘I’m having suicidal thoughts’, they’ll go, ‘Right, well, I can give you some therapy… there’s a three-month waiting list’.” Gilgun wrote this into Brassic; its funniest moments are often its blackest.

Joseph Gilgun appearing in Emmerdale as Eli Dingle, 2008.
Appearing in Emmerdale as Eli Dingle, 2008.

When he was a teenager, Gilgun was prescribed antidepressants. “I’d been a difficult child, a very emotional young man, kicking off about something, or fucking bawling my eyes out, heartbroken.” His mother told him that the family had come to expect these “catastrophes”, as he calls them, once a month or so. “We’d always talk like: Joseph’s due one of his meltdowns.” But by 17, the situation had become untenable. “Mum and Dad had separated, life was starting to really change. I was in the process of going off the fucking rails, deeply unhappy.” He’d heard that the GP would hand out pills that could make him happy, so he made an appointment. At first, the doctor did offer him counselling. “But it was a long wait and I needed help there and then.” He took the antidepressants instead. “I ended up on these drugs for years. They’d put me on one, I’d go all the way up to the highest dose, then it’d stop working again and I’d go on to another, go all the way up to the highest dose, taken off that, go on to another. I’ve been on everything, dude.”

At 26, Gilgun had been cast in Misfits as Rudy, a character split into two versions of himself – one upbeat, confident and gregarious, the other melancholy, insecure and uncertain. It was a demanding role, because he was playing two people. “And I have this colossal fucking meltdown: I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping… all this shit that I go through every time.” He starts to choke up when he remembers the kindness of the show’s producer, Matt Strevens, who got him to a private doctor (“posh, he looked like the fucking lion out of Narnia”), who told him that the medication he’d been on for years had been damaging his mental health. “He said, ‘Everything you’ve taken on the list I can see in front of me is detrimental to someone who suffers with bipolar – which, by the way, you have’.” Up until that point, Gilgun had no idea. It was the first time he’d been given a proper diagnosis.

Gilgun is extraordinarily open about his mental health. “I mean, I understand that it makes me vulnerable, but I’m prepared to go to that place for the sake of anyone who’s suffered like I have.” If anyone recognises something in themselves from him talking about it publicly, he says, he’d like them to know they could speak to their doctor about it. “Go and ask, go and fill out the form, go through the bullshit system they have in place.” He catches himself; he is insistent that he’s not criticising the NHS. They simply need more money, to allow them to take better, less catch-all approaches to complex disorders. “You know, we slag off our NHS like there’s no tomorrow, but they’re not sitting there with their thumbs up their arse, they’re genuinely trying to fix shit. I think our NHS is incredible. We’re so lucky to have them and they work as hard as they possibly can. But the system ain’t right and it is failing people everywhere. I’m one of them. It’s taken me until 35 to be on the right medicine.”

In Misfits, alongside (left to right) Iwan Rheon, Antonia Thomas, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett.
 In Misfits, alongside (left to right) Iwan Rheon, Antonia Thomas, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. 

Working as an actor, then, has been a double-edged sword for Gilgun. On the one hand, it’s given him access to healthcare that he would not have had otherwise. He has weekly therapy now, and the environment he works in provides him with discipline. He is strict about being on set on time, and always knowing his lines. “It’s fucking hard up here, like, super hard,” he says, tapping his head. “This head of mine never rests. Do not make the assumption that because somebody has got mental health issues they are weak-minded. That person is terrified, anxious. Getting out of bed alone has been a huge, monumental task. Getting in that shower, brushing the teeth, somehow managing to eat their breakfast… Some will have children, and they have to go and do exactly the same thing you do at work, only they’re suffering like that. Now that to me is a fucking hard dude or gal.”

On the other hand, there are some parts of his job, and some roles in particular, that have taken it out of him. “I almost enjoy the fact, in a sadistic way, that a part is going to damage me a little bit,” he explains. This Is England was one of those roles. When Woody found himself cut off from the gang, Gilgun cut himself off from the cast, who are his close friends in real life. “That was a difficult thing to do.” They filmed in Sheffield, where he didn’t know anyone else. “Essentially I’m on my own in a flat, locked away. The lines get very, very blurred.”

Though it borrows from Gilgun’s youth, there is a sense that Brassic shows a parallel life for Gilgun, a what-could-have-been, had his acting career not taken off. “Definitely,” he agrees. “I mean, I was a bad kid, but I wasn’t El Chapo. I’d sell a bit of weed and I’d shift a bit of gear. I’ll not go into details. But I think [Gilgun’s character] Vinnie is someone I could have ended up being.” He points out that in a lot of his roles, his character has been surrounded by a close group of friends: MisfitsThis Is England and even Preacher are about tight friendships. “And I’m not very social. I spend a lot of time on my own. The few friends I do have, I rarely see, and I keep them at a distance. I think I feel guilty for doing well.” Vinnie, meanwhile, is always there for his mates, and rarely alone. “It’s a version [of me] that I’d like to be, you know. I’d love to be that guy who’s not a flakey friend, who does turn up to weddings and parties, but I’m not him. I don’t know if I ever will be.”

In the core Brassic gang, one of the characters, Tommo, is a committed lothario who has sex with men and women, while hardman Ash is an Irish Traveller who happens to be gay. “We’re not making a fucking comment,” says Gilgun, shrugging. “It makes no difference. In a working-class community, often you are accepted for the oddball you’ve become. The working classes go through a very specific filtration system that’s different to the middle and upper classes, and a lot of that is based around survival. As a result of that, you get these huge personalities – they’re fucking nuts, you know – and you just accept them.” He fondly mentions local characters from his home town, eccentrics who nobody would dare mess with. “You know, the show is an unapologetic comment on what it is to be working-class,” says Gilgun. “We’re not all miserable. Some of the happiest people I know have got fuck all.”

One of the more surprising truthful elements of Brassic is that, like Vinnie, Gilgun does actually live out in the woods, in a derelict house in the north west, that he’s slowly doing up, with the help of his mum and his sisters. He broke in through a skylight one day, he says, and just started living there. “When I first moved in, I lived in a tent in the house because there was this big hole in the ceiling.” When he was filming Preacher, the American network would put him up in “these multimillion-dollar eco houses”, so it was quite the contrast. “I go straight back into the derelict house where there’s no hot water and I can’t really flush the toilet properly without throwing a bucket down it.”

A scene from the second episode of Brassic, left to right: Gilgun, Aaron Heffernan, Tim Key, Tom Hansen and Damien Molony.
 A scene from the second episode of Brassic, left to right: Gilgun, Aaron Heffernan, Tim Key, Tom Hansen and Damien Molony. 

He’s never been the kind of person who hankers for material stuff. “I don’t have a nice car. I have two bikes, I like trainers, I like tattoos, quite like gold teeth.” He flashes a gold-free smile. “I might get some of them made.” He was talking to his therapist about all of this recently. “I had a bit of a breakthrough. She was saying, ‘Why don’t you have a girlfriend? Why don’t you have a house? You’ve got all this money. Do something with it.’” He says that, partly, he doesn’t feel worthy of it. “But the other aspect is, once I’ve got a girl that I know I can love and she loves me, that’s when I’ll do it. I’ll get a house and I’ll learn to drive and I’ll become a normal human being, get a golden retriever and a fucking dishwasher and all that. I’ll give it everything I have. I’ve never really had that love, being in love like that.” He says it’s hard, because of his bipolar, but also because of his work, which means he’s away a lot. “I can’t meet anyone. I’m nice, as well!” So he’s just put himself on Tinder. “But it’s difficult. No one’s in the market for a bipolar squatter who lives in the fucking woods, do you know what I mean?”

Gilgun has already got his next project lined up. It’s early days, so he’s not allowed to say what it is, but Brassic has given him a taste for the creative side. “I’ve got loads of ideas and for the first time in my life, I’ve got the confidence to be able to sit up and go, hey, they’re fucking brilliant.” I tell him I loved Brassic. By the end of it, I cared deeply about all of the characters, especially Vinnie. He looks pleased. “Some of it is real, so you’re watching someone’s life. There’s a truth to all of it. Even though we’re doing crazy things like robbing horses.” He mentions a rule that they would never play a scene for laughs. If he caught an actor doing it, he’d immediately stop them. “Because what we’re doing is mad enough. You don’t have to add to that,” he smiles. “It’s already fucking mental.”

All episodes of Brassic will be available on Sky One and Now TV from 22 August

Charity football match raises more than £1,000 in memory of Dundee dad Lee

Charity football match raises more than £1,000 in memory of Dundee dad Lee

A charity football match in memory of a young dad from Dundee has raised almost £1,000.

Lee Welsh, 27, was found dead at his Peddie Street home in the city’s West End in August 2017.

Last year, Lee’s childhood friend Steve Martin organised a memorial football match, which raised more than £1,000 for the Dundee Association for Mental Health (DAMH).

A follow-up match was held at North End Park on Saturday.

Lee’s mum Lesley Nicoll said it raised just over £900.

She added: “Combined with a bake sale held by a family member at their work, in total we have recently raised just over £1,100.

“The money is going to Art Angel on behalf of the Not in Vain for Lee charity. We are very grateful for everyone’s generosity.”

Lee Welsh.

Lesley is now planning to undertake a charity abseil at Dundee University Tower on August 18 to raise more money in her son’s name.