Socialist Worker

Destitute and hungry in Jubilee Britain: 'The big society is a big lie'

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2305

A soup kitchen in Walthamstow (Pic: Smallman )

A soup kitchen in Walthamstow (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Up to 70 people a day use a soup kitchen in a car park behind a chain store in Walthamstow, east London.

Most passers by don’t notice the van as it offers hot food and some support to people failed by David Cameron’s big society.

James, a regular at the kitchen, said “This big society is a big lie that’s been sold to us by our wonderful politicians. Social services are out of their depth. They can’t cope with even the few people you can see here.”

The Tories blithely talk about volunteers taking up the slack in the wake of their cuts. They never consider the colossal size of the problem they’ve created.

Those visiting the soup kitchen include homeless people and people who have a home, but are struggling to pay their bills.

The use of food banks has doubled in Britain over the last year.

Some 130,000 people have used them.

James told me he is 57 and used to fly Phantom jets in the RAF.

He says it doesn’t take much to end up destitute.

“I had a mix up with the benefits people and I lost my home,” he said.

“I put my things in storage, but then I couldn’t pay and lost them.

“Now I have these two bags.

“I’m trying to get a permanent place to stay now.

“It would be so good to have a roof over my head with my own shower.”

Norman Coe has run the service, the Christian Kitchen, for nearly 20 years.

He said there are many more homeless people since the recession began.

“A lot of people who eat here can’t manage with the forms you have to fill in to get help,” he said.

“They have to juggle to pay the rent and can’t afford food.

“They just can’t cope.”

James, a regular at the kitchen (Pic: Smallman )

James, a regular at the kitchen (Pic: Guy Smallman)

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Article information

Tue 29 May 2012, 18:45 BST
Issue No. 2305
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