There is much to be angry about in the UK in 2022… but the last few months have been exceptional. Unfortunately, so much Tory turmoil has absorbed our capacity for anger, distracting our attention from the real underlying issues which should be the focus of our outrage and provoke the question: “What has this bloody country come to?”
I have almost become inured to the outrageous, scandalous farce of UK politics, avoiding becoming too involved with it for the sake of controlling my blood pressure. Then it happened last Wednesday: within 50 minutes I had two phone conversations which left me seething.
The first call was from a hospital matron who rang to explain and apologise for administrative problems which occurred during my Mum’s recent long stay in hospital after a fall. I sympathised with the staffing situation, given that the NHS is struggling: understaffed, under-resourced and overstretched. He agreed, and tried very hard not to get into discussing politics when he alluded to cuts… coming from the government. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he had lost his father last year: he had died in pain waiting for an ambulance when none was available, all being stuck waiting to offload patients at A&E. His brother tried to keep their father alive, but to no avail. His father was about my age. It must be difficult to give one’s complete dedication to a system which is so broken that it causes the death of a loved one, but that is true vocation. The previous evening, I had had a meeting with an NHS pharmacist: she too described the parlous state of the NHS… and how so many of her colleagues are facing burnout.
The second phone call came just a few minutes after the first had ended: I spoke to a single mum: a victim of domestic violence, with two growing lads; they had to be moved and given a new identity for their own safety. The charity organisation of which I’m a member has been helping her for almost three years. I had been informed that she was struggling to feed her boys, this being half-term week – they normally receive free school meals but, whilst during recent school holidays, food vouchers have been provided to such families in place of free school meals, the scheme has come to an end. The mother relies on Universal Credit (UC), so the family lives precariously, very much on a hand-to-mouth basis.
To make matters worse, it transpired that she had been sanctioned with a £150 deduction from her last UC payment, as she couldn’t get to the necessary appointment at the Job Centre. She had been given an appointment at 09:00 at the Job Centre, which is an hour away by two bus rides – ie, requiring her to leave home at 08:00. What might a mother of two young lads be doing between 08:00 and 09:00 on a school day? It’s not rocket science. She asked for a later appointment but was refused… and was instead awarded the sanction mentioned above. It doesn’t take much to imagine the feelings of a single mother struggling to stay afloat, and receiving such ‘punishment’ from the very organisation which should be supporting her.
I promised to send a food voucher, and was able to organise it a little later, accessing a special fund set up by the charity to alleviate food poverty. At least the family was able to eat for the rest of the week.
On the subject of free school meals, Jamie Oliver was quoted on the subject yet again in a recent BBC article as advocating the extension of the scheme to more families:
“Mr Oliver, who has long campaigned for children to have better access to healthy food, is backing the Feed the Future campaign for free school meals to be extended to around 800,000 more children who are “the most vulnerable in society”.”
We all know only too well that child poverty is increasing at an alarming rate this year.
When my two teenage grandsons start to show symptoms of needing to be fed, my daughter often says they are ‘hangry’ – tired, listless, irritable and even angry… hence hungry-angry. Any teacher will tell you that hungry kids can’t learn, and have little or no attention span. Jamie Oliver again:
“We know in every way, shape and form that kids who have a decent lunch and breakfast learn better, their educational attainment is better… but no-one’s taken it seriously yet.”
Least of all an uncaring government.
Jamie Oliver’s last comment just about sums it up: no-one’s taken food poverty seriously yet. Nor the consequences of a broken NHS. Perhaps because the victims are ordinary people, not contributors to the Tory party or Tory voters. The same political party has been in power since 2010; that’s the reason why this country has come to this.
Yes, I am angry, and hungry for change. Hangry. Bloody hangry.