Tears rolling down her cheeks, mum Katie Friend reveals the true cost of austerity.
In an emotional outburst she reveals the measures she resorted to just to feed her son.
Katie and husband Mal ate tinned casserole and powdered mash potato, while two-year-old Theo unwrapped presents from the charity shop on Christmas Day.
They were later forced to resort to emergency food parcels to give Theo a birthday party to disguise to him they were living on the bread line.
And today, Katie, a trained nursery nurse, tells how the family would have gone hungry if it wasn’t for the volunteers at the Gateshead Foodbank.
The 24-year-old, who now works part-time in a laundry, is telling her story to erase the stigma associated with foodbanks and to help other families in need.
Katie, whose husband has now found a full-time job, said:
“I have been brought up not to ask for help. I come from a proud family and when you’re struggling you just have to get on with it.
“My husband is very much the same but we had to swallow our pride – not just for us but for Theo. He needed food.
“I came down to the foodbank and I was actually shaking. I was terrified, I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and felt like such a bad mum.
“I thought I would come in and find homeless people queuing up. I came in and it was lovely and bright and I was greeted with a smile.
“It was the total opposite of what I thought it was going to be.”
The Friends were plunged into poverty when their benefits were sanctioned just days before Christmas last year.
Katie desperately tried to hide the fact she was struggling until organisers at St Chad’s Community Project noticed something was wrong.
And as she faced Christmas without any food she plucked up the courage to visit Gateshead Foodbank in the centre of Gateshead.
Volunteers provided her with emergency food parcels to get her through the festive period.
“We were sat having sandwiches. I was sat with my husband and my son cuddled up on the sofa watching the TV. My son opened presents from the charity shop.
“He appreciated them and we had a good day.
“When I think of what somebody else had at Christmas and what we had at Christmas I think it’s hard for somebody to believe that’s what we did.
“Everybody expects everyone can afford to have that day but not everyone can. We would have been able to afford that if we hadn’t have had that sanction.
“I’ll always remember that Christmas, the Christmas we couldn’t afford to have.
“We had tinned casserole and powdered mash potato but we could have had no food. I had a smile on my face on Christmas morning and I wouldn’t have had that if it wasn’t for the foodbank.”
The benefit sanction was lifted after Christmas and Katie and her husband began to get their lives back on track.
But in a second blow – just months later – the family had to resort to handouts when their welfare was recalculated.
And with Theo’s birthday just around the corner and food to find for a pre-planned party Katie received help from the foodbank again.
“It takes over your whole life. People say your in a dark place but you don’t see anything else going on. When I look back I was really down.
“I had the idea that the foodbank was just for homeless people and we weren’t entitled to anything. People donate the food to help people in your situation and you shouldn’t feel bad.
“It has been given for a purpose, you don’t have to feel bad.
“I’m so glad I swallowed my pride. I wasn’t a bad parent, I was a better parent for providing for my child and getting help.”
She added: “I’m just a normal person and just one of many people that got into this situation.”
The foodbank, which has been open nearly two years, is ran by volunteers from churches in Gateshead. It works with care professionals, GPs and the Citizens Advice Bureau to distribute food to those families in need in the town.
They provide three days of emergency food to people who find themselves in need.
For more information, call 0191 487 0898 or email email@example.com
Source – Newcastle Evening chronicle, 17 Oct 2014
Concerns that controversial television show Benefits Street could be filmed in the Stockton area have resurfaced after reports that film crews have been spotted in the area.
Numerous sighting of filming being carried out in Norton have been reported – and rumours are rife in the village that it is for the Channel 4 show.
But Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has urged people not to worry – and says the film crew seen may not even be from the programme.
“When the producers came to see me in Westminster a couple of months ago, they said they would not be going to Dixon Street (where they were previously researching),” said Mr Cunningham.
“They said if they were going to be in Stockton, they would keep me informed – and I have not been told me anything.
“However, I have heard there was some sort of filming going on in Norton so I have sent a note to Love Productions asking if they could tell me if they are up to anything.
“At the moment there is nothing to fear, but it is important to keep vigilant.
“If people are getting approached to be on the show, they need to get in touch with my office.”
Norton North councillor Steve Nelson claimed he saw someone filming by the duck pond in Norton on Wednesday.
But he added “it could have been for something else.”
“If it is them, I wouldn’t want them in Stockton and definitely not in Norton,” said Councillor Nelson.
“If people are approached by Love Productions to take part in the show I would urge them to say no.”
In May, it was claimed Benefits Street researchers were chased by residents and pelted with eggs.
TV crews were in Dixon Street, off Dovecot Street, Stockton, when residents allegedly chased, egged and threw a bucket of water over the research team from Love Productions, which makes the show for Channel 4.
One Norton High Street shop worker said: “I think it’s shocking. We don’t want Benefits Street here.”
Another said she saw two women being filmed walking down High Street and were also seen in Home Start Teesside charity shop.
“People are saying it is Benefits Street,” she said. “But I hope it’s not.”
There have also been reports that the show’s researchers have been in the Middlesbrough area as they look for a setting for a second series.
The first series of Benefits Street, filmed on James Turner Street in Birmingham , sparked a national controversy about its portrayal of people living on benefits.
Media regulator Ofcom received hundreds of complaints about what was dubbed ‘poverty porn‘.
But it was hugely popular and global broadcasting rights for the show were later sold .
Benefits Street gave Channel Four its highest viewing figures of any show since 2012.
Love Productions have been asked to comment, but had not responded by the time of publication.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 15 Aug 2014
Charity shops on Wearside are losing £50,000 a year, according to new figures.
Barnardo’s North East, which recorded the staggering losses, said city stores are losing out on tens of thousands of pounds because customers don’t understand Gift Aid.
The scheme allows those making a donation to pay a tax back sum directly to the charity by signing up free of charge.
This year, Barnardo’s in the North East has an estimated income of £417,187 from the Retail Gift Aid scheme.
However, if every person who donated clothes, accessories or goods to their local store signed up for Gift Aid, the charity could make £684,389.
This has been calculated as a possible extra £50,000 in the charity’s five shops in Sunderland city centre, Pennywell, Pallion and Seaham, to spend on services for vulnerable children and young people.
Pennywell shop manager Tracie Mitchison said the extra money could make a huge difference to Barnardos’ work. “We would love more customers to sign up for Gift Aid,” she said.
“It takes no time at all, is no cost to them, but makes their money go further for Barnardo’s.
“Fifty thousand pounds in tax-back is a huge sum of money which we could do so much with in Barnardo’s, so we would really encourage people to sign up.
“We know people are busy, but a minute is all it takes to make a real difference to the children and families we work with.”
Barnardo’s is launching a campaign called Missing Millions, in a bid to claim the pounds lost each year through the poor take-up of Gift Aid.
A calculated £267,000 a year is lost to the Barnardo’s North East stores. Nationally, the charity is losing out on £6.5million.
To help Barnardo’s claim the Missing Millions, people will need to be a tax payer, and fill out a gift aid declaration form, giving their full name, address and signature.
> I can’t help thinking that if charity shops are losing money, it might partly be due to their attempts to go ‘up-market’ and in the process moving away from their core users – people without much money to start with.
Its been noticeable in recent years that charity shop prices have rising dramatically, often to the point that you’re being asked to pay close to new price for second-hand goods. This all dates back, I think, to that Portias woman on TV, who ‘made over’ a charity shop and changed their emphasis towards attracting nice middle class people, rather than those nasty poor people with no money. And because it was on TV, all the other charity shops followed like sheep.
Of course, the nice middle class money didn’t flow in (why would it, when they could afford to buy new) and the core users had been driven away by high prices.
All in all, a bit like the Labour Party, and their attempts to dump their core voters in favour of the nice middle class people…
Source – Sunderland Echo, 29 July 2014
FEARS are growing over a rise in beggars who are “blighting” South Shields town centre.
Police, traders and charity workers have all expressed concern over an increase in the number operating in South Shields Town Centre.
Where once it was rare to see homeless people in street doorways it is now commonplace, with up to six individuals in the centre at any one time.
Gazette research has located several locations in and around King Street where beggars have been operating.
These have included outside of McDonald’s restaurant, the PDSA charity shop in the Market Place, the doorway of a vacant premises beside the British Heart Foundation, Lloyds Bank, at the Games Workshop in the Denmark Centre and at Morrisons in Ocean Road.
Today, the public were advised to give food and clothing to beggars but not money, as many are believed to be using cash handed over to buy drugs and alcohol.
Gill Peterson, assistant manager at Age UK in the Denmark Centre, regularly has beggars operating on either side of her shop.
Mrs Peterson says she has reached the “end of her tether” at their activities, claiming they scare off customers, hurl abuse and rifle through bins at the back of the premises.
She added: “I’m sick of them. They scare customers off, particularly our elderly ones and we are losing trade as a result.
“Any money they get just goes on buying bottles of cider. Every morning, I have to get in early to sort out the bins they have emptied through the night.
“If I approach them, I just get a mouthful of abuse. They are blighting the town.”
Amelia Luffrum, project director with Hospitality and Hope, the borough-based food bank and soup kitchen, said the public should only offer beggars food.
She said: “Homelessness is definitely rising from our experience.
“Some of the people who are out in these doorways, asking for money, come to our soup kitchens. They are in genuine need.
“Dependency on drink and drugs is a major issue. Our policy is never to give money. We feed them, give them sleeping bags and clothes, and direct them to different agencies.”
Neighbourhood Inspector Peter Sutton, of the Riverside Police Team, acknowledged there was a problem and said the situation was being monitored.
He added: “We are aware of the issue and are actively working with our partners on how the situation can be addressed, as concerns have been raised around criminality and vulnerability.”
Latest statistics show a 54 per cent rise in people seeking homelessness assistance from the local authority last year, from 187 to 534.
The impact of welfare reforms, including the ‘bedroom tax’, and a struggling economy, are among the reasons for the increase.
Source – Shields Gazette, 20 Jan 2014