Tagged: charity

Soup kitchen charity’s £500,000 bid to help South Tyneside’s hungry and homeless

A charity which provides vital support to some of South Tyneside’s most vulnerable citizens is aiming to raise £500,000 to expand its services.

South Shields-based Hospitality and Hope, now based at the former Hampden Street Day Centre in South Shields, runs food banks and soup kitchens across the town.

Now it has moved into the former Duncans pet shop at Chichester after the North East’s Willan Trust bought the building and rented it to the charity at a peppercorn rent.

The aim is to create a community cafe on the bottom floor of the building which would be open to the public.

And the upstairs is to be converted to provide supported living for five adult males.

It’s a hugely ambitious project with the revamp work needed and first year running costs expected to cost £500,000.

Fortunately, Hospitality and Hope volunteers had already started fundraising before the charitable trust purchased the building on its behalf, and is “well on its way” to its target.

But Amelia Luffram, project co-ordinator with the charity, has still called on the borough’s business community to rally in support.

She said:

“It is really two separate projects. The supported living upstairs will definitely be open before the end of the year but there is an awful lot of work to do in the cafe as the pet shop has been closed for several years.

“We will be continuing our fundraising and are planning one big fundraising event in the future. Meanwhile, it would be great if building companies were able to donate stuff in kind that we could use to carry out the refit, and when the community café is open we could give those companies recognition, perhaps in the form of plaque.

“We’d also love to hear from any businesses that can provide beds, fridges and freezers for the supported living accommodation.”

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, a staunch supporter of Hospitality and Hope, was on hand when John Duncan handed over the keys to the former pet shop recently.

Also in attendance was the Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Fay Cunningham, who said:

“In these difficult economic times, Hospitality and Hope provide a much-needed service for South Tyneside communities.

“It is sad to see so many people living in crisis, but it is heartening to see the level of support offered by volunteers and partner organisations who are committed to helping others.”

Thanks have been passed on to the charity’s patron, Sir David Chapman, for his support.

If you can help the charity, e-mail hosp.hope@live.co.uk

Source – Shields Gazette, 18 Feb 2015

Charity repossesses empty houses and turns them into flats for the homeless

A charity has welcomed its 50th tenant under a scheme that repossesses empty properties and turns them into homes for the homeless.

The Homelife project, which is run by the Team Valley-based group Changing Lives, was funded by the Government’s Empty Homes Programme.

And this week – after 58 uninhabited houses across Tyneside were bought up in the 18 months since the charity received the funding – the scheme reached a half century of new tenants.

The man, named only as “David”, sough help to kick a drug habit after he was released from prison in 2012.

And now, having turned his life around, he has moved into a new flat in Willington Quay, North Tyneside.

I had problems with drugs,”he said. “I came out of prison in 2012 and I got into the Oak Tree project, which is a non-residential rehabilitation scheme.

“My life started changing from then on. The support has been immense. I’ve advantage of every service they’ve offered.

“It feels exciting to be in my own place now. It’s a fresh start. This is a bridge to normal living.”

David, 27, from South Shields, was in prison for two years for committing grievous bodily harm, but he now hopes to soon become a support worker.

“I’ll be talking to people who have had similar problems,” said David. “Someone did it for me and if they hadn’t, it could have been a very different story, so I want to do that for someone else now.

“I like working, it takes me out of my own head. I’m not the same person today. It’s amazing.

“I thought I was in control before but now things are so much better.”

The charity, which aims to have taken on 120 houses by March 2016, said the project has been a huge success across Tyneside, helping to house around 75 people in the last year.

Val Nevin, assistant director at Changing Lives, said repossessing the empty houses had benefited the community in a number of ways.

The houses we buy-up have been empty for at least a month, but many of them, like this one, have been lying empty for years,” she said.

“These properties were a mess so for the neighbours it’s also been a relief. It’s nice to have it renovated and brought back into use.

“And we’ve had really good feedback from people who have moved into the flats. They’ve got a ready made, quality home, and we only charge 80% of the local housing allowance, so they are affordable.”

The project, which has seen families from across Tyneside rehoused into brand-new affordable flats, is also designed to get clients of the charity working on the projects.

James McBurnie, who works as a builder and decorator on the Homelife project, said making homes for people who have had similar problems to him gave him immense satisfaction.

I get a lot of job satisfaction when I see people moved into one of the flats I’ve helped renovate,” said the 25-year-old from Sunderland.

I was in prison in 2009 for attempted robbery, and I’ve been in and out of prison all my life, but when I got out the charity helped me get support for my drug misuse and alcohol misuse.

“I had to try and sort my life out and stop re-offending and they gave me the opportunity to have some stable work.

“There’s a very fine line between being on the straight and narrow and slipping back into that life, and I think I could help other people that have been in the same sort of situation as me.”

The charity are urging communities around the country to follow their example. Val said: “It’s such a good scheme and it’s making a difference to so many people.

“More and more people around the country should be taking on this project.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Dec 2014

Even charity shops are struggling to survive in South Shields

Charity does not begin at home in South Tyneside – with fundraising shops in the borough’s main retail area facing tough times.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals’ outlet in King Street, South Shields, closed its doors at the weekend.

A spokesman for the charity said it had a temporary lease and had decided not to renew after it ran out.

Apart from removing a source of much-needed income for the charity, the move also leaves yet another vacant premises in the town centre.

It is just the latest retailer to call it a day in the once-thriving street – and others admit they are struggling.

Despite some claims that King Street is “full of charity shops” there are now only two fundraising premises there – Marie Curie Cancer Care and the British Heart Foundation.

However, both outlets say they are facing challenges amid falling footfall and the “M&S factor”.

The iconic retailer’s exit from the town earlier this year is having a negative ripple effect on fellow retailers.

Lisa Burles, manager of the BHS shop, said:

“The closure of Marks & Spencer hit us really badly and the footfall in King Street has fallen significantly.

“We have really struggled since March when the shop had a refit. We had a better month last month because of the weather, but we have dipped again.

“You just have to look at the till transactions to see the reduction in customer numbers. Having said that, we’ve been here 20 years and we’re not intending to go anywhere soon.”

A PDSA spokesperson said:

“Our South Shields shop on King Street was run on a temporary lease. We always review all our shops when their leases come up for renewal. We often have to make difficult decisions to ensure the kind donations we receive are used most effectively and, regrettably on this occasion, we had to close our South Shields shop.

“We are extremely grateful for the dedication of all our staff and volunteers, and for the loyalty of our customers in South Shields. We would also like to reassure pet owners in the area that PDSA’s veterinary services are unaffected by this decision.”

A spokeswoman for Marie Curie Cancer Care shop, beside the street’s Metro station, said: “We’re getting by, but it’s a tough climate out there.”

Source – Shields Gazette, 18 Sept 2014

Crisis in prison looming large, according to leading charity

Prison overcrowding combined with a cut in officer numbers of up to 30 per cent is stretching the service to breaking point, according to a new report.

The Howard League for Penal Reform shows that in the last three years officer numbers in the North East dropped by 30 per cent from 2,062 in September 2010 to 1,450 by September 2013.

The figures in Yorkshire and Humber show a reduction of 28 per cent in the same period. Northallerton prison has been closed since the figures were compiled.

The charity says the decline in officer numbers across the country has coincided with the loss of 6,500 prison places due to closures and readjustments, which has resulted in a growing number of inmates being forced into a diminishing number of prisons.

However, the charity’s figures have been branded ‘misleading’ by the government minister in charge of prisons.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: “These are flawed and inaccurate figures from a left wing pressure group which can’t see past its dislike of this Government.

These figures present a misleading picture of the prison estate. Our approach to staffing levels has been agreed with the unions to ensure we run safe, efficient and decent prisons with prison officers back in frontline roles where they are most needed.”

 However, Frances Crook, the charity’s chief executive, said: “The prison system is at breaking point. Everyone should be concerned at the crisis in prisons as when people come out of jail they are more likely to inflict more crime on us.

“Ministers and various MPs have used different figures to try to minimise the impact of prison closures, but the statistics in this report show the true picture.

“Governors, inspectors and prison officers are joining the Howard League in warning the government that prisons are not just failing, they are dangerous.

“Violence and drug use is out of control and we will all suffer the consequences. This is the most irresponsible government penal policy in a generation.”

The findings, published in charity’s latest research briefing paper, Breaking point: Understaffing and overcrowding in prisons, warns that suicides, assaults and riots will become increasingly common unless urgent action is taken to increase officer numbers and reduce prisoner numbers.

A spokeswoman for the Prisoner Officers’ Association said: “The POA has raised concerns over the link between staff reductions and the increased level of violence, self-inflicted ?injuries, deaths, poor regimes and acts of indiscipline, in our prisons but saving money is the priority of the Ministry of Justice and Treasury.

“The POA welcome the report and findings and call on the Minister to act quickly to ensure prisons are safe secure and fit for purpose and not warehouses ?which is the reality under the current regime.”

Source –  Northern Echo,  12 July 2014

Need for food banks is caused by welfare cuts, research shows

> Research – perhaps by the same people who, after several years “research“, decided that on  the balance of probability the Pope was almost certainly a catholic – tells us what most people had already worked out for themselves : the rise in foodbanks and the welfare cuts are not unconnected.

The government’s welfare reforms, including benefit sanctions and the bedroom tax, are a central factor in the explosion in the numbers of impoverished people turning to charity food banks, an academic study has said.

The study, part of a three-year investigation into emergency food provision, was carried out by Hannah Lambie-Mumford, a Sheffield University researcher who co-authored a recently published government report into the extent of food aid in the UK.

That report concluded there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate a clear causal link between welfare reform and food bank demand in the UK. But Lambie-Mumford’s new study, to be published on Wednesday, says the rise in demand for charity food is a clear signal “of the inadequacy of both social security provision and the processes by which it is delivered“.

The report warns that as social security safety nets become weaker, there is a danger that charity food could become an integral part of the state welfare provision, or even an replacement for formerly state-funded emergency welfare schemes.

> And that is a really scary prospect – having to go cap-in-hand to charities in order to survive. How very Victorian.

Lambie-Mumford’s study was based on 25 in-depth interviews with a range of food bank staff and volunteers in 2012 and 2013 and found many food banks were adapting to demand by scaling up food collection and storage provision “to accommodate the future trajectory of need“.

Her paper will be presented to an all-party committee of MPs which meets on Wednesday to finalise the terms of an inquiry into hunger and food poverty. The inquiry will examine the rise of food banks, an issue that has become politically highly charged as ministers attempt to deflect criticism that austerity policies, including welfare cuts, have had the effect of compelling more people on low incomes to rely on food aid.

> Well, what kind of result  did they expect austerity policies to have ? The clue is in the name…

Lambie-Mumford said her research showed that food banks were expanding to meet rising demand caused in part by a squeeze on welfare entitlements which made already poor people even worse off. This was compounded by inadequate processing of social security claims, including payment delays and “arbitrary and unfair” sanctioning decisions that left claimants without any income at all.

There were other factors which had contributed to the rise of food banks, such as low wages and the rise in the cost of food. But it was important that MPs did not duck or underplay the importance of welfare reform. “The tricky thing is that welfare reform is the most political aspect of a political issue. But we should not shy away from it for this reason,” she said.

The welfare minister Lord Freud notoriously claimed last year that more people were going to food banks because the food was free, thereby triggering “almost infinite demand”. Last month Freud admitted people did not turn up “willingly” at food banks but said it was “very hard to know why” they did go.

> And its people of this calibre making welfare decisions ?

The Trussell trust, which oversees a network of more than 400 food banks in the UK, has insisted repeatedly that welfare reform is the biggest driver of demand for food parcels. Its third-quarter data, published in March, showed that it helped 614,000 people in the first nine months of this year. Its final-year figures, expected next week, are likely to show that demand has more than doubled in the past 12 months.

More than eight out of 10 food bank managers interviewed for the study acknowledged the impact of welfare changes and welfare processes as a factor in driving demand.

A DWP spokesperson said: “This report, which is based on just 25 interviews, fails to consider how welfare reforms are helping people off benefits and into jobs. The truth is that we now have record numbers of people in work, the highest employment rate for five years, and falling unemployment.”

> I should imagine its easy to spot a DWP spokesperson – they must have very long noses by now.

Source – Welfare News Service  08 April 2014

http://www.scoop.it/t/welfare-news-service/p/4019225517/2014/04/08/need-for-food-banks-is-caused-by-welfare-cuts-research-shows

Bedroom Tax: One In Seven Households ‘Face Eviction’

Two-thirds of households in England affected by the bedroom tax have fallen into rent arrears since the policy was introduced in April, while one in seven families have received eviction risk letters and face losing their homes, a survey claims.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) said its survey demonstrated that the bedroom tax was “heaping misery and hardship” on already struggling families who were unable to pay their rent but unable to find anywhere cheaper to live because of a shortage of smaller homes.

The NHF survey is one of three separate reports published on Wednesday which collectively criticise the design and implementation of the bedroom tax and highlight the negative impact it has had on the lives of many of the 522,000 people in the UK who are subject to it.

The disability charity Papworth Trust says that a third of disabled people affected by the tax have been refused emergency financial help, despite government guidance that disabled people who live in adapted homes get first call on discretionary housing payment funding.

The trust said many disabled people who have been refused emergency payments – which are intended to provide short-term financial relief to those struggling to cope with the bedroom tax – were now cutting back on essentials such as food or household bills. It called on ministers to exempt people living in adapted properties from the tax.

Meanwhile, the Labour party has published the results of a freedom of information request which shows the number of tenants wrongly subjected to the bedroom tax as a result of drafting errors in legislation is nearly 50,000 – at least 10 times as many as official estimates.

Chris Bryant, the shadow minister for welfare reform, said information from a third of councils showed that 16,000 people were affected by the error, which affects working age tenants in social housing who have occupied the same home continuously since 1996.

The reports herald a day of parliamentary activity around the bedroom tax. A bill to abolish the tax will be introduced by Labour backbench MP Ian Lavery, while Lord Freud, the welfare minister, will appear before a committee of MPs to answer question on a raft of welfare reforms.

Lavery said he believed that the bedroom tax had caused the most visible poverty and heartache of all the coalition’s welfare changes. “I have seen with my own eyes the absolutely astounding impact the bedroom tax has on disabled and sick people. I’m not sure the government is aware of the hardship and misery it has caused. We are talking about ordinary people who have been forced to move from the homes where they have spent a lifetime raising their kids. They have been cast out like dogs in the night.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “We are determined to support those who might need extra help through these necessary reforms. That is why we have tripled the extra funding given to councils this year to £190m – some of which is specifically targeted at disabled people – and have announced that £165m will be available for councils next year to help vulnerable tenants.”

It said the NHF could not prove whether the rise in tenant rent arrears was accounted for by the bedroom tax alone.

The bedroom tax – also known under its official names of “spare room subsidy” or “under-occupation penalty” – affects 660,000 housing benefit claimants living in social housing across the UK. Introduced last April, the policy imposes an average penalty of between £14 and £22 a week on working-age tenants deemed to have more bedrooms than they need.

NHF chief executive David Orr said: “From day one we have said the bedroom tax is unfair, unworkable and just bad policy. It’s putting severe pressure on thousands of the nation’s poorest people and must be repealed.”

This article was written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 12th February 2014.

Source – Welfare News Service  12 Feb 2014

Not Wishing You A Dickensian Christmas

Its a strange thing but a “Dickensian” christmas is often held up as the personification of all things the season should strive to be… the soft, warm glow of candlelight, decorated xmas trees, hot punch, roasting chestnuts, happy families around the fire, merry carol singers gathered under the gaslight in the street, not the least phased by the several inches of snow covering everything – proper snow, snow that miraculously doesn’t turn to slush under the passage of so many feet and the wheels of carriages, or become polluted by the regular discharges from the horses that provided the motive power.

Sometimes people will organize “Dickensian Christmas” events and dress up in Victorian costume, probably read from his works… and generally miss his point.

Because the strata of society they dress up as is inevitably the upper or upper-middle classes of Victorian society. Then as now, the low paid and unemployed weren’t invited to the party – who do you think lit the candles and fires, cooked the feasts and generally did all the work ?

British society must not revert to “times of Charles Dickens” and leave the nation’s poorest families in desperate need of food and clothes, a  charity has warned.

Action for Children said the nation “can’t go back” to the scenes of desperation described by the Dickens.  The comments come as the charity said it has been regularly sending families to food and clothes banks for the first time since the 1940s.

Spokesman Jacob Tas said a “staggering” number of its centres were showing families where they could obtain emergency supplies, with some families are being forced to choose between eating, paying for heating or the rent.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of the charity’s 220 children’s centres said they aere “regularly” signposting families in need to food banks, according to its annual report, The Red Book.

And 21% of managers of the charity’s intensive family support services are signposting those in need to clothes banks, said the report released earlier this year.

Mr Tas said:  ” It’s painful and unfortunate that we have now entered in a time when we go back in comparison to the 1940s. It’s really horrible for those families who are basically already at the bottom of the food chain that they have to go to go to food banks to get their food.

“Some families now have to make a choice between either paying the rent, paying for heating or paying for food. We are talking about children that are cold at home and are hungry and that is in 2013, which is really painful for everybody involved.

“In this very wealthy country, we are in the top 10 of the richest in the world, yet here we have a two-tier society where people are struggling to feed and clothe themselves.

“We can’t go back to the times of Charles Dickens where at Christmastime we are handing out food and clothes. We should be more advanced in our opinion of society where we take care of those who need help the most.”

He said that there are a number of contributing factors to the rise in people seeking help for basic necessities including the economy, unemployment, changes to the benefits system and cuts to services. “These families are facing the maximum squeeze from all sides,” he said.

In Tyne & Wear, the  Trussell Trust, which runs several foodbanks, has already this year helped 19, 388 people – last year it was 7,020. In Newcastle’s West End 7,410 people received help – last year it was just 26.

Gateshead saw a rise from 390 last year to 1,720

The Bay Foodbank (North Tyneside) last December delivered 97 boxes of food (designed to last a family 4-5 days). In November this year they delivered 305 boxes.

The People’s Kitchen in Newcastle is expecting to help around 650 people over Christmas.

Austerity – we’re all in it together. Alledgedly. This time next year, a whole lot more of us will probably be in it, and we can all have Dickensian christmas’s.

Charity Slams Osborne’s Workfare – These Placements Are Not Voluntary

Will any organization in the North East follow this lead ?

the void

bhf-edingburgh-workfareA centre for volunteers in Liverpool has issued a strong statement rejecting George Osborne’s plan for mass workfare.

Beginning in April next year thousands of unemployed people will be forced into six month workfare placements with charities or community organisations.  The scheme is a huge roll out of mandatory workfare and depends on the so-called voluntary sector playing ball to be successful.

Volunteer Centre Liverpool’s re-assuring statement this week pledges they will not take part in Osborne’s workfare and encourages others to think carefully about any possible involvement in workfare.  As they rightly point out, forced work, under threat of destitution, is not volunteering:

“There has been a lot of talk recently about the latest scheme to help people who are unemployed, with mention of “compulsory volunteering” as part of the “Help to Work” programme.  DWP do not refer to it as volunteering, but others are starting to, which…

View original post 135 more words

Homelessnesss – The Xmas Present No-one Wants

An increasing number of families in the North East are facing homelessness this winter, according to the latest statistics.

Calls to charity Shelter have increased by 12% since last year, and the number of people in the North East who called the Shelter helpline from 2012 to 2013 reached 2,490, the equivalent of more than 200 callers per month.

The charity say the figures reflect the growing number of people struggling to cope with the rising costs of living coupled with stagnating wages, and expect more families will find it increasingly difficult to keep a roof over their heads, especially as bills mount in the run-up to Christmas.

Shelter helpline adviser Liz Clare said the Christmas period is the most difficult time of year for her and colleagues. :

“The threat of homelessness is devastating at any time of year, but it seems to get worse around Christmas as the strains of the holidays close in and the weather gets cold.

“One Christmas Eve I answered a call from a mum with a disabled son. They were evicted from their home that night and had to sleep on the streets in the cold. We managed to find them a place to stay, but I’ll never forget the devastation in her voice. The sad fact is that eviction notices can come at any time of year. “

“I’ve never seen the helpline as busy as it has been this year.”

Jeremy Cripps, the chief executive of charity Children North East warned the figures could also increase following Christmas as people struggle to cope with the costs of the festive period and fall into arrears.

“What we have noticed is that a high proportion of families are there because of rent arrears or because their homes have been repossessed because of missed mortgage payments.”

Salvation Army cuts pay of workers

The Salvation Army‘s new regional pay structure came into force at the start of the month, bringing with it cuts in pay for hostel workers – including at the Salvation Army’s Swan Lodge in Sunderland.

The charity says the cuts are in response to changes in funding for homelessness services from central and local Government.

Clare Williams,  regional convenor of the union Unison, said:  “These changes will result in workers doing the same job in different areas of the country for different levels of pay, which in itself is unfair.

“However, it is aiming to achieve this by implementing severe cuts to pay and service conditions without properly considering the effects on its own workforce and the services it provides to vulnerable people locally.

“The charity says the changes are to secure future contracts for homeless services paid for by the Supporting People Grant.

“The irony is that the impact of these cuts upon its own staff will put many on the poverty line and some at risk of losing their own homes.”

Readers might like to consider the fact that the Salvation Army are also enthusiastic users of forced labour – unemployed  under threat of benefit sanctions –  to staff their charity shops.  Perhaps they have plans to extend forced labour to other areas of their organization.

More on the SA and unpaid labour here –

http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/the-true-face-of-salvation-army/

Perhaps we need a resurrection of the Skeleton Army –  a diffuse group, active  in Southern England, that opposed and disrupted The Salvation Army’s marches against alcohol in the late 19th century. Clashes between the two groups led to the deaths of several Salvationists and injuries to many others.

A fascinating – and largely unknown –  example of popular protest. Read more here –

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeleton_Army