After the growth of food banks, a clothes bank is now due to be opened on Teesside by an anti-Government organisation.
Teesside Socialist Clothing Bank will open its doors this Saturday, at the John Paul Centre in Middlesbrough after organisers said those on Jobseekers Allowance were sometimes unfairly having their benefits cut.
However that has been countered by the town’s parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party Simon Clarke who said that in fact benefits are being processed more quickly under the Conservative-led government.
One of the organisers of the clothing bank, Anna Thorne, said statistics showed that 46 per cent of dole claimants in Middlesbrough had been sanctioned for being late or missing an appointment for sometimes valid reasons. That can lead to claimants having their benefits cut for six weeks to three months which was causing hardship.
> If that figure is true – and it could well be – that means almost half of benefit claimants in middlebrough have been sanctioned !
She also pointed to cuts at Middlesbrough Borough Council caused by reductions in Government grants, including the fact the council had stopped helping schoolchildren in poverty buy school uniforms to save £13,000 a year.
Free hot food and entertainment will be provided between 11am and 2pm on what will start as a monthly event.
A press release by Teesside Solidarity Clothing Group also criticised the Government saying that:
“The project locates the Government’s vicious austerity agenda as resulting in the most vulnerable suffering the most hardship. Set against a landscape of benefit sanctions and a diminishing welfare state the project emphasises that being hard up is not a crime.”
Conservative parliamentary candidate for Middlesbrough, Simon Clarke, said the clothing bank shouldn’t be used for political point-scoring. He said:
“I welcome any initiative that helps vulnerable people and I wish the new Teesside clothing bank every success. However, it is disappointing that some people involved with this project feel the need to hijack its launch to try to score political points using rhetoric that simply doesn’t square with the facts.
Stockton’s Tory MP James Wharton has become embroiled in a row with organisers of a clothes bank – outside his constituency.
Mr Wharton, MP for Stockton South, said there was “more than a hint of party politics” about the launch of the County Durham Socialist Clothes Bank “six months before an election”.
> There’s “more than a hint of party politics” behind the need for such ventures too. It stems from political decisions made by the Tory party.
I don’t think people who need to use it will be doing so as a political gesture… they do so because they have no other choice.
“This is as much about making statements about politics as it is about doing good things,” he told a local TV news station.
“I welcome one, I’m not convinced about the other.”
But his comments have landed him in trouble with the Durham Unite Community, whose members coordinate the clothes bank.
Unite Community is a non-industrial section of the Unite union “created to empower people outside the labour market to use the trade union values of solidarity and collective action to improve their own and others’ situations”.
Members said Mr Wharton had “shamed himself” with his comments.
Said a spokesperson:
“To seek to undermine the huge amount of voluntary effort spent by our members getting the clothes bank up and running in order to score cheap political points is unacceptable.
“Helping out fellow human beings in times of need, as our members are doing through the clothes bank, is something that politicians of all parties should be applauding rather than cynically trying to denigrate their efforts in the way James Wharton MP has done.”
Mr Wharton said he did “support all well intended community efforts”, but said he wondered why “they also need to issue highly political press releases to go with them”.
> Because it is a political issue ?
He hit back: “There are six months to go until the election and sadly it appears the unions are going to be fighting a particularly nasty and personal campaign.
> And the Tories wont, of course. They’ll just be happy to be judged on their humanitarian record…
“Hijacking good causes to launch their attacks is particularly shameful.
> More shameful than being the architects of the situation that necessitates things like food and clothes banks ?
“All I can ask is that if any of the left wing unions issue statements about me which concern or worry anyone in Stockton South then people who read them consider contacting me for the truth before drawing conclusions.”
> email@example.com if you want to ask him anything…
I think the story was summed up neatly by a comment by Guy S :
A clothes bank offering free clothing and toiletries to people who use food banks is to be launched later this month.
Monthly sessions will take place at Brandon, near Durham City and details of similar sessions to take place in Stanley will be announced in the near future.
The County Durham Socialist Clothes Bank is being set up by the Durham Miners’ Association, Durham People’s Assembly and trade unions the GMB, RMT, and Unite.
The first session will take place at Brandon Welfare Hall on Tuesday, October 28 from noon until 2pm and will be open to anyone in receipt of food bank vouchers.
Organiser Dawn Wilson said:
“As far as we are aware, this is the first of this type of scheme to be set up across County Durham.
“We have been inundated with hundreds of items of clothing, toys and toiletries since launching our appeal.”
“The idea behind the scheme is something which myself and Catherine Ainsley have had for some time, but when recently overhearing a conversation between a young boy and his mother in a shoe shop, during which she explained that she could only afford to buy shoes for his sister this year, this spurred me into taking some action and getting the project off the ground”.
Ms Wilson added:
“When talking to food banks organisers and users we have found that many are also in dire need of clothing and toiletries, because they simply cannot afford even charity shop prices.
> No “even” about it… the majority of charity shops forgot their original purpose and started chasing the middle class pound. Charity shops are no longer cheap.
“As the winter is drawing in we would like to make a special appeal for shoes, gloves, hats, scarves and warm coats; toys would also be very much welcomed in the run up to Christmas”.
Source – Durham Times, 18 Oct 2014