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.