I have a lot of feelings about the election results as you probably know, but I’m going to try to keep this post as politics-light as possible in order to appeal to a wide range of people. If the fact that so much help is needed because so many people are living in desperate situations makes you angry – good, it makes me angry too. You might be like me and feel like you need to channel your anger into something productive, and that’s where this post comes in. The purpose of this is to share some ideas for ways to help those who will be most affected by another 5 years of austerity policies from a Tory government.
The unbearable part of all of this for me is that it is those who are already struggling to make ends meet who will dig deep to offer help to those who need it, and honestly that really sucks. It shouldn’t be that way and I don’t believe that people who are already living on very little should have to stretch themselves further. Keep scrolling for some free or low cost ways to help, and please don’t put yourself in financial hardship – little actions absolutely do make a big difference.
Most of us are only a few steps/set of unfortunate circumstances away from needing help ourselves. If you do find yourself in need then please please reach out to find help and don’t suffer in silence. The organisations below can help, as can your family and friends if you let them know you need it.
It is thought that since 2010 (when the Conservatives came into power) approximately 130,000 people may have died at the hands of austerity. (stats from IPPR and this study on BMJ). Austerity is a political-economic term referring to policies that aim to reduce government budget deficits through spending cuts, tax increases, or a combination of both.
It is estimated that over 14.3 million people are living in poverty in the UK, with 4.5 million of those in ‘deep poverty’ which means they live on an income of 50% below the breadline.
In 2017-18 4.1 million children were living in poverty. That’s 30% of children across the country – 9 in every class of 30 kids. By 2022 it’s been estimated that that number will rise to 5.2 million. 70% of those poor children live in a household with at least 1 working parent (stats from CPAG).
45% of children from BAME groups are living in poverty, compared to 26% of children in White British Families.
1.6 million food bank parcels were given out by Trussell Trust in the 2018-19 financial year. That’s a 19% increase on the year before, and that statistic obviously doesn’t include food packages given out by grass roots organisations and other charities.
Trussell Trust recently stated that in the last 5 years food bank use has increased by 73%. They cite the Universal Credit five week wait (Universal Credit is the benefits system than started being rolled out by the Conservatives in 2013 – once you’ve applied/been forced to move to the UC system you have to wait 5 weeks for your first payment, although all previous benefits will be stopped immediately after you apply) as one of the reasons for this increase. They are campaigning to end the five week wait.
5 More Years of Austerity
Unfortunately in the recent General Election we seem to have signed ourselves up for another five years of austerity, so it’s likely that the situation is going to get worse. People in already vulnerable positions are scared, and it’s easy to see why. Those already living in poverty, those just about getting by, those in single parent house holds, those in difficult living circumstances – either homeless or of no fixed address, those affected by long term illness or disability, those relying on benefits to put food on the table… the list is endless, and these people are likely to continue to suffer more.
It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of this, the problems feel so big. Ultimately I believe that everyone has the right to a roof over their head, food in their fridge and a warm bed to sleep in at night, but what can we do? Well, a lot of things actually. After the GE results food banks were inundated with food and cash donations, and charities like Shelter and Refuge (homelessness and domestic violence charities) also reported a spike in support. Turns out that if the government don’t want to help the country’s most vulnerable then the people on the ground will and that fact warms my heart, but we’ve got to keep the momentum up for the rest of the year too. There are lots of things you can do to help, whether you have a little spare cash or if you can spare a little time – even if you’ve only got a few minutes free you can make a positive impact. Kindness, compassion and empathy cost nothing, and with a whole lot of those things I believe we can make a big difference to the world.
The list below has been compiled from suggestions made over on my Instagram page. More details are in my Instagram highlights, but I thought a blog post may be easier to save and to share with friends. If you have more suggestions please do leave them in the comments below.
Ask Yourself These Questions
I saw this on a Facebook post (original is in my Instagram highlights) and thought it was a really brilliant way to start to think about where to start if we want to help and support others.
Just ask yourself:
- What are you good at?
- Who can you support?
- What can you teach?
- Who’s story can you listen to?
- What can you build?
- Who can you bring together?
- What can you give?
How to Help Those Most Affected by the Tory Government
Ways to Support Others – Free or Low Cost
- Teach your children empathy and compassion. Speak to them often about those who are less fortunate than them. Emphasise the importance of kindness and model it often. We are raising the next generation, and if we do it right they will change the world
- Educate your children about politics, get them engaged from an early age (Politics for Beginners is a great children’s book). Teach them that they can make a difference by using their voice. Show them how to stand up to injustice and fight for what they believe in
- Sign petitions and show your virtual support to people and campaigns that are making a difference. Sign here to help Trussell Trust create a future without the need for food banks. Support Campaign for My Brain‘s mission to end the humiliating reassessments those with progressive conditions or irreversible disabilities are put through. Find more. Share them with friends
- Campaign for a fair living wage
- Write to your local MP and demand change. Find out how to contact them here
- Support and fight for your local services – children’s centres, libraries, schools, youth clubs etc
- Write to Boris Johnson and tell him he’s a prick (maybe use different words – your choice)
- Attend local protests if you are able to
- Start conversations with others about what’s going on. Raise awareness of how desperate the situation is for some people. Talk to people who voted differently from you if you feel able to, use your social media or blog if you have one to start meaningful conversations about this
- Shop ethically wherever you can – support local independent shops, boycott companies that don’t pay their taxes if you’re able to
- Join the campaign for electoral reform
- Join the campaign to end the Universal Credit five week wait
- If you’re already shopping at Amazon (not an ethical organisation I know but sometimes needs must), make use of their Amazon Smile website. It’s the exact same Amazon, but 0.5% of your spend (on eligible products) will be donated to whichever charity you select.
- Donate old coats, blankets, towels and warm clothing to local homeless shelters or directly to those in need.
- Donate baby and children’s items to local baby banks or other services who can distribute them to someone who will benefit.
- Support the fight against period poverty, get your local schools to sign up to the new scheme
- Show kindness and compassion to others. Smile and chat to those sitting in doorways instead of just walking past. Encourage others to give when they can
- Let friends know your door is open. Talk about mental health, encourage people to look after theirs
- If you use coffee shop stamped loyalty cards – pass a full one on to someone who might appreciate a hot drink
- Find out if your local coffee shops and cafes offer a ‘suspended coffee’ system – this is where you can pay for a drink or a meal and someone in need can come in and claim it later on (explained better here)
- Find out about SWEP in your area (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) and contact local authorities if you know of anyone rough sleeping when the temperatures drop below freezing
- Watch out for others. Hate crimes increased dramatically after the EU referendum and it Katie Hopkin’s twitter is anything to go by then racism and xenophobia are still on the rise. Intervene whenever you feel safe to do so. Sit with the victim of the abuse in solidarity. Call the police. Tell the abuser to f**k off – whatever you feel comfortable with in that situation
- Check in on your friends and neighbours. Are your single parent household friends really okay, or are they putting on a front and need a bit of help? Are your elderly neighbours in need of some support or a friendly face and a cup of tea? Do your European friends feel welcome here – probably not, but let them know that the racists among us don’t speak for everyone, etc etc
- Amplify and support voices of activists and marginalised communities. Use your privilege to boost the important messages and stories
- Look after the planet. Use less plastic wherever you can, reduce waste, try eating less meat, take a reusable cup out with you for coffee – lots of us taking these small steps can make a big difference
- Plant trees, plant flowers, care for local wildlife
- Litter pick around your local parks, beaches and countryside
- Reuse, re-purpose and buy second hand before buying new. Support local charity shops by shopping there often – save yourself some cash, do a good thing and maybe find some hidden treasure!
- Don’t misuse the NHS – buy medications like paracetamol if you are able to instead of getting in on prescription. Visit your local pharmacy for advice on minor ailments rather than visiting your GP, avoid overstretched A&E departments if it’s not urgent
- Enter a few competitions if you have the time (there are lots of websites to help you find them) and consider donating some of the prizes that you win
- Show kindness and support to those working to keep us all safe – police, fire fighters, NHS staff. Take them some biscuits, give them a smile, say thank you for their efforts
- Give blood. Join the Anthony Nolan stem cell register. Add yourself to the NHS Organ Donor Registration (although the law changes later this year to an opt-out system which is great)
- Find your local Terracycle collection points – you can collect crisp packets, bread bags, coffee pods, baby food pouches and loads more to send off – good for the environment and helps to raise money for various charities like Count the Kicks
- You can also collect the used stamps from post you’ve received and send them to charities who are able to trade them in for cash – support Macmillian Cancer Support, RNIB, and loads of other places with your old stamps
- Share anything that you do on social media. It’s not showing off, it’s sharing ideas and encouraging other people to also get involved and find little ways to make a difference
Support With Your Time or Money
- Volunteer with HomeStart – a community network set up to support families with young children. You could become a home visitor, help run family groups, work in their office or help to fund raise
- There are lots of other places you can volunteer, even if you’ve got young children who you’d need to bring with you. Casserole club, Reengage UK, local children’s centres, check my Instagram highlight for more ideas
- See if your local hospice or care home needs any help – a care home local to us once told me that parents were welcome to bring their children to play on their grounds as the residents really enjoyed seeing the little ones have fun. Popping in to chat to the residents, or organising a play group that attends regularly can really make a different to those feeling alone and isolated
- Set up a direct debit donation to your chosen charity or charities. Use apps like Plum that help you save the odd bits of change from your purchases – donate the amount that racks up
- Think about any skills you have that could help others – are you great at budgeting or meal planning? Share tips with friends or online to help others. If you enjoy knitting, mending clothes or upcycling furniture teach others a few ways they can get started on these things to save themselves some cash
- Buy some extras while you’re food shopping and donate them to the food bank (remember if you donate via Tesco they will top it up with a financial donation of 20%). Check with your local food bank to see what they need – common things on the list are long life milk, tinned foods, pasta sauces, long life fruit juices, sugar, tea and coffee.
- Also donate hygiene products, period products etc. Find your local hygiene bank or give to your local food bank who can also distribute these items. Check in with your local domestic violence charity who may also need products like these
- Consider also donating gift cards for Supermarkets so that people are able to buy fresh products
- You can also volunteer at your local food bank or soup kitchen if you have some spare time
- Support grass roots organisations as well as the Trussell Trust
- Help Free Cakes for Kids provide birthday cakes for children who’s families would find it hard to do this by baking a few yourself
- Put together a bag of supplies or a few cooked meals and drop it round to someone who will really appreciate it
- Support local preschools by donating items or cash to keep them going – unwanted toys, resources, call them to see what they may need
- Find out if your local school needs any supplies too – lots of stories of teachers who are having to buy pencils and glue sticks because schools don’t have the budget for these important resources
- Train to be a breastfeeding peer supporter
- Big The Big Issue magazine from a local seller
- Pass some cash or spare change to a homeless person, or ask them if they would like a hot drink/some food/anything at all. You could carry a few gift cards for Greggs or similar to pass to them also
- Find local initiatives aimed at reducing loneliness like Friend in Deed in Norfolk and get involved
- Buy items from places like Choose Love, Oxfam Unwrapped, or use the Action for Children Secret Santa service at Christmas time. Great thoughtful gifts for loved ones who don’t really need gifts
- Fund raise for good causes – shave your head, sky dive, run a marathon, dress up for the day. There’s loads of things you can do to get sponsorship and raise some cash
- Join #CorbynsCommunityChallenge on Facebook for loads more inspiration and ideas