I cannot agree more with Diane Greenhalgh’s letter in last week’s Journal saying that the government is using charities to paper over the cracks in the shortfalls of the benefit system. This is David Cameron’s Big Society.
I am the co-ordinator of the Grantham Passage, which provides a hot meal every day with the work being shared among five churches and is for homeless and vulnerable people.
The umbrella organisation for The Passage is Grantham Poverty Concern, which has a mandate to help in emergency need. This can be as basic as putting money on gas and electric cards or going to buy baby milk and nappies. We do ask for written proof where possible as to why our clients are asking for help. This expenditure and the numbers coming for meals is on the increase and we do worry that we may run out of funds. We rely on donations.
Time and time again we hear from clients that benefits have been stopped, and while I agree that benefits should be scrutinised, the amount of time it takes to be reinstated, or changed to a more appropriate one, can take weeks, leaving the recipient with no alternative but to ask for our charity’s help.
Recently I was asked for help for a young man who tele-phoned the Department of Work and Pensions to say that he could not travel the eight miles into Grantham to keep his appointment because he suffered an epileptic fit. The DWP sanctioned his benefit for non-attendance and he was told it would be 15 weeks before it could be reinstated and he would have some income! Why should it take so long in this computer age? In the meantime we, as a charity, are subsidising not only this young man but the government.
The Grantham Passage is fortunate in having a good team of caring volunteers at each of The Passage centres. We have been part of the Big Society for the past 12 years. We are constantly indebted to the Churches and the people of Grantham for their staunch financial support.