A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out!

Several things prompt me to repeat Cyrenians mantra as this week’s title.

Next Wednesday (21st) I’m contributing to SCVO’s Third Sector Summit – Taking on Welfare Reform. For ‘Welfare Reform’ read cuts in income to the least well off. (Watch out for the Orwellian use of language). Cyrenian front-line workers tell me that the same people are being hit over and over again; a reduction in housing benefit, then loss of personal benefit, then reduction in child benefit… The cuts in benefit are creeping out and stealthily attacking the most vulnerable. And with more to come. Our case workers are brilliant – it’s humbling and inspiring to listen to what they’re achieving for their customers in the circumstances – but a lot of it is damage limitation.This is the best thing I’ve read about the cumulative impact of welfare ‘reforms.’

So while we try to influence causal factors the day job – as a charity – is to help people deal with the consequences. Our big push is on getting people, where they can, into employment. We’ve got initiatives going to work with employers to supply day-one ready staff. Another to work in schools with leavers at greatest risk of NEET. Our growing social enterprises are creating more work spaces. But accepting that many folk remain on benefits, what else can we do to mitigate the growing levels of poverty?

FareShare – food to ‘hand up’ services

Given that we’ve pioneered and grown Scotland’s first and biggest surplus food distribution project supplying over £1m a year worth of produce to community kitchens, some might find it strange that we’re challenging, on a policy level, the rampant growth of food banks in Scotland. I pretty much agree with Lynn Williams’ blog on the subject this week on the SCVO site. Except to say that food banks should be scrapped as stand alone activities and integrated into more holistic community services so that if I’m needing emergency help with food I get it, but I also get an informed benefit health check, support and advocacy to get full entitlement and linking me with whatever other help I could use to climb out of poverty. A hand up, not a hand out.

Our mantra is also repeated to remind me as we design another new initiative to mitigate the probable impact of ‘reforms’ to the emergency Social Fund that take effect from 1st April next. We’re doing the R&D on a new scheme to enable people to donate unwanted goods directly to people who need them. A sort of charity freecycle. It is a challenging concept on several levels, but needs must.

Des Ryan (CEO)


One Comment on “A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out!”

  1. Great piece, thanks for the insight.

    Talking to politicians on the welfare committee at the Scottish parliament they are also overwhelmed by the rise in tragic cases of poverty and the system failing to address the needs of the most vulnerable in society.

    You asked for ideas and suggestions? Thought about crowd-funding? Today, Lancashire county council raised funds to distribute to businesses in the area. This is a good example of raising funds for distribution. There are also a whole raft of non-profits finding comfort in the embrace of the crowd. A number of Dutch social enterprises are also becoming fund distributers.

    Best of luck, Fin

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