I have in front of me is an e-mail from a former colleague and friend in Wales. In her more detailed message about children's and human rights in general, she is a lawyer, she includes some detail on growing food queues in UK cities. Kids Company in London, a charity, reports children as young as five years old turning up unaccompanied, hungry and in serious need of assistance. An organisation called Asylum Justice is reporting how many families fail the '50% likelihood of success' criterion for receiving state assistance and are being driven into deeper and deeper poverty and despair. As she says 'the plight of some of these families is dreadful'.
I am using a story from The Sun about this situation. Yes, I know it is The Sun and should normally be treated with a tongue in cheek attitude, but this story corroborates other reports, including on the charity's own website, in the most straightforward and comprehensive way, so read on:
'A CHARITY has launched the first-ever appeal to feed starving children – in the UK.
While hundreds of charities campaign for funds to feed Third World youngsters, new research from children’s charity Kids Company estimate a million children in Britain now suffer from ‘food insecurity’ – equivalent to two in every school class.
British kids are going hungry through poor parenting as mums and dads abuse drugs or alcohol or have mental health problems, while others struggle to budget enough to feed their families.
The organisation has seen a shock 233 per cent increase in kids relying on charity to be fed in the last 12 months. The average age of children attending the London centres for meals is just ten years old, with many bringing younger siblings and babies.
Recent cases included children who were caught stealing frozen raw meat to eat while a nine-year-old girl was discovered locked in a flat eating pictures of food she had drawn on paper as her mother left her without food.
The charity currently feeds 17,000 London youngsters but it appealing for £1m to expand its services nationwide.
While the problem is worse in inner cities, cases have been reported as far apart as rural Cornwall and Northern industrial towns.
In some areas 88 per cent of Head Teachers surveyed reported poor nutrition is having an impact in their school while 25 per cent of inner city schools said three quarters of all pupils are affected by lack of food.
On average, affected children eat just ten meals each week – 11 short of the 21 meals a week needed to stay healthy.
Going without food means children cannot concentrate in class and are more likely to be malnourished, leading to infections, slowed growth, impaired brain development and even learning difficulties.
Starving children are also far more likely to steal, shoplift food or engage in anti-social behaviour and get into trouble with the Police.
Kids Company founder Camila Batmangelidjh said: “We are seeing a lot more children struggling to get hold of food. We have kids who were so starving they stole frozen meat from a flat they visited and they ate it raw.
"We’re seeing effectively responsible parents who are just not managing to have food in the house. Children don’t have a public voice so they can’t tell us.
"We have a collective responsibility to make sure every child has enough to eat. This is something as a society we can solve if we want to and change children’s future for the better.”
Three in five parents quizzed for the charity know local families where children are going hungry as their parents cannot afford to buy all the food they need, while over half are aware of parents not feeding kids as they are abusing drugs or alcohol. Just under a third claim the problem is worsening in the last two years.
The charity has launched a ‘Mobiles for Meals' campaign with parenting site Netmums which urges the public to donate an old phone to feed a UK child. Funds from one recycled phone can provide meals for a child for a month.
Phones should be donated at any Orange or T Mobile store nationwide.
Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard said: “This situation is unacceptable. Too many children are not on the breadline, they are way, way under it. It’s horrifying to realise how many kids are suffering around the UK. They are having their chances ruined before their lives have barely begun.”'
There are often posts here on SFN from people who want to pack and go 'home' to the UK. Sometimes the impression they give is that life will be better there than here. Either they will have to live blind to such phenomena as those described above or ignore them. Is France any better? As yet no amount of websearching gives me such stories, but no doubt given the economic situation it does exist. At present, rural poverty appears somewhat worse than urban, however should that result in a new massive wave of rural to urban migration then we can expect a grim outcome.
The real measure has got to be one that some SFN correspondents have expressed strong feelings about recently - that the rich-poor dichotomy is out of hand and it is time for us all to think again and seek change for good. Starving children on the streets of the Northern Hemisphere belongs in 19th century history, not 2012 and whilst it is intolerable in the South it is just horrifying that it is back in the North.
So people, if you are thinking about going 'home', just reflect on what you may be returning too. I suspect it is not the UK you left or have in your minds.