Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Freeing school meals

Post by Ash

It`s very easy in difficult times, to batten down the hatches and look after number one. Balancing the  natural determination to protect our own position, and the well-being of family and friends , against the innate need in most to support the weakest, becomes increasingly challenging. It`s easier to justify `turning our heads`. The political and media atmosphere and frequently, even the air of local conversation , are littered with caution about `wasting` even more resource . We all have to bear the pain we are reasonably told, even the poor.  It`s easier for us to be anecdotal about a scrounging sub-culture, undeserving of `handouts`; benefits reforms we may nod , are essential.
Logic of course dictates the need for caution. In common with much of the western world we are effectively `bust`. But the path to economic absolution requires long-sightedness that guards against even greater inequalities between people, down the line. Reforms and actions taken now, in the heat of austerity, must be fair to all.

So it`s an unpromising side-effect to the Government`s attempt to replace the over-complicated benefit system with a system of Universal Credit, that a significant number of our poorest families may lose access to Free School Meals once this reform is introduced.

The Children`s Society estimates that under current proposals due to be phased in from April 2013, an earnings threshold of £7,500 means that to be `passported` onto eligibility for Free School Meals, 120,000 families will be faced with the prospect of either cutting their working hours or taking a pay cut-ironically the very thing Universal Credit is attempting to prevent.
The alternative to this they estimate, is that 330,000 of our poorest children currently receiving Free School Meals ,will no longer do so, and that those families will become ,relatively speaking, poorer than if they were to remain on benefits. In addition, the obvious long-term health benefits accruing to those children from a guaranteed daily nutritious meal will be lost.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Help! I'm downshifting ….

Post by Liz
This is the new buzz word. It's cool and it's the trendy new movement, what it actually means is simplifying your life and deciding how you can live your life in accordance with your spiritual principles or ethical beliefs. The reason I'm shouting help is because it is much harder than you can imagine.

 My husband and I are slowly a little bit at a time, making changes in our lives so we can better live according to our beliefs. I have to say Martin feels the courage of his convictions more profoundly than I, in many ways he is my inspiration and I know he draws strength from his Quaker faith and testimony. Living your life in a simple way sounds fairly easy doesn't it? But many of us have been living quite a materialistic life, one that our Grandparents and Great Grandparents could only dream of. We are bombarded from birth with advertising and how we are 'entitled' to this and to that. Our lives are incredibly busy, rushing here there and everywhere, bleeping phones, endless emails, we can be found anywhere in the world. Big Brother watches over us and the big corporation supermarkets supply us with an endless array of relatively cheap goods of food and clothing.
Blissful in our ignorance we don't think where our food comes from, how it is produced, where our clothes come from and who makes them. We are happy putting our empty packaging in the recycling bin once a fortnight. Our rubbish is taken from us and hidden away. We turn on the tap without thinking, perhaps even leaving it on for a minute or two unnecessarily. We have light at the flick of a switch not caring how perhaps we are using up our resources. People drive their petrol guzzling cars even if they are too big for their real needs, but they will say they are entitled to them, they paid for them what business is it of anyone’s? We are used to convenience at others expense and it's comforting, it keeps a thin line of padding between us and the real world. We have forgotten many of our skills once so natural to us, we rely on stuff to make life happen for us. Many of us have abdicated responsibility.