- Date published:
4:45 pm, October 30th, 2015 - 97 comments
Categories: child welfare, class, class war, discrimination, Ethics, food, minimum wage, poverty, quality of life, unemployment, welfare - Tags: food banks, Korero Pono, poverty
I noticed the usual pre-Christmas (Christ, is that just weeks away?) call for food and donations from our ‘charitable’ organisations. That got me to thinking about why people find themselves having to step through the doors of these charities and expose themselves and their lives in order to be considered ‘deserving’ of a few bits of poor quality bread, rice and if they are lucky some wilting veges. Let’s face it, under zero-hour contracts, casualised labour and inadequate minimum wages, even the working poor are frequenting these places.
Of course, for anyone needing food, the usual ‘rules’ and criteria apply. For example, some organisations have a policy to provide three food parcels unquestioned, though ‘clients’ still have to justify their need. After the third parcel there is an expectation that ‘clients’ will see a social worker or budget advisor. For some charities the food is considered a ‘carrot’ to get people through the doors. These expectations make assumptions about the ‘clientele’ and raise questions.
The first assumption is that people needing food also need a social worker and/or budget advisor. The implication is these poor people need ‘fixed’ through the machinations of the system. It is not enough to accept that ‘poor’ people just don’t have enough money to eat but rather that ‘poor’ people must change in some way, which is to say, budget advice assumes they don’t know how to manage money.
Subjecting ‘clients’ to social work assumes that the person has some ‘issues’ that need fixed. If I am going to be kind about it, perhaps the social worker and the budget advisor could validate the ‘poor’ person’s position with proof that the problem is lack of money. If so, one has to wonder what they then do about it. Yet I cannot help but feel cynical when I read statements in charitable poverty publications that “[to] achieve long-term improvement in their situation, to rise over the poverty line, requires self-awareness and a desire to change”. In context, this is in reference to the poor who find themselves at the mercy of one of New Zealand’s major social service agencies.
I wonder what ‘change’ poor people must make in order to eat? Would it not be better if these charities who are, in my view, more dependent on Government funding than the average person going in to get old bread, were to advocate broader social change? For example, by telling Government that they will no longer feed the ‘poor’ because that is the job of the glorious market place, and if the market can’t provide, then the Government needs to step up? These charities vie for contracts to ‘fix’ the poor, use the ‘carrot’ of food to create a steady stream of ‘clients’ to prove the organisation’s need of Government funding.
Meanwhile the glorious market place goes unscathed because the charities provide a buffer between the ‘haves and have nots’. A novel idea would be to stop giving to, and funding the charities and give directly to the ‘poor’. Or is that too simple?