"Tonight millions of children all over the UK will cry themselves to sleep in hunger. These same children will take this hunger with them to school tomorrow morning." (Frank Field MP) They will struggle to concentrate in class or to interact with the other children until lunch time comes around when they will get a free school meal which they qualify for because of the low income of their parents. Monday's are the worst as many do not eat well or even at all over the weekends. These are the children who are living below the poverty line in the UK in 2016 through no fault of their own. As a society, we are failing millions of children and condemning them to a lifetime of struggle as poor children grow up to become poor adults with little or no opportunity to break out of the cycle they have been born into.
There is a 9 year gap in life expectancy between those living in the poorest and those living in the wealthiest wards in Bristol. Wealth inequality leads to health inequality and in one of the richest countries in the world this should be an outrage and be completely unacceptable to us all. As a society we have the means to address the issue of poverty for our citizens and The Matthew Tree Project is committed to contributing towards the systemic change needed to do this.
By implementing policies which close the inequality gap and help our fellow citizens out of a life of poverty we are improving the quality of life for everyone. The demands upon essential public services are much higher in a society with higher levels of deprivation and this does effect us all. It means higher tax revenues are needed to support increasing demand on public services such as the NHS, law enforcement and the judicial system. Educational achievement is lower for poorer children and therefore by allowing the number of children living in poverty to rise we are producing a low-skill workforce for the next generation. Couple this with the fact that the number of pension age people is increasing due to longer life-expectancy it is easy to see how the burden of how to pay for this will become ever more challenging.
Throughout 2015 The Matthew Tree Project provided a complete 'wrap-around' service which supported over 2,000 of the most disadvantaged and crisis hit members of society, 42% of which were children, distributing over 60 tonnes of food aid (equivalent to circa. 200,000 meals) and providing many other essential services to help people take control and live dignified, fulfilling, independent lives whilst addressing the underlying causes of the problems so that the transformational changes achieved are sustainable.
The problems are severe for many. 37% of the working age population are economically inactive in Filwood (Bristol’s second most deprived ward) having a catastrophic effect on personal family incomes, dignity, self-confidence, ambition, health, educational attainment and crime.
Children are growing up in work-less households, having to cope with life on the breadline and by allowing this to continue we are turning poor children into poor adults and recycling all the same issues and problems onto the next generation. 31% and 19% is the difference between the working age population and available jobs in South Bristol. Welfare reform does not address this.
As levels of disposable incomes fall amongst the poorest, the percentage needed to just get by and cover essential living costs become un-affordable. This phenomenon is what has become commonly known as ‘food poverty’. The lack of food is an indication that something else has gone wrong and this is what needs to be addressed.
This is the aims and objectives of The Matthew Tree Project and is what ‘Ending of Food Poverty in the UK’ is focused on. We believe we are creating a ‘blue-print’ that can be replicated in urban environments across the UK and Europe thus addressing poverty, at its root, on a significant scale.