Sunday, 9 June 2013

Bailiffs, slop buckets, food banks and my bleeding heart: the flip side of the Royal Borough

How many Councillors accepted? We didn't.
It could hardly have felt less appropriate to contemplate going out in full evening dress for a high- falutin evening at Council Taxpayers’ expense. Councillors had been offered ‘free’ tickets worth £67.50 for an evening out at Opera Holland Park – which makes a loss of £1m a year.

My week had begun by 9.30am Monday dealing with a desperate resident who for the first time had forgotten a Council Tax payment, and was being threatened with bailiffs. A decent law-abiding person, going through upheaval at work, had for the first time ever forgotten a manual payment and spent a very wobbly weekend thinking the bailiffs would knock on the door at any moment. Of course they didn’t, it was the over-bearing Council terrorising late payers with ‘strongly worded’ warnings as they are wont to do. I was able to deal with the matter over the phone in less than five minutes, but not until the poor resident had spent two sleepless nights thinking they would be arrested or their home contents removed.

Tuesday morning brought another case so inevitable and yet so shocking that I felt resigned and disgusted simultaneously. I was told about an overcrowded family who are not eligible to be moved due to the age and gender of their children. However, one of the children is physically disabled and needs a lot of care at night; they cannot share and need their own room. One of the medical needs of this young person is that they may quickly need to go to the loo. With two women menstruating in the household (in synchrony) and one bathroom, this can cause huge problems.

Slop buckets for disabled children
Hence the slop bucket.

The disabled child, if caught short, has to do no 1s and no 2s in a bucket, which in some circles is considered a suitable punishment for crime.

'Regency' loos
for subsidised opera lovers
This, in the richest borough in Europe, where the Council can find the £1m to offer ‘free’ opera tickets for Councillors and heavily subsidised tickets for their opera-loving voters, is so utterly inhuman and callous it makes my blood boil. And before you ask, yes, the family has told the Council. The Council is ‘sympathetic’, but disabled children do not get extra housing points, which in itself is a scandal. The Council will do nothing.

Another case relates to an elderly and sick pensioner having to hand over half her weekly pension so that her daughter and children can eat. They were hungry, visibly hungry, three generations hungry in 2013 in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea which is so proud of its subsidised opera and its £80m school and its huge reserves. They are now applying for food bank vouchers, but due to over-demand in the Royal Borough can only receive food three times.

Yes, in the Royal Borough, with the richest Council in Europe, the food bank is forced to ration its food.

All this is pretty ironic in the context of the amazing ‘Enough food for everyone IF’ world hunger protest in Hyde Park, just a couple of miles away. Still ‘proud to be British’ Mr Cameron?

Goya's tapestry painting, victims of war 
The final brown thread of this sad and depressing tapestry of human life relates to a post on another K&C blog, that by Auntie Dame Hornet ( ). Woman’s Trust, a local voluntary organisation that works with women who have suffered domestic violence (  ), sent a note to the Dame inviting people to a summer party where they wished to recruit more ‘friends’ and sponsors. The resultant forum comments were an utter disgrace. I have asked and been given permission to reprint a few:

‘Now who is writing all of these boring blogs? Why are you allowing the Hornet to become a bleeding hearts club? It is NOT your audience. Please get a grip.’

‘Most dull’

I have no interest in beaten women and starving kids. Sorry, but each to his or her own’

‘The Dame has been drinking again and has lost her way. Next we will be hearing about nightmares and bombs in Syria. Get a grip girl. Concentrate on focus’

‘All of this domestic violence spilling over into public life is a diversion from core political issues. Another manifestation of the entitlement society.’

Children are taught at an early age that if they put their fingers in fire they get burnt. And guess what. They stop putting their fingers in fire! Women need to learn to stay away from abusive partners. It is their responsibility. It’s called growing up. If there is the catastrophe of children arriving in abusive relationships then this is a problem to be sorted by families. Not the state. Aunts, uncles and grandparents are the pragmatic safety net.’

Who are these people so full of bile and loathing for people without trust funds and family support? That – along with some pathetic comments about me (yawn) that I won’t honour by repeating – took up about half the forum comments.

I am born and bred in K&C, but this week I am totally ashamed to be part of it.

And I’m proud of my bleeding heart; at least I have one.