The Government needs to step up to end hygiene poverty

The Government needs to step up to end hygiene poverty. Until then here’s how you can help

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Today, I would like to draw attention to an often undiscussed and ignored issue: hygiene poverty. Some people think this is a made up problem, but it hugely impacts many across the country. Those affected can often feel ashamed, but it really isn’t their fault. It occurs when you are unable to afford everyday cleaning and personal grooming products.

These are items that most of us take for granted, like soap, toilet roll and toothpaste. I remember when I sat as a magistrate from 2011 to 2015 until I was elected (and I am still a dormant magistrate) being surprised and confused because people would steal handbags and wallets, and then when Universal Credit was introduced in 2013 they started stealing deodorant and basic food and hygiene necessities.

It was a sad, sad day for me in court having to judge people for taking products they need to survive in society. There were no provisions in place for these people. In fact I was continually told that I was not a social worker and I should stop trying to change the system, which was a strange thing to tell someone whose very driver is to do just that.

Many low income or unwaged people are forced into the desperate and unenviable choice of paying their rent, heating up their home, or buying food. Once they have done that, buying hygiene products may no longer be an option. Take a minute to imagine what that must be like, how desperate a situation it must be. Imagine not being able to afford shampoo, deodorant, a new toothbrush, or sanitary products. Put yourself in the shoes of someone not able to change their baby’s nappy when necessary because they don’t have access to any new ones.

I’ve spoken to women on the streets who have had to use socks in place of a sanitary towel, and girls who have been forced to miss school because they didn’t have the money to buy provisions. I’ve heard first-hand how even admitting you’re in this position can strip you of your dignity and self-confidence. It’s no surprise that some would rather steal than ask for help. We live in the fifth richest country in the world, so there is no reason why someone should have to go through such financial hardship. Over 14 million people in the UK live in poverty – that is one fifth of the population.

At least two thirds of those people work. On top of that, the Trussell Trust have said people stop buying toiletries long before they visit a food bank. It makes me so sad. It is frankly a disgrace that period poverty – or any form of hygiene poverty – exists in the UK Once the furlough system ends, people will find it even harder to make ends meet and we will unfortunately see poverty rise. So even more people may not be able to afford the basic products they need to keep themselves and their families clean.

Covid-19 may have masked this particular poverty, but as the lockdown eases, I expect we’ll see more people in need. This issue is close to my heart, and I have campaigned for years to put an end to period poverty. I developed a Party policy, based on Scotland’s own led by Monica Lennon MSP, to provide free sanitary products in secondary schools, homeless shelters and airports.

This is still Labour Party policy and will be implemented within the first 100 days of a Labour government. It is frankly a disgrace that period poverty – or any form of hygiene poverty – exists here. It is a great shame that the Government is not taking the bold action we need to combat this, especially given the current circumstances.

One organisation that is stepping up and doing good work is The Hygiene Bank. They are a wonderful charity that run a network of banks, collecting new, unused, in-date toiletries, beauty and personal care products, and household cleaning essentials. I am proud of the work they are doing – as we should all be – even if it is shameful that they have to exist in the first place. And I am proud to be supporting Metro.co.uk’s fundraising campaign for them.

To raise vital funds, the site has organised a sponsored 26-mile hike across London. MORE: It will take place on Saturday 19 September, 2020, to tie in with National Hygiene Week and will be starting in North London, going on to explore 10 of London’s hidden peaks. I know for many this will be a great chance to get out into the great outdoors after a long time inside.

Knowing that it is all for a fantastic cause, supporting people affected by hygiene poverty, is just so exciting and inspiring. I’m looking forward to it! I encourage everyone to join me in doing all you can to support this great cause, to help eradicate hygiene poverty from society and give people back the dignity they deserve.

Our aim is simple – to raise as much money as possible for charity with YOUR help. This year we have chosen to support The Hygiene Bank, a vital charity that helps distribute hygiene products for those most in need. For more information about this year’s hike, which is organised by Charity Challenge and taking place on Saturday 19 September, 2020, click here. Please note all applications need to be in by July 20, 2020.

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3 thoughts on “The Government needs to step up to end hygiene poverty

  1. Reblogged this on 61chrissterry and commented:
    I agree poverty needs to be eradicated, and especially within the UK with it being the fifth richest country in the World.

    However, The Guardian in September 2018 in the article ‘How unequal is Britain and are the poor getting poorer?’, stated ‘There is a sixfold difference between the income of the top 20% of households and those of the bottom 20%. Wealth inequality is much worse, with 44% of the UK’s wealth owned by just 10% of the population, five times the total wealth held by the poorest half.’, https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2018/sep/05/qa-how-unequal-is-britain-and-are-the-poor-getting-poorer

    Then, an article in The Guardian December 2019, ‘Gap between rich and poor grows alongside rise in UK’s total wealth’, states ‘The different rates of growth documented by the ONS Wealth and Assets survey meant the top 10% finished 2018 with 45% of national wealth, while the poorest 10th held just 2%.’, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/dec/05/gap-between-rich-and-poor-grows-alongside-rise-in-uks-total-wealth.

    So, rather than the gap becoming less, it is expanding.

    The Conservative Governments over the last 11 years have done little or nothing to reduce the gap, in effect their meddling with the Welfare State system could well be one of the reasons it is expanding.

    The Conservative Governments have together with The Media done their best to discriminate and create a feeling of disdain towards people in poverty. How many programmes are shown on TV on people improving their lives as opposed to persons on benefits where they are shown to be ab using the system.

    This gives the population of the UK that everyone on benefits is claiming illegally,when they are, in fact in the minority, as on a percentage basis the degree of people abusing the Welfare State is way much lower than MPs fiddling their expenses.

    While those in all areas abusing any system need to be stopped, no matter who they are, as people in need should not be discriminated against. It is also not just based on finance and poverty, for the way Social Care has been allowed to be substantially under-funded is criminal, but nothing is being done to remedy this, only empty promises. These promises have been around for many years, for in 2015 there was a plan to alter Social Care funding but Cameron and Osborne being the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer respectively decided to put it on hold and deffer it to April 2020.

    This, as we know as come and gone, possibly COVID-19 could be blamed, but is it really the reason. More promises are being made, in fact, Simon Stevens of NHS England said it needs to be resolved within the next 12 months, but as Social Care even got 12 months.

    So, with Poverty and Social Care and other areas this Government is forcing people into situations from which they can not escape, unless the Government provides the means for them to do so.

    Some will say, some people have brought it on themselves and that may be so for some, but for the majority it will be because of forces outwith their control.

    The Government is supposed to be there for everyone, not just the top 10 or 20%.

    Liked by 1 person

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