Once we have reappeared from under the bed, dusted ourselves down and apologised to the cat we might reflect on what makes a crisis. Powerlessness goes straight in at number one; featuring impotent rage. So the first thing we have to do is to get a grip, first of ourselves, and then of the facts. Questions are a good place to start. We can get behind the story and reveal the facts of the matter with ease. ‘Almost 700,000 jobs in London (18%) pay below the London Living Wage. This number has increased for five consecutive years, particularly among men working full-time. London Poverty Profile 2015.
So next time a politician tells us how ennobling work is for the unemployed we might suggest that whilst work might pay it’s not always enough. Another practical response is common cause. Simply, with a little imagination, standing in someone else’s shoes and asking what I would do in this situation can elicit a very different response, far removed from the facile scapegoating of phatic chatter.
Big events, such as the Refugee crisis, can leave us overwhelmed and unsure of how to respond¹ and what to change. Here then, for starters, are three suggestions: First and foremost let your feelings known to those that make public policy. MySociety runs projects to give people the power to get things changed using ‘civic’ technologies. It has a website that can link to your representatives and you can send them a message, simply and quickly. https://www.mysociety.org/projects/writetothem/
Second get involved. This can be at a local level volunteering or campaigning. A great place to start is the community organising group London Citizens: http://www.citizensuk.org/
Third make a donation.
Our Samaritan Grants offer an emergency hardship fund for our partner agencies to distribute to people in a crisis. Last year our network of 90+ health and social care partners provided 3,567 emergency one-off payments, an average of just £15; 70% of all grants are for food and travel. We are always looking out for new frontline agencies to help us distribute funds to vulnerable people. We would also like more people to donate as a one off or on a regular basis.
‘Ms A has serious mental health needs and was pursed by a bailiff for an unpaid fine which she could not pay. She had not responded to letters or attended a hearing and the cost had escalated. She was also caring for her orphaned niece. A grant for travel and food was provided whilst advice and support was arranged’.
For many living on little or no income can be overwhelming. Homeless people living chaotic lives are distrustful of statutory services and voluntary aid can help establish a positive relationship. Refugees living on just £5 per day struggle to make ends meet and have no opportunity to integrate into wider society.
‘B’ is a refugee who has experienced torture and suffers depression and PTSD. He is isolated and living on a subsistence allowance. A small grant provided simple ‘grounding aids’ to help cope with trauma flash backs and purchase clothes for an interview. This secured a volunteer placement and brought contact with others, purposeful activity and improved well-being’.
Samaritan grants are our response to poverty in the capital and have never been more necessary than they are today.
¹ There is a broader discussion on this topic at https://cityofsanctuary.org/resources/raising-awareness/refugee-crisis-ten-practical-ways-to-help/