This year has been like no other, with the Coronavirus bringing the disparities that exist across society into starkest contrast yet.
With rising unemployment, furlough and ongoing uncertainty about the virus, issues such as food poverty have only increased with more people than ever looking for support from their local food banks. The ongoing legacy of low pay for health workers coupled with the loss of income as a result of the pandemic has hit many of our members hard.
This is why UNISON is opposed to pay freezes for public service workers – and why UNISON Hampshire Health branch has been taking a dual approach. As well as making the argument that our members’ hard work should be recognised and joining UNISON’s campaign to turn hand claps for NHS workers into a pay rise, Hampshire Health branch recently made substantial donations to UNISON’s welfare charity There For You and a local food bank: Southampton City Mission Basics Bank. The branch believes it is crucial to offer immediate help in difficult times to those who urgently need it – but also to target the root of some of these problems.
The branch donated £1,000 towards UNISON There for You’s special Covid-19 fund, aimed at supporting members who have found themselves in difficulties as a consequence of the impact of the pandemic. The consequences of furlough, unemployment, redundancy or reduction in hours can have a considerable impact on a household income and as a result There For You have committed £250,000 towards helping people affected adversely by the consequences of the virus. The fund opened on Monday 16 November and UNISON members can apply for assistance here.
Branch Welfare Officer Rachel Long was able to visit Southampton City Mission Basics Bank and pleased to present them with a cheque for £1,000 from UNISON. The money will be used to purchase food and clothing supplies for distribution to those in need in some of the communities we belong to and serve as health workers. The Basics Bank does amazing work supporting in excess of a thousand people and their families every week, working five days per week across Southampton at a number of sites.
For anyone who may be in need of their support please visit their website for details of how to get a referral. Or if you are able to support them with donations please download their app and select ‘SOUTHAMPTON BASICS BANK’. This way you will always know what their most current supply needs are.
Hampshire Health UNISON branch covers health workers across the whole of Hampshire. If members need support and are based outside of the catchment area for Basics Bank, you may be able to get support from the Trussell Trust network of food banks. Trussell Trust support around two out of every three UK food banks and like Basics Bank, have been doing vital work throughout the pandemic, providing 1.2 million emergency food parcels between April and September 2020. And to bring the discussion full circle, the main reason for referrals to Trussell Trust food banks is low pay (47%), which illustrates why making charity donations on its own is not a solution.