Members of Bridgwater and West Somerset Labour Party, Unite Community and Father Christmas braved the cold, on Saturday, to collect donations for Somerset food banks in Bridgwater and in Minehead. The national campaign, which was publicly endorsed by Jeremy Corbyn, was entitled “Christmas is Cancelled”. It was designed to highlight the plight of thousands of families this Christmas, left without money for life’s essentials, due to the roll out of Universal Credit. The new benefit set to replace six of the most claimed benefits including Housing benefit, Working Tax credit and Job Seekers Allowance takes a minimum of five weeks to be paid after the initial claim, meaning that a family claiming Universal Credit today would have no money before Christmas.
Kathrine See, Unite Community’s West Somerset representative and WSLP secretary, said that “Vulnerable people in West Somerset are being plunged in to extreme poverty by the introduction of this benefit. No parent should be forced in to having to attend a food bank to feed their children. Unite Community is asking the Government to pause the roll out of Universal credit and address the issues in order that the benefit can be paid more quickly and allow people to apply at a job centre rather than online only.”
The collection which took place outside Iceland and Morrisons, in Minehead, was very well received by the public who gave extremely generously. Kathrine added “We have been overwhelmed by the caring spirit shown by the people of West Somerset, to whom I would like to say a massive thank you. We have two full car loads of donations to take to the Food Cupboard. The saddest thing about this is that this is necessary at all.”
Unite community is part of Unite the Union and is open to voluntary workers, carers, the unemployed, students and the retired. For further details contact www.unitetheunion.org/community
In Bridgwater members gathered at the Blake statue alongside UNITE COMMUNITY members and even got involved in some Christmas singing. Secretary Gary Tucker said “An excellent session. Well done everyone and lovely to hear we have such good singers in our branch. Maybe socialist choir next year?”