Black Wednesday by Stephen Pittman
Some of us would cope with losing twenty quid in the street. It represents a couple of bottles of gin or a mid-price meal out. For others – for far too many – this loss would be disastrous, representing a chunk of the weekly shop. On Wednesday this week, thousands of people will lose twenty quid. And they won’t just lose it once – their income will be down each and every week henceforth. That’s £87 a month or £1040 over the year. And the money is being taken by the Government.
For these people, that money isn’t about booze or a meal out – it means choosing between eating and heating. And, yes, the money was a temporary “uplift” during the pandemic. But for those who were struggling even with the extra cash, Wednesday will be a black day.
Church leaders and anti-poverty campaigners have called on the Prime Minister to stop the planned cut. These are the people on the front line. In three months, Caritas has delivered 50,000 food parcels in Westminster Diocese alone. As their food co-ordinator Ann Gavurin explains: “Even before the cut comes in, these clients are unable to get by on the state support they receive and have to turn to food banks for emergency help. The cut will only push them further into poverty and insecurity.”
Black Wednesday indeed.
Pope Francis must be used to criticism from the media. Catholics in general – and popes in particular – are usually fair game. But the pope’s recent comment that such attacks are “the work of the devil” have been widely interpreted to be a reference to a Catholic TV station. Surely, such a broadcaster would support Francis? Like most outlets, this particular set-up has its own angle – the pope is too liberal. And it has made regular pops at several bishops too. And, no, The Grapevine will not be publicising them by mentioning their name here.
Many of us grew up with those little red boxes by the phone and were encouraged to pop in our small change. Once in a while, one of the good ladies in the parish would call round to empty the box and would tell you how much you’d saved. All that loose change went towards one of the pope’s charities, now called Missio.
There’s something rather wonderful about those little red boxes – these days sometimes replaced by online donations. When we each give a little, the total is staggering. Just like those early Christians who held their belongings in common, between us we are building school, churches, orphanages and clinics all over the world. So, when that extra collection is taken at Mass on 23/24 October, remember how a little from each of us can mean a lot to so many.
Prisons Week starts on 10 October. And resources are available for parishes and schools who would like to get involved. Some prisoners are paying the price for their crimes. But there are many who have ended up there because of life’s twists and turns. The number of prisoners who were once looked after children is worrying. It’s easy to forget about prisoners – they’re out of sight and out of mind. But, in the words recorded by St Matthew, “When I was in prison you visited me”.
13 August: The light beneath the bushel