Eat or Heat – Grim Choices for Families this Winter

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the current food and fuel shortages in the UK and the devastating impact on low-income families with the removal of the £20 per week from Universal Credit.

What a fine mess we find ourselves in due to Covid and post Brexit. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimated this year that the Brexit damage will inflict a heavy financial damage on UK citizens with every person facing a cost of around £1,200. The economy has taken a hit along with a massive drop in exports, high fuel prices and food shortages. The UK governments own department that forecasts how well the economy will do in the short and long-term has predicted the worst is yet to come! Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, with all 32 local authorities choosing to reject Brexit. A recent report by the online news organisation Byline Times said Covid was a ‘’convenient scapegoat’’ and that the empty shelves were the result of Brexit and not the ‘’pingdemic’’. Brexit remains the main factor to blame for food shortages in shops and supermarkets as attempts to make the so-called” pingdemic” a scapegoat is increasingly undermined.

Warnings about empty shelves in shops and supermarkets began when Boris Johnson imposed his woeful Brexit trade deal which kicked in on January 1. Mounting red tape and other problems led to a growing shortage of lorry drivers able and prepared to take food from Europe to the UK. The dairy giant Arla, which has a dairy in Lockerbie and which supplies milk to all major UK supermarkets, said that the lorry driver shortage is hitting milk supplies. Arla was suffering more from the lack of drivers than from Covid alerts, said the managing director. “Self-isolation doesn’t seem to be impacting us as much, because we’re a very mechanised, automated business,” he added. “The food is there in the factories; it’s just about getting it to the shops. So that’s our key problem.” One farmer told Byline Times: ‘[The right-wing media] are trying to scapegoat the blame on to the test and trace ping system because they want to deflect the blame from Brexit.’’

In my previous columns since Brexit, I did warn of the impending crisis, like many sane voices in the country about the knock-on effect it will have on the most vulnerable in our society. Rising prices of food, fuel and other commonly used household goods and services are causing increased levels of stress and anxiety especially to families that have a stark choice to make; do we feed our children or heat our homes. The real problem at the heart of food shortage is Brexit. That’s it. No other country is having these issues and no amount of spin from the government will change this simple fact they had plenty of time to put in place measures that would have not allowed this chaos to play out. Removing the £20 per week from Universal Credit is like kicking someone really hard while they are down and out! While I am writing this column, the UK government has called in the army to deliver fuel and essential food supplies to petrol stations and supermarkets in England for the coming weeks. As a social enterprise, we have in the past picked up the pieces of flawed legislation introduced to penalise the poor for sins committed by the rich, here is hoping the government has a change of heart.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th October 2021