As a Statutory Social Worker one of the tasks I had to complete was to determine whether I believed a child or young person was in need of care and protection, Continue reading
Today in New Zealand we had a budget delivered, with great fanfare John Key announced his massive attack on poverty. A huge 25.00 per week for single parents and low income families. In this case a low income family is counted as someone who is earning less than 17.50 or so per hour for a 40 hour week. In my town that won’t even pay for one of my children to visit the doctor, it would take 10 extra weeks to gather enough to pay for a couple of fillings, it might pay for one child’s school uniform and fees for the year, how is that going to impact on child poverty? In the mean time the rent will have risen and taken care of the 25.00, school fees will have risen because the rise in the general grant will only be 1% this year, not even the rate of inflation.
I had a stark reminder of the face of child poverty tonight. I was shopping at a supermarket and the guy in front of me was making a single purchase, a can of infant formula. He had a worried expression on his face and ran his fingers through his change seeming to count it, he placed the tin on the counter and said how much is that? 17:99 said the checkout operator, I’ll have to come back he said, the operator shot a glance at me and I at him, we both knew he wasn’t coming back, the look of desperation and sadness on his face told me everything I needed to know, it was like I could see the wheels moving in his head, where can I find $4:00,
It was cold and wet outside, his clothes looked inadequate for the weather, they had clearly seen better days and his feet were blue from the cold, rubber Jandals were what he was wearing. Ill pay the balance I found myself saying, “what was that he said, I’ll make up the difference, he said” no mate I can’t accept that”, I said it’s not for you. Been there done that I said to make him feel better, not quite true I have been broke before but always enough food in our house. He handed over the $14:00 he had and I paid the rest, he turned to me tears in his eyes and said you don’t know what this means, I think I did, he turned and left and I was filled with regret. Four miserable dollars, I should have paid for the lot, invariably I will have the same amount of money at the end of the week.
The checkout operator said it was the hardest part of her job watching as people put things back as they didn’t have enough to pay, and she said it’s not tobacco and alcohol going back it is food, bread butter. She said it is hard, she feels the tears welling up and there is nothing she can do, she is not allowed to. She said it was the first time she had seen somebody do something about it like I had, she said I was a good man. Well you know what I think about that moniker, from some of my posts (https://kiwipaulspoetry.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/if-someone-tells-me-i-am-a-good-man-one-more-time/) a good man, like heck I am. I couldn’t stop and tell her why I wasn’t a good man, I just thanked her and left.
I am not telling this story because I want people to know that I am a kind man, I am relaying the story to show the face of poverty. For me the decision to pay for the balance was easy. It is about retaining my integrity, looking myself in the mirror, if I thought that by my lack of compassion a baby was going to miss out on food then that is just too bloody awful to contemplate. I don’t care if he smoked or drank, although there was no evidence of the above and if he had put formula back on the shelf and bought tobacco or alcohol I would have given him the edge of my tongue. Judgemental? Absolutely. So an easy decision to make.
The question is how do I make it right for the children living in cold, damp overcrowded houses, the children who don’t get to the doctor, the children who just don’t eat right. How do I make it right for the pensioner shivering in the cold because they are scared of the next big power bill? How do I make that right, it is just as unacceptable…
I intend to write on this over the next few weeks (as usual with a few distractions) tonight I am grateful for friends, family, warmth and love.
Tonight for you,
without further adieu
I bring to you
Verse is hard
So it’s said
has not been read
Tonight’s poem is from a man who is a poet but till now he didn’t know it. I was going to write of budgets and housing but tonight this will do.
This is the poem Andrew Little read in Parliament, quite funny I thought!
Twas the night before the Budget
When all through the House.
The National Back Benches were keen for a stoush
The promises were hung during the election with care
Of course they would fill them
How could they not
They wouldn’t dare.
September 14 was a different time
The Back Benchers quite happy, some in their prime.
Nested all snug in their leather armchairs
John, Bill and Steven washed away all their fears
There had been promises of surpluses, of poverty relieved
Of great fiscal wonders, or so they believed.
“They’ve got us this fat, the Back Benchers said”
“What could possibly go wrong?”
“We’re so far ahead!”
But Bill English knew, he just hid his fear
That all their good words were just plain hot air
It was great that Mike Hosking and Paul Henry were glowing
But nothing could mask an economy slowing.
“We have to do something, we have to be quick”
Said John Key to his Cabinet that had run out of tricks.
“Now Bennett, now Adams, Now Bridges and Tolley
Forget Steven Joyce and his conventional folly.
Where’s Woodhouse, McCully, Crosbey and Textor
If there’s one thing clear – you all have to do better.
I need plans to help Auckland, to slow housing prices
To help feed the kids, and fix other vices.
Where is the plan for trains, trucks and bikes.
My Facebook page tanking, I can’t get no likes.”
“And I’m sick of seeing Andy, the new man about town
He never gets angry, we can’t bring him down”.
Bill English stepped forwarded in canonical mood;
“Just stop there John, I don’t mean to be rude
You may not have noticed, but we have a crisis
And it’s nothing to do with our troops fighting ISIS
Exports are diving, dairy is down
There isn’t much happening in any small town
I know I have said the problem’s inflation.
But there’s something much bigger – John Bank’s compensation.
You said don’t touch taxes, levies and fees
But how will we pay for this – it don’t grow on trees.”
And then the talk came to a stop with a shudder
The Prime Minister knew -his heart now aflutter
Up from the back came a great throaty roar
Judith Collins appeared on Parliament’s floor.
“I’ve heard all of your talk, me and Todd Muller
All you’re known as now is ponytail puller”
“Out of the way – shove this in your gob
I’m here to take over, it’s my turn in your job.”