2pm Sunday 19th May
ASDA, Kings Heath High Street, B14.
Join the Facebook event
Kings Heath High Street is step free and accessible toilets are available at Kings Heath Library and various restaurants/pubs along the high street.
On April 1st as part of the welfare reform bill, the coalition government scrapped crisis loans – small short term loans that people receiving or waiting for benefits could get in an emergency (including being a victim of crime) to pay towards essentials such as food or heating (including boiler repairs) and many other items. Crisis loans were interest free and paid back out of future benefits. The scheme was more or less cost-neutral as everyone paid back the loans, but was scrapped and a smaller sum of money handed over to councils to use as they chose.
Many councils have adopted voucher schemes of one kind or another and some have used the money to fund foodbanks. In Birmingham, they decided to pay the money out as grants – an improvement on the old system – but that these will be in the form of pre-paid cards usuable only at ASDA, and therefore only on a limited range of items in a very few places. Scotland and Wales have both moved to a grant system which can be paid in money useable anywhere on essential items.
Johnny Void summed up the issue with paying vouchers:
This ignores the reality of poverty for millions in the UK today, whose chief concern is keeping pre-pay electricity and gas meters topped up enough to keep the lights and heating on. A bag of food bank pasta is of little use if you can’t boil water.
Birmingham City Council have decided to hand over £6.1m of our money to ASDA rather than allow claimants to spend it in local shops and the markets. In doing so they have made life harder for claimants who now cannot buy many of the essential items they used to be able to, and unless they happen to live close to one of the seven ASDAs in Birmingham, they face long walks of up to five miles to get anything at all – that is unless they cash their cards in below face value to the criminals waiting to take advantage of desperation. Following the outcry over the decision, the council have said they will be bringing other supermarkets into the scheme – still denying claimants the ability to spend the money on essential items like heating and transport that are not avialable at supermarkets, and from seeking out the best deals at other shops.
Birmingham City Council should replace the pre-paid cards with money and allow people to shop at local business and places like the markets who are losing money as benefit cuts hit the city, whilst the council is warning of chaos as nobody knows how the benefit reforms work (including the DWP) and welfare offices face closure in council cuts.
Dan Doherty criticised the Labour administration in his article on this decision on the Slaney Street blog.
By failing to stand up for some of its most vulnerable inhabitants, the men and women who run our city have once again shown their cowardice, their complacency, and their complicity. They have wholeheartedly bought into Whitehall’s message that the poorest must be demonised, castigated, and stripped of their dignity and autonomy
We would encourage everyone to attend this demonstration. Kings Heath high street is step free and accessible toilets are available at Kings Heath library which is approximately 0.2miles from ASDA. (Other accessible toilets may be closer).
The council have already started to backtrack from this stupid decision, claiming that other supermarkets are going to join the scheme – but why should the Bullring markets and our local shops lose out to multibillion pound businesses?
We serve low income people, they come to us for the low prices. People will get on a bus to come to us because the price of food is so much lower than anywhere else
We call on the council to change the scheme so that it can be paid in money to allow people to find the best deals and spend it on the things they need in a crisis to survive.Activists from