Dear Alice, (About Those Free School Lunches)

Hey, how are you today? I saw a little Twitter debate earlier on, and I really wanted to jump in and get myself involved. I knew, however, that a Twitter spat wouldn’t solve this particular dilemma. Fighting with people in 100 characters or less doesn’t educate them, or show them another side of the debate. All it does is make those with a certain opinion stand even more firmly in their ways and shout a bit louder. I want what I have to say to make an impact. I’m a blogger. Writing blogs is what I do. (Or so I like to think … )

Dear Alice

I have searched high and low for one particular tweet but I believe it has been deleted (which I also think speaks for itself), but there were a few more that I was particularly shocked by:

“Stop dishing out handouts and people will stop breeding like rabbits.” 

“I don’t think the taxpayer should have to foot the bill in a country where contraception is free.” 

“I think it’s a waste of taxpayers money – if you can afford school lunches, don’t have a kid!” 

(Although I think that probably should have read: if you *can’t* afford school lunches.) 

“Simple solution: don’t have kids you can’t afford.”

“My policies would be to not make the taxpayer fund people’s choice to have kids.” 

“IMO people shouldn’t have kids they can’t afford to feed!”

Alice, I don’t want to fight with you, babe, but I think you may have the wrong idea about a few things. I must admit, I may have been a bit close-minded about a such matters before, particularly being a woman MINUS kids and soaring her way into mid-thirties, but my eyes have been opened somewhat. I’m not providing you with the start of a rip-roaring Twitter argument here, and if one does start, I’m just likely to ignore it because I’m really good at that, but I do think you need to understand things from a slightly different perspective …

Man A is a single dad. He has a teenage son who he has full custody of. We don’t really need to go into the history of why he has full custody of his child, but it’s safe to say that the child’s mother is less than desirable. The kind of person I would imagine you probably base your tweet-opinions on.

He is living on the breadline. Barely scraping by. The recession and a string of other events caused his business to go under a few years back, a successful business at the time, and he is now a single father on benefits, desperately trying to provide the best for his son. For the record, he is on benefits because of a serious mental health condition. He had a breakdown. He was signed off work. A business partner died. Relationships fell apart. Debt. Stress. Depression.

I have seen how tight money is for that family. How far Man A needs to stretch his money. How much money Man A needs to spend just to ensure his son gets to school every day, for example. £5 every day for the train sure gets expensive. Plus, do you know how fast these kids grow? He could move home, of course, but they’ve already done that. They moved into a smaller, cheaper place because they couldn’t afford the rent on the existing bigger place they had. And healthy food – something a child needs – is expensive. If the parents couldn’t claim for school dinners, there’s a good chance they would spend their entire life filling them with £1 microwave meals because that’s all they could afford. And then what would happen? The NHS would need to fork out millions of pounds to treat the various problems that come hand in hand with malnutrition and / or childhood obesity. If school is for educating, and kids need educating on food to be healthy and avoid those health concerns, then surely food and school should actually come hand in hand?

Dear Alice,

Man A could afford the kids he had when he had them. He didn’t plan the breakdown of his relationship with the child’s mother, and he couldn’t have predicted her actions either, actions that lead to her being deemed not fit to take care of her children. He didn’t plan for the recession to hit. He didn’t plan for his business partner to die. He didn’t plan to get into debt. He didn’t wish for serious mental health concerns, and he certainly didn’t plan to be signed off work. He didn’t ask to struggle financially. He doesn’t want to rely on free school meals to ensure his kid gets fed, but he sure is thankful for it while he gets back on his feet.

For the record, Man A has gone hungry several days and nights in a row to ensure his child has had food. If it weren’t for free school meals, Man A would have starved ensuring his child did not.

*****

Man B – single dad who works as hard as he can, multiple jobs where possible, and still finds himself with more to pay out for than he’s getting in every month. Another mother who was less than desirable, Man B wore a condom on the night that child was conceived, and the mother hid the pregnancy from him for years. He found out he had a child when the child was 8 years old, also realising at the same time that his mother was one of those undesirables. He then spent THOUSANDS of pounds gaining custody of that child. He made sure that child never had to worry about where his next meal was coming from ever again, which he did before. His mother was a drug addict. She still is.

Man B needs a hand from the benefits system – his teenage son gets free school dinners too. Man B didn’t choose to have that baby. He wore a condom on the night of conception and it split. And the moment he realised what had happened, he stepped up to the plate, doing a lot more than most fathers I know, if we’re being honest about this.

That man has worked every hour of every day that he can for his entire life. He never asked for that baby to come along, and in fact, he did everything in his power to prevent that child from coming along. After spending thousands of pounds to “save” his child – a child he didn’t ask for and didn’t even know about – from a life of destitute and ruin, and pouring thousands of pounds into the system by working his entire life and paying taxes, isn’t he worthy of a helping hand from the government right now? If you take away those free school meals, Man B would seriously struggle. So would his child.

*****

Life doesn’t work in black and white when you’re a parent. There are all shades of grey in there. I am not a parent, although I am somewhat of a step-parent. I have chosen to not yet have kids because I cannot afford them. I have, however, been pregnant. It was an accident. I was taking the pill. I still fell pregnant. I lost that baby, but if I hadn’t, I would have ended up as a single parent after my husband beat me to a pulp, slept with a number of women behind my back, and then brought sexually transmitted infections into our marital bed.

I would probably have needed help from the government then, even more so because I was an abused wife on the run with her children. Would you have said no to me?

I work my butt off, and I mean SERIOUSLY work my butt off, and yet life STILL gets more and more expensive with each year that passes. I earn more and I simply come across more bills that I need to pay. My rent has gone up. My bills have gone up. The price of everything seems to have gone up. And my earnings? Well, they’ve gone up too, but not enough. I would need to sacrifice a lot if I wanted to have kids, which I am prepared to do, or just not have them. Or accept that I would perhaps need to rely on help from a benefits system that I have also been paying into since I was 16 years old, at some point in my future. And, for the record, I have needed to claim for unemployment ONCE in my life, and when I did try to claim they rejected it.

I couldn’t prove that I was a habitual residence of the United Kingdom. 

Yep, despite having a British birth certificate, a British driving license, a British passport, and a British bank account that was registered to the British address I actually lived at, the government wouldn’t / couldn’t accept that I was a habitual residence of the United Kingdom and I wasn’t allowed to claim.

Do you know what I did in the 8 weeks I didn’t have a job and the government wouldn’t help me? I borrowed money from my family which I then, in turn, had to pay back. I was entitled to that help from the government. When I needed our government and the system, it wasn’t there for me. So, actually, I would like to GIVE those 8 weeks of jobseekers allowance payments that I didn’t / couldn’t claim to a child who needs free school meals. In fact, if it meant I could ensure a child DIDN’T go hungry, I would pay for the damn child’s meals myself. Our government is totally screwed, I admit that, but taking away the systems that we rely on to stop children from starving?? That’s even more screwed.

Could you really look a hungry child in the face and deny them food? I can’t even walk past a homeless person on the street and not buy them a sandwich.

A child should NEVER go hungry, regardless of what circumstances it has been born into. What a ridiculous thing to say!

What happens if Bear and I have children? Let’s say we live happily ever after for a few years and then he leaves me? Or, and I can barely bring myself to say the words, he passes away? Or becomes seriously sick? What happens if I were to become seriously sick? What if I were to pass away? What if either of us were to find ourself as a single parent, out of the blue, struggling financially because now we only have one income, rather than two? For a while at least, we might need help from the government to help feed our children. But no, we can’t have that help. Because Teresa May and Alice on Twitter said no.

What happens if it were you? What if your future husband were to leave you, in whatever sense of the word? What happens if you find yourself financially struggling out of the blue? Savings can only stretch so far, and you know how quickly bills can mount when you’re not on top of them.

How would you feel if you needed help from our government and they say NO to you? Because Teresa May and Alice on Twitter don’t think ANY child deserves to have free school meals.

There are abusers of every system, in every country around the world. This DOES NOT mean that EVERYBODY is abusing that system. How many times have you pulled a “sick day” at work when you weren’t even that sick? Why should your colleagues have had to shoulder the work you shirked that day? Why should you have been paid for that sick day? Isn’t that the same thing? Aren’t you “abusing” the system just as much as these people who claim free school dinners, or so you’re saying? Should those sick days and sick pay be taken away from EVERYBODY? Just because YOU abused the system and took a sick day you didn’t need. And before you say, “I don’t take sick days I don’t need,” I’m sure there’s another system we could drop in its place. There will always be people who take the piss out of the systems our governments have put in place, but taking away that system for everyone isn’t the answer. In fact, that’s a tad extreme. The kind of thing I would imagine Trump saying.

There are people out there who need the benefits system – who need those free school dinners. And they GENUINELY need them too. I know that your opinions are probably very set, but you can’t tar everyone with the same brush. That’s not fair, is it?

I’m not trying to jump on a bandwagon here, Alice, but I do think that your opinion is both naive and a little uneducated. As a blogger yourself, I’m sure you’ll understand my need to tap this out. Sometimes, just sometimes, we all need to hop out of that ivory tower we put ourselves in and live in the real world. Sadly, the real world involves children being born into situations that are less than perfect, or even finding themselves in situations that are less than perfect somewhere down the line. Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen to you. Or a child you know, for that matter. Because children have NO CONTROL over the circumstances they find themselves in. I know that I couldn’t look a hungry child in the face and tell them they couldn’t have a school lunch.

Anyway, just my thoughts. No offence, Alice, but you did publicly tweet this stuff. You must have known people would have opposing opinions …

Lots of love,

NSSITC 

xo 

Dear Alice,

You can find Alice at:

4 thoughts on “Dear Alice, (About Those Free School Lunches)

  1. Steve

    How can any one back a policy that will leave children hungry – instead of taking money from this policy and moving it to breakfasts – do both ! When meals were means tested it is estimated that 4 of 10 children who didn’t qualify were in food poverty – we should invest in the next generation not penny pinch.

    Every child should have a healthy hot meal every day -this is a policy that provides that outside the home so we know they are getting it and not just having a £1 ping ping meal of unhealthyness or a sandwich.

    Invest in children and end food poverty for them.

    Keep up the brilliant posts !!!!

    Reply
    1. notsosexinthecity Post author

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! I wholeheartedly agree! I have personally put my hands in my OWN pocket and helped both Man A and Man B from my post, and a few more besides. I would NEVER allow a child to go hungry, whether that meant paying for it through tax or out of my own purse. If my local council isn’t fixing the potholes in the road, or putting enough policeman on the streets, or dealing with immigration / education / healthcare, the last they can do is make sure children have enough food to eat.

      It would be nice to see these politicians who come up with these silly ideas living in the real world. As I said on Twitter – if it’s not okay to sex shame or body shame, it is not okay to money / privilege shame.

      Thanks for reading, and for your comment too!
      Have a great day!
      NSSITC
      xo

      Reply
  2. Alice

    Hey, firstly I’d like to say thanks for disagreeing respectfully!

    I’m not especially against free school lunches, it was mostly the attitude of entitlement to the post that annoyed me- “lunch snatcher May” and all that. If I had kids it would be great if they got fed at school, but I’d be totally prepared to make a packed lunch everyday.

    I’ll admit one comment came out harsher than intended due to poor phrasing on both counts- obviously not getting a handout is not the same as being punished- and ideally neither the child or the taxpayer should suffer. For that I can only apologise.

    I get your point, that sometimes circumstances change and people need assistance. At the same time though I think we have a huge problem in the UK with “benefit families” where people who’ve never worked have a family because they can, or even worse to get the extra benefits and a bigger council house. I’m sure you can agree that this is not fair on the people who work- a lot of these people being low income earners or working parents.

    Hopefully in the future the government can come up with a solution where we can put a stop to this, yet at the same time help out the people who need it.

    Reply
  3. karen

    I’m too late for Alice to care about this, but is she getting as hot under the collar about tax evasion – which way exceeds the cost of benefit fraud. And I wonder if Alice can recognise that the reason for generations of non-working families is the deliberate decimation of industry by Thatcher – someone she doubtless supports?

    Reply

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