Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The True Cost of Austerity (Part 1)

Some notes from the "True Cost of Austerity" launch event organised by Advice Nottingham recently (full report available here)...

The launch was presented by a panel including Chris Dearden (author of the report) and Baroness Lister. There were some interesting comments from the panel and audience, some of which are shown below :

* The Sneinton Food bank is providing food to around 50 families a week who have ZERO income.
* Some jobseekers lack key skills required to navigate the jobseeking and social security system (e.g. have no email, difficulty filling forms etc)
* The language of welfare has been "Americanised" to be one of "them and us", in contrast to a language of "social security" that we all pay in to and all might use. Similarly, "austerity" implies a a warm coming-together in difficult times, such as in WW2, whereas a more accurate word might simply be "cuts".
* When lobbying the House of Lords, one can see who is interested in the debate by checking who participates in the second reading of the Bill.
* When the actual, practical effects of policy are pointed out to Treasury officals, they become very uncomfortable.

The Launch of the "True Cost of Austerity" report

The report states that Nottingham faces a number of social issues, including :

1) In May 2013 the unemployment rate was rate was 6.5%, compared to 3.6% in England as a whole)

[BFTF wasn't sure that comparing an urban area like Nottingham with the whole of England was fair, so looked up unemployment claimant figures for some comparable cities, data is for Apr 2013 and from here.

Leicester (pop 330k) : 5.4%, 6.2%, 6.9% (East, South and West Constituencies respectively)
Coventry (pop 316k) : 5.7%, 4.0%, 4.1% (NE, NW, S)
NOTTINGHAM (pop 305k): 7.4%, 8.4%, 4.0% (E, N, S)
Wakefield (pop 325k) : 5.2%
Newcastle (pop 280k) : 6.0%, 4.4%, 3.7% (C, E, N)]

2) Almost 30 per cent of all households in Nottingham claim housing benefit double the rate of the East Midlands (15%)

3) Home ownership is lower in Nottingham (45%) than in the East Mids (67%)

[According to this 2011 census data, the above is borne out when comparing Nottingham to similarly sized cities:

Leicester : 50%
Coventry : 61%
Wakefield : 64%
Newcastle : 69%]

4) Nottingham is ranked 17th out of 326 local authorities for income deprivation (with 1 being the most deprived), and 13th for employment deprivation (again 1 being highest unemployment levels).

The above appears to come from this data, and when compared to similarly sized cities looks like this:

Leicester : 11th and 14th (out of 326)
Coventry : 24th and 22nd (out of 326)
NOTTINGHAM : 17th and 13th (out of 326)
Wakefield : 37th and 17th (out of 326)
Newcastle : 29th and 20th (out of 326)

It seems that Nottingham fares similarly to other similarly sized cities. Also worth noting that all five cities are in the most deprived 10% of areas on both criteria.

Mansfield Road, urban Nottingham

Debt and Social Security Changes

Advice Nottingham comment that "While the overall amount of debts we have assisted clients with has decreased since the credit crunch and recession, going down from more than £33million in 2012-13 to £22 million in 2014-15, the proportion of the debt that is priority debt – debts that have the worst outcomes – has increased from 24 to 35 per cent in the same period."

[Perhaps worth noting that the above statement means that actual value (as opposed to percentage) of priority debt has actually stayed pretty steady at just below £8million.]

The event and report also highlighted the changes that have been made in the social security system by the coalition and current conservative government:

* Introduction of Universal Credit;
* Personal Independence Payments to replace Disability Living Allowance;
* Changes to Employment and Support Allowance;
* Abolition of Council Tax Benefit / Introduction of Council Tax Reduction schemes;
* Abolition of Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants, funding passed to LA's;
* Introduction of the Benefit Cap;
* Introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’; and
* Introduction of Mandatory Reconsideration of benefit decisions before appeals

Advice Nottingham have helped their clients obtain approximately £2 million per year of lump sum payments they were entitled to, and £8.6 and £10 million per year of ongoing social security payments. A 2015 survey of service users found that 98% would recommend the service to others.

Mandatory Reconsideration
This disturbing policy states claimants who disagrees with a social security payment decision (e.g. refusal for an ESA claim) must go through a mandatory reconsideration process prior to lodging an appeal. Critically, the benefit is not payed during this reconsideration period. This results in a Kafa-esque situation that the report describes thus:

"One of the major issues to affect Advice Nottingham clients who are dissatisfied with an ESA decision is that where they are found fit for work but request a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) the ESA stops. This leaves them with the choice of claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or having no income. Many are reluctant to claim JSA as they feel deeply that they are not fit for work, and fear not meeting the job seeking requirements and being sanctioned. There is an inherent contradiction here and some clients who do attend Jobcentre Plus to register for JSA have been refused on the grounds that they are clearly unfit for work."

Sanctions and Foodbanks
The report describes how many clients are unaware that they have been sanctioned until their benefits fail to arrive, despite the fact that such information should be communicated to them. Although many of them succeed in having such decisions overturned at reconsideration, this is of little help during the period they have no income and people often ask for advice at the point of having no money, no food and feeling desperate. All Advice can do on an immediate practical level at this point is to offer a voucher for a food bank.

Reports by the Church Action on Poverty and others suggest that the rise in is due to a combination of effects including insufficient income, high housing, food and fuel costs, changes to social security and income crises. The Advice Nottingham report comments that:

"Whatever the underlying reason for people using food banks, such usage is a short-term emergency measure; food banks are unable and unwilling to feed people for longer periods of time. Their unwillingness is due to the general belief that there should be a social security safety net that protects people against hunger. By stepping in to meet immediate need, some feel that they are replacing statutory services which ought to protect vulnerable people."

Made up packs at the Himmah Food Bank, ready to be passed onto agencies working on the frontline.

2 Week Snapshot
The report looks in detail at a two week period in Sept2015 in which Advice Nottingham analysed the interactions with those clients who were "financially vulnerable" (i.e. were at risk of losing their home or having utilities cut off). The number of clients who fell into this category over the 2 week period was 1,017.

By far the most common issue was benefit applications, with 22% of clients requiring help in this area;
5% of clients were seeking assistance following a JSA or ESA sanction;
7% of clients needed help following a Mandatory Reconsideration.

Money Matters
"Money Matters" courses, run by Advice Nottingham offer people the chance to learn about the Social Security System, Budgeting, Banking, Lowering Fuel Costs etc.

Case Studies
The report describes a number of case studies illustrating the kinds of issues that clients faced, and how Advice Nottingham was (or sometimes was not) able to help them. Names were changed in all cases. Very brief summaries of a couple of these case studies are shown below:

Case study - Colin
Colin is a 40 year old man with long standing mental health problems including depression and anxiety. He lives alone in a socially rented flat. A WCA assessment in Sep 2014 found that he was fit for work and Colin's ESA benefit was stopped. In Oct 2014, Colin approached Advice Nottingham for help in challenging the decision. At this point he had no income, his Housing Benefit had stopped and he was fearful of losing his home and was reliant on his family for money and food.

Advice Nottingham , over a number of sessions were able to win an appeal at Tribunal and get Colin's ESA reinstated, but this took until May 2015. At one session it was found that Colin has not eaten for two days so he was provided with a Foodbank voucher. At the end of the advice process, Colin commented that without the help of Advice Nottingham, he "wouldn't be here now" and that he had felt suicidal throughout the whole period he had no income.

Case study - Sally
Sally is 38 and has multiple sclerosis. She had been in full-time employment until a relapse of her multiple sclerosis left her in pain and unable to work. She made a claim for Personal Independence Payment and was awarded the standard rate of mobility and daily living components. Sally uses crutches and can only walk 50m very slowly, making it difficult to use public transport. Sally came to Advice Nottingham to see if any further assistance was available.

Advice Nottingham were able to help Sally complete a Mandatory Reconsideration request which resulted in Sally being awarded the enhanced mobility component of ESA. Sally now has an adapted car and a blue badge and has regained her independence.

Other case studies
Many other examples of the kind of cases that Advice Nottingham has to deal with can be read in a separate An Anthology of Modern Poverty booklet.

The True Cost of Austerity Report

Update 28 Mar 2016 [1]
Recently read Mhairi Blacks maiden speech in the House of Commons. It belongs in this post and is shown below in its entirety:

On her constituency
Now, when I discovered it is tradition to speak about the history of your constituency in a maiden speech, I decided to do some research despite the fact I’ve lived there all my life. And as one of the tale end doing the maiden speech of my colleagues in the SNP I’ve noticed that my colleagues quite often mention Rabbie Burns a lot and they all try to form this intrinsic connection between him and their own constituency and own him for themselves. I however feel no need to do this for during my research I discovered a fact which trumps them all. William Wallace was born in my constituency.

On benefit sanctions
Now, my constituency has a fascinating history far beyond the Hollywood film and historical name. from the mills of Paisley, to the industries of Johnson, right to the weavers in Kilbarchan, it’s got a wonderful population with a cracking sense of humour and much to offer both the tourists and to those who reside there. But the truth is that within my constituency it’s not all fantastic. We’ve watched our town centres deteriorate. We’re watched our communities decline. Our unemployment level is higher than that of the UK average. One in five children in my constituency go to bed hungry every night. Paisley Job Centre has the third highest number of sanctions in the whole of Scotland.

Before I was elected I volunteered for a charitable organisation and there was a gentleman who I grew very fond of. He was one of these guys who has been battered by life in every way imaginable. You name it, he’s been through it. And he used to come in to get food from this charity, and it was the only food that he had access to and it was the only meal he would get. And I sat with him and he told me about his fear of going to the Job Centre. He said “I’ve heard the stories Mhairi, they try and trick you out, they’ll tell you you’re a liar. I’m not a liar Mhairi, I’m not.” And I told him “It’s OK, calm down. Go, be honest, it’ll be fine.”

I then didn’t see him for about two or three weeks. I did get very worried, and when he finally did come back in I said to him “how did you get on?”

And without saying a word he burst into tears. That grown man standing in front of a 20-year-old crying his eyes out, because what had happened to him was the money that he would normally use to pay for his travel to come to the charity to get his food he decided that in order to afford to get to the Job Centre he would save that money. Because of this, he didn’t eat for five days, he didn’t drink. When he was on the bus on the way to the Job Centre he fainted due to exhaustion and dehydration. He was 15 minutes later for the Job Centre and he was sanctioned for 13 weeks.

Now, when the Chancellor spoke in his budget about fixing the roof while the sun is shining, I would have to ask on who is the sun shining? When he spoke about benefits not supporting certain kinds of lifestyles, is that the kind of lifestyle that he was talking about?

On Food Banks
If we go back even further when the Minister for Employment was asked to consider if there was a correlation between the number of sanctions and the rise in food bank use she stated, and I quote, “food banks play an important role in local welfare provision.” Renfrewshire has the third highest use of food banks use and food bank use is going up and up.

Food banks are not part of the welfare state, they are symbol that the welfare state is failing.

On housing
Now, the Government quite rightly pays for me through tax payers money to be able to live in London whilst I serve my constituents. My housing is subsidised by the tax payer. Now, the Chancellor in his budget said it is not fair that families earning over £40,000 in London should have their rents paid for my other working people. But it is OK so long as you’re an MP? In this budget the Chancellor also abolished any housing benefit for anyone below the age of 21.

So we are now in the ridiculous situation whereby because I am an MP not only am I the youngest, but I am also the only 20-year-old in the whole of the UK that the Chancellor is prepared to help with housing.

We now have one of the most uncaring, uncompromising and out of touch governments that the UK has seen since Thatcher.

On Labour and opposition
It is here now that I must turn to those who I share a bench with. Now I have in this chamber for ten weeks, and I have very deliberately stayed quiet and have listened intently to everything that has been said. I have heard multiple speeches from Labour benches standing to talk about the worrying rise of nationalism in Scotland, when in actual fact all these speeches have served to do is to demonstrate how deep the lack of understanding about Scotland is within the Labour party.

I like many SNP members come from a traditional socialist Labour family and I have never been quiet in my assertion that I feel that it is the Labour party that left me, not the other way about. The SNP did not triumph on a wave of nationalism; in fact nationalism has nothing to do with what’s happened in Scotland.

We triumphed on a wave of hope, hope that there was something different, something better to the Thatcherite neo-liberal policies that are produced from this chamber. Hope that representatives genuinely could give a voice to those who don’t have one.

I don’t mention this in order to pour salt into wounds which I am sure are very open and very sore for many members on these benches, both politically and personally. Colleagues, possibly friends, have lost their seats. I mention it in order to hold a mirror to the face of a party that seems to have forgotten the very people they’re supposed to represent, the very things they’re supposed to fight for.

After hearing the Labour leader’s intentions to support the changes of tax credits that the Chancellor has put forward, I must make this plea to the words of one of your own and a personal hero of mine.

Tony Benn once said that in politics there are weathercocks and sign posts. Weathercocks will spin in whatever direction the wind of public opinion may blow them, no matter what principal they may have to compromise.

And then there are signposts, signposts which stand true, and tall, and principled. And they point in the direction and they say this is the way to a better society and it is my job to convince you why.

Tony Benn was right when he said the only people worth remembering in politics were signposts.

Now, yes we will have political differences, yes in other parliaments we may be opposing parties, but within this chamber we are not. No matter how much I may wish it, the SNP is not the sole opposition to this Government, but nor is the Labour party. It is together with all the parties on these benches that we must form an opposition, and in order to be affective we must oppose not abstain. So I reach out a genuine hand of friendship which I can only hope will be taken. Let us come together, let us be that opposition, let us be that signpost of a better society. Ultimately people are needing a voice, people are needing help, let’s give them it.

Update 10 Apr 2016
One can get an idea of how bad the DWP "fitness for work" decisions are by reading about how a group of student lawyers in Bristol looked at 200 cases of DWP demming a person to be "fit for work" and were able to get the decision overturned in 95% of cases. This is significantly higher than the national average of 59% and shows how important legal support is to a successful challenge.

External Links
An Anthology of Modern Poverty
Austerity in Europe - A Cautionary Tale
ONS perspectives on home ownership in the UK
NTU Research into Nottingham's economy.
Foodbanks in Nottingham

Related Content
The Himmah Foodbank
Extracts from the Commons Fooodbank Debate
The Opportunity Costs of Bad Government

Image Sources
BFTF own and via Himmah

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Muslim Soldiers fighting for Britain

Recently read a page on the Armed Forces Muslim Association website about the exploits of Muslims serving in British forces in past conflicts.

A typical example is that of Ali Haider (see also here) who, according to AFMA :

"...served as a Sepoy (Private) in the 13th Frontier Force Rifles. In 1944, his platoon was tasked with crossing the River Senio under heavy enemy fire. The crossing was part of the Allied spring offensive and much depended upon the assault. However, the banks of Senio had been built up three metres high, and whilst Haidar’s assault section travelled in vulnerable boats, the Germans were securely dug-in and heavily armed. The Rifles were cut to pieces by intense machine fire, and only Haidar and two fellow soldiers survived the crossing – the rest of his men laid injured or dead in the water.

Undaunted, Ali Haidar seized the initiative, and covered by his two colleagues, charged the nearest machinegun post. He threw a grenade but was met by another, thrown by the enemy. He sustained a severe wound to his back, but in spite of this, continued his attack, silencing the machine gun and taking four Germans prisoner. Not content, he charged onto the next machinegun nest, sustaining further injuries in the right leg and right arm. Weakened by the loss of blood, but utterly determined to continue the battle, Haidar crawled closer and lobbed in another grenade, destroying the enemy position.

Having subdued immediate opposition, the river was crossed and a vital bridgehead established. Haidar’s bravery and devotion to duty saved the rest of his company. Found lying on the ground next to the river, Ali Haidar was carried back to his regiment with serious wounds. He recovered sufficiently to receive his Victoria Cross from King George VI at Buckingham Palace in October 1945.

His Victoria Cross citation read: “The conspicuous gallantry, initiative and determination, combined with a complete disregard for his own life, shown by this very brave Sepoy in the face of heavy odds, were an example to the whole company. His heroism saved an ugly situation which would, but for his personal bravery, have caused the battalion serious casualties at a critical time and delayed the crossing of the river.”

He returned to Pakistan after the war, where he and his wife worked at a small farmstead. He died in 1999, at the age of 86, a short while after his wife’s death, leaving behind no children."

Ali Hairdar VC

BFTF looked up the 13th Frontier Force Rifles (formed from the 55th Coke's Rifles, 56th Punjabi Rifles, 57th Wilde's Rifles, 58th Vaughan's Rifles and the 59th Royal Scinde Rifles and others) and found this archived list of their battle honours:

WW1 : La Bassée 1914, Messines 1914, Armentières 1914, Festubert 1914 '15, Givenchy 1914, Neuve Chapelle, Ypres 1915, St. Julien, Aubers, Loos, France and Flanders 1914-15, Suez Canal, Egypt 1915-17, Gaza, El Mughar, Nebi Samwil, Jerusalem, Megiddo, Sharon, Palestine 1917-18, Tigris 1917, Kut al Amara 1917, Baghdad, Mesopotamia 1916-18, Persia 1918-19, Aden, E Africa 1916-18, NW Frontier India 1917, Baluchistan 1918, Afghanistan 1919

WW2 : Gash Delta, Barentu, Keren, Ad Teclesan, Amba Alagi, Abyssinia 1940-41, Deir ez Zor, Raqaa, Syria 1941, Gazala, Sidi Rezegh 1942, Gambut, Mersa Matruh, North Africa 1940-43, The Trigno, Tufillo, The Sangro, Impossible Bridge, Villa Grande, Cassino II, Gustav Line, Pignataro, Advance to Florence, Gothic Line, Monte Grande, The Senio, Bologna, Monte Sole, Italy 1943-45, North Malaya, Kota Bharu, Johore, Gemas, The Muar, Singapore Island, Malaya 1941-42, Pegu 1942, Taukkyan, Monywa 1942, Shwegyin, North Arakan, Point 551, Mayu Tunnels, Maungdaw, Ngakyedauk Pass, Imphal, Litan, Arakan Beaches, Myebon, Ramree, Mandalay, Myinmu, Meiktila, Nyaungu Bridgehead, Capture of Meiktila, Defence of Meiktila, Taungtha, Myingyan, The Irawaddy, Yenaungyaung 1945, Magwe, Rangoon Road, Pegu 1945, Sittang 1945, Burma 1942-45

It is worth noting that many of the units in the British Indian Army comprised soldiers from a variety of faiths

129th Baluchis near Holobeke (Battle of Messines)

Focussing on WW1, and so far as BFTF's limited research has been able to tentatively determine, here is some more information:

The Battle of La Bassée - 12th October - 2nd November 1914
British Forces : 2nd Cavalry Brigade; 3rd Division and 5th Division of II Corps; The Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade, and the Lahore and Meerut Divisions of the Indian Corps

The Long,Long,Trail website records despatches from Field Marshall French comment that :

"...On the 24th October the Lahore Division of the Indian Army Corps, under Major General Watkis, having arrived, I sent them to the neighbourhood of Locon to support the Second Corps. Very early on this morning the enemy commenced a heavy attack, but, owing to the skilful manner in which the artillery was handled and the targets presented by the enemy's infantry as it approached, they were unable to come to close quarters. ..

... The 8th (Jullundur) Infantry Brigade (which had come into line on the left of the Second Corps) was also heavily attacked, but the enemy was driven off....

... I have already referred to the excellent work performed by the battalions of this [Lahore] Division which were supporting the Cavalry. The remainder of the Division from the 25th October onwards were heavily engaged in assisting the 7th Brigade of the Second Corps in fighting round Neuve Chappelle...

...the line held by the Indian Corps has been subjected to constant bombardment by the enemy's heavy artillery, followed up by infantry attacks. On two occasions these attacks were severe...

...Since their arrival in this country, and their occupation of the line allotted to them, I have been much impressed by the initiative and resource displayed by the Indian troops. Some of the ruses they have employed to deceive the enemy have been attended with the best results, and have doubtless kept superior forces in front of them at bay. The Corps of Indian Sappers and Miners have long enjoyed a high reputation for skill and resource. Without going into detail, I can confidently assert that throughout their work in this campaign they have fully justified that reputation. The General Officer Commanding the Indian Army Corps describes the conduct and bearing of these troops in strange and new surroundings to have been highly satisfactory, and I am enabled, from my own observation, to fully corroborate his statement..."

The Defence of Givenchy - 20th - 21st December 1914
Indian Corps : Meerut Division, Lahore Division and 1st Division

Here despatches shown on the Long,Long Trail site state that:

"...The attack of the Meerut Division on the left was made on the morning of the 19th with energy and determination, and was at first attended with considerable success, the enemy’s advanced trenches being captured. Later on, however, a counter attack drove them back to their original position with considerable loss. The attack of the Lahore Division commenced at 4.30 a.m. It was carried out by two companies each of the 1st Highland Light Infantry and the 1st Battalion, 4th Gurkha Rifles, of the Sirhind Brigade, under Lieutenant-Colonel E. W. H. Ronaldson. This attack was completely successful..."

"...From daylight on the 20th December the enemy commenced a heavy fire from artillery and trench mortars on the whole front of the Indian Corps. This was followed by infantry attacks, which, were in especial force against Givenchy, and between that place and La Quinque Rue. At about 10 a.m. the enemy succeeded in driving back the Sirliind Brigade, and capturing a considerable part of Givenchy, but the 67th Rifles and 9th Bhopals, north of the canal, and the Connaught Rangers, south of it, stood firm. "

"...In my last despatch I had occasion to mention the prompt and ready help I received from the Lahore Division...The Indian troops have fought with the utmost steadfastness and gallantry whenever they have been called upon..."

"Indian reinforcements who fought at Givenchy in December 1914" by Unknown

Battle of Neuve Chapelle - 10th March 2015
Here the Long,Long Trail site comments that

"...Three infantry brigades were ordered to advance quickly as soon as the barrage lifted from the front line at 8.05am. The Gharwal Brigade of the Indian Corps advanced successfully, with the exception of the 1/39th Gharwal Rifles on the extreme right that went astray and plunged into defences untouched by the bombardment, suffering large losses..."

The Battle of Aubers Ridge, 9 May 1915
Listed on the Long,Long, Trail site

"5.30am:...In the area of the Indian Corps, the lead battalions of the Dehra Dun Brigade of the Meerut Division (2/2nd Ghurkas, 1/4th and 1st Seaforth Highlanders) were so badly hit by enemy fire that no men got beyond their own parapet and the front-line and communications trenches were soon filled with dead and wounded men."

"3.57pm:...Meerut Division orders Bareilly Brigade to advance, even though it is clear that conditions are unchanged: few men even reached a small ditch 20 yards in front of their own front line, and the Brigade suffered more than 1000 casualties within minutes."

The Meerut Division suffered 2,629 casualties, out a total of some 11,000 British casualties on that day. There is no memorial to this battle.

The Battle of Loos, 25 September - 19 October 1915
Despatches listed on the LongLongTrail site state that :

"...The Indian Corps atacked the Moulin du Pietre; while the 3rd Corps was directed against the trenches at Le Bridoux. These attacks started at daybreak and were at first successful all along the line. Later in the day the enemy brought up strong reserves, and after hard fighting and variable fortunes the troops engaged in this part of the line reoccupied their original trenches at nightfall. They succeeded admirably, however, in fulfilling the role allotted to them, and in holding large numbers of the enemy away from the main attack. The 8th Division of the 3rd Corps and the Meerut Division of the Indian Corps were principally engaged in this part of the line..."

Battles of Jerusalem (1917)
According to Wikipedia :

"...On 19 November the 75th Division infantry moved up this road; their 232nd Brigade had left Abu Shushe at 07:30 to occupy the deserted town of Amwas and by 11:00 the Indian 58th Vaughan's Rifles (Frontier Force) of 234th Brigade had fought their way up [against Ottoman forces] to reach the heights of Bab el Wad..."

"Capture of Jerusalem 1917d" by American Colony Photo Department (Jerusalem), photographer not named - Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-13291-00030

Battles of Megiddo and Sharon, Palestine(1918)

According to Wikipedia, "After forces of the Arab Revolt attacked the Ottoman lines of communication, distracting the Ottomans, British and Indian infantry divisions attacked and broke through the Ottoman defensive lines in the sector adjacent to the coast in the set-piece Battle of Sharon."

In the Battle of Sharon:

"...The 7th (Meerut) Division's 19th Brigade consisting of the 1st Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, 28th Punjabis, 92nd Punjabis and 125th Napier's Rifles, with the 1st Guides and 20th Punjabis (21st Brigade) and the 134th Machine Gun Company attached, were formed into two columns in front of the British wire, each column on a frontage one battalion wide. The initial attack by the 28th and the 92nd Punjabis, under cover of the creeping barrage, was completely successful..."

Related Content
Muslim Soldiers - The Elephant in the Room
100yr commemoration of WW1
Muslim Merchant Seamen in WW2
Forgotton Heroes
Noor Inayat Khan

External links
Commonwealth Contribution
An Indian Sepoy in WW1
Short video on the Muslim contribution to Britain in WW1
Image Sources
Ali Haidar, 129th Baluchis, Givenchy, Jerusalem

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Himmah Foodbank 2013 to 2015

The Himmah foodbank was set up by concerned individuals in the Muslim community to provide help to those in dire economic need in Nottingham - irrespective of faith or no faith - and works with a number of agencies and other organisations in Nottingham to this end. If you wish to donate to the Himmah Foodbank, whether in goods, cash or your time, visit

This post looks at the donations to the foodbank from 2013(When it started) to 2015. For information on 2016, go here

Made up Foodpacks, ready to go our to those in need....

Contents of a typical foodpack, costing around £5

Each Foodpack cost around £5 and typically contains :
1kg pasta/rice
2 cans soup/bakes beans
2 cans tinned veg/tinned tomatoes
1 item dessert (tinned fruit/biscuits etc)
20 teabags
1 litre UHT Milk
1 pack cereal
1 item from each of any other categories in stock (e.g. pasta sauce, toiletries....)


Dec 2015 : At the time of writing Himmah are supplying about 20 foodpacks per week to the awesome "Tasty Tuesday" project run by the Dunkirk and Lenton partnership at Thomas Helwys Baptist Church, Lenton.

According to the partnership website, Tasty Tuesdays " a weekly free meal for everyone and has been running since summer 2014. It aims to bring people together across the different communities. For people in financial difficulties it offers a filling, nutritious, meal, food parcels, and signposting to support agencies and services. For people experiencing loneliness or social isolation it can provide company, the chance to make friends, and a weekly social event to look forward to, in a welcoming and relaxed environment."

BFTF paid a visit to TT recently when they were having their Christmas meal event, which was covered by BBC East Midlands no less. It was a great event and BFTF had some very interesting conversations with the diners, in which BFTF learnt about how sign language has different "dialects" across the UK and some of the troubles of the NDC project. Anyway, here are a few pictures...

Himmah Foodpacks at Tasty Tuesdays

Lilian Greenwood (Right in the "festive" jumper) was a volunteer

Great atmosphere, very interesting conversation


Dec 2015 : Via Himmah, on a donation drive at ASDA Hyson Green on 19th Dec : Himmah would like to say a massive thank you to our wonderful volunteers who stood for hours talking to people and giving out shopping lists: Norzaiha Norhan Louise Regan Yousuf Farooq Andrew Calder Zahra-Iram Butt Kai Magico Ursula Donnelly Hydra Bramwell and Maxine Forbes (Zahra-Iram Butt also gave a very generous Donation!) also Ash Choudry and Shahril Azwin for using their cars to transport all the donations to storage. ALL of you are amazing people for giving up your busy Saturday afternoons for those in need. We thank you.

To all those who donated. Thank you. There was some very generous people out there, people from all backgrounds and cultures coming together. Thank also to Phil Pidluznyj from Empleo Community Interest Company who donated to Himmah Food Bank with the contributions from their Creative Writing course students.

And a thank you to Angie Murfitt , ASDA Hyson Greens Community Champion for all her support over the past few years.

We received 10 Trolley's full of food, equivalent to around £1000, Plus £100 in Cash Donations. LOVE YOU NOTTINGHAM

Volunteers at the ASDA event on 19th Dec

Just SOME of the bags of food donated at ASDA on 19th Dec

A lady donated this entire trolley of food. Very Humbling to see


Dec 2015 : A kind donation from the East of Nottingham....

Donation from East Nottingham


Dec 2015 : A kind donation from Mrs BFTF and friends...

Kind donation from Mrs BFTF and friends


Dec 2015 : Via Himmah : "Himmah would like to thank and honour Fi Corbett from the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum. Here she is pictured at Tasty Tuesdays in Lenton with Food Parcels donated by The Himmah Food Bank, with food donated by YOU. we currently support between 20-25 people at Tasty Tuesdays via the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum. We are proud to partner with DLPF and the great work Fi and her team does.

Fi Corbett from the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum


Dec 2015 : Via Himmah : "Himmah would to thank Iram Nazir and Ishy Qureshi from Evoca Drinks for a very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank. We rely on the good folk of Nottingham to help us support those in Need. Iram Nazir has made several wonderful contributions these past couple of years. And thank you to Evoca drinks for their kind contribution of drinks. Thank you Nottingham. We love you. May we all continue to work together.

Donations from Evoca Drinks


Dec 2015 : Via Himmah : "The Himmah food bank would again like to thank the Nottingham Pagan Network for a generous collection from it's members. Pictured here is Ashley Mortimer from the Network. We would like to thank him and all the members for their ongoing support for Himmah and it's work. On behalf of those in need in Nottingham, Thank you.

Donation from Nottingham Pagan Network


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : "Himmah would like to thank Asma Salim Mirza from the Salim Welfare Trust for her very generous and large donation to the Himmah Food Bank. Without her and other kind Nottingham Folk we could not help those in need. Thank you Nottingham on behalf of those in Need.

Asma Salim Mirza from the Salim Welfare Trust and their donation.


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : "The Himmah Food Bank would once again like to that the Nottingham Pagan Network for another very generous collection and donation to the food Bank. We are proud to partner with good people of Nottingham. Muslims and Pagans joining forces to help others. We are proud to call friends at The Nottingham Pagan Network as a partner in our work to support those in need in Nottingham. We can all work together. Thank you Nottingham, keep showing the way.

Donation from Nottingham Pagan Network


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : "The Himmah Food Bank would like to say a massive thank you to 2 amazing Nottingham people for a very generous donation and their friends. There was so much food, we are now more toned up. Greg Lonsdale, and his wonderful friends including the lovely Nina Smith from Notts.MyProblem, got together on Greg's Birthday and decided to donate to the Food Bank. that is an amazing and generous thing to do. on behalf of those in need in Nottingham we say thank you for your ongoing support to Himmah. We hope you and many others will continue to support our work.

Greg's Birthday Bash Donation


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Louise Regan for organising the continuing donations by Sherwood Labour Party to the Himmah Food Bank Himmah on behalf of those in need in Nottingham we would to thank all those part of the Sherwood Labour Party and of course Louise for your kind and ongoing Donations. Thank you people.

Donation from Nottingham East Labour Party


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : "Himmah is indebted to Louise Regan for another amazing donation to the Himmah Food Bank. A powerhouse of a woman who organises collections from Nottingham East Labour Party Members and Union Members. We really cannot express our gratitude to all those who donate to Himmah. It makes us proud that Nottingham has people like Louise in the city.Thank you Louise and all those who donate through her.Nottingham East Momentum supporters."

Donation from Nottingham East Labour Party


Oct 2015 : From the Himmah FB page : The Himmah Nottingham Food Bank would like to thank Andrew Calder once again for a very generous donation to Himmah to help those in Need in Nottingham. Andrew continues to support Himmah and we are very grateful to him and others who have supported us over the years.

Donation from Andre Calder


Oct 15 : From the Himmah FB page : The Himmah Food Bank would like to thank Ali Akhbar Hussain for a very generous donation to Himmah to help those in Need in Nottingham. We are very grateful to him and others who have supported us over the years. we could not help people without your kindness. On Behalf of those in need we want to thank you all, Thank You Nottingham. Love Ya.

Donation from Ali Akhbar Hussain


Oct 2015 : From the Himmah FB page : "The Himmah Food Bank would like to thank one of Nottingham's finest Daughters, Nina Smith from Notts.MyProblem, for her kind donation to the Food Bank and for helping those in Need in Nottingham. Not only a great artist, but Nina is a great soul and we cannot thank her and others for the continuing support."

Nina Smith


Oct 2015 : From the Himmah FB page :"The Himmah Food Bank Himmah Nottingham would like to thank Chris Gibbon , Louise Regan, Ivan Wels and the Sherwood Labour Party for their kind donations to the Food Bank and for helping those in Need in Nottingham. Ivan, Louise and Chris have been supporting Himmah for a while not, along with the Labour Group, and local NUT Branch."

Louise Regan

Donation from Louise Regan and Sherwood Labour Party


Oct 2015 : From the Himmah FB page : "A big thank you to the Nottingham Pagan Network for their kind donations to Himmah . They have started a monthly collection for the Himmah Food Bank . Thank you to all those who donate to Himmah, without your kindness we could not make this happen and support those in need. on behalf of those in Need in Nottingham thank you guys. makes me proud to be from a City where Pagans and Muslims (and others) can come together for the common good thank you Sarah Louise Kay Gordon McGowan Charlie Dolby Julia Elizabeth Atkins Kayrakise Evans Lauren Lalita-sky Phoenix Alison Rouse and all the other members of the network."

Donation from Nottingham Pagans


Oct 2015 : This is Minister Gill Isterling from the Thomas Helwys Baptist Church in Lenton with the Food Parcels donated by Himmah and all your wonderful donations. we give on average 20 individual parcels out on a Tuesday evening at Tasty Tuesdays, an initiative of the Lenton & Dunkirk partnership . Thank you to all those who donate to Himmah, without your kindness we could not make this happen and support those in need."

Gill Sterling from Helwys Baptist Church, with Himmah Foodpacks


Sep 2015 : This from the Himmah FB : "Himmah would like to thank the incredible Louise Regan , the lovely Chris Gibbon , and Ivan Wells : ), for a very generous donation to the Himmah Foodbank last night. as always they are really kind and have donated to Himmah on several occasions."

Donation from Louise, Chris and Ivan


Sep 2015 : This from he Himmah FB page : "Himmah would like to thank Llew Nacy for her very generous donation, lovely smile, and amazing basket. thanks for supporting those in need in Nottingham. on behalf of those in need, thank you so much."

Donation from Llew Nacy


Sep 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "Himmah would like to thank Amreen Hussain for her very kind donation to the Himmah Foodbank. thank you so much."

Donation from Amreen Hussain


Sep 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "The Himmah Foodbank would like to thank Becca Elizabeth for her kind donations of Milk and Cereal. thank you so much Becca."

Donation from Becca Elizabeth


Sep 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "The Himmah FoodBank Himmah Nottingham, would like to thank Ehsaan Qureshi and the The University of Nottingham Islamic Society for it's kind donation."
Donation from Ehsann Qureshi and UoN ISOC


Sep 2015 : Very kind donation from Matthew Bain, in memory of the late Ghulam Rasool. Matthew gave £100 for the purchase of rice. This is what £100 of rice (from Living Wage paying Lidl) looks like.
Donation from Matthew Bain in memory of Ghulam Rasool


Aug 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "The Himmah Food Bank has been delivering Food Parcels for several months to Tasty Tuesdays in Lenton. run by @ Dunkirk and Lenton Partnershiip Forum. this has been a great partnership with our friends Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum. Pictured is Tasty Tuesdays' Ni Claydon with the Food Parcels we deliver. "
Ni Claydon from Tasty Tuesdays


Jun 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "Himmah Nottingham would like to thank Iram Nazir and her friends for a very kind donation to The Himmah Food Bank."
Donation from Iram Nazir


Update : Jan 2015
Thanks to the local branch of the NUT for donating to the Foodbank! BFTF is conscious that teachers often see the fallout from family hardship.
NUT donation to the Himmah Foodbannk


Update : Jan 2015
Just wanted to mention (and this is purely BFTF's view, not necessarily of Himmah) that Food banks are a hopelessly inefficient way of getting food to the needy, and it is an outrage that they are needed in such numbers as is currently the case. More on why this is the case here :
The Opportunity Costs of Bad Government
Foodbanks are a waste of time


Update : April 2014
Worth mentioning that the Himmah Foodbank has provided over 3 car loads of food to other Foodbanks in Nottingham over the last several months.

So far in 2014, foodparcels have been made up as follows:
January : 17 parcels
February : 48 parcels
March : 42 parcels

And have been given out to :
Elderly people referred by the Metropolitan Housing Association
People referred by the British Red Cross
Women referred by WAIS
People referred by Notttingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum

Himmah Foodparcels ready for delivery
(strong carrier bags kindly supplied by a Himmah Volunteer)


08 July 2013
Respect to BMCC and for their recent valuable donations of 24kg and 36kg respectively!

Rather lovely recent donation from


04 July 2013

Cracking donation from KQZ

Together with a few other items, this will help feed a family for a week

With food now categorised, the Himmah Foodbanks is ready to take on more customers


26 June 2013

Some of the recent donations

Cash donations from KQZ used to buy flour, oil and tinned fish...

...and here is the receipt

25% of recent donations went to the NG7 Foodbank.....

...and here is the recipt

The Himmah Foodbank

Himmahs Foodbank is at Unit 2 on Hubert Street, Hyson Green


Initial Donations
The main donations (including "Bring A Tin" events) are shown below. (NB: For any cans containing product in water (e.g tinned chick peas) the net (drained) weight is used. All weights are rounded and approximate.

Aug 2012 : Masjid Noor (75ppl) : 34kg

Aug 2012 : WCCW (Wollaton)(150ppl) : 47kg
Aug 2012 : BMCC (600ppl) : 69kg
Oct 2012 : Karimia Masjid (120ppl): 7kg
Feb 2013 : Masjid Noor (75ppl) : 72kg
May 2013 : WCCW : 17kg
Jun 2013 : BMCC : 24kg
Jun 2013 : KQZ : 62kg (!!!!)
Jul 2013 : KQZ : 102kg (!!!!)
Jul 2013 : : 36kg Jul 2013 : BMCC : 24kg Disappointingly, two masjids said they didn't want to hold a "Bring a Tin" event. You can read more about this here.

Donations from the Aug 2012 event Masjid Noor

Other Information
Tips on organising a "Bring A Tin" event
It's dead simple and some basic tips can be found here. Contact Himmah (via Sajid 07786 333929 or Farzana 07590258902) if you need food collected.

Other Foodbanks in Nottingham
You can read about the Foodbanks operating in Nottingham, and some testimonies from the people who are helped by them, here.