The empty shops and pubs around us are a reminder of the number of people who have lost their livelihoods because of the lockdown. Despite the Government’s financial support programme, many people are suffering hardship. Foodbanks nationally have seen almost a doubling of demand: an 81% increase overall since lockdown began, and 120% for children.
Our local Foodbank which serves Devizes, Marlborough and Pewsey has seen a similar trend, and is helping about 300 people a month. This is because not everyone qualifies for payments under the various Government schemes.
For those who do qualify it can take a long time to navigate the bureaucracy and actually receive some money; and the amount they get, especially from benefits, can be insufficient to meet their needs.
We all hope that lockdown will end some time soon, but there is an elephant in the room hiding behind the sofa of Covid-19, and that is Brexit.
What we hear about the negotiations with the EU suggests many points of disagreement, and it is hard to see how the conundrum of being outside the single market yet not facing tariffs and border controls with Europe can be resolved.
But the Government seems determined not to ask for an extension beyond the end of the year, and the time for doing so is fast running out. If we don’t have an agreement by 1 January, many businesses which manage to recover from the lockdown are likely to be destroyed by the new tariffs, paperwork, border delays and shortages of staff with the right skills.
Next January the supermarkets and their staff who have performed so heroically in keeping the shelves filled will find their just-in-time supply system defeated by border controls and delays. The shelves may empty even without panic buying.
The Trussell Trust which supports Foodbanks has already pointed out to the Government the risk that they will face a level of demand they simply cannot meet in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This is based, not on opposition to Brexit, but on a dispassionate analysis of what is likely to happen. You can find it on their website: https://www.trusselltrust.org/brexit/. Is Boris fiddling while London burns? If you feel worried about this, tell your MP and share your views on social media.