Speak to anyone who’s ever visited Tower Hamlets Foodbank in desperate times and it’s almost certain that Martin Williams’ name will be mentioned. He’ll probably be called an angel or a hero.
As a welfare rights adviser for Child Poverty Action Group, Martin gives on-the-spot advice to people visiting the Tower Hamlets Foodbank and helps them to get any benefit issues sorted. He says he was immediately impressed by the way people were treated by the First Love Foundation.
Since 2013, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has partnered with First Love Foundation, who along with the Child Poverty Action Group provide benefits advice to the people at the foodbank as part of their Advice & Support Service. “I’d been a bit suspicious of foodbanks, handouts of food parcels and that kind of old-style Victorian philanthropy. But the way that people experienced their visit to the foodbank was really different to that,” he says.
“It was really obvious that the way the workers approached people, there was no judgment as to why they were in that situation and they showed real concern – whatever someone’s situation was. “For parents, the idea that they can’t feed their own children and that in order for their children to eat, they have to go and get this free handout is so upsetting. But what’s really, really nice is that they don’t experience it like that.”
Since 2013, First Love Foundation has partnered with Child Poverty Action Group, who along with the local authority provide benefits advice to the people at the foodbank as part of their Advice & Support Service.
He says people don’t come in looking for advice or even knowing what their rights are.
“I like meeting claimants and getting stuck into their issues. It’s the bit of the job where you feel it’s immediately worthwhile.”
Child Poverty Action Group Welfare Rights Adviser
“It’s really nice and a real privilege to be able to say to someone ‘by the way, you’ve just been mucked about and we can try to sort it out.’ That’s really good when they didn’t even realize that was the case.
“One of the first things I often say to clients when I interview them, is you shouldn’t have had to come to somewhere like this. We’ll get it sorted out if we possibly can.”
He says that the partnership with First Love Foundation alongside the local authority works really well for everyone involved.
“For the individuals who use the foodbank, they obviously get access to food but they also get treated like a human by someone who listens to what’s happened to them in an empathetic way. Also they then get access to welfare rights advice at an early stage when they need it,” he says.
“From CPAG’s point of view, we get a really rich source of information about what the problems are with social security. That’s been really useful for us. It really enables us to focus on the real problems benefits claimants have. It really works for us.”
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How you can help
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