STIGMA

“I think people need to look around in the world we live in, and see that everybody needs help in this world”

How does it feel to ask for support from a charity or community group like a foodbank?

 

We are surrounded by voices and influences, whether they are people we know, things we read in newspapers or watch on television, or the words of politicians, which can suggest that accessing help might be seen as a source of shame or personal failure. 

 

Yet we live in a society where rising numbers of people have little choice but to ask for additional help as the costs of the basic necessities are not met by low wages, insecure work, and inadequate state support.

 

This testimony shows the great personal strength required to refuse to allow these narratives to impact on personal dignity – to see the accessing of essential support services not as a personal failure but a necessary source of help in a system which is designed to punish and shame people, rather than provide safety and security.

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“Foodbanks are amazing. I don't know why they should come with such stigma when it should be a natural human thing to ask for help.

 

It does upset you, you know, you do feel like "Oh, there’s got to be another way of doing this. This is for people who really need it" but then you realise . . . you look in the mirror . . . that I am that person who really needs it. That's why you have to come here.

 

As I said, sometimes you have to [use a foodbank] and you've got no one. I grew up in care, so I've got no family to rely on and stuff like that. If things go wrong it's just me and Plan B. And if there's no Plan B we just have to make one on the spot. So, yeah, I'm grateful for people like [the foodbank] that help us out, because without it I don't know what we'd be doing. We'd probably have to knock on strangers’ doors and ask for a loaf of bread and that'd be even more humiliating than going to an actual registered place like this. So I am grateful for the foodbanks. 

 

I think the problem with foodbanks isn't foodbanks, it's people and the way that they've been taught. When you come from a strong family background it has always been to work and provide and that's it. You can't ask for help. So when you've lived with that being passed down, you can't do this, you can't do that, it's against the family, it puts you at war when I don't have that, you know what I mean?

 

So if anyone asks, and says ‘You want help?’ I will accept it . . . [It feels] like you're bringing shame on your sister or your mom or the family, because you're asking for help, some neighbour might see you. I don't have that problem but I understand where people are coming from with that. I think people need to look around in the world we live in, and see that everybody needs help in this world.  

There's not one person in this world who's doing fantastic. Except Boris Johnson but that's because of us . . . off the backs of us. But everybody needs help in some way, some time. And the sooner we all realise that, you know, that should be part of British values . . . to ask for help. It's a natural response.

 

When people say about British values being a stiff upper lip and cracking on and getting through I think that needs to change. I think British values should include asking for help, looking around you and seeing what you can do to help but asking what help you could have for your family and that should be instilled as a natural response for everyone.

 

I know there’s a lot of people in our community out of work at the minute from this pandemic, it’s built on taxi drivers and stuff like that. So there’s a lot of people that need it out there.”

Our testimonials are direct transcriptions of interviews with foodbank users. If you would like to know more about our process in gathering testimonials email canyouhearme@manchestercentral.foodbank.org.uk.