On Monday night I was part of a small public audience at the Hawick Community Council meeting who listened with great interest and growing concern to Maggie Watson as she described her work at the Citizens Advice Bureau, specifically relating to issues concerning welfare reform and the many disadvantaged people living in Hawick.
It was stark to hear that the number of free food parcels being distributed in the town had almost doubled in a very short space of time.
Perhaps this is one explanation for the scavenging recently seen in the west end and “shocking” as it was reported by some officials may well be the harsh face of reality for many in the town.
Ms Watson also explained how bureaucracy and intransigence had initially denied an individual access to food or electricity over a weekend.
All of this was described as a very serious and growing problem for Hawick and although she was not aware of the impact to children it feels inevitable that they must be either directly or indirectly affected.
The elderly are not without their problems either. With a number of benefit applications being mandated to be completed online, there is a presumption that all have access to the internet or at least can use publicly available facilities. Even if they are technically capable it appears the systems themselves are not robust enough and unable to cope with the size of the application, frequently resulting in incomplete and consequently unprocessed applications.
It was also clear that social services and other organisations,such as Penumbra, are working very hard to support people in need.
These issues should be a matter of great concern for us all. I known from my past role [in the police force] that being poor most certainly does not make an individual a criminal but the link between poverty,antisocial behaviour and crime is well established with the consequences affecting us all.
We are all too aware that Hawick sits within one of the poorest areas in the country and it’s time our elected officials, specifically those with a national remit, act in an agile and transparent way to make substantial and tangible change.