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TOPIC: I know what Christmas on benefits is like. But it can still be magical

I know what Christmas on benefits is like. But it can still be magical 23 Dec 2017 07:43 #5405

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Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

As my grandfather showed me, this is the season to be inspired by the generosity of others – so even families living in poverty can imbibe the festive spirit

Fri 22 Dec ‘17 11.30 GMT Last modified on Fri 22 Dec ‘17 11.32 GMT

At Christmas, thanks in no small part to Charles Dickens, our thoughts naturally turn to those who are struggling. I always think of my paternal grandfather at this time of year, who would donate each Christmas to the Salvation Army, in a show of gratitude for their care of my grandmother, who was born in one of their homes.

I have continued the tradition since he died. Others donate too, or volunteer at homeless shelters, give to food banks. In London, the charity St Mungo’s will be hosting Christmas dinner for 200 people at Euston station, which will be decked out in festive glory. In Stockport, 35-year-old Natalie Lek is cooking 200 turkey dinners for people spending the day alone, as she herself did last year when her children spent Christmas with their father. These acts of generosity inspire many of us.

When you are poor, it can affect every part of your life. Your physical and mental health suffers, and if you have children, so do theirs. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 37% increase in child poverty in Britain due to welfare cuts. The Children’s Trust found that many children in London will receive fewer Christmas presents this year than the average British family pet, which gets £22 worth. The Young Women’s Trust released figures last week saying that one in three young parents struggle to afford Christmas. The universal credit catastrophe means that many claimants won’t get their benefit money until after the festive season.

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