Foodbanks are a shame to us

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THE year is 2013 and there are queues of people wanting food.

The scene is not a supermarket but a foodbank, the shocking truth that austerity is hitting Sheffielders hard.

How can our welfare system have failed so badly that people are having to go to foodbanks for vital sustenance in a throwback to Dickensian Britain?

We have just celebrated the Olympics, put on a massive pageant to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, yet we don’t have enough money to avoid the indignity of normal, regular people having to queue for food handouts.

The new benefits system is only going to make this worse.

Those struggling to make ends meet are going to lose benefits because their homes have an extra bedroom - even though there is nowhere for them to move to. Those on benefits are going to have to pay community charge for the first time and there will be real-term cuts in the amount they receive.

This surely will only force more people below the breadline in a city that is already massively unequal.

We do not make the case that people like these should be immune to the type of belt-tightening we are all suffering.

But we do find ourselves asking the question are we comfortable that foodbanks are their source of food?

How can that be right?

Smoking carries a financial cost

IT is not surprising that Sheffield has a higher than average number of smokers.

We are an industrial city with all the legacy issues that flow from that.

The fact that fewer people are smoking and there was a drop in the number of people dying from smoking-related illnesses is cause for celebration.

However, as the figures show, the financial cost of smoking is £30million a year.

That is money that could be spent elsewhere, for instance in helping those with cancer at the fabulous Weston Park Hospital.

The figure illustrates the drain on funds at a time when the NHS is having to make huge savings.

There is always the argument that that is what the NHS is there to do, so whether it is smoking or diabetes-related illnesses people have a right to be treated.

We agree. It is not our position to say that people should stop smoking - for the reason we stated about Sheffield’s past.

But it is to highlight the cost of that decision to smoke so that people have the information to make up their own minds about whether to take up the habit or to continue with it.

The choice is yours. But it has financial implications.