Chicken and bread for Christmas looks like a better bet than being among several kids being buried

Alf is a generous soul and is willing to give some advice – for free – to the Invercargill couple who say their six young kids will go without on Christmas Day.

The couple are Shelly Edwards and Leo Hewett, who say their six children aged 3-10 will get no presents and have a diet of chicken and bread on Christmas Day because the Salvation Army failed to help them in their time of need.

Alf’s heart bleeds.

But he does not intend throwing money at the hard-up couple, whose story is told here at Stuff.

Instead he is giving advice in response to Shelly’s dilemma:

“How can we tell the kids there’s nothing for Christmas?” Shelly asked from their south Invercargill state house yesterday.

Easy.

Sit them down at the table (or on the floor if there is no table) and look ’em in the eyes.

Then tell ’em “Sorry kids, but Mummy and Daddy have been a bit feckless and so we can’t afford to serve turkey for Christmas dinner but tuck into what we can afford, which is chicken and bread, and think yourselves lucky to be alive, because you could have been one of those kids killed by the Taliban in Pakistan the other day, or one of the kids stabbed to death in Cairns,  or one of the four people, including two young boys, killed in a shooting in the northern Illinois city of Rockford…”

Feckless?

Alf might be wrong on this.

But according to the account of the family’s situation at Stuff:

Shelly said she was on the invalid’s benefit and received a working for families benefit, while her partner was unemployed and seeking employment at the meatworks.Their weekly income was $631 but just $15 was left over after paying for their rent, bills, food and petrol.

Assuming the $15 left over had been saved for the past four weeks, the parents would have $60 for something special for Christmas.

Last year they found an easier way out.

They were referred to a Salvation Army scheme called adopt-a-family, which resulted in their being provided with a hamper filled with food and treats.

Great. Let’s do it again this year…

Alas, Shelly failed to turn up to a budget advice meeting early this month.

Naturally, she has what she reckons is a good excuse:

She said she did not go to the meeting because she had no petrol money for their vehicle and it would have been difficult to take her six kids, one of whom is disabled, on public transport to the meeting.

But the couple also took a great deal for granted because they said they had always believed the Salvation Army was there to look after people, “not push them away”.

“We were relying on adopt-a-family … it’s sad they won’t help people like us,” Shelly said.

The children would not be getting any presents and the family would eat what was in the fridge, including bread and chicken on Christmas day, they said.

“I feel sad for my kids because they are going to miss out on Christmas … we were counting on that for Christmas,” Shelly said.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Brenda King, however, said the family had never been put on the adopt-a-family scheme this year, effectively because they had failed to help themselves.

Shelly had been using the services of the Salvation Army for about two years and when she received more than three food parcels in one year she was referred to a budget advice centre to receive financial planning assistance, King said.

However, Shelly had not engaged with the budget advisory service so was not put on the adopt-a-family scheme, King said.

The Salvation Army’s aim was for its clients to get to the point where they could look after themselves and be self sufficient.

“If we keep handing out we are enabling them to stay in the situation they are in. We aren’t actually helping them at all in the long run.”

Jubilee Budget Advisory Service manager Sharon Soper confirmed Shelly had been on its books in the past.

But she had not called in to see the budget advisor since July 11 and had failed to front for a meeting on December 4.

Soper also said it was a shame the focus had gone on one incident, given all the good the Salvation Army did in the community.

“Those people around there are volunteers and have been working 10 to 11 hours days to get the hampers out. It’s amazing what they have done for families for Christmas.”

The issue highlighted the need for people to plan for Christmas during the year, Soper said.

It also highlights the need to make some sort of an effort to stop depending on others.

 

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