The Bull Ring in Northwich was a great spot for our morning rally, right by the town bridge, one of Northwich’s swing bridges over the River Weaver. The 7-day walkers were boosted as ever by the arrival of new walkers, and it was great that two of these were colleagues from psychology, fitting given the inspiration for Boot Out Austerity from the psychologists’ Walk the Talk in 2015. We started with the Poet Austeriate’s daily poem, and were later joined by the bard himself, who is with us now for the last two days.
We were also joined by two local Councillors from Cheshire West and Chester Council, Sam Naylor and Paul Dolan, and a councillor from Northwich Town Council. Councillor Paul Dolan is the Cabinet Member for adult social care, which was the day’s theme, so he addressed the rally, making clear the difficulties faced in this area given the cuts imposed on them by central government.
In keeping with the theme, another of the poems was one brought with her by Angi, and she read out Kevin Palmer’s War on the Disabled. This will be up on the Poems page soon - powerful words.
Great too to welcome John McGowan of the Social Workers Union, with us for the rest of it - and his introduction led to a spontaneous rendition of Part of The Union - and we ended with a brilliantly messy These Boots are Made for Walkin’, led by Councillor Sam Naylor!
Then we were off, over the river, up the hill into Winnington, and then down to another of the swing bridges and sweeping around and up through Barnton. Then a drop down to rejoin our friend the Trent & Mersey Canal, and the first rain of the week. It wasn’t too bad though and we arrived at our lunchtime destination, the Tunnel Top in Dutton dry and in good spirits.
Through the help of social work student, Rachel, who’s from Runcorn, we suddenly had the chance of a visit to Runcorn Food Bank, during its Monday 1-3pm opening. We met Colin, the manager, after lunch, but unfortunately were just too late to get there. He told us about the increase in people using the food bank, from 2000 in 2015 to 2500 last year, explaining about the reasons people were without food and so needed to come: 80% because they had been sanctioned, and others because of low pay or psychological difficulties. Astonishing that we don’t pay people enough to eat, and that we withdraw money altogether from people, I imagine to leave them to starve if people like Colin didn’t set up these charitable services. As Peter’s song says though, “Kids there living in poverty, and this is the 21st century”. A scandalous situation which shames us all.
We walked through the grounds of Halton General Hospital, then through Runcorn Shopping City, to the bemusement of some shoppers and the support of others. After that it wasn’t long before we were marching in a close group across the Runcorn Town Hall Park to our end point at the town hall. The shortest day’s walking and another good day.
Our meeting was in the Grangeway Community Centre, and we heard from some local social workers about the difficulties they face within adult social care, with the effects of privatisation in particular, their struggle to find care agencies, and then the effects of the poor levels of staffing and conditions for the staff in these agencies. It was good to make this contact with social workers on the ground here, and we will document more details of their accounts soon.
One day to go!
Guy Shennan, BASW Chair