James* was referred to South East Edinburgh Foodbank by the Job Centre when staff there were no longer allowed to give him any money. Having been summoned to a recent medical he was judged fit to return to work by a single examiner, in spite of the fact that his GP has been signing him off work for the past eight years.
For three decades James did manual outdoor labour in all weathers – often on machinery that would be illegal today. Hospital X-rays in 2010 revealed damage to his spine. He also suffers from emphysema following a collapsed lung, has severe arthritis in his hands and is further hampered by a damaged knee.
“We wouldn’t have heard any of this,” says Rev John Ross who runs the Foodbank in Burdiehouse. “He just wanted a little food and was ready to go on his way quietly and gratefully.
“It was only when he agreed to be interviewed that we learnt his story. He is going to appeal the medical decision but that is a marathon task for someone who is illiterate. The question I was left asking was not ‘Why is he not working?’ but rather ‘How does he manage to keep going with such cheerfulness?’
“We need to be very careful if we condemn the destitute and applaud the rich. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, Christ tells us of a beggar arriving in heaven while a rich man was turned away. We should ponder these things.”