LAST week we delivered a cot to a woman who had arrived in Glasgow the week before with her tiny baby having been forced to flee her home country.

We don’t ask any questions because we do not need to know the answers but when women arrive here alone after a long journey, pregnant or with a baby in arms, exhausted and sad in a way I haven’t yet found words to describe; the inevitable questions buzz around your head like incessant flies.

She has reached safety. She is lucky, no? Her accommodation is a bedsit. A small room with a double bed for her to share with her newborn child. Limited facilities on a shoestring budget; could you feed yourself on £37 a week without having a kitchen to cook in? And not forgetting that nappies, sanitary products, clothes and travel also need to come out of that £37 budget. This isn’t about comfort it is about survival.

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Glasgow Times:

We can take this mother a cot for her child. We can provide her with nappies and toiletries and clothes to keep her and her baby warm. We can direct her to other support services and we can invite her and her baby along to events so that she can hopefully meet other people and begin to find comfort somewhere. But in doing so we are not holding the necessary people to account.

We are plugging a gap and ensuring that people do not unnecessarily go without the things that they need but I fear that sometimes the only way to get the attention of the people who we need to make the changes required at policy level, is to let the worst happen.

All the time that we are plugging the gaps someone somewhere is ticking a box to say that people are able to live on the tiny budget that is currently being provided; people are coping in the entirely unfit-for-purpose accommodation that they are being housed in; and children are surviving. If we stop plugging the gaps and the boxes stop getting ticked, we may catch their attention and begin the process of change but at what cost to the people actually living it?

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At present and for the past year at least, Refuweegee has been providing a buggy a day for recently-arrived families. A cot is usually considered essential, although not guaranteed as we saw last week, a highchair is an essential item but the necessary wheels to be able to travel comfortably outdoors with a child is not. And please don’t suggest that a sling is suitable in place of a pram. They are helpful certainly but not comfortable or easy if you are also carrying shopping and trailing other young children too; they are difficult once a child is heavy and they are miserable for everyone in the rain and on long walks. And long walks are almost guaranteed for people who have recently arrived, regular appointments and a budget that does not have room for bus tickets. Prams and pushchairs are essential and they are available second-hand in abundance.

Kind people who are desperate for their child’s wheels to be passed on to another family and help them to comfortably explore their new city, and brilliant organisations like Repair Café Glasgow who fix up and clean up the broken buggies and then pass them on to us, to pass them on to families. Communities and people within them have the solutions to many of the problems but change is required at policy level to ensure the recognition and funding is going to right places.

Massive reform is required of the system that allows the housing provider to put people in accommodation that is hugely expensive and not fit-for-purpose.

Massive reform is required to prevent the government funded service providers from being allowed to change what is considered essential for a family and what is not. Massive reform is required so that the community organisations that are ensuring those boxes get ticked receive both the recognition and the funding that they deserve.

Foodbanks, community groups and charities are holding up a failing system. And while they shouldn’t and won’t stop because they know all too well that it will be the people at the wrong end of system that will suffer most, how else do we force the change that is so desperately needed?