It's the silly season, when the politicians and lots of the journalists are on holiday so there's no news. But life goes on for the rest of us. And there have been two topics still being covered. The first is the prevalence of zero hours contracts. From an original estimate of 250,000 people on these, it keeps climbing. We now hear that Sports Direct, Burger King and Domino's Pizza, and now Curzon and Everyman cinemas all employ the bulk of their staff on this basis. The BBC tried its best to present a "balanced" view - it works well for lots of people - but it's increasingly obvious that zero hours works principally for the employer and leaves vast numbers of workers struggling to survive.
And then there are food banks. The Independent published an excellent piece yesterday headed "Summer of Hunger". Here's something which government ministers would never think of; the school holidays mean that the one good meal a day which the children of struggling families is no longer available, and that pushes the family over the edge. The Trussell Trust gives detailed figures for the rise in numbers seeking help, and they make an interesting observation. "We see a lot of people who've had their benefit sanctioned in ways which, on the face of it, seem inappropriately punitive. We meet people who've had their benefits stopped because they were late for an appointment." Remember that the DWP won't publish the figures for sanctions, claiming with ever-decreasing credibility that they're doing quality checks on the data. A development officer for the Trust in the north west is convinced that the doubling of need in that region is down to welfare reform of various kinds. They give figures; eight years ago the proportion of people referred to them because of benefit problems was 20% - it's now 52%. But the DWP is still in denial. A spokesman said, "The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed and there is no evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks." That is patent nonsense, and they know it.