Archive for the 'Equality and Diversity' Category

Do politicians still need to know about ethnicity?

Authors Stephen Jivraj and Ludi Simpson’s edited book Ethnic identity and inequalities in Britain: the dynamics of diversity publishes early next month. In this guest post Stephen Jivraj asks whether ethnic and race statistics are necessary for social inquiry and why politicians should take note of them.

Jivraj

Stephen Jivraj

It has been more than 20 years since national statisticians in the UK decided to record ethnic group identification in the census.

In that time, a question on ethnicity has become standard on most national and local surveys. But why do we collect these data? This is pertinent given that so many people, 4 million, did not find a category on the 2011 Census form that they felt described their ethnic group and ticked Other White, Other Asian, Other Black, or, simply, Other.

The categories that people have been asked to identify with at each census (1991, 2001 and 2011) have changed to reflect the dynamic nature of how people see their ethnic identity. But it is fair to say, they have not changed fast enough. So why do we continue to collect these data and how do they help us direct social policy?

Community relations

The ethnic group data from the census allows researchers to challenge misconceptions and misrepresentations that Britain is pulling apart along ethnic divides whether that be where we live or how we feel about our national identity.

Britain’s ethnic minority groups are not evenly distributed across communities. However, the census paints a picture of a steady increase in residential ethnic mixing in all parts of Britain, and at a faster rate in those suburban and rural communities where ethnic minorities are least present.

“It is also true that you are more likely to share a home with a person from a different ethnic group”

It is not only the case that you are more likely to live next door to someone from a different ethnic group than ever before, whether you live in London or the Lake District. It is also true that you are more likely to share a home with a person from a different ethnic group. Perhaps the clearest sign that people are not divided ethnically is the growth of the Mixed groups who now account for more than one million people in England and Wales.

The speed at which ethnic minorities have assimilated to a British national identity is remarkable and has been common despite an absence of any formal requirements of new citizens to express their Britishness, for example, in ceremonies, until very recently.

Those ethnic minorities that are most often singled out as not having British values, by those least comfortable with the growth of ethnic diversity, are those who are most willing to describe themselves as British. This raises the question as to whether integration policies would be better focused at challenging those who hold prejudice against ethnic minorities rather than laying the emphasis on immigrants and their descendants to meet unclear requirements for what it means to be considered British.

Inequality and discrimination

The main motivation that encouraged the official collection of ethnic group data was to uncover inequalities brought about by racial discrimination. This motivation remains, unfortunately, valid because disadvantages persist in the spheres of health, employment, education, housing and neighbourhood deprivation for many ethnic minority groups compared with the White British majority.

“Men in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups are six and twelve times more likely to be working part time than White British men”

The evidence is clear that ethnic minority groups have suffered disproportionately during the past 20 years’ restructuring of the labour and housing markets. For example, the rise of part-time work. Men in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups are six and twelve times more likely to be working part time than White British men. In the housing market, ethnic minorities have been hit the hardest by the rise in insecure private rented tenancies. Chinese and Black African households have more than twice the proportion renting privately than the White British groups.

This suggests structural discrimination remains widespread and should be combatted with social policies that embody cultural and institutional encouragement of non-discriminatory practices. The fact that disadvantage persists in spite of existing legislation and social policy begs the question of what is systemic about disadvantage, and how can systemic faults be remedied?

Where next?

It is almost certain that more ethnic group categories will be added to the census in 2021. This might ensure the question is more meaningful, but it runs the risk of fragmented analysis that policymakers will find of diminishing use. New census questions on religion, language proficiency and national identity have enabled policymakers to measure diverse preferences and needs directly.

To address direct race discrimination, information that relates to appearance is still necessary. Consideration of other countries practice of separating ‘colour’ or ‘race’ from ‘origin’ might be the way forward. For the time being, the Census remains crucial to highlighting what is happening to race and ethnic integration and inequality in Britain and what is likely to happen in the future. Key results on the future direction of diversity and the degree of inequality in different parts of Britain are still emerging.

@StephenJivraj
@EthnicityUK

If you liked this post you might also be interested in reading….

How can we be smarter in talking about race by Ludi Simpson

Ethnic identity and inequalities in Britain [FC]Ethnic identity and inequalities in Britain: the dynamics of diversity is available from the Policy Press website – here. A launch event will be held at Manchester Central Library on 21st May. Tickets are free but booking is required. You can reserve your place here.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

How can we be smarter in talking about race?

Author and academic  Ludi Simpson responds to last month’s Channel 4 Documentary – Things we won’t say about race that are true

Ludi SimpsonI have always thought that being open and critical, questioning and demanding, was the adult thing to do. So I am interested when I hear someone saying that equality policies should not silence anyone, as Trevor Phillips did in a television opinion piece on 19th March.

He doesn’t need me to give him extra publicity, but the way he called on us all to use more stereotypes about behaviour demands some consideration.

His claim was that too many White people in Britain feel they have been told they are guilty of racism and think they will get into trouble if they say what they think about people different from them. And this pent-up guilt among too many White people is feeding a political move to the right that threatens to pull down the legislation against discrimination.

More open stereotyping

Whether or not policies on equality or diversity might be to blame, Trevor Phillips demands that we free ourselves up to voice our thoughts about the behaviour of other groups. At this moment, more open stereotyping would be good for democracy: ”we need to get used to giving and taking offence”.

Accordingly he felt just fine saying that Jews are rich and powerful, that Colombians are responsible for drugs crime, that Britain is segregated into areas that are White, Irish, Jewish, or Pakistani, that Indian women are pharmacists, and that Black people murder other Black people. He would particularly like people who are fed up with immigrants to be able to say so without being rounded on as bigots or closet racists.

Well, I’m glad he got that off his chest. Just maybe he did not need an hour of prime TV to say it, and perhaps it was not quite accurate to call it a documentary.

It is certainly a change that White folk – who for a century had been told they were of the only superior race, and that they therefore deserved more than others – are now as bound as anyone else by equality laws that put human rights ahead of group rights and make race discrimination illegal.

“Who’s getting the White man’s share now?”

Anyone who believed the tosh of White or British supremacy might well believe there must be a link between the decline of industry, the rise of financial austerity, Britain’s growing diversity, and the passing of equality laws. Why haven’t the establishment stood up for them as promised? Who’s getting the White man’s share now?

It is also a change of the past thirty years that political parties no longer have a distinctly class perspective, no-one convincingly speaks up for the under-dog. The organised underdog, the labour movement outside parliament, is weaker and legislatively undermined. The opportunity for unfettered disenchantment within the working class is significant.

It is sensible to recognise this, and that is Trevor Phillips’ strength. However, I don’t think it can be sensible to encourage a racial, ethnic and nationalistic focus for that disenchantment, as he is doing.

Programme interviewee Tarique Ghaffur, the Metropolitan Police ex Assistant Commissioner, was much clearer: “We need intelligence-led investigations, otherwise we stereotype and stigmatise whole communities.” And Simon Woolley, one of his colleagues on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, clearly told Phillips: “Be articulate about issues without being fuzzy. We have to be smart.”

Residential segregation

I wish Trevor could be smarter on segregation. He says “residential segregation is not the only cause of terrorism, but I believe it is one condition that allows it to thrive”, referring to the July 7th 2005 London bombings and the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris last year.

But it is the only condition that Trevor raises. He ignores the evidence, which is that Muslim terrorist offenders are no more likely to be found in less White than more White areas, and that there is no evidence for a residential pulling apart of ethnic groups. He doesn’t mention Britain’s foreign policy of military intervention.

The smart thing to do is to point at real causes of real problems and try to do something about them. I agree that it is not helpful to point to people’s talk as the problem.

But neither does it help to suggest that there is “ethnic behaviour” that is helpful in tracking crime or choosing who to be educated with. The programme dealt in depth with paedophilia cases. All paedophilia should be targeted and dealt with severely, never protected, and those affected supported to prevent its recurrence; it doesn’t help to suggest that it is Pakistanis (or celebrities) who are most to blame.

People like to live in areas with some others like them. That could be called the good or benign segregation. Bad segregation is the real problem, not because it is linked to terrorism which it is not, but for lack of housing and employment and the disenchantment that follows.

Lack of opportunity is not limited to diverse areas, or for that matter to minorities: there are far more White unemployed than minority unemployed, even though minorities are more likely to be unemployed. The smart thing would be to also name and tackle structural discrimination of race, ethnicity and class. A perspective and politics that can unite those aims and harness the disenchantment that he perceives acutely, would be a good place for Trevor Phillips to put himself.

Sleepwalking to segregation_ [FC]Ludi Simpson and Nissa Finney’s book ‘Sleepwalking to segregation?’ explores contemporary claims about race and migration, combining an overview of the subject with new research. The authors argue that the myths of race and migration are the real threat to an integrated society and propose that diversity and mobility are expected and benign.

 

 

Ethnic identity and inequalities in Britain [FC]Look out for Ludi Simpson and Stephen Jivraj’s book Ethnic identity and inequalities in Britain which publishes in May this year. You will be able to purchase the book from our website here and newsletter subscribers will get 35% off if they order via the website. Not a subscriber? Why not sign up? We promise we won’t let anyone else have your data and we’ll only send you information on the books we publish. Sign up here!

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Policy Press: Women who inspire us #WD2015

International Women's Day in Egypt Credit:Al_Jazeera_English_(102)

International Women’s Day in Egypt Credit: Al Jazeera English

In the spirit of celebration for International Women’s Day we’ve been chatting in the Policy Press office about the women who have inspired us. Read on to find out who the women are we admire most and why…

Director Alison Shaw says that many women have influenced her at different times in her life, including too many feminist writers to even begin to list. She says:

“As for many people, my mum, Pat Shaw, and my grandmother, May Bottomley, were the first women to influence and inspire – both remarkably gentle, caring, selfless like so many women of their generations – yet mum was extraordinarily stoical when faced with cancer at 50 and showed amazing resolve and fortitude, characteristics that had always been there yet never given full expression until facing a true life challenge.

An inspiring political figure for me is Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, founding member and chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and now UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Change.

Her record on trying to make a real and lasting difference to gender equality, women’s participation in peace building and human rights internationally is amazing and her continuing work as one of The Elders inspiring.”

Crazy dreams

Editorial Assistant Rebecca Tomlinson is equally challenged by the notion of picking just one inspirational woman in her life! The two women she settles on from a long list of possibles are author J.K. Rowling and her ‘lovely’ mum. She says:

“I am very lucky in that I come from a family full of intelligent, strong and amazing women. Growing up, I was always encouraged to follow my passions and (often crazy) dreams, sometimes even if it was at the detriment of school or work.

I remember once telling my Mum that I was going to drop out of University, move to London and become a DJ. She just smiled and said “whatever makes you happy”. She has always actively encouraged my love of reading and writing and without that I probably wouldn’t have the passion for books that I do today.

In my opinion J.K. Rowling is also a great role model and inspiration to both women and men. A single mum who struggled with depression, she managed to write Harry Potter whilst living on state benefits and has forged an incredibly successful career doing what she loves.”

Overcoming obstacles

Rebecca isn’t alone in her appreciation of J.K.Rowling. Production and Publishing assistant Ruth Harrison also names the Harry Potter author as her number one inspirational person. Ruth says:

“JK Rowling overcame many obstacles including the poverty she experienced as a single mother. She now supports a number of charities including Lumos, a children’s charity, and uses her success to help make the world a better place. Plus, my 12-year-old self will always be a Harry Potter fan.”

Writers have always had the ability to leave their mark on us as readers as was the case with Marketing Manager Kathryn King’s inspirational woman, Vera Brittain. Kathryn says:

“..she was doing it in an era when it was much harder for women”

“I read all 3 of her Testament books around the time I decided to do my degree. She really inspired me to make that step as she was doing it in an era when it was much harder for women.

Then, having fought to get to Oxford, she gave up her place to go and nurse in France so that she could understand what the war was like for those involved. That experience politicised her and she dedicated her life to pacifism.”

Marketing Executive Jessica Miles’ choice is decidedly political. Her inspirational woman is Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the suffragette movement. Jessica says:

“At a time when so many people are disillusioned by politics, I think we should remember how hard Pankhurst and the other women in the movement fought to get women the vote. For this reason alone we should vote, even if it’s a case of choosing the ‘best of the worst’.

“Pankhurt’s approach of protest and direct action is inspiring”

I think Pankhurt’s approach of protest and direct action is inspiring. It’s easy to sit back and moan about the world, but much more challenging to be proactive and get involved in making change happen. We should take these women as our lead.”

Courage and selflessness

A woman who was prepared to go to extreme places for the benefit of others inspired Journals Executive Kim Eggleton. Kim says she was about 10 when she first came across the story of a lady called Gladys Aylward:

Gladys Aylward

Gladys Aylward

“We watched a film at school called The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, about a woman from London who wanted to go to China as a missionary. I’ve been inspired by that woman ever since.

Gladys Aylward was turned down as a missionary because of her poor academic background and lack of Chinese language skills, but she spent her life-savings on a ticket and went anyway – completely alone on the Trans-Siberian Express.

Initially she worked for the government as a foot inspector, enforcing the law against foot-binding before later founding an orphanage. In 1938 Aylward led over 100 orphaned children across the mountains to safety from advancing Japanese forces. I find her courage and selflessness completely inspiring, what an incredible woman!”

History, both public and personal, is where Production Editor Jo Morton draws her inspiration from.  What connects the choices of Queen Elizabeth I and her nan, Alice Daniels, is the way both women defied the pressures of social convention. Jo says:

“I’ve always admired Elizabeth I’s determination to reign in her own right, in an era when women were expected to yield to male authority. She was not coerced (like Mary her sister) into contracting a marriage in order to appease her male councillers and secure the succession.

“…quietly but firmly stood her ground against social and family conventions”

Alice Daniels, 1940s

Alice Daniels, 1940s

On a personal level I would say my nan, Alice Louisa Daniels, was a real inspiration for me. She ran the family shop (during wartime when stocks were hard to maintain) while my grandad had a full time job elsewhere. She quietly but firmly stood her ground against social and family conventions that demanded she give up her job to take on the care of my grandad’s brother when his mother died. She knew that his challenging mental and physical health problems could be better cared for elsewhere. She was also a source of traditional wisdom – folklore, herbal remedies, proverbs, wise words – a connection with a disappearing world.”

Intelligence and expertise

Marketing Executive Susannah Emery takes her inspiration from a more contemporary figure, scholar Mary Beard, who received abuse for her opinions on immigrant workers in the UK. She says:

“I love her because she coped with the terrible social media barrage against her and, I think, came out of it acting as a of a role model for women being taken seriously for their intelligence and expertise rather than looks.”

The same spirit of standing ground on matters of social consciousness inspired Executive Assistant Sophie Osborne’s choice of singer-songwriter Patti Smith. Sophie says:

“It all began with Patti’s tribute to Kurt Cobain ‘About a boy’ and from that point forward I made it my point to be a little bit Patti. Beyond her breathtaking music and poetry Patti’s pursuit of social justice, her rebellious attitude and pure sassiness are something I hope to carry throughout my life.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the women that have inspired some of us at Policy Press. If you feel inspired to tell us about amazing women in your life we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

#makeithappen #WD2015 #internationalwomensday #womensday

#MakingItHappen – International Women’s Day 2015

To celebrate International Women’s Day, which takes place this year on Sunday 8th March, we asked author of Women of Power: Half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, Torild Skard, to share her reflections on where we are today in terms of political gender equality and the necessary conditions to enable women to take crucial leadership roles within politics. 

Torild Skard

Torild Skard

For more than a century women have spoken out, marched and demonstrated for equality and rights on International Women’s Day. And there has been progress, though it has been uneven and slow. Whilst the gender gap globally has been nearly closed in areas such as health and education, it continues to remain wide open in economic participation and even more so in political empowerment.

In 2014/15 only 22 per cent of the members of parliament and 17 per cent of the government ministers worldwide were women. Not more than 9 per cent of the nation states had a woman as head of state or government. This is a record high, but still very far from gender balance, even from the benchmark of 30 per cent women.

Gender equality roadmap

The UN theme for international Women’s Day 2015 is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”. Governments and activists around the world will commemorate the 20th anniversary year of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic gender equality roadmap signed by 189 governments with the necessary strategic objectives and actions for achieving women’s rights.

The endorsement of the world’s governments of the Beijing Platform for Action in addition to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is decisive, but they then have to ‘walk the talk’. And follow up effectively.

Looking at steps that have been taken in the direction of equality – such as the increase in the number of women presidents and prime ministers worldwide over the past 50 years – can provide useful lessons to help us (and, perhaps more importantly, the politicians and policy makers) understand what conditions are necessary to achieve the goals they have agreed to.

“How could a woman cope with such a demanding task?”

Sirimavo_Ratwatte_Dias_Bandaranayaka_(1916-2000)_(Hon.Sirimavo_Bandaranaike_with_Hon.Lalith_Athulathmudali_Crop)

Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike (1916-2000), the modern world’s first female head of Government, Copyright: Anuradha Dullewe Wijeyeratne

In 1960 when Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world’s first woman prime minister in what was then Ceylon, it caused international concern. How could a woman cope with such a demanding task?

Half a century later the woman president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, received the Peace Prize from an impressed Nobel Committee for her contribution to “ensuring peace, promoting economic and social development and strengthening the position of women”.

Attitudes evidently have changed – a bit. But all over the world national political institutions are still dominated by men. How did women manage to rise to the top, and what happened when they got to power?

HE_Ellen_Johnson_Sirleaf_(6011337236)

HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Credit: Wiki Creative Commons

During the half century after 1960 about 40 per cent of industrial countries have had one or more women as heads of state or government, while this has been the case for only 20 per cent of developing countries. High living standards improving people’s health, education and income may contribute to broader participation in politics.

In fact, most of the women presidents and prime ministers during this period were very well educated. Many had long professional careers before they became political leaders and achieved very high positions. To be able to get to the top, more women top leaders had such positions than their male predecessors.

Industrial countries have also often been democratic. And the great majority of women presidents and prime ministers around the world obtained their positions in countries that were characterized as “democracies”.

But the type of democratic system makes a difference. For example: of the women national leaders most rose to the top in countries with both a president and a prime minister. There were two top positions and a woman obtained one of them as part of a “top leader pair”. Very few women acquired the top position where there was only an executive president or an executive prime minister.

If a democratic system is necessary to increase women’s representation in the national political leadership, it does not follow that this is sufficient.

“An active feminist movement was required to increase the participation of women and their access to power”

 

After World War II, Western industrial countries mostly had liberal democracies with political rights for women. But women were usually not mobilized and welcomed in established political institutions. An active feminist movement was required to increase the participation of women and their access to power.

The women presidents and prime ministers did not become top leaders primarily because they were women, but because they felt they should lead the nation. Some also acted in the same way as their male colleagues, fighting on their terms, without being particularly engaged in ‘women’s issues’.

But many women top leaders tried to compromise, looking after both men’s and women’s interests. And a certain number challenged the male domination and explicitly promoted women friendly or feminist policies. In most cases, it made a difference that a woman rose to the top instead of a man, but the difference was often limited.

Dynamic women’s movement

To empower women then, woman-friendly democratization processes have to be actively implemented. A dynamic women’s movement is needed as a driving force and men with power must take their responsibility for reform of institutions and policies.

This means, among others things, that the political culture, the political parties and the media must ensure that women can promote their interests on equal terms with men. Parliament and government must become more representative, for example by changing the electoral system and adopting measures such as quotas to increase the recruitment of women. And “good governance” must entail emphasis on participation, protection of human rights and promotion of social justice and equality.

Women of Power Women of Power publishes in paperback on Monday 9th March. Copies are available from our website here & if you’re a subscriber to our newsletter you’ll receive a 35% discount on the website too (subscribe here if you’re not part of our community yet!)

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Getting By, getting published and getting to ‘that London’

Writer, academic and guest blogger Lisa Mckenzie provides a personal and powerful insight into what it means to see her book Getting By published this week.

Lisa Mckenzie, author of 'Getting by'

Lisa Mckenzie, author of ‘Getting by’

After a lifetime of working class experience (mine as well as those in the book) and ten years’ of research, Getting By, is being published.

I have mixed feelings about reaching this stage of my research and my life: I am nervous about its publication, but also about the route my life is taking. I appear to have become part of the establishment at the London School of Economics, and, heaven help me, in ‘that London’.

The anxieties I have over my book becoming an item that you can hold in your hands, and something people can buy, are I suppose the normal anxieties every writer has when their thoughts are allowed out of their heads and into the public domain. Will anyone read this book? I hope they do, is my first reaction, quickly followed by, I hope they don’t.

With this book there is an added anxiety about how I have represented the people who have given me their time, their stories, allowed me to share in their lives. I carry a responsibility, as all researchers do to their respondents, to ensure they are not misrepresented. The way working class people, especially those who live on council estates, are misrepresented is at the heart of this book, and at the heart of the activism I undertake.

Devaluing and dehumanising

I know first-hand the painful consequences of what happens when working class people are devalued, what it means to be ‘looked down on’, ‘laughed at’, ‘ridiculed’ and despised. It hurts, and it is damaging. This type of institutional devaluing of any human being is also dangerous.

“the process of devaluing people…has been at the root of fascism, racism, slavery, and capitalism”

Without being too dramatic (actually why not, it is dramatic), the process of devaluing people is a way of dehumanising them which has been at the root of fascism, racism, slavery, and capitalism. It allows for the justification of the process and outcome of inequality, where some people can be treated badly, and/or cruelly while others receive equally unfair societal advantage.

The essence of this book is to show that the people who live on St Ann’s council estate in Nottingham have been subject to unfair disadvantages because they are working class, because they live in social housing, because they are low paid, unemployed and precarious. The book also makes clear that this kind of disadvantage, and any systematic devaluing of groups of people is structural, purposeful and historical.

People ‘like me’

I left school before I was 16, worked in a factory making tights for nine years, and am now researcher, author, teacher at the LSE, and in ‘that London’.

In 1984 when I left school at the beginning of the Miners’ Strike, education was not for the likes of me. My school careers interview consisted of asking me which factory I wanted to work in, and had I got one lined up? I said ‘yes thank you I’m going to work with my mum’, and I did.

“I believed the rhetoric and thought that it was my fault: I hadn’t worked hard enough at school”

My own story demonstrates clearly and obviously that I was subject to the unfair disadvantages that class inequality bestows on people ‘like me’. I, like many, believed the rhetoric and thought that it was my fault: I hadn’t worked hard enough at school and I wasn’t interested in education as a child.

However (and fortunately) that changed as I somehow found myself doing a sociology degree at the University of Nottingham as a mature student. It didn’t take me long to understand that I should have always been in higher education.

1415838227-class-war-women-wear-red-at-poor-doors-aldgate-protest_6252752A university education is a remarkable thing, and I am grateful for it, and to those who have imparted their knowledge to me, helped me and supported me. However that doesn’t stop me from being angry for my friends, my family, my community and my class, that the process of de-valuing working class people hurts them, and benefits others.

A question of representation

Consequently it lies heavy on me that I represent people who I think of ‘like me’ fairly and accurately. Does this mean that I show the people of St Ann’s in Nottingham as tireless working class heroes, chirpy in the face of inequality like the Downton Abbey servants? The deserving, humble, and not-angry-at-all working class? I’m sure those who are advantaged by our disadvantage would like that.

Or do I represent them as downtrodden victims of the endless misery that class distinction, and class inequality produces, perhaps in the way that George Orwell does in the Road to Wigan Pier?

And of course there are other ways to represent working class people and the neighbourhoods where they live as one-dimensional ghettos full of gangs, drugs, sex, and violence. This view would definitely grab the headlines give me a bit of fame, perhaps allow me to curry a bit of favour with the Daily Mail, and even get the ear of a Minister, they love that sort of thing.

None of this would be true, it wouldn’t be fair, and it would say nothing about the complexity of family life, community, and inequality in Britain today, or in actual fact, ever.

So what I have tried to do is bring to life the life, the people, and the situations I have known and lived. These are all of the above – heroes, villains, victims – and everything in between.

Stories from the ‘inside’

And lastly, since I have been in constant turmoil and anxiety of my own class position and how it relates to this book, my research, and now my life… why did I write this book at all?

I wanted and still want to tell the stories from the inside, from the position of a working class woman, with a common Nottingham accent. From the position of an academic who doesn’t know the correct grammatical use of ‘borrow’ and ‘lend’. From a granddaughter whose Granddad couldn’t read and write, and died from emphysema from working down the pit his whole life. And whose Grandma had 10 children and only left Nottinghamshire to go to Skegness for our holidays. She had never been to ‘that London’.

Getting by [FC]Getting by publishes on Wednesday 14th January and copies can be purchased at a 20% discount from the Policy Press website – here

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Celebrating Human Rights Day, 10 December

AS today is Human Rights Day we wanted to celebrate by sharing with you some of the striking photo essays by award-winning photographers from the World Report 2014.

This year’s slogan is ‘Human Rights 365′, emphasising the fact that every day is, or should be, Human Rights Day. At Policy Press we are proud to publish the annual Human Rights Watch’s World Report, which reminds us that human rights abuses continue around the world. It is imperative that we continue to monitor these inequalities and fight for rights that for most in the West think commonplace and too easily take for granted.

Slideshow images are taken from the global rights watchdog’s 24th annual review of global trends and news in human rights which features incisive country surveys and hard-hitting essays highlighting key human rights issues.

Images are reproduced with the permission of Sevenstories.com

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Human Rights WatchIf you would like to find out more about the World Report 2014 or order copies at a 20% discount, please go to our website.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) – 3 December

Hardly a day seems to pass that isn’t marked in some way or another. Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities (#IDPD) and so we’ve invited academic and Policy Press author Alan Roulstone to share his thoughts on the value of such days and how the perception of disability has or hasn’t shifted since he last blogged for us before the Olympics in 2012. He writes:

Alan Roulstone

Alan Roulstone

When reflecting on the forthcoming International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December) I was drawn to one of my favourite passages in the English literary canon:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us… [Dickens, Tale of Two Cities, 1859]

“so what”

When applied to disabled people and the realities of life in 21st Century Europe and beyond, we can see that many inhumane long-stay institutions have now closed, we can witness higher expectations amongst disabled people, some get paid work, be married and take part in the mainstream of life. At best there might even be a sense of “so what” about aspects of these questions: that disabled people are simply living alongside everyone else, in ordinary houses, sharing the same dreams, getting distracted by the same distractions.

The recent Olympics can even be posited to have raised the bar yet further, in increasing awareness of what disabled people can do, their physical prowess, their endurance and grit in climbing to the top of their sport. Images of famous disabled people abound: Ellie Simmons, Stephen Hawking, Simon Weston, Ade Adepitan. So why no sounds of clarions, no frisson of excitement and sense of no-turning back at the prospect of the IDPD?

“just as you think everything is okay and the wheels of social life are running smoothly you hit an inevitable snag”

Well it would be churlish to deny the origins of the day in the Disabled People’s Movement’s international struggle to be part of the mainstream, and the UN’s official support for this over time. It would be wrong to overlook the great achievements of many disabled people, whether or not they see themselves as disabled.

The best way to sum up the paradox of being disabled is that just as you think everything is okay and the wheels of social life are running smoothly you hit an inevitable snag. A lift seems permanently out-of-order, the man at the bus stop stares at you for just a little too long, you find yourself in jobs that are made precarious by public sector cuts.

These in turn could be seen as ‘just bad days’, random and unpredictable events that could affect anyone. This might be the case. However the evidence continues to suggest that as a disabled person the paid labour market remains harder to access, public transport remains a site of contestation, most recently narrated as wheelchair users vs babies-in-buggies, and that you are more likely to be the victim of violent crime.

Despite the Olympics, you find your only accessible swimming pool is earmarked for closure. Then you open your local paper and read that another learning disabled adult has been seriously assaulted or a blind man pushed onto a railway track [as happened recently in Chelmsford, Essex].

Broad brush

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims:
…. to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life [UN Enable]

As with any very broad brush objective by a global body such as the UN, the sentiments are profoundly welcome. The fact that disabled people can be part of a culture and make their own identities and cultures is so important. Many achievements have been registered in the lives of disabled people and it would be a curmudgeon who refused to recognise these. Indeed, there is a moral obligation to acknowledge these at every possible juncture.

“Do they change society, or to be a little cynical, do they ride the wave of change?”

We do not know, however, just how much UN initiatives, Conventions and events really make a difference. Do they change society, or to be a little cynical, do they ride the wave of change? Certainly the UN’s role in the global South is much more defined and clearly observable; in the global North state systems, histories and cultures mediate in a complex way such initiatives and Conventions. The failure of many states to ratify, or more commonly to substantiate, pledges is the real issue perhaps, as is how to measure this substantiation.

Longer-run processes of global investment patterns, an ageing population, credential inflation and resource scarcity all serve to challenge disabled people’s social integration. Meanwhile some disabled people are forced to live in institutions they would rather not live in [Winterbourne View being an obvious example]. Conversely some disabled older people wish to stay in the ‘care’ home and are being decanted into uncertain futures in the name of modernisation [cuts?]. Health spending on acute care has held up relatively speaking [Kings Fund, 2013], but spending on social care has led to an unprecedented post-war crisis in social support.

I shall be marking the IDPD unobstrusively. I shall emit a cautious smile or two which may perplex the person sitting next to me on my commuter train, a smile of recognition that disabled people matter. I shall be sobered by the first bad news story about disabled people’s lives and struggles I read later that day. Trust me, I don’t go looking for them.

It was the best of times and yet the worst of times…….

If you liked this you might like…

Understanding disability policy, edited by Alan Roulstone, Simon Prideauxmore and is available from Policy Press website at 20% discount.

A free chapter from the book is also available for you to read here.

Alan’s previous guest blog can be found here: The Paralympic Legacy – A New Dawn or a False Dawn for Disabled People? 

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.


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