Archive for the 'Poverty and Inequality' Category

The welfare myth of them and us

Read the complete preface to the second edition of John Hill’s influential Good times, bad times below. This ground-breaking book uses extensive research and survey evidence to challenge the myth that the population divides into those who benefit from the welfare state and those who pay into it – ‘skivers’ and ‘strivers’, ‘them’ and ‘us’. 

John Hills (small)

John Hills

Good times, bad times was completed in 2014. A great deal has happened in UK politics and policy since then, not least the election of a majority Conservative government led by David Cameron in May 2015, the result of the referendum in June 2016 for Britain to leave the European Union, and the subsequent appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister in July 2016.

Through all of this, the issues discussed in this book have remained central. One of its themes is the way that our lives are ever-changing.

Sometimes this is simply because we get older, we form – and dissolve – marriages and other partnerships, children are born, and they leave home.

But it is also because we move in and out of work, change and lose jobs, and what comes in from work and other sources can change not just from year to- year with our careers, but also from month-to-month, or even day-to-day, in ways highlighted by the spread of ‘zero hours contracts’.

Our needs – for education and for health and social care – change as we grow older, but also with the fluctuations in our state of health.

“Much popular debate assumes that people’s lives are unchanging.”

Continue reading ‘The welfare myth of them and us’

Why we need radical solutions to our housing supply crisis

There is now a deep crisis in housing supply in many parts of England. In his provocative new book, Duncan Bowie, author of Radical solutions to the housing supply crisis, argues that policy proposals promoted by Government and many commentators are either just tinkering with the problem, or will actually exacerbate the situation.


Duncan Bowie

We have not learnt the lessons of the 2008 credit crunch and in fact we have had a housing deficit whether the country has been in boom or bust.

It is time to throw off long held ideological assumptions as to ideal forms of tenure and the relationship of state to market.

There is a systemic problem which cannot be corrected by short term measures and more radical solutions are necessary if the housing market is to be stabilised and the delivery of new homes increased.

“Housing…is now the central component in inequity between households both within and between geographical areas.”

We need to recognise that if we are to tackle inequity in wealth and opportunities, we need to tackle inequity in housing, which is now the central component in inequity between households both within and between geographical areas. It is also central to the growth in inter-generational inequality.

Continue reading ‘Why we need radical solutions to our housing supply crisis’

What is the future of social justice? A Policy Press event

Answers to this question were offered at the Policy Press The Future of Social Justice event held on Monday 5th December in association with the Bristol Festival of Ideas.

The Great Hall in the University of Bristol’s Will’s Memorial Building was packed with over 800 audience members who heard Danny Dorling, Owen Jones, Kayleigh Garthwaite and Melissa Benn speak about the most significant successes, challenges and opportunities for social justice.

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The exciting event began with the official launch of University of Bristol Press by Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol.

Inspiring contributions from the speakers followed, expertly chaired by Alison Shaw, Director of Policy Press and University of Bristol Press.

Amongst the many points made, Melissa Benn focused on segregation in schools and the way this feeds into a lack of understanding and knowledge about others. Danny Dorling examined housing policy, highlighting the urgent need for rent control. Kayleigh Garthwaite highlighted that allowing charity to become ‘normal’ and acceptable is not the way forward. Finally, Owen Jones reminded us that we need a collective thought process in order to solve collective issues. One of the key message of the evening was that we need to step out of the ‘bubble’ and into communities.

2016 has been a dark year but this event inspired optimism and hope. What will we say to future generations when they ask what we did at at time like this? It’s time to come together and be active in our opposition to injustice.


Didn’t get a chance to attend? You can listen to the event in full on Soundcloud here.

Read Danny Dorling’s full speech on the housing crisis and hope for the future from the event.

Read Kayleigh Garthwaite’s full speech on foodbanks and why we need a new conversation about poverty.

Keep up-to-date with Policy Press/University of Bristol Press news and events by signing up to our newsletter. Subscribers also receive a code for 35% discount on all our books.

Foodbanks, social justice and why we need a new conversation about poverty

In her speech from The future of social justice event we held on Monday, Kayleigh Garthwaite, author of Hunger Pains, talks about her experience of volunteering at foodbanks and how we can harness and express the collective shame that should be felt over the existence of emergency food aid.

kayleigh-garthwaite“For the last three years, I’ve been a volunteer and a researcher at a Trussell Trust foodbank in central Stockton, North East England, finding out how a foodbank works, who uses them, and why.

Every week, I prepared the three days’ worth of food that goes into each food parcel. I dealt with the administration of the red vouchers required to receive food, making sure that anyone who needed further support was told where it could be obtained. I volunteered at food collections at Tesco supermarkets, asking people to add an extra tin to their weekly shop. Most importantly, I sat and listened to the stories of the hundreds of people who came through the food bank doors for emergency food.

Continue reading ‘Foodbanks, social justice and why we need a new conversation about poverty’

Trump, Brexit and the EDL: the left’s failure to capture the electorate’s trust

The US election results have brought out aggression and hostility from supporters of both the right and the left. In particular, the left seems to be contentiously repeating one question: 

“Why did so many people feel safer putting their trust in Trump rather than in Clinton? “

Many people are quick to blame racism and bigotry, but there are deeper reasons. Simon Winlow, Steve Hall and James Treadwell, authors of The rise of the right, discuss the ways in which the left has failed to capture the trust of much of the electorate. 



Simon Winlow

The mainstream liberal media outlets are outraged. For the liberal commentariat, Trump is the embodiment of all that ails the world. A racist, homophobic and misogynistic billionaire, a climate change denier, a man who apparently inspires loathing throughout the free world, a cocky and self-confident, tax-avoiding bigot whose election suggests the end of progressive liberal multiculturalism and dawning of a new Dark Age.

How could a man such as this win a clear mandate to govern the world’s most powerful nation?

Already our mainstream liberal media elites are asking what it all means. Political activists on the left look crestfallen as they call for a new solidarity in the face of adversity.

Now we need to ask why

Initial analyses tend to suggest that Trump has been voted into office by tens of millions of racist, homophobic and misogynistic white men who are angry about the erasure of their traditional power. Such analyses, fuelled by justifiable ire and shock, offer us only simplistic and predictable cultural reductionism.

What we need are careful empirical and theoretical analyses of the forces that appear set to carry us all into a new era of right-wing nationalism. Why are so many people angry at our established political elites? Why has fear come to play such an important role in the new politics? Why is there such a popular desire to move beyond the established parameters of marketised liberal democracy? What is it that inspires such open hostility towards minorities? These are important questions that demand a clear and objective response shorn of sentimentality and free from the usual academic constraints and injunctions.


“What we see at EDL protests, and what we see with Brexit and the election of Trump, is an inverted and distorted mirror-image of our own ideological failure.”

Continue reading ‘Trump, Brexit and the EDL: the left’s failure to capture the electorate’s trust’

I, Daniel Blake: what you can do next


by Jess Miles

As I walked away from watching I, Daniel Blake I saw the world in a different way.

Maybe that homeless man on the bridge was in employment six months ago, before a health issue stopped him working? Things that I’d been fretting about earlier in the day suddenly seemed deeply insignificant. I was partly crying because I’m grateful for what I do have.

Even today, the onslaught against the most vulnerable in our society continues, with the rolling out of a new benefits cap that will affect those for whom life is already a struggle.

Overcome by the fact that I, Daniel Blake represents only two lives when 100,000s of people are experiencing this and worse every day, I most keenly feel a sense of paralysis: what do I do with this anger towards our broken system now?

Hoping that it might help others feeling similar, we have made the conclusion of Kayleigh Garthwaite’s Hunger Pains – ‘Is foodbank Britain here to stay?’ free to download. Click here for the pdf.

Here’s why…


Being far-removed

At Policy Press we think about social injustice every day. Our books and journals are published because we want to make a difference and have an impact towards improving lives for vulnerable people.

Even then, we are far-removed from the lives of people like Daniel and Katie. For me, the film was an important reminder of the significance of what we’re trying to do each day in our cosy, happy office.

Continue reading ‘I, Daniel Blake: what you can do next’

The reality of foodbank use #WeAreAllDanielBlake #hungerpainsbook

As Ken Loach’s new film, I Daniel Blake lays bare the reality for people who bear the human cost of the attack on our social security system, read this story from Kayleigh Garthwaite’s Hunger Pains.


Kayleigh Garthwaite

Like the film, Paul’s story reveals the complexities of life at the mercy of the system and forces us to question the ‘skivers vs strivers’ narrative. We must look at how we are treating the most vulnerable in a supposedly civilised society.


“Paul was in his late 30s but looked much older than his years. He had been to the foodbank around nine times that I knew of. His clothes were filthy and hung off his skinny frame and his fingers were stained with nicotine. I watched as he put three spoonsful of sugar into his tea. His eyes were always distant, and there seemed to be a time lag between me asking him a question and him responding.

The first thing he told me was that he was OK, but sad that he didn’t see his 11-year-old daughter often enough, as she was in foster care. He was in care when he was younger and didn’t want the same thing for her, he said, but he and his ex-partner were both long-term drug addicts with alcohol problems, so social services had placed her in a foster home.

Can Paul really be blamed for the ‘choices’ he is or isn’t making now?

Paul explained how he was on a three-month sanction for failing to turn up to an appointment at a private sector welfare-to-work company in Middlesbrough. I asked why he’d been sanctioned, and he said to me: “I couldn’t be arsed to get out of bed.” I was a bit taken aback, as I’d never actually had anyone openly say that to me before. Paul had been given free bus tickets, so he would attend his appointments from then on. He told me he wanted to be a chef when he got sorted, but there weren’t any jobs going. He was getting a hardship allowance of £69 per fortnight. Paul told me he was bored. The main thing he does with his time is play on his Xbox 360, day in, day out. The only problem is, he keeps taking it to a retail pawnbroking company on the High Street. He bought it from there for £69. He sells it back for £50, then buys it back when he can afford it for £66.

He does this regularly and says, “It’s alright at the time cos you get the money, but it’s when you go to buy it back.” He plans on removing the ID strip at the back, as that way, the pawnbrokers won’t accept it and it will stop him from being in this cycle: “I’ve lost too many things to them”, he told me.

Paul showed me some photos of his dog and his daughter, on his battered old Nokia mobile phone (not an iPhone 6) and his eyes lit up a little. His dog, Benny, was a bull mastiff/pit-bulltype breed; he got him as a rescue dog, just skin and bone. Paul told me how his previous owner, a drug addict, had left him in the house all day, alone, and Benny had been eating the stuffing from the sofa because he was so hungry. Paul proudly told me how he had fed Benny up and got him back to full health by buying bags of cheap pasta to mix in with a 10 kilogram bag of dog food from Wilko for £5, adding tins of vegetables for vitamins. I joked that he was looking after Benny better than he was looking after himself and he simply said “He’s my best friend”.

We sat talking for just under an hour, before he filled his empty rucksack up with the tins from the heaving carrier bags. I helped him to hoist the rucksack onto his shoulders, and worried that his undernourished frame couldn’t quite take the weight of the food that he had to carry home, some three miles on foot.

I struggled with deciding whether to include Paul in the book at first, as I knew that on the face of it he fitted into many of the stereotypes surrounding foodbank (mis)use. He spent what little money he had on drugs, alcohol and his dog. He got sanctioned because he “couldn’t be arsed to get out of bed”. But Paul doesn’t have an easy life. He wasn’t exactly enjoying a lavish lifestyle on benefits. He was bored, but had no realistic job prospects. He thought his history of being in and out of jail over a period of 20 years didn’t help with that. He missed his daughter, but was aware that he would never have her back living with him again.

“Food is a basic human right that shouldn’t be denied”

Paul was brought up in care after being abused when he was little, and no longer had any family in the area. He was lonely, and in a rut. One of the reasons why Paul struggled to get out of bed in the morning was due to his mental health problems and tiredness, which were worsened by the heroin he has been taking for over half of his life.

I wanted to tell Paul’s story because, on the surface, it would be all too easy for him to be branded with the ‘undeserving’ label so favoured by many politicians. Food is a basic human right that shouldn’t be denied to someone just because they take drugs, smoke or drink alcohol. Paul’s story shows how he does not fit into the stereotype of someone ‘living it up’ on benefits. He has had a difficult life from a very early age, filled with abuse, drug misuse, mental health issues and countless periods in prison. Can Paul really be blamed for the ‘choices’ he is or isn’t making now? What Paul needs is support, not further condemnation from politicians, the media and elsewhere.

It was not very often that people came to the foodbank as regularly as Paul did. The agency he was working with knew he was on a three-month sanction and was trying to help him through that. Paul said to me, “If it wasn’t for the foodbank, I’d have to go on the rob. Not from people like you or nowt, but shoplifting, from Asda or summat.” But Paul didn’t want to do that, as he wanted to stay out of prison. He hadn’t been in jail for three years, and he wanted it to stay that way.

One Friday afternoon, some few months before speaking to Paul, I was in the Sainsbury’s a couple of miles away from the foodbank. Just as I entered the shop, two security guards accosted a man leaving with a big carrier bag, and said “You haven’t paid for those”. The man, who looked in his 40s, didn’t try to protest, he just handed over the black carrier bag. The security guard pulled out a block of cheap, luminous orange Cheddar cheese, ‘Basics’ sausages and a 24-pack of Walker’s crisps and led the man away, head down, no resistance – not a word. In October 2014, Ian Mulholland of Darlington, 10 miles away from Stockton-on-Tees, was in court. After having his benefits sanctioned and spending nine weeks with nothing to live on, the 43-year-old had stolen some meat from the local Sainsbury’s and was sentenced to six weeks in prison. Are people so ashamed to use a foodbank that they would rather steal to feed themselves?

“How can this be right or just in a civilised society?”

Writing in the Guardian, Aditya Chakrabortty said: ‘A theft worth £12.60 means the taxpayer will spend over two grand to keep Mulholland behind bars.’ But why is our focus on ‘fraudulent’ behaviour always aimed at those at bottom of the income chain? The Guardian reported the case of a barrister who avoided paying thousands of pounds in rail fares for more than two and a half years but was spared prison. Yet someone who steals £12.60 worth of meat is imprisoned for six weeks. How can this be right or just in a civilised society?


hunger-pains-fc-4webHunger pains by Kayleigh Garthwaite can be purchased here from the Policy Press website for special 20% discounted price £11.99

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