Archive for the 'Poverty and Inequality' Category

Free extract: How austerity has been biting the UK since 2010

In light of the media surprise at George Osborne’s 2016 botched Budget and Ian Duncan Smith’s sudden bout of conscience we thought we’d treat you to some tasty extracts from Mary O’Hara’s book Austerity Bites.

 Chronicling the true impact of austerity as it has been felt in the UK since its inception in 2010 and calling the government to account for the pain inflicted on society’s most vulnerable, Austerity Bites reveals that the wounds of austerity have been visible for quite some time…

Mary O'Hara

Mary O’Hara

In February 2015 Tory Party grandees believed it was acceptable to hold a Black and White Ball fundraiser with tables going for £15,000 a time and to have among the items being auctioned bound copies of George Osborne’s Budgets, including the first ‘Emergency Budget’ that ushered in austerity.

While the average British citizen has been living in ever-more precarious circumstances and paying through the nose for bankers’ malfeasance the rich can rest assured that they won’t have to pay their fair share. This is the situation almost five years into Austerity UK.

This Tory and the previous coalition government have presided over manifold cases of people so crushed by the brutish, punitive changes to the welfare system, including the inexplicable ‘Bedroom Tax’, and sanctions that many have gone without food, resorted to begging or taken up ‘survival shoplifting’ after their meagre benefits support has been withdrawn. People are suicidal.


The government has driven innumerable disabled people to despair with its spectacularly inappropriate and mismanaged ‘back-to-work’ programmes that are still plagued by criticisms of callousness and ineptitude. Continue reading ‘Free extract: How austerity has been biting the UK since 2010’

4 lessons from the global financial crisis and austerity

As stock markets around the world continue to fluctuate, academic and author of The global financial crisis and austerity, David Clark, shares his thoughts on the four lessons to be learned from the global financial crisis and the ensuing government response of ‘austerity’ and tells us why he’s pleased to have been born when he was…

David Clark

David Clark

Nearly a decade has passed since the US sub-prime mortgage meltdown that triggered the great financial crash of 2008. The advanced economies of the world have yet to make a full recovery from the crash and subsequent Great Recession.

In fact, 2016 has begun with renewed turmoil in global financial markets, reflecting concerns about the slowdown of economic activity in China and the collapse in the price of oil and other commodities.

These are compounded by fears that mediocre growth may be a ‘new normal’, with austerity and the overhang of debt acting as a drag on household consumption. The spectre of skilled jobs being lost due to automation is also contributing to ‘growth gloom’.

So what has gone wrong? Here are four lessons that I think we need to learn about the global financial crisis and austerity.

Lesson 1 – The experts got it wrong

Or, if you want to be really disrespectful, the people in charge don’t know much more than we do (see here). Continue reading ‘4 lessons from the global financial crisis and austerity’

Children behind bars: The global overuse of detention of children

Human Rights Watch’s annual World Report 2016 publishes this month and documents, amongst other issues, the armed conflict in Syria, international drug reform, drones and electronic mass surveillance.

In today’s blog post we republish an article from the book written by Senior Counsel, Children’s Rights Division, Michael Garcia Bochenek who highlights the widespread, poorly documented and often abused reality of children locked up in prisons around the world. This article was first published on the Human Rights Watch website here.


Michael Garcia Bochenek – Senior Counsel, Children’s Rights Division

Shortly after 16-year-old T.W. was booked into Florida’s Polk County Jail in February 2012, his three cellmates punched him, whipped him with wet towels, and nearly strangled him with a pillowcase.

They then urinated on him, sprayed his face with cleaning fluid, and stripped him naked before wrapping a sheet around his neck, tying the other end around the window bar, and pulling so tight he lost consciousness. They repeated this attack three times over the course of several hours without jail guards on regular rounds even noticing, a federal magistrate judge found.

Around the world, children languish behind bars, sometimes for protracted periods. In many cases, as with T.W., they face brutal and inhumane conditions.


The lack of record-keeping and a wide array of institutions means that the number of children held worldwide in such environments is not known.
Continue reading ‘Children behind bars: The global overuse of detention of children’

Beyond Downton: Can the welfare state embrace a participatory future? #participatorycare #allourwelfare

The union of personal experience and professional knowledge has informed Peter Beresford’s latest book All our welfare which publishes today. In his guest post he reflects on a life lived in parallel with the development of the welfare state and suggests greater involvement of participants in the process of welfare could be the key to an enduring future…

Beresford imageWriting All Our Welfare has really made me realize just how much the welfare state has impacted on my life – personally as well as professionally.

At a time when we are encouraged to think of ‘welfare’ as for ‘other’ people, particularly stigmatized and devalued other people, this goes against the grain of received wisdom.

I realize that I may have had more contact than most people, with state services – including so-called heavy end ones, like ‘benefits’, psychiatric system, environmental health, rent officers and so on. But this increasingly feels like a strength rather than a weakness in exploring social policy.

Lived experience

I wanted my book to include and value lived experience as well as traditional ‘expert’ knowledge. As part of this I included comments from many members of my family in the book. What was interesting was that all of them could speak from direct experience about the welfare state, from age three to 91 and most did so enthusiastically (Charlie (aged 11) and Poppy (aged 9) weren’t too keen on some aspects of school!).
Continue reading ‘Beyond Downton: Can the welfare state embrace a participatory future? #participatorycare #allourwelfare’

Why Cameron’s housing policy will make the UK more spatially unequal

Today’s guest post by Peter Matthews, co-author of After urban regeneration: Communities, policy and place, was written in response to David Cameron’s announced plan to demolish England’s poorest council estates.

This article, originally titled ‘ABI n* – return of the ABI’ was first published on the blog Urban policy and practice on Monday 11th January 2016.

Peter MatthewsI did my doctoral research on area-based initiatives, or ABIs. Even when I was doing the research the writing was on the wall for them.

The focus of my research had been the former Scottish Executive Community Regeneration Fund administered through Single Outcome Agreements. This ceased to be just as I was going into the field following the first SNP victory in 2007, so it ended up being about the “ending” of meaningful regenerationfor residents.

Following the 2010 election and the coalition government it looked like any form of regeneration was off the cards under the excuse of “austerity”. I’ve co-edited a book – After Urban Regeneration – that argues this very point. My research had turned to broader questions of inequality in our cities, particularly what the increasing focus on community engagement and involvement in service delivery might mean for inequalities in service delivery. Continue reading ‘Why Cameron’s housing policy will make the UK more spatially unequal’

An Unhappy NHS – Taking the Long View

Today’s guest blogger and author of The Health Debate, now in its second edition, David Hunter, tells us why we need to dig deeper to understand and change the chronic unhappiness in the NHS…

David HunterAs it enters 2016, the NHS is not a happy organisation. It hasn’t been for some time but the problems and pressures that have gathered pace through 2015 are coming to a head.

A threatened strike by junior doctors is already a firm possibility but other issues are mounting by the day, ranging from cash‐strapped hospitals, allegedly underperforming GPs, shortages of clinical and nursing staff, poorly integrated health and social care, non‐existent or threadbare mental health services, the persistence of a bullying culture, to unforeseen cuts in public health funding that threaten to put further pressure on an already over‐stretched NHS. The list goes on.

The quick fix

It is tempting to pick these issues off one by one, reaching for the quick fix while also finding someone to blame for allowing things to reach such a parlous state. That would be a mistake and would fail to understand the forces that have brought the NHS to where it is today.

Taking the long view is a necessary prerequisite to finding appropriate solutions. Continue reading ‘An Unhappy NHS – Taking the Long View’

Feeding the debate: a local food bank explains itself

As we head into a period of seasonal excess today’s guest blog post looks at the importance role food banks have played in drawing attention to food poverty in the UK. Taken from a paper by Heather Buckingham, University of Birmingham and Andy Jolley, Parish of Aston and Nechells published in Voluntary Sector Review.

With Christmas fast approaching, two things that will be on many people’s minds are food and presents. Regardless of people’s religious beliefs, these things tend to feature significantly around this time of year. They also map closely onto two fundamental features of the UK’s food banks: provision of food to those in crisis need, and giving of donations and time to make this possible.

IMG_0023For most people though, Christmas is inadequately represented by food and presents alone, and likewise our recent Voluntary Sector Review paper argues that there is more to understanding food banks than a simplistic narrative about ‘giving food to the poor’. We draw on Christian theology – and our practical involvement in Aston and Nechells Food Bank (ANFB), Birmingham – to paint a fuller and more nuanced picture of the nature and impact of this particular food bank, and explore some of the policy and practice implications of this.

Celebrating relationships

Many people would add family and friends to the list of things that are important about the Christmas period. Presents and food mean little outside of the context of relationships: our giving, eating and drinking is partly about celebrating relationships with people whose lives are in some way inter-connected with our own.

For Christians, Christmas is a celebration of God’s initiative to build a renewed relationship with humanity, made possible through the birth of Jesus, into a situation of vulnerability and acceptance of others’ help. It is this emphasis on the significance of inter-dependent relationships for human wellbeing and flourishing – reflected in the biblical concept of shalom – in which our interpretation of ANFB is rooted.

Often inadequately translated as ‘peace’, the Hebrew word shalom is better understood as embracing a sense of relational wholeness (with God, other people, and the environment), health and wellbeing, justice, having sufficient resources, making a meaningful contribution to society and feeling safe and secure.

Inter-dependence and reciprocity

Viewing wellbeing in this way not only makes a difference in terms of the kinds of encounters and interactions that happen at food bank distribution centres: it also has implications for the messages that food banks and those involved in them seek to communicate to others beyond the local context.

WittonA recognition of the importance of inter-dependence and reciprocity informs ANFB’s emphasis on being a local food bank. The majority of volunteers live in the catchment area, and monthly supermarket collections take place there.

For some, having the opportunity to give food when times are better as well as receive it in a crisis has been important in maintaining a sense of dignity when needing to ask for help. ANFB also provides opportunities for former clients and more vulnerable members of the local community to contribute as supported volunteers. This gives them an experience of teamwork and belonging, and for some has helped them gain confidence and skills and move into employment.

ANFB seeks to raise awareness of structural and policy-related causes of food poverty, including by collecting data to inform local and national campaigning; training volunteers about challenging benefits sanctions; writing to MPs; and giving presentations to local businesses, students and other groups.

Such actions call into question claims that food banks have depoliticized food poverty and let government ‘off the hook’. We suggest instead that food banks have played an important part in drawing attention to food poverty in the UK, in a way that challenges rather than tolerates injustice, whilst also responding to the immediate needs of those who cannot wait for a change of policy or process.

Read Heather and Andy’s paper in full here.

VSR 2015 [FC]For more information about the Voluntary Sector Review as well as link to free institutional trials please click 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.

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