Archive for the 'Poverty and Inequality' Category

Extending the welcome? Migrant exploitation beyond the border

In today’s guest blog post Hannah Lewis, Louise Waite and Stuart Hodkinson, authors of Precarious Lives (out in paperback this week) suggest that the UK’s approach to immigration, far from punishing those who exploit asylum seekers, will make forced labour more likely and reduce worker protection.

Hannah Lewis

Hannah Lewis

Louise Waite

Louise Waite

Stuart Hodkinson

Stuart Hodkinson

The summer of 2015 saw unprecedented media and public attention on questions of migration and border controls.

For researchers involved in studying migration and those working with migrants and refugees on a daily basis, the consciousness raising and generosity towards those fleeing violence and poverty has been sudden and surprising.

The Independent reported on a Charities Aid Foundation survey on 24 September which found that one in three UK adults had responded in some way to a relief effort, and one in 14 (the equivalent of almost two million households) would be prepared to offer space in their home to a refugee.


A petition to the UK Government to ‘accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants in the UK’ gathered 442,249 signatures triggering a debate in Parliament on 8 September in which Prime Minister David Cameron conceded to accepting 20,000 of the ‘most vulnerable’ refugees from Syrian refugee camps over five years.

It would have been easy to assume that years of negative media coverage and political demonising of migration, migrants and people seeking asylum made impossible the kind of ‘welcome’ counter-movement witnessed across Europe in recent months.

“Little coverage has been given to what kind of ‘welcome’ truly awaits people seeking asylum”

But the numbers, while highly contested, of those crossing and losing their lives in the Mediterranean has sparked a humanitarian crisis at and within the borders of the EU that resulted in even right wing, routinely xenophobic media outlets (briefly) running sympathetic coverage.

This response has focused almost exclusively on short-term charitable provision for new arrivals. Little coverage has been given to what kind of ‘welcome’ truly awaits people seeking asylum, refugees granted resettlement or migrants after their initial arrival on EU soil.

Although many sections of the UK public have responded powerfully in criticising the UK government’s response to the humanitarian crisis, virtually no attention has been given to the Conservative Government’s Immigration Bill 2015-16 currently being pushed through Parliament.

“..virtually no attention has been given to the Conservative Government’s Immigration Bill 2015-16”

The 2015 Bill includes proposed measures to: remove support from refused asylum seeking families; introduce criminal charges and imprisonment for up to five years for landlords who rent to irregular migrants; recoup wages from people found working without permission; and create a new offence of illegal working with up to a 12 month sentence and unlimited fines.

A ‘really hostile environment’

The Bill extends the stated goal of the very recent Immigration Act 2014 which Home Secretary Theresa May explained was intended to create a ‘really hostile environment’, particularly for irregular migrants.

These two pieces of legislation will expand the ways in which immigration policy operates to manufacture destitution for refused asylum seekers and irregular migrants, and strengthen the position of employers over workers furnishing an environment for severe labour exploitation.

Our research into experiences of forced labour among people seeking asylum and refugees in England found that many aspects of existing immigration policy operate to increase the susceptibility of people in the asylum system to severely exploitative work. Conditions in exploitative labour can quickly deteriorate into practices that would meet international definitions of forced labour.

We spoke to Mohamed, who, when his asylum case was rejected and his support removed, slept on the streets of one city. He was confronted with offers to sell drugs to find a livelihood. To get away from these risks, he walked 35 miles to another town and found a room to share with people from his country of origin, but needed money to contribute to the rent.

Threatened with dismissal

He took up a series of jobs in catering outlets. He repeatedly found that after a short time, his work conditions would worsen, abuse would increase, and he would be threatened with dismissal or being reported to authorities if he complained.

Everybody knows you got no paper, you are asylum, you are illegal working. […] I knew that they got holiday, they got tips they got everything, but for me only £20 – sometimes a fourteen hour, fifteen hour at the weekend.

His is just one of many cases we encountered where the destitution enforced by immigration policy pushes individuals into exploitative work, and the threat of denunciation to authorities and fear of deportation is used directly by employers to impose forced labour practices.

This directly contradicts the message presented by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who stated in passing the Modern Slavery Act 2015, that:

This landmark legislation sends the strongest possible signal to criminals that if you are involved in this vile trade you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up. And it says to victims, you are not alone – we are here to help you.

Far from addressing forms of modern slavery and protecting ‘victims’, our research suggests that the Immigration Act 2014 and new Immigration Bill 2015-16 directly generate practices that make forced labour more likely and reduce the avenues for protection for workers.

Precarious lives [FC]Precarious lives is available to purchase here  from the Policy Press website. Remember that Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – if you’re not a member of our community why not sign up here today?

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.

Sayer’s ‘Why we can’t afford the rich’ wins Townsend 2015 Prize

The British Academy’s Peter Townsend prize celebrates Townsend’s immense contribution to the social sciences by providing an award that recognises excellence in social policy and sociology. This year we are thrilled to announce that our author Andrew Sayer has won the prize for his book Why we can’t afford the rich. In today’s post Policy Press director Alison Shaw celebrates Andrew’s achievement.

Policy Press - 018 resizeI am delighted that Andrew Sayer has won the Peter Townsend Prize. This is extremely well deserved on Andrew’s part. 

Sayer0002The prize is awarded biennially for outstanding work with policy relevance on a topic to which Townsend made a major contribution.

It was established in commemoration of Peter Townsend, one of the most distinguished global figures in contemporary social policy and sociology. As an international researcher and public intellectual, he made an immeasurable contribution to analysis and policy-making in the areas of poverty and inequality, health inequalities, disability and older people. He was a Fellow of the British Academy.

Challenging times

We are living in challenging times and there has been a strong response from the academic community to the increasing inequality in society and the rise in associated social problems. As a result, this year there were a high number of quality prize submissions and Andrew can be justifiably proud of winning this award against stiff competition.

“The book bursts the myth of the rich as especially talented wealth creators”

Why we can’t afford the rich turns economic orthodoxy on its head and demonstrates how over the last 30 years the rich, and in particular the super-rich, worldwide have increased their ability to hide their wealth, create indebtedness and expand their political influence.

The book bursts the myth of the rich as especially talented wealth creators and shows how the unsustainable growth that is propagated by the rich is creating an additional risk to the planet.

BadgeAndrew has taken a significant body of detailed statistical data and research, economic theory and political philosophy, and translated it into a highly readable and engaging book that provides new ways of thinking and approaches to policy.

Policy Press strives to publish high quality work that makes a contribution not only to academia but beyond to wider society and Why we can’t afford the rich does this perfectly. It is described by readers on Amazon as ‘a cracking read’, ‘absolutely gobsmacking’ and ‘up there with the best I have ever read.”

“…..’the most persuasive, articulate and stimulating political treatise I have read in many a day’….”

It is not just for those on one side of the political spectrum, another reader said “This is the most persuasive, articulate and stimulating political treatise I have read in many a day. I disagree with most of it but, my goodness, Andrew Sayer has a passion for his subject.” Quite something for a seriously well-researched and theorized academic contribution. This is just the kind of far reaching work that Peter Townsend would have engaged with and that the Townsend prize celebrates.
I am delighted for  Andrew Sayer and offer congratulations to him from the whole of the Policy Press team on his achievement.

Why we can't afford the rich [FC]Why we can’t afford the rich is available for purchase from our website here (RRP £19.99) and will be out soon in paperback. Don’t forget Policy Press newsletter subscribers get a 35% discount when ordering through our website. If you’re not a subscriber yet why not sign up here today and join our Policy Press community

Enjoyed this? Then we think you might also enjoy one of our most popular blog posts FACT: We can’t afford the rich in which Andrew provides some insights into what motivated him to write the book and why he believes we really can’t afford the rich…

How have attitudes changed in the last five years towards asylum and migration?

Five years ago, based upon more than two decades of research with people seeking asylum, Maggie O’Neill wrote Asylum Migration and Community. In today’s blog post O’Neill reviews, in light of the reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis, how little has changed in terms of attitudes and approaches towards asylum despite the evidence of what can be achieved through the use of participatory action research, visual research/the image and creativity.

MONeill2“What is the legal way to immigrate? Why don’t they give me this option? I am illegal because there is no legal route.” (Matthias Kispert , 2015, ‘No More Beyond‘)

Jeremy Corbyn’s acceptance speech as leader of the Labour party on Saturday 12th September connected for me, with much research and scholarly work on the current asylum-migration crisis. With shades of Zygmun Bauman’s (2004) use of ‘negative’ or ‘uneven’ globalization, Corbyn stated that going to war creates problems for humanity and we not only need peace but we need to recognise we cannot go on like this with grotesque levels of global inequality; that the richer governments must step up to the plate; and that people should not end up in refugee camps instead of contributing to the good of all.

Corbyn’s approach and commitment to welcoming refugees to the UK and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s in Germany, is a loud and clear message mirrored in the vigils and demonstrations across western Europe calling for refugees to be allowed in and for open borders.

Yet at one and the same time Hungary has erected a 4m high fence along its border with Serbia, the Hungarian police are described as treating migrants like animals (the Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has drawn parallels between Hungary’s treatment of refugees and Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews) and the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia are so far refusing to take any of the migrants; and counter vigils and protests are also taking place across Europe.

Beyond borders?
The movement of people across borders is a key defining feature of the twentieth and twenty first century (as it has been, to a lesser degree ,throughout recorded history). It is now five years since I published Asylum Migration and Community (Policy press) and yet the book could have been published yesterday, so little has changed.

Based upon more than two decades of research with people seeking asylum  funded by the AHRB and AHRC I argued that migration in the context of ‘negative’ or ‘uneven’  globalisation is on the increase;  that increasingly restrictive asylum policy measures  impact  upon the humiliation and  social marginalisation of  people seeking asylum,  refuge and the hope for a better life;  and that  that there is an urgent  need to challenge and  transform social inequalities in relation to the asylum-migration-community nexus.

I argued that there was a withdrawal of humanising practices, a lack of welcome to people seeking asylum, and a heightening of the adversarial approach to those who seek to make their lives in the UK and the North. At the same time there is a significant lack of accountability and responsibility by governments and states for their part in the production of the worlds refugees.

I also stated, and still believe, that we need to face up to our global responsibilities towards the displaced, address the causes of ‘the misery of growing refugee movements’ and foster dignity and egalization in the institutions, laws, policies and practices towards people seeking safety in the asylum-migration-community nexus. International agreements on settlement are vital. Further, that creative, cultural and participatory research can support this process, as part of a public sociology or criminology, that can helps build communities of practice to challenge and change such gross inequalities and open and keep open spaces for critical thinking, help mobilise resistance, recognition and respect for people migrating – moving beyond war, violence, poverty and environmental disasters.

Arts based research
For Walter Benjamin (and also John Berger ), the imaginary is central to utopian political thinking, and in order to counter the petrification of the imagination Benjamin stresses the need to revolutionize our image worlds. Thus, arts-based research that prioritises thinking in images can bring into being a politics of representation informed by a politics of subalternity that offers ways of seeing and understanding that may feed into public policy and ultimately help to shift the dominant knowledge/power axis embedded in current governance around ‘immigrants’, migration and in the case of the research documented here the asylum-migration and community nexus, in this case, for women migrants in Barcelona, women seeking asylum in the UK and artists documenting displacement and migration.

Moreover, the benefits of working in participatory ways using arts based research with people seeking asylum to represent lived experiences, claim a voice, raise awareness of relations of humiliation, exclusion as well as inclusion and challenge exclusionary processes and practices, can support the articulation of identity and belonging for those situated in the asylum-migration nexus. This is vitally important to the development of dialogue, a recognitive theory of community, cultural citizenship and social justice, particularly when the voices of migrants are mediated by others, notably the mainstream press and media; as can be seen in ‘Women, wellbeing and community‘ participatory research conducted with women seeking asylum in collaboration with a regional refugee organisation and film maker Janice Haaken.

Global Governance: what next?
In a world of constant movement, of glocalisation, global mobility, migration and what Castles (2003) calls the asylum-migration nexus an enormous amount of energy, time and money is spent on securing the borders of Northern states, of erecting stronger and stronger barriers to entry. This is the current case in Hungary and in Melilla (a Spanish city located on the north coast of Africa, sharing a border with Morocco) where 11.5km of heavily patrolled triple wire fence prevents migrants trying to enter; the current closing of the borders in Austria, Germany and Hungary on the 14th September 2015 as a result of ‘gridlock’; alongside increasingly restrictive asylum policies preventing entry and speeding up removals.

In an open letter to world leaders, Parvati Nair (2015) writes that Greece and Italy are on the frontline in responding to the mass movement and arrival of people and the photograph of three year old Alan Kurdi’s body washed ashore, has mobilised international responses to the ongoing migration crisis in the Mediterranean. For Nair “this signals two inter-related tragedies: firstly, that of the human loss and suffering that is ongoing in this context, and secondly, that of the dire shortcomings of global and regional good governance of migration”.

Similarly, David Held (2015) recently argued that “only when people live securely in a world where sustainable development is promoted in all regions, where severe inequalities between countries are tempered and reduced, and where a universal constitutional order guarantees the rights of all peoples…can cosmopolitan ideals be realised”.

I believe we need to revolutionize our image worlds to think and do creative governance in relation to migration and develop a radical democratic imaginary around borders, migration and belonging .

In taking this project forward I will be working with photographer John Perivolaris, Counterpoint Arts and other collaborators to extend Asylum Migration and Community both theoretically, methodologically and practically in Methods on the move: borders, risk and belonging funded by a Leverhulme Fellowship that brings together walking methods with biographical methods to interrogate the concept of borders, risk and belonging in collaboration with artists and film makers. This will, I hope, in some small way feed into and envision ‘more inclusive, more just, more democratic politics’ and we must work together to create change.


Information on  Counterpoints Arts can be found here

No More Beyond‘ is a video essay that was part of Counterpoints Arts Dis/Placed exhibition, June 2015.  Filmed in the city of Melilla, a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco, where 11.5 km of heavily patrolled triple wire fence separate EU territory from migrants trying to enter. The project takes its title from the city’s motto: Non Plus Ultra’. – See more here 
Zygmunt Bauman (2004) Wasted lives: modernity and its outcasts Cambridge, Polity Press.
Stephen Castle (2003), ‘Towards a sociology of Forced Migration and Social Transformation’ in Sociology Vol. 37, No 1, (edited by O’Neill and Spybey) February 2003 London: Sage.
David Held (2015) The Migration Crisis In The EU: Between 9/11 And Climate Change
Parvati Nair (2015) The Mediterranean Crisis: An Open Letter to World Leaders
Maggie O’Neill (2010) Asylum, Migration and Community Bristol: Policy Press

John Perivolaris work including Migrados can be found here
John Perivolaris and Maggie O’Neill (2014) (2014). ‘A Sense of Belonging: Walking with Thaer through migration, memories and space’. Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture 5(2-3): 327-33

Asylum, Migration and Community is available for purchase from our website here (RRP £25.99). Don’t forget Policy Press newsletter subscribers get a 35% discount when ordering through our website. If you’re not a subscriber yet why not sign up here today and join our Policy Press community

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 the Conservatives are ‘strengthening’ child poverty measures in the UK

Today’s guest blogger Fran Bennett, from the University of Oxford, is chair of the editorial board of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice. She discusses how the government intends to change the measurement of child poverty in the UK.

csm_Fran_Bennett_69933b0e83On 1 July the Government announced that it was going to ‘strengthen’ the child poverty measure.

From the statement by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP, it is clear that the current range of child poverty measures, and accompanying targets, in the Child Poverty Act 2010 will be replaced by a statutory responsibility to report on only two measures: the proportion of children living in households that are workless, and long-term workless; and educational attainment at age 16 for all pupils and the most disadvantaged.

‘root causes’ of child poverty

The government will also develop other measures and indicators of what the Secretary of State calls the ‘root causes’ of child poverty to underpin a strategy on children’s life chances. It is unclear to what extent, if at all, poverty in work will feature, despite the fact that well over half (in fact, some two-thirds) of children living in households in poverty have at least one parent in work.

“…worklessness, educational failure, debt, drug and alcohol addiction and family breakdown, [are] repeatedly identified as causes of poverty”

The duties and provisions of the Child Poverty Act will also be repealed. And ‘child poverty’ will be dropped from the remit of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

This story goes back several years. Iain Duncan Smith came into office under the 2010-15 coalition government committed to the Centre for Social Justice analysis  highlighting worklessness, educational failure, debt, drug and alcohol addiction and family breakdown, and has repeatedly identified these as causes of poverty since then.


The consultation document on changing the child poverty measure in 2012 also hinted that these might be integrated into it. Many academics, NGOs and others responded to the consultation, with a large number of critical responses (for example, from the Poverty and Social Exclusion group of academics).

The Conservative Party’s 2015 election manifesto repeated a similar list of ‘root causes’ of poverty and said that better measures of child poverty would be introduced to drive change, by ‘recognizing’ these. There were rumours that the Treasury had blocked the proposed new child poverty measure not on principle but because it was unclear how to measure some elements. What seems to have happened now is that the DWP is going ahead with the feasible elements, pending more work on others.

“But with any poverty line, people on one side or the other will not have vastly different lives”

Opposition within the government also seems to have hardened to the relative income measure of poverty (60 per cent of median disposable equivalized household income). The Child Poverty Act in fact also contains complementary measures, including a fixed income poverty line rising with prices (confusingly labelled ‘absolute’); and a combination of relative low income and material deprivation. Persistent poverty and extreme low income and deprivation combined were added later. But the headline measure – used internationally, including in comparisons across the European Union) – is 60 per cent of median contemporary income.


Indeed, before the 2010 election it was made clear by the Conservatives that they acknowledged and would act on relative poverty when David Cameron recognised it. Yet this is the measure now criticized by ministers. First, they argue that movements in the pension or overall income affect child poverty numbers. But this must be the case for a measure depending on median income, because it is about falling behind typical incomes. The existence of several measures in the 2010 Act is then valuable, in that we can also assess if more children are suffering material deprivation or living on an income fixed in relation to prices.

Secondly, ministers label the poverty line as arbitrary. But with any poverty line, people on one side or the other will not have vastly different lives. If we try to identify those in poverty, we need some dividing line. We can argue about whether 60 per cent of median income is the best, and there are currently explorations in Europe to find minimum budget levels; but this does not obviate the need.

Thirdly, ministers argue relative income is too narrow – more income does not transform lives. This takes no account of the evidence of improvements in children’s lives when real incomes have increased, as in this review, for example. And it belies what must be the core of any poverty measure: having insufficient resources to participate fully in the society in which one lives.

“As Ruth Lister argues, children are human beings, not human becomings”

This is the key problem with this redefinition of the child poverty measure. Because of a desire to incorporate certain supposed causes / consequences / correlates, it neglects the need for a focus on the essential factor distinguishing poverty from other conditions. Including all possible dimensions that may (or may not) be associated with poverty in a measure merely leads to confusion. As we know from the media, family breakdown or drug addiction, for example, may affect many families who live well above the poverty line.

This confusion arises from ministers’ real concern not being with child poverty in the here and now, but instead with two other issues. The first is social mobility, or life chances: the extent to which current circumstances dictate future outcomes. This is important. But it is not the same as child poverty. As Ruth Lister argues, children are human beings, not human becomings. And it is much harder to create equal opportunities for the future if poverty is not tackled in the present.

The second concern is ‘social justice’, which to the current government appears to have the limited meaning of a focus on the ‘most disadvantaged’. Indeed, the five causes of poverty cited by ministers were originally seen as markers of an ‘emerging underclass’. This tends to suggest that attention on a small group with multiple difficulties will solve the problem.

Ministers previously suggested that income is only one dimension of poverty. At least the government has undertaken to continue to publish Households Below Average Income each year, so that we will be able to track annually how many people live in households on under average (median) household income – including those below the various thresholds we now use as poverty lines, as described above. But the government now appears to have abandoned income as a measure completely, along with any targets to monitor progress towards eliminating child poverty.

JPSJ 2015 [FC] for e-marketingThe Journal of Poverty and Social Justice provides a unique blend of high-quality research, policy and practice from leading authors in the field related to all aspects of poverty and social exclusion.

Please see the latest issue 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.

Growing injustice: six myths about inequality

final-cover-photoby Danny Dorling

Originally published on the New Statesman Politics Blog, The Staggers, 1 June 2015. Read the original article here.

We need to see things as they are, not as a few with great wealth would have the rest of us believe.

We used to say that most people don’t know how the other half lives; in the UK that has changed. Our society can no longer be meaningfully divided into two halves. Most of us have little understanding of the lives in the tranche just above or below us, and those people have little understanding of the tranches above and below them and so on. We live in different worlds. Most people find it difficult to believe that some people who have an income ten times higher than theirs, when asked, say that they are finding it difficult to manage financially. Continue reading ‘Growing injustice: six myths about inequality’

Shame, stigma, fear and rage: Lessons from Berlin the day before #GE2015

Policy Press director Alison Shaw recently travelled to Berlin for a few days. Contemplating a wealth of history during the trip, Alison shares with us her thoughts on some of the similarities with the threats facing us today, especially around freedom of expression, the use of  shame as a political tool and the rhetoric around food and work.

Policy Press - 018 resizeA few weeks ago I was in Berlin. It is an amazing city with a complex history. We went from gazing at stunning statues of Queen Nefertiti from 14th century BC to mind-boggling brain-activated artificial limbs (husband is a neuroscientist!).

We saw the now rather glamorised Wall that separated East from West, but the thing that stood out was the Topography of Terror, a museum on the site of the central institutions of Nazi persecution, where the leadership of the Secret State Police, the SS, were housed.

Politics today

It is an astonishing museum on the history of the Nazi movement. Three things struck me in particular that are relevant to politics today.

Burning booksAs a publisher I was taken by the photos of piles of burning books – knowledge is power, and clearly those that take away that knowledge wield an intensified power. Freedom of speech and tolerance of ideas is so vital in society.

The Charlie Hebdo murders, and the response from the different communities, put this into stark relief. Our ‘global village’ is small and we have to find a way to live in tolerance with each other. The rise of extremism is something that concerns us all. But the almost hysterical rhetoric about immigration in the UK is deeply concerning.

The question is how do we engage communities who are fearful of other cultures. The rise of UKIP is something both the left and the right in Britain need to understand – they are providing something people want – so, in a multi-cultural society, how can the traditional parties address those concerns whilst staying true to their beliefs?

“The significant effect shame has on people has come to the fore recently in work on poverty.”

The second aspect that stood out was the use of shame and stigma as a method of control, such as the parading of individuals down the streets with shaved heads and placards reading out their misdemeanors.

Shame is a powerful emotion that most of us want to avoid and thus is extremely powerful. The significant effect shame has on people has come to the fore recently in work on poverty. Amartya Sen described shame as the “irreducible core” of poverty. The shame of it by Gubrium, Pellissery and Lødemel takes research from across the globe to show how policy makers must take account of the psychological aspects of people’s experiences  to provide policies that work effectively.

Families and poverty with border [FC]Closer to home O’Hara’s interviews with those facing the savage cuts to welfare in the UK for Austerity bites highlighted how shame plays a significant role in people’s responses to poverty with Daly and Kelly’s ground-breaking study Families and Poverty supporting this.

Jennifer Jacquet’s Is shame necessary? (Penguin) turns the concept on its head by looking at how the public can shame the powerful into behaving better as in the case of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the shaming of the 1% such as by Dorling in his fully updated edition of Injustice and Sayer in Why we can’t afford the rich. It will be interesting to see if there are real changes made to policy and legislation to address the inequality of the 1% to the 99% as a result.

One text line stood out for me at the Topography of Terror and that was “Those who do not work, shall not eat” which was used as the justification for the murder of the mentally and physically disabled and the mentally ill. Now we don’t murder people in the UK but we have moved to an extremely punitive sanctions regime for those ‘who do not work’ and we do leave people with literally nothing to eat.


I remain outraged that we have benefit sanctions that are so tough that people have no money at all for months because they are late to a benefits appointment by 5 minutes. What are they meant to do? The bedroom tax has had an appalling impact on the disabled and the welfare cuts are hitting the disabled and mentally ill hard as services and care support are cut.

In the new Afterword to Austerity Bites, O’Hara gives the example of a young disabled woman who had had her support cut – she had gone from being a Cambridge undergraduate who, although severely disabled had been able to live a full life filled with promise, to someone who said: “There have been just two emotions in the last month – fear and rage. I joke that the Tories should just round up all us disabled people and have us shot – it would be quicker and cheaper than what they’re doing and it would put us out of our misery. It’s a dark joke but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. I wonder when will we fight for equality for the disabled?”

According to Mahatma Ghandi, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” How are we doing as a society? Pretty badly I would say for one of the globe’s wealthiest nations.

Related links

How benefit sanctions left me sleeping on the streets

Policy Press April ‘editorial picks’: Politics

Continuing our new series of monthly ‘editor picks’, and with our focus very much on the election it makes sense for our Politics Senior Commissioning Editor Emily Watt to tell us a little bit about her background, what she’s most excited by in upcoming Politics titles and why she feels certain New Zealand will win the Rugby World Cup this year…

Policy Press - 013Name: Emily Watt

Title: Senior Commissioning Editor

What’s your background story?
I have been at Policy Press for just over 10 years, which is still hard to believe, working my way up from Editorial Assistant in January 2005 to my current role as Senior Commissioning Editor.

About 4 years before this and about a year after graduating from Lancaster University with a BA Hons in American Studies, I went travelling with my best friend for 15 months to the US, Australia and South East Asia. I didn’t really know at this point what I wanted to do, so I was hoping this trip would enable me, in true clichéd style, ‘to find myself’. It was an amazing experience, but it didn’t get me much closer to a career decision.

When I returned I found out that one of the friends had just completed an MA in Publishing at Oxford Brookes and then the penny dropped, I suddenly knew this is what I wanted to do! My Mum had also done copy-editing and proofreading and worked in magazine publishing, so publishing had always been there in the background.

One year of study later, during which I worked part-time at Berg, I finally got my qualification and, just as importantly, was put in touch with Alison Shaw, the Director at Policy Press. While back in Bristol, I wrote a letter to Alison to ask if she had any work for me. The rest, as they say, is history and I haven’t looked back since.

What does your role entail and what do you enjoy most about it?
As a Senior Commissioning Editor and manager of the Commissioning Team, my role can be really varied. For example, one morning I can be reading and feeding back on new book proposals, planning for the next conference or campus visit, preparing paperwork for our next Acquisitions Meetings or sending out referee comments or contract offers. By the afternoon, I could be reviewing the Team’s budget, analysing the commissioning targets to feed into plans for the following year, or attending a cross-team meeting.

I really relish balancing such a variety of tasks in any one day and being able to challenge myself to think through problems and make swift decisions. I enjoy managing the team, but my real passion is commissioning and being able to see an early idea start from a conversation I had at a conference to becoming a finished product. This gives me great satisfaction.

What most excites you about your subjects?
I look after a good range of subjects including Politics, such as Public Policy, Social Policy and Welfare, Social Geography and Urban Studies and Housing and Planning and although they interlink, I like that the books I work on can be so different in scope.

I am particularly engaged in areas of my list that have a social justice or equality angle, that challenge current thinking and push the debate forward and which truly bridge the gap between theory and practice. Great recent examples of this are ‘Making policy move’ by John Clarke, Dave Bainton, Noémi Lendvai and Paul Stubbs, which is out this month, ‘New philanthropy and social justice’ (part of our Contemporary issues in social policy series) by Behrooz Morvaridi and Julian Dobson’s campaigning book ‘How to save our town centres’.

What key things are happening in Politics at Policy Press this year?
You could argue that everything we publish has a relevance to politics and policy, but in Politics we started the year off well with the release of a new trade book by Peter Hain MP entitled ‘Back to the future of Socialism’, which is a real boost to our Politics list. Written by a former Labour MP, who was in the Blair and Brown Cabinets, Peter’s book revisits the classic 1956 work by Anthony Crosland and uses it as a springboard for putting forward his political prospectus for today. The book, pitched at a wide readership, is a real boost for our Politics list and makes for an academically engaging and personal read, one that I think is very important given the public’s growing disengagement and disaffection with mainstream political parties.

Another important book that has just been released as a paperback is ‘Women of Power’ by Torild Skard which charts an impressive 73 female presidents and prime ministers worldwide over the last 50 years. Based on an astounding amount of research by the author, the book looks at these women’s motives, achievements and life stories in politics and it is a must read for anyone interested in gender, politics and leadership.

There has also been some excellent content on key political issues published in the latest issue of our Policy & Politics journal. I was particularly drawn to ‘the politics of quangocide’ from Katharine Dommett and Matt Flinders and ‘Governing at arm’s length’ by Catherine Durose, Jonathan Justice and Chris Skelcher. The journal co-edited by Sarah Ayres (Bristol) and Matt Flinders (Sheffield) is a leading international journal in the field of public policy that importantly prizes itself (as Policy Press does too) on bridging the gap between theory and practice and linking macro-scale political economy debates with micro-scale policy studies.

Our new Policy Press Shorts are an ideal format for Politics given that the subject is so fast-moving and topical. Being able to offer flexible publishing options has opened up new opportunities in all our subjects and the Policy Press Shorts have a 12 week turnaround from delivery to publication. They are an excellent outlet for publishing original ideas quickly and making a difference in a concise and accessible way, ideal for politics.

One great example is a Policy and practice Short entitled ‘Battle of the Bedroom tax’ by Dave Cowan and Alex Marsh which publishes just after the election. The bedroom tax was a key and highly contentious policy and one which could slip down the political agenda depending on who gets in power in May, so having the Short out quickly so that it hits the right political moment is key.

What interests you particularly about Politics?
The key issues that interest me in Politics at the moment are political disengagement, devolution and a shift in power from a Westminster-centric view and the ongoing debates related to independence and the decline of mainstream political parties in favour of more extreme parties, such as UKiP (there is much more to be said here!).

I am also keen to commission more politics books in areas we are known for and which are continually on the political agenda. This includes political issues for disadvantaged groups, such as those in poverty, older people, disability and gender and books that push the boundaries and put forward radical and fresh perspectives.

What reading book is currently on your bedside table?

I’m reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt that was chosen by our very own Victoria Pittman for book group. I really like what I’ve read so far, but I have a feeling the book will be by my bed (or on the bus with me) for a while!

Laura Vickers led the editorial picks in March – what would you say is her secret superpower/thing she is most awesome at doing?
Her sheer determination. When she puts her mind to something she doesn’t give up and makes sure it gets done even though it might be really challenging along the way or take a long time.

Laura’s question for you is: Who will win the Rugby World Cup?
This question from Laura is a not a surprise as she is a massive fan of rugby and most sports. I have absolutely no idea how to pick a team to win the World Cup, but I will base it on a place where I have always wanted to visit – New Zealand.

What question would you want us to ask our next editorial interviewee?
Who would be the 4 best/most influential people you would have dinner with and why? They don’t all have to be alive!

If you enjoyed this blog you might also enjoy….

Policy Press March ‘editorial picks’: Environment and Sustainability

Policy Press February ‘editorial picks’: Criminology and Criminal Justice

Related reading

Policy Press CoverMoney and electoral politics by Johnston and Pattie

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