Archive for the 'Poverty and Inequality' Category

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.

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…

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