Posts Tagged 'Poverty'

It doesn’t have to be like this: Why capitalism needs to change, and fast

Where has capitalism gone wrong? In Too much stuff, Kozo Yamamura upends conventional capitalist wisdom to provide a new approach. Read about his new perspective on capitalism’s “sickness.”


Kozo Yamamura 1934 – 2017

Over the past three decades, the financial and environmental prospects of the UK, US, Japan and Europe, have slowly but surely been moving in a calamitous direction because of ill-conceived “easy money” policies pursued by those in power, from governments and banks through to multinational corporations and the advertising industry.

The result: a self-perpetuating cycle of stagnating economies, social unrest and political upheaval.

The advanced economies of the world are sick and democracy is floundering. Capitalism as we know it has created a climate where extremist, anti-EU political parties are flourishing by tapping into widespread dissatisfaction with the way things are.

They’re right in one sense – the system does need to change, because if it doesn’t, “what becomes the issue will not be the survival of our system, but the survival of our civilizations”.

“The advanced economies are sick, and the environment is getting sicker.”

Continue reading ‘It doesn’t have to be like this: Why capitalism needs to change, and fast’

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’

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’

Attitudes to welfare: a departure from the past or more of the same?


John Hudson


Ruth Patrick


Emma Wincup







The latest issue of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice is a special themed issue exploring ‘welfare’ attitudes and experiences. Here, the issue editors – John Hudson, Ruth Patrick and Emma Wincup –  look at hints that attitudes to welfare may be changing.


Discussions about ‘welfare’ in the UK over the past five years have been set against a dominant backdrop of ongoing welfare reform. The key players in government – David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith – have focused on ending what they describe as a culture of ‘welfare dependency’.

This political landscape shaped public and media debates, with the negative characterisation of ‘welfare’ and the lives of those who rely on it only further embedded by the exponential growth in ‘Poverty Porn’. However, in the 12 months since we began assembling the research we report here,  the UK’s political landscape has been dramatically altered by Brexit: Cameron, Osborne and Duncan Smith are all figures of the past.

The ramifications for social policy are unclear, but today, as we publish our Journal of Poverty and Social Justice special issue on attitudes to ‘welfare’ and lived experiences of those reliant on the most stigmatised form of state support, there are hints of a new rhetoric, politics and approach on ‘welfare’ in the UK. Continue reading ‘Attitudes to welfare: a departure from the past or more of the same?’

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’

Ten of the most important questions to ask about UK poverty

Article originally published on 2 October on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation blog 

Poverty research must provide useful answers for policy and practice, says Chris Goulden.

To deal with entrenched problems of poverty in the UK, serious improvements need to be made to knowledge about the causes of poverty and the effectiveness of potential solutions.

A two-day exercise led by a partnership between JRF and the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge identified the most important unanswered and researchable questions about poverty. As well as the potential benefits of improving the evidence base in general, this is part of our programme developing strategies to reduce poverty in the UK.

Participants were invited from a range of organisations across the UK. Over 40 people from government and non-governmental organisations, and academics or researchers working in universities or think tanks, took part. They were asked to identify an initial set of research questions by consulting widely with others, and to propose questions that would make a real difference to poverty in the UK but had not yet been adequately answered. We started off with 470 questions, which were reduced to 100 through a democratic process of discussion and voting.

The categories of questions covered a number of important themes, including attitudes, education, family, employment, heath, wellbeing, inclusion, markets, housing, taxes, inequality and power. Ten of the most important questions were:

What values, frames and narratives are associated with greater support for tackling poverty, and why.

How do images of people in poverty influence policy debates in different countries?

What are the most effective methods of increasing involvement and support for the education of children among their parents or guardians?

What explains variation in wages as a share of GDP internationally?

What is the nature and extent of poverty among those who do not or cannot access the safety net when they need it?

How could targeting and incentivising payment of the Living Wage make it more effective at reducing household poverty?

What are the positive and negative impacts of digital technologies on poverty?

How do environmental and social regulations or obligations affect prices for those in poverty?

Who benefits from poverty, and how?

What evidence is there that economic growth reduces poverty overall, and under what circumstances?

We hope these questions will be used in a range of ways. Most directly, it’s an important input into our anti-poverty strategies programme. But we also expect that practitioners, policy-makers, researchers and funders will use it to help shape further research programmes across a range of economic and social science disciplines.

The full paper, 100 Questions: identifying research priorities for poverty prevention and reduction by William J. Sutherland et al., is published in Journal of Poverty & Social Justice as an Open Access paper and can be accessed here.

Exposing the mythologies of the workless

Tracy Shildrick

Tracy Shildrick

by Tracy Shildrick, co-author of Poverty and insecurity: Life in low-pay, no-pay Britain

Even in the short while since we finished writing this book the issues with which it deals have become even more critical and contentious. Poverty and insecurity provides a detailed account of life at the edges of the contemporary labour market. We undertook interviews with sixty men and women, aged between 30 and 60, who were trapped in a cycle of low paid working and periods on and off benefits. The book tells the life stories of our interviewees and details their day to day struggles with working life and a largely hostile and unhelpful benefits system.  The current Coalition government are keen to draw distinctions between ‘the deserving’ and ‘the undeserving poor’ and in trying to cement this unhelpful distinction they divide the ‘shirkers’ from the ‘strivers’. ‘Shirkers’ are those who can’t be bothered to get out of bed in the morning, whilst the hard-working ‘strivers’ are toiling to earn a living and pay their taxes. This spurious distinction paves the way for punitive welfare cuts justified as targeting ‘work-shy, welfare scroungers’ but which make poorest poorer (and also cut in-work benefits to people ‘striving’ in low-paid jobs).

This book stands as a corrective to this sort of myth making (a recent study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by some of the same authors challenged the idea ‘cultures of worklessness’ based on further research in Teesside and in Glasgow). This new book shows close up the day to day realities of working at the edges of the labour market. Ours is one of the first concerted studies in this area. A key aim was to understand the dynamics of poverty and marginal work across the life course and, drawing on in-depth life history interviewees, to illustrate the consequences of this for the lives of individuals and their families. Our research in Teesside provides a case study example of the wider processes of labour market polarisation that relegate some to a life of hard work in low, paid temporary jobs that neither relieve poverty nor provide pathways up and away from it. Importantly the study has shown that this pattern of working is not simply the preserve of young adults struggling through ‘entry level’ jobs but that these patterns continue for many into adulthood and the middle of working-life.

An important conclusion of the book points to the resilience and lasting work commitment shown by our interviewees, despite the frustrations and setbacks of the low-pay, no-pay cycle. This strong work attachment was learned across generations, where parents and grandparents had also worked and passed on the importance of ‘working for ones living’ to younger interviewees. It would not be an overstatement to say that our interviewees deplored claiming welfare benefits, with some refusing to claim all together. For example, one respondent  Carol Anne (34, in part-time work and a mother to a young son) said:

Me Dad always worked and me Mum did. I think that influenced me. I saw the difference between when me Dad worked and when he didn’t, you know? The money situation: I seen how they struggled when he wasn’t working…like they felt awful at Christmas when they can’t buy you the stuff that they want and it really doesn’t matter what you get but…that made me want to work and do the best for Ben really.  

Contrary to the widely held view that ‘employment is the best route out of poverty’, the sorts of work available to our interviewees – as care assistants, cleaners, shop assistants, factory workers, security guards – kept them in poverty rather than lifting them out of it.  At the bottom end of the wage distribution, there continues to be an abundance of low wage work in the UK and this was the work done by our interviewees. This is the sort of work that does not require high level or indeed any qualifications and which was predicted to wither if not disappear under visions of a ‘high-skills, information economy’. As the book shows, what employers in these sectors want is not high skills or qualifications but the ‘right attitude’; workers who are physically willing and able to do insecure, low paid, low skilled ‘poor work’.

The book makes a number of recommendations in respect of policy to tackle poor work and the low-pay, no-pay cycle. For instance, paying the Living Wage would make a substantial difference to the lives of our participants. The book ends with a discussion of what we call ‘the great myth’ and ‘the great illogic’. Through its critical case study material the book aims to show that much which claims to speak of the poor and the workless is myth. These are old, powerful and widely-held myths, but myths nonetheless. These are myths that tell us that people are poor because of their own behaviours. This book has helped to expose these mythologies of the workless and in doing so the fallacies of current welfare reforms, at least as they refer to those caught up in the low-pay, no-pay cycle. This ‘great myth’ is exposed for what it is by the ‘great illogic’. The initial results of the government’s Work Programme highlight what we mean. Even with the concerted help and guidance provided by this multi-million pound programme fewer people were moved into jobs than might be expected had those unemployed people been left to their own devices. To coin a phrase, ‘it’s the economy stupid’. In virtually all parts of the UK there are many times more job-seekers than there are vacancies.  As one welfare-to-work advisor put it to us, ‘what’s the point of aspirating [sic] people if the jobs aren’t there?’

Poverty and insecurity: Life in low-pay, no-pay Britain is available to order with 20% discount from the Policy Press website.

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