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How parts of Britain are now poorer than POLAND with families in Wales and Cornwall among Europe's worst off

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Our Lives: Poverty then and now in the UK

Fran Bennett 17 April 2015

A report launched today, Our Lives: Challenging attitudes to poverty in 2015, captures the humanity of the experience of poverty and calls for change as radical as the social reform in the 1940s.

It was just over a year ago when Bob Holman - the inspiring activist from Easterhouse on the edge of Glasgow, now retired but still active - issued a challenge in The Guardian newspaper. He called on eight named women to put a spotlight on the lives of people living in poverty in the UK now. (I was the add-on - woman no. 9 - who got roped in as well.) And the report we wrote together, Our Lives: Challenging attitudes to poverty in 2015, launched today in Newcastle, does just that (#ourlives2015).

Our Lives deliberately harks back in its title to the report Bob Holman wanted us to emulate. Our Towns: A close-up was published in 1943 and written by another group of eight women - members of the Hygiene Committee of the Women’s Group on Public Welfare. They were trying to respond to the many complaints made about working class evacuees sent from the East End of London and elsewhere to safer, often richer, places. Bob Holman was himself one of those evacuated children and remembers the experience well.

The host families complained that these children often had nits or fleas; they wet the bed; they didn’t have the proper clothes; and they didn’t behave properly, either. Our Towns was an attempt, by eight women all actively involved in health visiting, teaching or voluntary work, to explain the context of these children’s lives, where they came from, and in particular the structural roots of the poverty they lived. And they spelt out clearly how much the children’s parents cared about them.

Our Towns was of its time, and a report written today is clearly not going to be the same. But Bob Holman saw it as one of the turning points in the Second World War - alongside the better-known Beveridge report - that helped lead to social reform, and in particular to the creation of the post-War welfare state.

Bob argued that there was more solidarity with those living in poverty and more understanding of their lives as a result of Our Towns. He said there was an urgent need to carry out a similar exercise now - especially in the context of the coalition government’s cuts to this post-War welfare state - and named the women who should undertake this task.

They and others (including me) accepted his challenge - and Our Lives: Challenging attitudes to poverty in 2015 is the result. It builds up a picture based on individual stories of what living in poverty is like in the UK today and calls for change as radical as in the 1940s.

This is not an academic report, or a document brimming with statistics. Others have written those. As Julia Unwin, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says in her Foreword, the report

“… gives a clear, unflinching account of the state of our nation, and does so in ways that illuminate, and humanise, the dry accounts of trend data. Taken together, [the stories] give a picture of life that is harsh, and difficult, perpetuating inequality, and reducing potential. And they do so in ways that underline the humanity of the experience of poverty.”

The authors of Our Lives have all admired Bob Holman for years for his unflinching commitment to working alongside people in poverty - living in Easterhouse himself for many years. We cannot aspire to be like him. And we do not pretend that we are living in poverty ourselves. In that sense, this report is not ‘the voice of the poor’. But what we have in common is a long history of living and working closely with families and communities grappling with poverty.

One of us is a community development and social policy worker (Tricia Zipfel); one is a former director of a family rights organisation (Jo Tunnard); one is a children’s writer (Josephine Feeney); one is the manager of a food bank (Audrey Flannagan); one works at a Citizens’ Advice Bureau (Loretta Gaffney); one is a social worker (Karen Postle); one works for the voluntary sector (Sally Young); and one is the General Secretary of the TUC (Frances O’Grady). I am an academic and social policy researcher, and would also see myself as an activist, as would many others I’m sure.

Between us, we know many people who are struggling to make ends meet - and doing so against the odds, and often in the face of hostile attitudes, or just incomprehension. So we invited them to tell us their stories. Some of these are about people’s struggles to survive, and about being battered by the benefits system. Some of the stories demonstrate the complexity of people’s lives, and others how families can be fragmented by domestic abuse, or even by the care system. Mental health and disability issues, as well as homelessness and insecure employment, also feature. There are examples of public services treating people in poverty badly. But there are also instances of private companies doing the same.

And, as Julia Unwin says in her Foreword, the stories ‘tell of people faced with the most difficult and disturbing circumstances continuing to care and support those they love’. There are tales of extraordinary resilience and resourcefulness - or just of the powers of daily endurance that living in poverty often entails. Of course some people make mistakes, and some make bad choices. But there are usually reasons. And the stories show that society tends to be much less forgiving when this involves people on low incomes.

So what do we want from the report? We want it to encourage people to oppose cuts that fall heavily and unfairly on those on the lowest incomes. We hope it will counter a public narrative that devalues the welfare state as we know it, and that sees ‘dependency’ instead of survival against the odds.

But this is not just a(nother) report about the coalition government’s austerity programme, either. We also want Our Lives to be a wake-up call, as Our Towns was over seventy years ago. We want it to challenge the common assumption that people in poverty are ‘scroungers and skivers’. We want it to highlight the courage and determination that are needed to cope with life on a low income day after day. And we hope it will also contribute to a wider discussion about the kind of society we want to be.

About the author

Fran Bennett is a senior research and teaching fellow and a member of the Oxford Institute of Social Policy, University of Oxford, with interests in poverty, gender and social security issues. She also works on a self-employed basis for NGOs and others on social policy issues. She is an active member of the Women's Budget Group, which analyses government budgets, spending and policies from a gender perspective.


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Housing crisis making thousands of people trapped in poverty seriously ill



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Poverty – and child poverty in particular – is rising GUARDIAN


Welfare cuts have pushed hundreds of thousands, including more than 300,000 children, below the poverty line since 2012, despite Tory claims to the contrary

Poverty in the UK is increasing after two years of heavy welfare cuts have helped to push hundreds of thousands of people below the breadline, according to an independent study of the coalition government’s record.

Although middle-earners saw incomes rise marginally after 2013, policies including the bedroom tax and below-inflation benefits rises have reduced incomes for the poorest, pitching an estimated 760,000 into poverty since the last official figures were produced, according to the New Policy Institute (NPI) thinktank.

Child poverty showed the biggest increase, with 300,000 youngsters moving into hardship, reversing a fall in the headline figure recorded in the coalition’s first year. NPI estimates 29% of UK children are in poverty after housing costs.

The study challenges Tory claims that child poverty has been reduced by 300,000 on the coalition’s watch. While that figure is officially correct, NPI says, the data on which it is based only applies to the three years between 2009 and 2012.

“The clear conclusion is that poverty in the UK is rising among all age groups,” the NPI’s research director, Tom MacInnes, told the Guardian. “The trajectory over the second half of the coalition’s term has been a bad one. The next government, whoever wins next week, will be dealing with worsening, deepening poverty.”

NPI undertook the study after the government refused to bring forward the publication of official data which would have shown the impact on poverty figures of the major welfare reforms introduced in 2013, and enabled the coalition’s record to be properly scrutinised before the election.

Official poverty data for 2013-14 will not be published until June, while figures showing the coalition’s record in the final year of the parliament will not be available until June 2016.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group charity said: “This important analysis shows the weakness of the claim being put about by ministers that they have got child poverty down despite making wide-ranging and deep cuts to benefits and tax credits.”

Responding to the report, a Conservative spokesman repeated the claim that there were fewer people in poverty compared to 2010. “The truth is that the best route out of poverty is work, and there are now a record number of people in work – 2m more since the last election and 700,000 fewer workless households.”

Labour’s shadow welfare minister, Helen Goodman, said: “This report shows that increasing levels of poverty under this Tory-led government are leaving millions of families struggling to make ends meet.”

Child poverty fell in the first year of the coalition, under the tax and benefits framework inherited from Labour, and remained stable for two years as median incomes fell, the study says. It started to rise again after April 2013 when a series of benefit cuts were introduced, alongside increases in tax allowance.

The median weekly income fell from £425 in 2009-10 to £392 in 2012-13, inching up to £395 by the end of the parliament, says NPI, largely as a result of increased tax allowance and rising employment. But the weekly income of the poorest 10%, which was £174 five years ago, has fallen to £160.

The upward trend in relative poverty over the past two years has affected all groups, the study finds, including working families and pensioners, while the numbers of people identified as being in severe poverty also rose.

The Child Poverty Act requires the government to reduce relative child poverty to below 10%. Latest official figures, which differ from the NPI model in that they measure poverty before housing costs are taken into account, show that 17% of children are below the breadline.

Labour says it will keep the target, though admits it is “very unlikely to be met”. The Conservatives say they will “work to eliminate child poverty”. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that child poverty will rise to 23% by 2020.

A person is defined as in poverty if their household income is below 60% of the median, while “deep poverty” refers to people in households where income was less than 50% of the UK median.

The study, using a model developed by NPI, estimates income and poverty levels for 2013-14 and 2014-15 using 2012-13 data adjusted for changes in population, employment, earnings, benefits and prices.

According to NPI, the government said the decisions on publication dates were not political. But a spokesman for NPI said: “Given the significance of recent policy changes and welfare reform to the poverty landscape, not publishing official statistics before the election is also political.”

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Anti-Austerity Protests to Flood UK on June 20th


TEHRAN (FNA)- Britain's People Assembly Against Austerity has planned a mass rally against the new government's welfare cuts on 20th of June across the UK.

Thousands of Britons are slated to take part in a massive demonstration on June 20th to oppose the new government's austerity measures.

According to the group’s spokesperson, so far more than 30,000 people have announced via Facebook that they would take part in the rallies next month.

Only one day after exit polls were announced, the British police clashed with protesters in central London as thousands took to the streets to express their wrath at Tories rise to majority rule with only 25 percent of the vote.

Also on Wednesday, over three thousand Britons took to the streets of the industrial city of Bristol, Southwest of England, slamming the Tories' fresh austerity measures. Some protesters questioned the truthfulness of the election results, claiming vote rigging.

Reports coming out of the UK suggest that more protests are scheduled to be staged in the country following the surprise victory of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

The polling results which gave the Tories a comfortable lead painted a very different picture from a well respected poll released hours before the polls closed.

Electoral Calculus was the most accurate poll ahead of the 2010 election and this year’s poll was again expected to be replicated in the results, however, it suggested a wildly different result from the official voting results announced.

Electoral Calculus has made General Election predictions for 20 years using scientific analysis of opinion polls and electoral geography.

In the end, the Conservatives unexpectedly clinched the majority with 331 seats, surprising many in the country and sending Cameron, the party leader, to a second term as prime minister.


George Osborne calls emergency July budget to reveal next wave of austerity

= Friday 15 May 2015 19.01 EDT


Chancellor promises a ‘budget for working people’, which will also spell out how the Conservatives will cut £12bn from Britain’s welfare bill



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100,000 Britons will retire this year to face a life of poverty

By Sarah O'Grady



As many as 104,750 people – 15 per cent of those expected to stop working in 2015 – will be relying solely on the State pension to pay the bills in their old age.

And 111,733 of those aged 65 will have to survive on the ­poverty line with an income below ?9,500 a year, research by pension giant Prudential has found.

A single pensioner relying just on the ?115.95-a-week basic State pension will have an annual income of just over ?6,000 – well below the minimum considered necessary by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity.

A couple with a combined State pension of ?231.90 a week, but with no further pension income, will get by just above the “poverty line” set by the Department for Work and Pensions of ?224 a week after housing costs.

Alan Higham, of Fidelity Investments, said: “If you want to avoid living on the bread line in retirement, dependent on welfare benefits, then starting a saving habit early on is vital. The continued existence of means-tested benefits means people have a safety net against poverty but it will by no means provide a comfortable old age.”

The research highlights the importance of the State pension even for those who have other savings as it will provide 36 per cent of an average OAP’s income.


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WARNING: Pension sharks are targeting older workers see link for these two articles


But many of the retiring “class of 2015” questioned by Prudential are unsure or have no idea at all what the State pension is worth.

Vince Smith-Hughes, retirement income expert at the group, said: “Reforms to ways that ­people can use their pension ­savings, introduced in early April, present many new choices.

“However, only those with their own pension savings will be able to benefit from these new choices. People who rely solely on the State are likely to have to face serious financial belt-tightening.”

Women are more than twice as likely as men to have to rely on the State pension – 21 per cent compared with nine per cent – and women say the State pension will account for 41 per cent of expected retirement income compared with 31 per cent for men.

Steve Wilkie, of retirement ­specialists Responsible Life, said: “The reality is that millions of people could be facing a very bleak retirement.

“They are facing the prospect of delaying retirement or taking a part-time job during retirement to cover any shortfall. It is not ideal when retirement is meant to be a time to relax.

“The problem is that everyone knows there is a retirement time-bomb ticking but no one has worked out how to turn it off.”

Those expecting to retire this year in the East and North-west of England are most likely to have to rely on the State pension or other savings – 19 per cent and 18 per cent respectively have no other pension.

Those in Yorkshire and the Humber will be the least reliant, with just 11 per cent having no pension savings.

Of those who will not be relying solely on the State pension, 56 per cent have a generous final ­salary scheme while 44 per cent have a defined contribution scheme.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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HUNGER GAMES: New BBC Game Show Pitting Poor Against Poorer

May 29, 2015 By Stuart Hooper

21st Century Wire says…

Making a spectacle out of the poor and working class is the newest trend from the mainstream media machine.

The BBC is currently casting for a new show that seeks to pit the unemployed and low-paid workers against one another to win a cash prize.

The contestants will be expected to ‘prove‘ themselves, much like those in Suzanne Collins‘ hit series The Hunger Games. A representative from the production company elaborated and stated that ‘people will be put to the test in a series of challenges and tasks’.

see video http://21stcenturywire.com/2015/05/29/hunger-games-game-show-pitting-poor-against-poorer/

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UK – Police failing children forced into ‘Oliver Twist’ street crime, says anti-slavery charity

http://wakeupfromyourslumber.com/uk-police-failing-children-forced-into-oliver-twist-street-crime-says-anti-slavery-charity/ (READ MORE & SEE VIDEO via LINK)

An anti-slavery charity has accused British police of failing trafficked children who are forced into petty crime after the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner warned Oliver Twist type scenarios still exist in London.

Anti-Slavery International (ASI) said British police rarely protect children being exploited by gangs, adding that teenagers from overseas are often arrested and deported while criminals enjoy impunity.

ASI’s condemnation follows comments by the UK’s Anti-Slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland, who warned children are being forced to commit petty crimes such as begging and pickpocketing. == read more/video see link above


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Cruel UK welfare reforms force vunerable children to survive on £1 per day



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The Militarization of Classrooms: Weapons Companies Are Making Money by “Taking Over” British Schools



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UK Housing Prices to Jump 25% by 2020 as Homelessness Increases



Housing prices in the U.K. are set to soar amid an explosion in mortgage debt and homelessness.

The cost of housing is set to rise 25 percent in the next five years in the United Kingdom, according to new estimates released Thursday.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors warned the number of homes for sale has now dropped to the lowest level since 1978, amid a spike in consumers looking to enter the housing market.

Estimates of the average price of a new home in the U.K. are around 196,000 pounds (US$294,000).

Halifax’s housing economist Martin Ellis warned the supply of houses has become “extremely tight.”

“The imbalance between supply and demand is likely to continue to push up house prices over the coming months,” he told the Guardian newspaper.

Some economists have already warned housing prices are shouldering Britons with historically high levels of debt. In 2014, an NMG study commissioned by the Bank of England found the average household owed £83,000 pounds (US$124,500) of mortgage debt, but only made an average of £33,000 (US$49,500) in income per year. According to a separate study by Debt Action, mortgage debt is the worst in Northern Ireland. According to the study, debt has risen 24 percent since 2013.

While housing prices continue to rise, aid groups are also warning of a resurgence in homelessness. According to a study by charities Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation earlier this year, England alone saw a 9 percent rise in homelessness between 2013 and 2014, with over 280,000 people now estimated to not have a roof of their own.

The charities blamed the increase in homelessness on cuts to welfare and a “woeful lack of affordable housing.”

At the time, the study’s lead author Dr Suzanne Fitzpatrick told the BBC many more people could be at risk of slipping into homelessness.

“Yet this alarming trend has gone largely unnoticed by politicians or the media,” she warned.


Source: TeleSUR, 11 June 2015


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UK food poverty rising at alarming rate



New data shows an alarming increase in food poverty and food bank use in the UK, with proposed benefits cuts threatening to plunge 40,000 more children below the poverty line. Join the Sustainable Food Cities call for urgent action on benefits cuts, sanctions and low wages by signing the food poverty declaration.

From 2010-11 to 2013-14 the UK sunk from 12th to 17th position in the European measurement of food poverty. The UK now trails Portugal, Cyprus and Ireland, with more than 5.5 million Britons unable to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day. This data confirms that food bank visits – which topped 1 million this year – is just the tip of the iceberg in food poverty in the UK.

These alarming figures are likely to get significantly worse. A leaked internal memo shows that the government’s plans to lower the benefit cap will plunge 40,000 more children below the official poverty line.

Join the Sustainable Food Cities call for urgent action on benefits cuts, sanctions and low wages by signing the food poverty declaration.

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Thousands of jobs lost in UK



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Survey: Students forced into taboo trade to make ends meet



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Tory policies force Britain’s poorest families to suffer the most

========================================================= http://www.acclaimednews.com/tory-policies-force-britains-poorest-families-to-suffer-the-most.html

3542341133_17dc9dc22b_z.jpgCredit: flickr.com/photos/altogetherfool/

(Acclaimed News) A newly released report has revealed, as many have suspected, that British taxes are currently weighted in such a way that hits the poorest families harder than the richest ones. With the Tories considering tax cuts for the rich, and reducing benefits plus tax credits for the poor that situation could get worse instead of better.

The 2014 figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) clearly showed the disparity between the richest and the poorest. The richest fifth of the population had an average yearly income of £80, 800 before taxes or benefits were taken into account.

In contrast the poorest fifth have to survive on 1/15th of that, a mere £5,500 (and that is if they avoid DWP sanctions).

However those poorest families see 37.8 per cent of their income go back to the government in taxes, whilst the richest have 3 per cent less of their income go in taxes.

If 160 Tory MPs have their way the balance will tilt towards the rich even further. They are urging Chancellor George Osborne to lower the top rate of tax to 40p.

Their argument is that lower taxes for the rich eventually makes everybody richer, assuming of course they use the money they save to create extra jobs instead of spending it on luxury items, or on foreign holidays.

The TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady argues that the rich should be paying more taxes not less:

“There can be no argument for reducing taxes for the richest when they are already contributing a smaller share of their income than the poorest.

“The government should instead be looking at how the wealthiest can make a fairer contribution to improving the public finances.”

This is especially the case as Iain Duncan Smith has declared that there will £12 billion in welfare cuts.

Ms O’Grady continued:

“Without tax credits, the low-paid would be much worse off. It will be a disaster for millions of families if the government rushes ahead with plans for extreme cuts to support for people in work.”

These cuts have already begun with the closing of the Independent Living Fund for disabled people, and cuts to working tax credits, and the freezing of child tax credits. Universal Credit is supposed to make people better off if they are working, but it is already three years late, and assuming it ever woks that is.

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