Archives for category: Poverty

The photography of Janet Mendelsohn
Presented in association with Flatpack Film Festival
10 March – 28 April 2018

In the late 1960s American filmmaker and photographer Janet Mendelsohn spent several months documenting the everyday life of Balsall Heath, as part of her studies at the University of Birmingham. These images are a vivid record of the community at a time of rapid change, and many of the streets depicted were demolished soon afterwards. The exhibition visually explores a social housing crisis, poverty, migration and the experience of childhood in the area.

Building on a brief pop-up exhibition in summer 2015, Ort Gallery now present a selection of these amazing images in the neighbourhood where they were taken. The exhibition will be supported by a resource room exploring some of the stories behind the pictures, and a programme of events and screenings culminating in the 12th Flatpack Film Festival.

To accompany the exhibition we will run a series of events such as group discussions, film screenings, a ghost walk and more! Find all info here and join the Facebook event to be kept up to date!

This exhibition is made possible with strategic investment by the Arts Council England and support from Arts & Science Festival. Special thanks to the Cadbury Research Library.

Ort Gallery
500-504 Moseley Road
Balsall Heath
B12 9AH

Open Tuesday to Saturday 12-5pm

 

 

 

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The West Midlands Economy: Why We Need a Strategy for Inclusive Growth’, BTUC Conference

10 March 1.30-4.30,

Unite offices, Birmingham

See website for slightly clearer print.

 

 

 

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This question was posed last week and I replied cautiously, “Wait and see”.

However a link from Welfare Weekly sent by a Bournville reader led to forebodings.

It included information taken from the website ‘They Work for You‘ which shows that Esther McVey, who has been appointed as Secretary for Work and Pensions:

  • consistently voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (which Labour describe as the “bedroom tax”),
  • consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices,
  • consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability,
  • generally voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support,
  • consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits and
  • generally voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

Then a message about Dominic Raab’s appointment as new housing minister appeared in the inbox 

It recalled that only a year ago, Labour attempted to get an amendment added to the Housing and Planning Bill requiring that houses rented to human beings be ‘fit for human habitation’.

Raab voted against making it a legal requirement for rented housing to be fit for people to live in. Indeed, as the party voting record for the amendment shows, not a single Conservative MP voted to support it.

Another cause for concern was his remark about foodbank users in his constituencies, first reported in the local media: “I’ve studied the Trussell Trust data, what they tend to find is the typical user of a foodbank is not someone that is languishing in poverty, it is someone who has a cash flow problem episodically”.

But the Cobham Foodbank in Mr Raab’s constituency, affiliated to the Trussell Trust, has issued figures on referrals to its service from April 2016 to March 2017: low income was the main reason more than 910 adults and children received foodbank aid over the 12 months. Debt was the second most likely cause to seek assistance, with 669 people, including 362 children, helped by the foodbank. And more than 160 people were referred due to benefit changes and delays.

Most of the comfortable merely feel uneasy about these appointments, but people struggling on low incomes, in poor-quality housing or homeless must be taking these appointments to heart and feeling profoundly worried about their future.

 

 

 

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Corbyn’s core philosophy

We must recognise that every single child in this country has talents and every single child deserves the chance to flourish and thrive to their maximum potential in whichever field suits them best. That focus on the individual child is what drives our determination to reduce class sizes. We know that half a million children have been landed in super-size classes of 31 pupils or more.

He opened by setting out an all-embracing programme:

  • a government for the many not the few
  • invest in our economy and public services.
  • give the richest and largest corporations tax hand-outs worth tens of billions.
  • The NHS and social care have been pushed into a state of emergency.
  • Housebuilding has fallen to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s.
  • Schools across the country face real terms cuts in funding per pupil,
  • and class sizes are rising –
  • while those young people who want to go to university face huge debts.

His undertakings:

Labour will introduce a National Education Service, ensuring excellent learning opportunities for all from early years to adult education and halt closures of Sure Start centres and increase the funding for them.

Universal free school meals for pupils at primary schools will be introduced to help teachers who will see the benefits of improved concentration and improved attainment in the classroom. It will also help parents who will not only save money but have the peace of mind in knowing that their child is getting a healthy school meal during the day. Investing in the health of our nation’s children, is investing in our nation’s future.

If we are to build an economy worthy of the 21st century, we need a schools system that looks forwards, and not backwards to the failed models of the past.

The task is clear: we must build an education system that suits the needs of our children and the opportunities they will have in the jobs market of tomorrow.

 

Read the full text here: https://watershed2015.wordpress.com/articles-addresses-worth-reading/jeremy-corbyns-2017-election-address-to-head-teachers/

 

 

 

“100 tenants a day lose homes as rising rents and benefit freeze hit”The Observer July 2017.

In the same month, a Joseph Rowntree Foundation study attributed 80% of the recent rise in evictions to the “no fault” process under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Two months’ written notice is all that private landlords need to do: they don’t need to give any reason when they ask tenants to leave.

It allows the worst landlords to ignore disrepair – tenants who complain are given notice – a process officially recognised under the name retaliatory eviction’.

Read more about retaliatory eviction’ – the subject of Commons Briefing paper SN07015 by Wendy Wilson – published on June 13, 2017.   

 Jeremy Corbyn raised the issue forcefully in today’s Prime Minister’s Questions

His exchange with the Prime Minister may be seen here, courtesy of Steve Walker and the full transcript in Hansard may be seen here.

Mr Corbyn reviewed the government’s record:

  • Homelessness is up by 50% and rough sleeping has doubled. Homelessness and rough sleeping have risen every single year since 2010.
  • Evictions by private landlords have quadrupled since 2010. There is no security in the private rented sector.
  • One-for-one replacement of council housing sold off through the right to buy was promised, but just one in five council homes have been replaced.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people are on housing waiting lists.

Shelter is calling for the introduction of a stable rental contract – to become the norm in England.

Campbell Robb, chief executive, said: “With the possibility of eviction with just two months’ notice, and constant worries about when the next rent rise will hit, the current rental market isn’t giving people – particularly families – the stability they need to put down roots. The stable rental contract offers renters a five-year tenancy and gives landlords more confidence in a steady income, all within the existing legal framework”.

Scotland for best practice to date: the Scottish secure tenancy

In Scotland, under Jack McConnell’s Labour government, by an order under section 11 of the 2001 the Housing (Scotland) Act tenants of local authorities, housing associations & tenants who are members of fully mutual co-operative housing associations, from 30 September 2002, became Scottish secure tenants.

Read the excellent terms here. Will a Labour government in this country adopt this Rolls Royce standard model and also introduce a stable rental contract for those in private accommodation? Or will the profit motive win the day?

 

 

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The late Hilary Powell, who lived in Shirley, would – like many others volunteering to help food banks – have reacted with great concern to the forecast in the Financial Times by Chris Tighe writing from Newcastle:

“Winter is coming, Britain’s welfare system is in upheaval, universal credit rollout puts extra pressure on Britain’s food banks and rising costs are hurting the poor”. 

Though increasingly disabled over the years by arthritis, with other serious health problems, Hilary did the lighter work on her allotment at Scribers Lane, with her husband John, and for some years – after making this point to organisers – ensured that some fresh food was added to the store of tinned and packaged goods by growing salads and vegetables and taking them to the food bank.

This year, the government’s rollout of its new benefits system has swelled the number of people seeking help because of the six-week delay before claimants receive payments. Some food banks may not be able to cope with the added strain on their resources, said Sam Stapley, operations manager at the Trussell Trust.

The Trussell Trust’s network, which covers two-thirds of distribution areas, saw a 6.64% average rise in referrals for emergency food in 2016/17, but a 16.85% increase in the universal credit rollout area.

  Newcastle West End food bank, the UK’s biggest, provides food for 1,000 people a week

Ten years ago, food banks were scarce. Many were started by volunteers concerned about people struggling financially. But they now form an essential part of Britain’s social safety net, with an estimated 2,000 distribution centres across the country. To use a food bank, a referral is needed, typically from the social service or housing support officers, but also from agencies such as local charities or Citizens Advice. Tens of thousands of volunteers nationally work more than 4m hours a year stocktaking, picking up and distributing food and fundraising, according to a recent study by the Trussell Trust, a national food bank network, and the Independent Food Aid Network.

The Trust is encouraging regional ‘plans of action’ so that food banks can better help each other plug gaps.

Streams of donations come from:

  • harvest festivals,
  • online appeals,
  • social events,
  • supermarket collection points,
  • a £3,000 crowdfunding appeal for a new Salford distribution centre,
  • Cardiff food bank’s recent auction of an ancient can of kidney beans raised £500.
  • Growing numbers of donations are coming from football matches.
  • Many businesses, in sectors from retail to financial services and energy, support food banks with goods or seconded staff.

Logistics, with many food banks based in ad hoc premises and receiving irregular stocks of food, is a major challenge. The Trussell Trust is meeting experts this month to discuss if its Coventry regional warehouse could become a national distribution base. Then the trust could accept big pallets of unwanted goods from corporate donors, split them into small consignments and distribute them.

 

 

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Emmaus has the answer to rehabilitation, offering both accommodation and work of a socially useful nature. As its website says, “overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head”.   Without a purpose formerly homeless people placed in ‘permanent accommodation’ become lonely and still feel like ‘outsiders’,  eventually having to leave because of alcohol or debt problems.

Trinity Centre in nearby Camp Hill, was highlighted on this site in 2014, as numbers of ex-servicemen were living rough in the city. It housed many more homeless people than Tabor House – which of course we congratulate. There were three aisles, like the one below and the centre led up to the chantry altar in which a Sunday service was held each week.

All meals were cooked in a splendidly fitted kitchen, there was a recreation room, a visiting library (taken round by the writer) and a rehabilitation flat at the top of the church.

The mayor of WM Combined Authority may visit the Coventry Emmaus, probably the nearest, or go the centre in Cambridge, which is the ideal aimed for by Emmaus, where housing, workshops and a place where locals can come and buy restored goods at modest prices from restored people are all on the same site. A secular organisation, its strength is that it is ready to welcome back those who need another chance – no closed doors.

 

Trinity Centre is for sale: could it become the city’s first Emmaus?

 

 

 

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In 2015, Welfare Weekly reported that research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that 2.6million working families on Universal Credit would lose £1,600 a year from the changes and 1.9 million would be £1,400 a year better off.

Analysis from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility suggested the changes to universal credit would save the chancellor close to £3bn by 2019-20 – a figure quoted by Public Finance.

Graph from House of Commons Library blog, last November, ‘Jam Tomorrow’

In March this year a study by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the IPPR thinktank that a series of cuts and changes have left the government’s flagship welfare overhaul failing to meet its original aims.

Although universal credit was intended to boost household incomes by strengthening incentives for claimants to move into work or take on more hours, the study says that more families will be worse off than under the scheme’s original design.

Families with children are the biggest losers under the cuts made to universal credit since it was first established. Lone parent families will be on average £2,380 a year worse off, while families with two children lose £1,100 on average and those with three youngsters lose £2,540. Lone parents and couples where one parent works part-time to care for young children are hit particularly hard and face having have to find up to two days’ extra work a week to meet the shortfall in income from the cuts.

Currently just 450,000 people are on universal credit, which is not expected to be fully operational across the country until 2022. At that point, according to estimates by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2.1 million families will be worse off under the new system, and 1.8 million better off.

David Hencke quotes Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, who said:

“My office has been deluged with complaints from constituents about a Universal Credit system that is clearly struggling to cope and failing to deliver the support that claimants need in anything like an orderly or timely fashion”.

She reveals a very sorry picture. The new IT system means people can’t talk to a human. It has a verification process that requires claimants to produce photographic identification such as a passport or driving licence, “which many simply do not possess and certainly cannot afford”. She adds:

“There are numerous examples of Universal Credit claims being shut down before they should be; of documentation being provided to the DWP, at the constituent’s cost, and repeatedly being lost or even destroyed; and of totally conflicting, often incorrect, information being provided to constituents about their claims.” A list of other problems may be seen here.

Precisely the case seen repeatedly 20 years ago when the writer (David Hencke) was a volunteer in a local night-shelter.

Hencke ends, “What this shows to me is a growing disconnect between the people at the top – who are computer savvy, have nice centrally heated homes, no problems with bills, can afford expensive holidays, and can’t conceive of anyone not having a passport – designing a system for poor, dispossessed, desperate people without any understanding of how the world works for them.

 

 

 

 

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The city has at last gained a council leader who really cares for the 99% (search housing blogs) – the only one since Theresa Stewart was elected.  

Measures taken (2016-17) include:

Clancy also works effectively to maintain and increase economic prosperity for the city’s business community:

Does ‘Sir Humphrey’ resent his success?

Howard Beckett (Unite) points out: “Let no one lose focus here that this is a cuts agenda being forced through by a paid officer, Stella Manzie, who takes home £180,000 a year and in her last year at Rotherham claimed over £160,000 in expenses”. He stated:

“The Council have agreement with the unions for changes in a working week, shift patterns, increased waste revenue. The Labour Cabinet needs now to honour the Acas deal and in doing so do the right thing by workers and the people of Birmingham . . . the council needs to admit it did ratify it and stand by it – and if it doesn’t, it needs to be honest and admit it’s going back on its decision. This is a fair deal and the equal pay issues are made up”.

Is the civil service attempting to undermine the elected leader of the council? Technically no officers, including the interim chief executive, have the authority to overturn a cabinet vote  seven for three against according to a ‘senior Labour source’ at a council meeting on 17 August called to discuss the deal

Clancy’s ‘crime’: addressing a major overspend on the bins department which relied heavily on costly agency staff and overtime payments to fulfil its basic service and a potential equal pay liability that the Labour leadership inherited from the former Tory-Lib Dem council which oversaw the 2011 bin strike.

There will be a full council meeting on Tuesday, September 11 when two councillors with a minimal track record of achievement will table their vote of no confidence in the leader.

It should be overwhelmingly defeated.

 

 

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Hippo says: “We can forget the divide between left and right or whatever other divide the ambitious politician might try to invent. The divide is between the old who enjoyed student grants, decent healthcare, access to the housing market, social mobility and a pension and the young who are offered none of the above”.

Plastic Hippo writes that the government, currently deciding to deny voting rights to millions of young citizens, “might appear a little harsh if not actually undemocratic”. He offers ‘overwhelming evidence of reckless irresponsibility’, describing its generation (‘millions of people in the UK aged between 50 and 65’), as:

 “a group of wanton hedonists who deserve to be disenfranchised on the grounds of poor taste alone without even considering the total lack of respect, gratitude or accountability that they exhibit. Embracing a lifestyle of binge drinking, drug-taking and promiscuity, it is obvious that for the good of the nation, anyone aged between 50 and 70 should not be allowed to vote or to stand in an election to public office . . .

“Born after the Second World War . . . these self-proclaimed baby-boomers are now in positions of power and influence and have managed to turn a post-war economic miracle into a decade of unnecessary austerity that benefits the rich at the expense of the poor . . .

“(and) have brought us to the brink of a third global conflict, encouraging hatred and division within and beyond nations”.

A generation flocking to hear Jeremy Corbyn who offers them hope of a better future

“In 2014 there were about one and a half million 16 to 17-year-olds in the UK and in the last three years that number has almost certainly increased . . . Denied Surestart Centres, sensible class sizes in primary schools, adequate learning resources in secondary school and barriers to tertiary education, it is little wonder that the current government refuses to allow a democratic voice to the young people who will inherit the mess (remember that golden excuse of the last seven years) left by a government that cut ESA and tripled university tuition fees. People under the age of 25 do not qualify for housing benefit and have no right to the national living wage”.

Their fate is in the hands of this ungrateful post-war generation – regardless of ‘overwhelming evidence of reckless irresponsibility’ – charged by Hippo with “blatant indolence, a woeful lack of awareness and an apathetic indifference worthy of sheep being driven to an abattoir . . .”.

Caveat: the writer reminds Hippo that thousands of that fortunate generation have regularly and vehemently condemned the political measures depriving the young of chances in life enjoyed by the post-war generation.

But they have been denied an effective voice by an electoral system, applauded as offering  ‘strong government’ which is willing and able to steamroller the hopes of the young and all on lower incomes or in bad health.

 

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