Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

February – March 2024 : The little things READ ONLINE


News in brief, Nov-Dec 2017

November 17 2017
Chaotic Universal Credit, poverty in China, Europe's sad statistics, Norfolk homelessness doubles, Chinatown vs poverty-porn, micro-homes

Universal lack of credit

The 'chaotic' roll-out of Universal Credit is reportedly causing many poor families to become homeless.

The new benefits system is being piloted in selected areas of the UK but delays in the system are preventing people from receiving their much-needed financial support.

Homelessness charity worker Laurie Goss was helping a single mother with young children who was affected by an automatic six-week delay involved in switching from housing benefit to the new system.

"Delays in payments of Universal Credit led to her being evicted for rent arrears," he told the Manchester Evening News.

Following a survey which found that just two in 10 private landlords would rent to people on Universal Credit, Jon Sparkes, the CEO of Crisis, said: "Far too many people are experiencing delays in their payments, meaning they can’t pay their rents. At best, landlords will start to see recipients of Universal Credit as ‘risky tenants’."

Crisis have called on the UK government to commit £31m per year to a new Help to Rent scheme to help homeless people find stable accommodation.

In October, MPs voted 299 to 0 in favour of pausing Universal Credit in a parliamentary vote that all Tory MPs were instructed to boycott.

However, despite this landslide victory, the vote is not legally binding and cannot force the government to halt the failing system.


Universal basic services

An academic report from a former senior government official has suggested that the government should pay for free housing, food, transport and internet for all UK citizens.

Jonathan Portes and Prof Henrietta Moore of University College London have proposed a new "universal basic services" system which would cost around £42 billion to run, and be paid for by large tax increases for the British public.

The report also warns that the UK will be hit by many job losses in coming years due to the rapid advance of technology.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the Guardian, “This report offers bold new thinking on how we can overcome those challenges and create an economy that is radically fairer and offers opportunities for all.”


Sleep in the Park

Sleep in the Park, a sleepout encouraging members of the public to reach fundraising targets for homeless charities, will take place in West Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, on 9 December.

Up to 9,000 people are hoped to attend the event, with numerous performances from artists and celebrities such as Rob Brydon, Liam Gallagher and John Cleese.

Event organiser Josh Littlejohn told BBC News that fixing the problem is not impossible: "The statistics of homelessness in Scotland are not insurmountable – we only need to help 11,000 people back to their feet. Together we can do that."


China uproots poverty

China's government are using a drastic new tactic to deal with the country's critical poverty issues.

The highly populated country's official poverty-line sits at earning just $1.17 (around £0.89) per day, with millions of citizens living in remote, mountain communities miles away from electricity, main roads and high-paying jobs.

The government's radical plan involves uprooting these remote communities and moving people in huge housing complexes on the outskirts of large metropolis cities.

Despite being forced to leave his home, farmer Dang Xiaosi told NPR: "I've been wanting to leave for a while, when [the authorities] tell me to." but also added, "Tell the government not to charge us for electricity. You journalists can do that. They won't listen to us villagers."


Europe's sad statistics

The European Union's statistical office, Eurostat, has published a report which highlights the changes in Europe's poverty numbers since the 2008 financial crash.

The report showed an overall decrease in poverty figures, suggesting that many European countries are moving in a positive direction.

However, the report also shows that over 115 million Europeans are still living either in poverty or in a state of social exclusion.

Three countries - Bulgaria, Romania and Greece – reported that over a third of their respective populations were at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

Even some of the highest performing countries like the Netherlands have seen up to a two per cent increase in poverty levels since the 2008 recession.


Norfolk homelessness doubles

The National Audit Office recently published statistics on homelessness in the UK, showing that the number of people sleeping rough in Norfolk and Waveney has increased by 100 per cent over the past five years.

Norfolk's towns have seen a dramatic increase in homeless people since 2015, and some blame a decrease in government spending to try and fix the problem.

Norwich, Norfolk's largest town, has seen an increase in rough sleepers despite reportedly spending £7.1m to tackle the issue between 2015/16.

Critics point out that this figure is less than the £11.7m Norwich spent in 2009/10.

Derek Player of St Martins Housing Trust condemned the lack of affordable housing in the regions.

He told the Norfolk Eastern Daily Press, “The bottom line, of course, is the very low number of new homes being built in the social sector at rents that people can afford – even if they are benefit dependent.”


Chinatown vs poverty-porn

Residents of New York's Chinatown community have lashed out against an art installation at a prestigious art gallery.

An exhibition by Israeli artist Omer Fast involved the transformation of the James Cohan Gallery into a stereotypical Chinatown storefront, featuring old red lanterns, broken cash machines and graffiti.

The gallery and artist claim the artwork "speaks about community, citizenship and identity" whilst the activist group Chinatown Art Brigade (CAB) have condemned the exhibition as racist.

CAB published a statement on their website, saying, “The artist’s choice to ignore the presence of a thriving community filled with families and businesses reduces their existence to poverty porn.”


Micro-homes swing into action

Teenager Keiran Evans has been handed over the keys to the UK's first 'iKozie' micro-home for homeless people, which is based on the compact design of yachts and aeroplane cabins.

Each iKozie home includes one bedroom, a full-furnished kitchen, a bathroom and a living room space – but costs a huge £40,000 to build, raising questions about the sustainability of this project.

However, Evans, who had been sleeping rough for a year, told the Metro, "I’m ecstatic, genuinely so happy to have my own space. It’s like a compact luxury apartment."


Working for poverty

Over half of Londoners living in poverty are part of working households, according to a study by the Trust for London.

The capital city is currently home to some 2.3 million people living below the poverty line, and the new study shows that 58 per cent of those people live in households in which someone has a regular income.

Of this total, around 700,000 are children, 200,000 are pensioners and 1.4 million and working-age adults.

Despite the overall poverty rate in London dropping by 2 per cent since 2012, the percentage of impoverished individuals in working households has increased by 14 per cent over the past decade.


Educating girls will tackle poverty

The Guardian hosted a seminar in New York to discuss the positive impact of equal education rights for boys and girls.

In many countries, girls are either prevented from attending school, or are forced to stop education in order to get married.

Each year, 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married, meaning they can no longer attend school.

But experts say granting girls equal access to education is vital to eradicating poverty.

According to a report from the World Bank, educated young women tend to be healthier, have fewer children, marry later and participate in the economy more.