hunger in EnglandWith the ongoing cost of living crisis, the rippling effects of both Brexit and the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine, hunger in England has become a national concern. The cost of living increase has led to steep energy bills, and food prices grew at a rate of 13.1% inflation in August 2022 leading many households and families to make the grueling decision between staying warm or having a meal that day.

About Hunger in England

In May 2022, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) predicted that by 2023, the number of U.K. households facing food and energy bills higher than their disposable income would rise to 1.5 million, with households in London and Scotland bearing the heaviest impact. Later in the year, almost 30% of adults reported struggling to afford balanced meals, an increase from 9% pre-pandemic.

With the costs of living rising, so is the use of food banks, a resource already stretched thin during the pandemic. In August 2022, the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) surveyed 550 food banks across the U.K. and found that in the short space of four months, the demand for food banks had increased by 90%, whilst almost three-quarters of food banks reported a drop in the number of donations received. This has led to various food banks having to reduce the size of food packages available per person, with more claiming they may have to resort to doing so in the near future.

Child Food Poverty

Nonetheless, those who suffer the most from food poverty in England and the U.K., are the most vulnerable. Children, ethnic minorities and individuals with disabilities are on the front lines of the crisis.

Loughborough University conducted a study revealing that one in four children live in poverty in the U.K. Meanwhile, at approximately 46%, children from black and minority ethnic groups are the most likely to live in poverty, as opposed to 26% of their peers from white British families.

#EndChildFoodPoverty Campaign

During the pandemic in England, and after the closure of schools, many children who had previously relied on the free school meals scheme as a means to feed themselves went hungry. This prompted England footballer Marcus Rashford to lead the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign in October 2020. Rashford’s petition garnered more than 1 million signatures, and the government announced an eventual funding package for families on the free school meals scheme that aimed to alleviate child food poverty throughout the remainder of the pandemic, and during the school holidays.

Nonetheless, since Rashford’s campaign, the number of school children eligible for free school meals has increased from 20.8% of state-funded pupils in January 2021, to 22.5%.

Government Initiatives: Present and Future

Hunger in England and across the rest of the U.K. is rife, and despite the steps the U.K. government is taking towards reducing food poverty, such as extending free school meals, many may argue these movements are merely ‘tokenistic.’ Tokenistic or not, it is clear more is necessary to help those who cannot afford to eat to live.

– Genevieve Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Unseen Tours and Homelessness
Homelessness refers to people who do not have a secure place to live, or if they did, they could not stay. Homelessness is a symptom of poverty and many organizations have offered help to homeless people by providing financial aid, free meals and shelters. One British organization, Unseen Tours, has acted differently by hiring homeless individuals in London as tour guides offering tours to tourists and locals. This article will discuss the causes of homelessness before looking at the work of Unseen Tours and its accomplishments.

Causes of Homelessness

According to research by Shelter in 2021, nearly 280,000 people were homeless in England; among them, more than 120,000 were children. In addition, the data shows that London had the highest ratio of homeless people with one in 53 people having no place to live. Here are some important causes of homelessness in Great Britain:

  1. Unemployment: Without a job, people cannot afford to pay rent or mortgage payments. In turn, this contributes to a rise in homelessness among those who were financially struggling before they became unemployed.
  2. Poverty Trap: This factor is a consequence of unemployment. When someone loses their home because they fail to make a rent or mortgage payment, their credit rating suffers. As a result, it becomes more challenging for that person to find an alternative home.
  3. Bereavement: A person could become homeless if their financial supporters die. This makes it difficult for the vulnerable to sustain themselves.

Unseen Tours

Established in 2010, Unseen Tours aims to provide a platform for homeless people to tell their stories. The organization wants to change conventional perspectives on the homeless such as the stereotype of laziness. To do so, Unseen Tours employs homeless people as guides in London who offer tours for tourists and locals. This allows the homeless to use their knowledge for the benefit of the city. Not only does the job boost the confidence of the needy, but it also equips them with useful skills.

Moreover, Unseen Tours also works closely with other organizations that share similar objectives. Together, they organize training programs for guides and signpost them to additional support.

Accomplishments

In 2020, Unseen Tours celebrated its 10th birthday and won a Homeless Link Excellence Award. Since the establishment of Unseen Tours, 24 homeless guides have worked with the organization, holding more than 450 tours with more than 6,500 customers.

Overall, homelessness is a common social issue in different parts of the world. A substantial number of organizations have taken steps to help the homeless. While shelter and financial aid are necessary for homeless people, work opportunities are also valuable because unemployment is one of the core causes of homelessness. Moreover, working allows vulnerable individuals to rebuild their confidence and self-esteem. Unseen Tours has taken a novel approach to combat homelessness and their work should serve as a model for other industrialized nations dealing with homelessness.

– Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Flickr

Water Struggles in England and Wales
On May 12, 2022, the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) of England and Wales, responsible for the economic regulation of water, released a report indicating that many people are struggling to afford their water bills. In addition to water bills, many are also struggling to pay for their heat and fuel. England and Wales already face an issue with poverty and the water struggles in England and Wales amplify this situation further. Water is an essential resource that all people require for survival, but for those living in poverty, access to sufficient water becomes a luxury that many cannot afford.

New Helpful Guidelines

Ofwat is attempting to offset these struggles by producing a set of guidelines for water companies. This new set of guidelines aims to help alleviate the ongoing water struggles in England and Wales. These individuals can request assistance in paying water bills or even in repaying their debt, which makes the situation more manageable. Out of 10 households with children, seven households anticipate facing difficulties paying a utility bill over the course of 2022.

Cost of Goods Soars

Water struggles in England and Wales are becoming a severe concern that many are attempting to resolve. Anti-poverty campaigns note surging prices of many goods, including water, with disproportionate impacts on Britain’s most impoverished citizens. The prices of the cheapest goods that those living in poverty are usually consumers of are rising drastically. These cheaper products are already a cause of concern as these products are “calorie-dense” and lacking in nutrients. People living in poverty, according to research, are at risk of premature mortality due to the consumption of low-quality food and subpar standards of air quality in residences. These avoidable health issues add to the financial burden that those in poverty face on a daily basis.

Payment Solutions

Ofwat is urging water companies across the area to use their customer-based data to identify and contact households struggling to afford their water bills right now. This will better allow companies to understand the nature of support necessary and help identify who needs assistance the most. The guidelines direct companies to offer flexible payment plans and work to resolve repayment issues without resorting to legal action. A water affordability review in 2021 found that across England and Wales, 1.5 million households are living in water poverty. In addition, the review noted that another 3 million households were at risk of living in water poverty.

Aid is on the Way

These ongoing water struggles in England and Wales are taking a toll on millions of citizens struggling in poverty. However, water companies, such as “Severn Trent launched a £30 million financial support package” intended to help 100,000 of its current customers who are struggling to pay their water bills as the prices of all goods continue to soar. In addition to Severn Trent, on May 26, 2022, Britain’s government also announced that it will pay £15 billion worth of grants to households struggling to pay their bills in addition to the £22 billion it gave in support earlier this year.

These resolutions help alleviate major issues for those in poverty and aid people in their most urgent needs.

– Christina Papas
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in England
COVID-19 rocked the planet when it first came into the limelight during 2020, and it only spiraled out of control as the year went on and more and more countries went into lockdown. England has had a notoriously significant homeless issue with almost 220,000 homeless people by the end of 2019, up from the almost 208,000 homeless people in 2018. The average age for many of these men and women is between 40 and 50 years of age. There are also many types of homelessness in England. These types include rough sleeping, statutory homelessness, hidden homelessness and those who are at risk of homelessness.

Types of Homelessness

  • Rough Sleeping: One can define rough sleeping as the most noticeable form of homelessness. It is also the most stereotypical or the one people know the best. It is where someone finds themselves sleeping on the streets, without any form of temporary housing. Alongside the already troublesome issue of having to find somewhere safe to sleep for the night, the longer someone finds themselves sleeping rough, the higher the chances are of them facing some level of injury, mental or physical.
  • Statutory Homelessness: Statutory homelessness is the struggle of gaining housing through local jurisdiction. Often, people must be able to go through the legal hoops to secure proper housing.
  • Hidden Homelessness: Hidden homelessness involves those who cannot gain housing through local jurisdictions, or simply do not reach out and use the systems available to them for help. In England, official government statistics exclude people experiencing hidden homelessness, because these people may temporarily stay with friends or family, or in hotels, and so on. This is one of the most non-visible forms of homelessness.
  • At Risk of Homelessness: Those who are at risk of homelessness can find themselves close to homelessness due to many circumstances. Low-paying jobs, unstable housing and poverty can all lead to homelessness.

The “Everyone In Initiative

Before 2019, homelessness in England was on the rise. A set of data from the early to mid-late 2010s showed an astronomically high increase from more than 1,000 to more than 4,000 homeless people, a percentile increases of 168%. The government’s response to the pandemic was to implement an initiative known as “Everyone In.” This initiative advised all local jurisdictions to provide shelter and housing for those sleeping rough and who lived in conditions that shut out the ability to social distance. Some of these conditions included shelters and temporary housing centers.

To date, more than 25,000 people have received housing since the pandemic began, allowing for longer-term support for those in need. While more than 25,000 have permanent housing, around 10,000 still live in temporary or unstable housing.

Before COVID-19, English Parliament had other acts in the works to help combat the homelessness issue in the country. Parliament introduced an act called the Homeless Reduction Act 2017. The creation of this act was to help those at risk of homelessness. This piece of legislation acted as a safeguard to protect those in need. Households across the country can file for a type of aid.

During COVID-19, the “Everyone In” plan led to lower rates of infection and death rates among the homeless population. Before December 2020, the aid program protected more than 30,000 people with more than 10,000 entering crisis housing and less than 25,000 entering prolonged housing. In the fall of 2020, less than 3,000 people slept rough on a single night. This number has been steadily decreasing since 2018 when the number was a high of more than 6,000 people. Around the same time, about 66% of rough sleepers were outside of London and the South East. In the South East, less than 500 people were sleeping rough, which was down from around 900 the previous year. Since the beginning of the 2010s, the decrease from 2019 to 2020 was the highest it has ever been. There were over 400 fewer people sleeping rough in London.

Homelessness is Still a Major Issue

More than 65,000 households sought assistance from local jurisdiction councils in 2021. Between October and December 2020, approximately 60,000 households were at risk of homelessness, a 9% decrease from the 56,000 seen in 2019. This represents a significant decrease from October to December 2019, when the pandemic began in England.

Research has determined that there are still more than 30,000 households that are homeless and are eligible for assistance. From October to December 2019, the number of households increased by less than 1%. Despite this, the percentage of homeless homes and families with children has decreased by 13%. While homelessness in England has increased slightly since the previous quarterly update, the number of households with homeless children has decreased.

Homelessness in England during COVID-19 has been an ongoing issue, although there is light in the dark times due to the pandemic. Through the pandemic, large numbers of homeless people have been able to gain temporary or even permanent housing. Thousands of people have been able to properly social distance. Though the pandemic has rocked the world, there has been a shining light through the English people coming together to lower problems of homelessness across the country.

– Jake Herbetko
Photo: Unsplash

McDonalds Combats Global PovertyFounded in 1955, McDonald’s is one of the largest fast-food companies in the world. Renowned for its burgers and fries, McDonald’s currently offers a variety of food options in 118 different countries. As a result, the company operates more than 38,000 restaurants, employs millions of people and garners billions of dollars in revenue every year. Considering the fast-food giant’s worldwide presence, it is in a unique position to help impoverished communities around the world. Recognizing this, McDonald’s combats global poverty in several ways.

5 Ways McDonald’s Combats Global Poverty

  1. McDonald’s is one of the top employers in the world. According to Forbes, McDonald’s currently employs more than 1.9 million people worldwide. The only employers that outrank McDonald’s are the U.S. Department of Defense (3.2 million employees), China’s People’s Liberation Army (2.3 million employees) and Walmart (2.1 million employees). McDonald’s gives people around the world an opportunity to earn a living, work toward advancement opportunities and escape poverty.
  2. McDonald’s prioritizes employee education and advancement. In 2018, Mcdonald’s expanded its Archways to Opportunity program, an education initiative available to “restaurant employees in 25 countries.” The program allows employees “the opportunity to graduate from college, earn a high school diploma, learn English as a second language, complete an apprenticeship and gain access to advising services.” In Australia alone, more than 48,000 certifications have been awarded as of April 30, 2021.
  3. McDonald’s joined the European Alliance for Apprenticeships. Along with several other companies, McDonald’s supports the European Alliance for Apprenticeship’s mission to “improve access to vocational training” throughout Europe. Apprenticeships are important because they allow young people to acquire practical job experience and on-the-job skills to increase their chances of employment. Overall, in Europe, McDonald’s and other companies committed “to offer 45,000 apprenticeships by 2025.” These apprenticeships will take place in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K.
  4. McDonald’s supports Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). RMHC is a nonprofit organization that “creates, finds and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families.” RMHC runs 260 Chapters in 62 nations around the world. These programs assist families with ill children by providing free accommodation near the medical center so that families can afford to be present while their child receives medical care. Additionally, the nonprofit organization Meals From The Heart works closely with McDonald’s and RMHC to provide families with freshly cooked meals during their stay. Overall, RMHC aims to offer a housing option to families experiencing financial hardship due to child medical bills.
  5. McDonald’s donated food during the COVID-19 pandemic. McDonald’s partnered with organizations, including Food Donation Connection and the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), to donate food surpluses to families in need around the world. For example, McDonald’s donated eggs, bread and milk to struggling families in Ireland, England, Germany and Italy. Additionally, McDonald’s donated 250,000 pounds worth of food to Canadian food banks and NGOs. The company also gave thousands of liters of milk to migrant workers in Singapore.

A Significant Impact

Overall, McDonald’s combats global poverty by financing and supporting education, housing and food aid programs around the world. Despite economic and financial challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s support for communities abroad never weaned. McDonald’s continues to have a significant impact around the world by combating global poverty and helping those in need.

– Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in the U.K.The World Health Organization (WHO) officially labeled the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic in March 2020. This declaration pushed scientists and pharmaceutical companies around the world to develop vaccines. By December 2020, the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, became the first country to approve COVID-19 vaccines for the public. To date, the U.K. is on track to achieve herd immunity, with close to 67% of its total population vaccinated with one dose and nearly 50% vaccinated with two doses. Although definitions of herd immunity vary, it generally involves vaccinating a majority of the population to reduce the spread of disease. Considering the success of COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom, below are six facts about the current situation.

6 Facts About COVID-19 Vaccination in the United Kingdom

  1. The U.K. developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. University of Oxford scientists worked in collaboration with the English pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop this vaccine. In January 2021, an 82-year-old man named Brian Pincker was the first to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in England. The U.K. government currently has access to 100 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca and 50 million doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines.
  2. Vaccination programs vary across the U.K. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own health care systems and chief medical officers. As a result, vaccination programs and policies vary between nations. For example, Scotland first vaccinated residents in care home facilities, whereas England vaccinated community members above the age of 80. Despite these differences, all four nations generally agree on the priority list of people eligible to receive vaccines. They all follow the advice that the U.K.’s independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization gave them.
  3. The U.K. offers vaccines to certain age groups. The National Healthcare Services (NHS) in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently offer vaccines to people older than 18. However, NHS England currently offers vaccines to people older than 23. As the rollout of vaccines continues in the coming months, this age limit will lower. In all four nations, people under the required age limit can receive the vaccine if they have pre-existing medical conditions, including lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, etc., that make them clinically vulnerable to COVID-19.
  4. The U.K. offers vaccines to frontline workers. Across the U.K., frontline workers can receive COVID-19 vaccines regardless of whether they meet age requirements. Frontline workers include healthcare workers, social workers, hospital receptionists, mail carriers, funeral home directors and childcare providers.
  5. The U.K. will donate vaccines to other countries. In a recent G7 meeting in Cornwall, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged more than 100 million vaccines to countries in need. As a group, leaders of the G7 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, committed to donating 1 billion vaccines to countries around the world.
  6. COVID-19 vaccination in the U.K. can reduce poverty. At the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment in the U.K. reached 5% for the first time since 2016. This is a direct result of in-person venues and institutions closing for public health concerns. COVID-19 vaccination efforts can help reopen in-person institutions, reinstate jobs and lift people out of poverty.

Looking Ahead

Overall, COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom shows success as more than 79.3 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine. People receive these vaccines in community pharmacies, hospitals, local general practices and other vaccination sites around the country. As a result, the U.K. government is currently on track to vaccinate all adults soon.

In the words of British vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, this constitutes a “fantastic milestone and cause for celebration.” As more people get vaccinated, the U.K. government will be able to ease lockdown restrictions and reintroduce a sense of normalcy in society.

Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom began its National Healthcare System (NHS) in 1948 with a mission to make healthcare available to all regardless of their ability to pay. Since its creation, the NHS has grown in its capacity to prevent illnesses and improve the mental and physical health of the population.

Numerous local and national organizations support the NHS such as clinical commissioning groups, charities and research institutes. These all compile to create the healthcare system. A general and payroll tax primarily fund the NHS, allowing patients in England to receive NHS services without charge. From emergency to non-urgent cases, healthcare in the U.K. seeks to put patients first by surveying the success of patients’ outcomes.

For those “ordinarily resident” in England or those with a European Health Insurance Card, coverage is universal. In fact, in most cases coverage is free. The NHS Constitution states that patients have rights to drugs and treatments when deemed necessary and approved by their physician. Through the NHS’s services, primary care, specialized care, longterm care, after-hours care and mental health care available.

What is the Role of the Government?

The Health Act (2006) requires that the Secretary of State has a legal duty to promote comprehensive healthcare services to the public free of charge. The NHS Constitution outlines the rights for those eligible for national healthcare, including access to care without discrimination and prompt hospital care. While the Department of Health supervises the overall health system, the day-to-day responsibilities rest with NHS England. In addition, the local government authorities hold the budgets for public health.

Ensuring Quality and Reducing Disparities

Research shows healthcare quality is worse for those living in poverty in England. The health gap between the rich and poor has widened over the past few years. The more economically deprived an area is, the more quality-deprived those same struggling areas are. Underfunded local services lead to poorer health of the most vulnerable.

Strategies to reduce inequality include monitoring statistics of access and outcomes, particularly for at-risk groups. The requirement to host “health and well-being boards” mitigates local government authorities’ relative autonomy in creating budgets for public health in their communities. These boards aim to improve the coordination of local services and reduce disparities.

What is the Impact of COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic makes health inequalities in the United Kingdom more visible. Those who live in the most deprived areas have a higher risk of contracting the virus. Fortunately, citizens have largely obeyed the government’s social distancing pleas, limiting the spread of the virus. However, this comes with social and economic consequences for those who were already suffering from inequality.

The weight of the pandemic does not fall evenly on society. Adjusting for age, those who live in poorer areas have faced more than double the deaths compared to those in richer areas. Additionally, research has found that minority ethnic communities have a higher risk of death from the virus. The reasons for this are complicated and research on these issues is advancing. However, discrimination and the resulting lack of socio-economic opportunities for these groups in education and employment can lead to their overall health being disproportionately impaired.

Solutions

To help healthcare in the United Kingdom obtain equal accessibility and quality, acting against the systemic barriers facing minority groups and encouraging overall economic development that will enable healthier living for all is necessary. Increased government support for the NHS and its relating voluntary and community sectors could mitigate the pandemic’s devastating effects.

Well Communities is an example of a nonprofit organization in the United Kingdom that empowers local communities to reduce inequalities. By working on the neighborhood level, Well Communities addresses specific concerns in improving local coordination through training and engagement around a themed project. Past projects have promoted healthy eating, exercise, mental health, employment, green spaces, culture and arts.

More than 18,700 individuals participated in Well Communities’ Well London activities, representing 35 percent of the population in that neighborhood. The outcome exceeded the targeted goals. Strikingly, 82 percent reported increases in physical activity and 54 percent reported an increase in mental wellbeing. Additionally, 60 percent reported increased levels of volunteering.

These statistically significant changes in the community indicate the value of organizations like Well Communities’ work. With more organizations implementing programs like these, there is hope to reconcile the increasing inequalities of healthcare in the United Kingdom.

COVID-19 and its lockdown will deepen inequalities unless the U.K. mounts a great effort. Through much-needed increased government support for the NHS and its relating voluntary and community sectors, the U.K. is working to abolish inequality in healthcare.

– Mia McKnight 
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Fuel Poverty
Also known as energy poverty, fuel poverty occurs when a family cannot afford to keep their home at a safe and comfortable temperature. Many commonly overlook it as an aspect of living in a low-income situation, so these eight facts about fuel poverty should provide the basic knowledge necessary to understand the concept.

8 Facts About Fuel Poverty

  1. Fuel poverty is a relatively recent concept. Brenda Boardman published the first book about fuel poverty in 1991. The book, entitled “Fuel Poverty,” served as an essential introduction to the topic. Since its publication, there has been an increase in research and awareness about fuel poverty.
  2. The definition changes in warm areas. The majority of discussions about fuel poverty pertain to how people cannot afford to warm their homes. However, in warmer climates, a lack of fuel presents other struggles such as no lighting or cooking methods. Moving forward, most of the facts about fuel poverty will discuss fuel poverty in colder areas.
  3. The British Isles has been at the center of the discussion about fuel poverty. Historically, a lot of the action and research surrounding fuel poverty has occurred in the British Isles. This might be due to a combination of a cold and wet climate and poor housing quality. Although fuel poverty can occur in a lot of places, the British Isles has been very vocal about its citizens’ struggles with fuel poverty and what it is doing to address the problem.
  4. Fuel poverty has multiple causes. When examining why fuel poverty occurs, there are often multiple factors that converge to result in a home lacking proper energy services. The main causes of fuel poverty are low income, high energy prices, poor energy efficiency (i.e. poor insulation or heating systems) and under-occupancy.
  5. Fuel poverty has a clear measurement system. In 2013, England adopted a Low Income High Cost (LIHC) method of determining the criteria for fuel poverty. It considers a household to be in fuel poverty if it has above average fuel costs and that those costs would leave them with a residual income below the official poverty line. Because most fuel poverty research comes out of England, others have widely adopted this system.
  6. A lot of households are at risk. Around 20 percent of households in Europe experienced fuel poverty in 2018. Some characteristics increase a household’s risk of facing fuel poverty, such as possessing a household member with a disability or long-term illness, as some factors increase physiological needs for energy services.
  7. Fuel poverty can have serious consequences. Living in a cold house can worsen pre-existing conditions, causing related morbidity and mortality. In the U.K. in 2016, 3,200 excess winter deaths linked directly to people experiencing fuel poverty.
  8. There are steps to help. A study in the U.K. in 2019 found that making people aware of the risks that occur with living in a cold home and providing thermometers to track temperatures can actually improve people’s living conditions. It can also be beneficial to alert citizens about grants and programs available to them to assist with the costs of energy services.

Hopefully, these facts about fuel poverty have provided some fundamental knowledge about the topic. One can easily overlook fuel poverty, but it forces people to make difficult sacrifices and can sometimes result in negative health consequences. The issue has been coming into the light more in recent years as politicians and organizations work to help those who cannot afford to maintain a safe and comfortable home.

– Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Pixabay

 

United Kingdom living conditions
While enjoying one of the most advanced economies in the world today, The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is not without its problems. This list examines the top 10 facts about living conditions in the U.K.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the UK

  1. It’s expensive to live in the United Kingdom. The Price Index for the city of London is 222. This score indicates that food, rent and other necessities are more than twice as expensive in London than they are in the average global city. Sheffield, the lowest ranked British city by this index has a price index of 132. Average rent for a small studio apartment in the U.K. is $972.96, and a dozen eggs cost $3.49.
  2. U.K. unemployment is low. Unemployment in the U.K. was 4.2 percent during March-May 2018, while Northern Ireland nearly broke a new record with the low rate of 3.5 percent. For comparison, Northern Ireland’s rate shortly after the recession of 2008 was 8.2 percent.
  3. U.K. poverty is also low. According to the Office for National Statistics, 7.3 percent of the U.K.’s population experience persistent poverty. Conditions are slightly worse for women, since 8.2 percent of the female population experience persistent poverty, compared to only 6.3 percent of the male population. Great Britain and Northern Ireland overall have a poverty rate of 16.7 percent, and this is slightly lower than 17.3 percent, the average for the European Union.
  4. U.K. quality of life is quite high. A recent study on the quality of life ranked the United Kingdom at the fifth place out of all European nations. This list looked at broadband speed, pollution, cost of living and many other factors. Out of everyone in the study, the U.K. spent the most percentage of its GDP on recreation and culture.
  5. Absolute poverty is rising among U.K. children. Children in the U.K. are at risk for rising absolute child poverty. Absolute poverty is defined as residing in a household that cannot maintain a basic standard of living (shelter, clothing and food) due to a low income. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Economic & Social Research Council found that absolute child poverty in U.K. is predicted to increase by four points. This rise is likely caused by a recent cut in government benefits for low-income families with children.
  6. It’s safer for women to give birth outside the U.K. According to Save the Children’s annual State of the World’s Mothers Report, women giving birth in the U.K. have more than double the chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth than women in Poland. Out of the top 25 countries in the world for mothers, the U.K. ranked 24th.
  7. According to the Centre of Economic and Business Research, it costs £230,000 (almost $300,000) to raise a child in the U.K. For a comparison, it costs roughly $234,000 to raise a child in the United States. There are several factors that could contribute to this, including lower food costs in the United States and greater land resources.
  8. The U.K. ranks highly in women’s equality. The World Economic Forum publishes an annual Global Gender Gap Report that ranks nations from best to worst in terms of women’s “economic participation, educational attainment, health and political empowerment”. In Western Europe, the United Kingdom took 15th place.
  9. The average woman makes 20 percent less than the average man. Beyond incomes, 80 percent of women in the U.K. engage in some sort of daily house upkeep while one out of three men engages in the same work. About half of working women and a third of working men also spend at least an hour a day caring for children or an elderly or disabled person. Not only are women making less money at work, but they’re also engaging in a lot of strenuous, unpaid work. However, many leaders actively fight against this. London Mayor Sadiq Khan published the first “gender pay audit” to make the government pay completely transparent. He also implemented programs to ensure flexibility and fair recruitment.
  10. The U.K. has a lot of work to do in terms of racial equality. To understand diversity and equality, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered research on this subject. While 4 percent of white Brits were unemployed, 10 percent of black and mixed Brits were unemployed. Black males were most likely to remain in custody rather than let out on bail. Organizations like Equality and Diversity Forum are combating these trends through policy work. This organization is a national group bringing together different peoples and organizations to combat oppression and fight for human rights in the country.

Despite a high cost of living, the U.K. has a thriving and diverse country. While it could certainly do better in terms of racial and gender equality it certainly represents one of the best places to live in the world. Although not entirely positive, the top 10 facts about living conditions in the United Kingdom show a thriving, healthy country.

– Sarah Stanley
Photo: Flickr

Learning in EnglandIt has been increasingly difficult for young people to access arts and culture. School art provisions are declining rapidly. The total estimated cost spent in England and Wales on educational art services for 2016/2017 is projected to fall another 13 percent from 2015.

As a result, there has been a decline in English children becoming involved in art subjects, a reduction in art teaching hours and fewer art teachers employed in schools. Informal programs have also suffered due to local authority cuts.

The Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) exists to address these issues. The alliance is a collective voice working to ensure that all children have meaningful access to cultural programs. Its goals are to advocate for a coherent national strategy for cultural learning, to unite the education, youth and cultural sectors, to showcase projects and demonstrate why cultural learning is so important.

The CLA first published the Imagine Nation report in 2011 to set the agenda for a national conversation about the value of cultural learning. The following statistics were included in the 2017 version of the report and outline the benefits of cultural learning:

  • Participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities by 17 percent.
  • Students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to graduate. These students are also 20 percent more likely to vote as young adults.
  • Studying art subjects increases the likelihood of students maintaining employment.
  • People who take part in the arts are 38 percent more likely to report good health.
  • Employability of students who study arts subjects is higher.

David Puttnam, the chairman of the CLA, has described the report as a wake-up call to boost cultural learning in England. “It is essential that access to arts is a right and not a privilege,” he says.

Similarly, Michelle Obama has stated that “Arts education…is the air many of these kids breathe. It’s how we get kids excited about getting up and going to school in the morning. It’s how we get them to take ownership of their future.”

The Imagine Nation report has resulted in a “call to arms” to boost cultural learning in England. According to the report, “we must act now to ensure that the next generation is given all the tools it needs to build a stronger, healthier society.”

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr