Inflammation and stories on United Kingdom

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 parliamentary democracy
There are many structures by which countries can run a government, ranging from democracy to totalitarianism. Parliamentary democracy is a specific form of democracy that originated with the parliament and has been evolving ever since. In order to better understand this form of government that is different than the one the United States possesses, here are seven facts about parliamentary democracy.

7 Facts About Parliamentary Democracy

  1. The structure differs from a presidential democracy. In a presidential democracy (such as the one the United States operates under), the chief executive (president) and legislature (congress) undergo separate elections. Conversely, in a parliamentary democracy, the elected legislature (parliament) chooses the chief executive (prime minister). The parliament can remove the prime minister at any time by a “vote of no confidence,” which is a less laborious task than removing a president.
  2. People refer to the British Parliament as the “Mother of Parliament.” This is because Britain developed the Westminster System of parliamentary democracy: a specific system founded on centuries of traditions. Other colonial states adopted the system, such as Australia, and many of them still operate under some variation of the Westminster System today.
  3. Fifty-one countries currently operate under a parliamentary system. Among these countries are Canada, India, Japan and Spain. Most of these countries function in combination with other systems, such as a constitutional monarchy, in which a monarch may share political power with the parliament.
  4. Prime ministers’ powers vary. There are variations in a lot of the parliamentary systems around the world. A prime minister’s power can change depending on the country and allocated duties in the constitutions. The strong prime minister model exists in the United Kingdom and most other countries that were once part of the British Empire. Some of the prime minister’s powers in these countries include the power to change the structure of ministries and the ability to call for elections at any time. Countries in which several political parties must work together to maintain a legislative majority, such as Australia, Italy and Belgium, usually possess weak prime ministers.
  5. There are a few semi-presidential systems. These are systems in which a president and prime minister rule together. The powers between the two seats can vary, with one having more power than the other or both having equal influence. Most countries that operate under this system do so to put checks in place to avoid presidential dictatorships. Examples of countries with this system include Ireland, Portugal and Russia.
  6. There is often less gridlock. Along with the facts about parliamentary democracy, there are some pros and cons. Because the parliament elects the prime minister, people often observe that these two branches function better together than in a presidential democracy in which the public elects the president. Oftentimes legislation passes with less resistance, whereas the United States has faced government shutdowns when legislation was at a standstill.
  7. There can be a quick overturning of leaders and inconsistency. While legislation can pass more efficiently, a negative consequence of the parliamentary structure is the rapidity with which things can change. Because the parliament can remove the prime minister anytime he or she falls out of favor, this can lead to a lot of restructuring and inconsistent leadership. This happened during the Brexit process, in which three separate prime ministers received the appointment to deal with the aftermath of the vote.
Many believe it is important to know about the different forms of government structures so that one can examine their own country and evaluate its relative effectiveness. Hopefully, these basic facts about parliamentary democracy have provided a foundation to understand the structure and some of the pros and cons of the system.

 – Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Pixabay

 

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Vietnam
Vietnam, one of the four remaining communist countries in the world, is making remarkable progress in reducing hunger and poverty. From one of the poorest nations in the world with most of the population living below the poverty line, the nation has developed into a middle-income country. The poverty rate decreased from over 70 percent of the population to below 6 percent in just over 30 years after economic reforms in 1986.

Despite this positive outlook of the economy and the remarkable progress, not everyone is able to enjoy this new-found wealth. It is still a challenge for the government to tackle poverty for the ethnic minorities living in remote mountainous areas or areas prone to natural disasters where poverty most concentrates. It is also this population that has the most vulnerable and desperate individuals that become the victims of human trafficking. These 10 facts about human trafficking in Vietnam illustrate the possible source of the problem, as well as the attempts and efforts to fight against it.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Vietnam

  1. A Source Country: Vietnam is a predominant source country of human trafficking and also a destination country, mainly for Cambodian migrants. The Vietnamese government identified about 7,500 victims of human trafficking between 2012 and 2017, with 80 percent of the victims coming from remote ethnic communities. The statistics available are likely an underestimate due to a lack of an accurate system of data collection, as well as the unwillingness to report the exploitation of many returning victims.
  2. Victims: Victims of human trafficking often come from a poor, vulnerable or broken family and lack education or awareness of human trafficking. Traffickers often exploit the fragility of these people and utilize the internet, using gaming sites and social media to approach potential victims. Men might also entice women and young girls into relationships to gain their trust. These men then persuade the victims to move abroad where they subject them to sex trafficking or forced labor.
  3. Industries: Men and women trafficked from Vietnam often work in logging, construction, mining, fishing, agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors. The employers of these workers situate mainly in Japan, Angola, Laos, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. There is also an increasing trend of human trafficking to countries further away in the Middle East and Europe. Recently, traffickers have sent an influx of people to the U.K. to work on cannabis farms.
  4. Children: Traffickers coerce children as young as 6 to work in garment factories under exploitative conditions. Within the country, they may force children to beg or hawk on the streets in urban areas. Reports also show an overall rise in the number of children trafficked and sexually exploited due to high demand in Vietnam.
  5. Child Sex Tourism: Vietnam is becoming a popular destination country for child sex tourism, attracting perpetrators from Japan, South Korea, the U.K., Europe and the U.S. This increasing demand has caused a rise in cases of child trafficking. A study has estimated that 5.6 percent of children in Vietnam have had experiences related to child trafficking. The Vietnamese government is putting in increased efforts to prevent sexual exploitation of children (SEC) by promoting and implementing children’s rights by devising new legislation, strengthening national children protection systems, as well as educating and raising awareness of the public on SEC-related issues.
  6. Prostitution and Domestic Servitude: A large percentage of Vietnamese women and children work in forced prostitution or domestic servitude through fraudulent job opportunities or brokered marriage. Traffickers often sell them at the border, and later on, transport them to China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore for physical and sexual exploitations.
  7. Corruption: Corruption is pervasive in Vietnam. There is evidence showing officials and police taking bribes and colluding with organized criminals, traffickers included. A survey by Transparency International reported that 30 percent of people paid bribes to public services in Vietnam and that they believed the police to be the most corrupt institution in the country. This has tremendously complicated the efforts of tackling human trafficking.
  8. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Vietnamese government is maintaining efforts in combating trafficking but has come across some issues due to lack of funding and inter-ministerial coordination. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized training courses and workshops to improve the capacity of officials to prevent human trafficking and assist the victims. The authority also organizes campaigns and distributes flyers to raise public awareness, targeting high-risk groups in border areas and vulnerable communities. The number of trafficking victims that authorities identified in 2018 was 490, a significant decrease from 670 in 2017 and 1,128 in 2016.
  9. Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation: Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, or Blue Dragon, is an NGO that addresses the human trafficking problem in Vietnam. It focusses on cases of forced child labor as well as trafficking for sexual exploitation of Vietnamese women and girls. The organization has rescued and assisted around 130 women and children annually from labor exploitation and sex trafficking. It also provides training for police, border guards and officials in child rights and combating trafficking.
  10. The Peace House: The Vietnamese Center for Women and Development manages the Peace House to provide support for victims of domestic abuse or human trafficking. It provides shelters, consultation, education and vocational training for women and children, as well as organizes campaigns to raise public awareness about gender equality and human trafficking. Since its opening, the Peace House has provided shelters for more than 1,200 victims and helped more than 1,100 re-integrate into society.

Many Vietnamese people’s desire for a better quality of life has driven them to the hands of human traffickers, subjecting them to physical and sexual exploitation abroad. These people are often initially the victims of poverty, vulnerable and desperate.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Vietnam provide an overview of the problem and how Vietnam is handling it. Providing assistance and protection to victims of human trafficking as well as raising public awareness are all essential measures. A sustainable solution to combatting human trafficking is to get to the root of the problem: poverty. When good opportunities are available in local communities, there would be less demand to migrate elsewhere, thus decreasing the chance of falling victim to human trafficking.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Reasons for Elderly Poverty in the United Kingdom
Having worked for the past 40 to 50 years, most adults feel as though retirement will bring a new lifestyle. This includes feelings of excitement and joy as they think of ways to spend their newfound free time. However, the reality of retirement is far from this expectation in the United Kingdom. The U.K. has the worst poverty rate for the elderly population in Western Europe.

Defined as having an income of 40 percent less than the median average, a significant number of the elderly population in the U.K. faces poverty. A recent study by Professor Bernhard Ebbinghaus at the University of Oxford found that the U.K. is one of five countries that has experienced an increase in the number of people over the age of 65 that are experiencing poverty. The U.K.’s increase is by far the largest compared to other Western European countries. Mainly, there are three reasons for elderly poverty in the United Kingdom.

3 Reasons for Elderly Poverty in the United Kingdom

  1. The State Pension System: The state pension system is extremely strict as to who qualifies for the pension. In order to receive the state pension after reaching the retirement age of 65, one must have 10 qualifying years on their National Insurance record. This means that for 10 years, they must have paid their National Insurance tax while earning over £166 a week from one employer. Meanwhile, those who do not have a National Insurance record must have 35 qualifying years of employment. Because of such intense regulations, many do not qualify for the pension and end up in poverty.
  2. Low Basic Payments: The basic payment that comes with the state pension system is extremely low at £168.60. This only amounts to about 16 percent of average earnings. Because the pension is not enough to sufficiently cover one’s retired life, especially with regard to medical expenses, a portion of those who receive a pension will still find themselves living in poverty.
  3. Means-Tested Supplements: Every sixth pensioner in the United Kingdom received means-tested supplements as a way to bring themselves out of the poverty, expected from the low basic pensions. These supplements include private pensions taken out at most U.K. banks. This also includes workplace final salary pensions, the auto-enrolment scheme for employees and private pensions. Means-tested supplements are effective for some. They often provide an additional source of retirement income; however, they also result in a rise in financial inequality and exacerbate poverty. The government feels less of a need to increase the state pension because of the increase in privatization, meaning those who cannot afford private pensions remain stuck in poverty with no hope of change.

The pension age, set to rise to 66 between the years 2024 and 2026, occurred the last time the pension system changed in 2011. Since 2011, no other changes have taken place. Further, the labor government has refused to undertake any paradigmatic reform actions. This means the current problems of the pension system will likely persist in the future. Unless the government chooses to step in and make a difference, a portion of the elderly population in the U.K. will continue to suffer from poverty.

Living on a low income as an elderly person is extremely difficult. No future sources of income require budgeting every penny. Shopping lists are minimal and they save money for bills, meaning there are no luxuries. Retirement is the time to celebrate the end of work; however, for those living in the U.K., retirement is a burden in itself.

– Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in the United Kingdom
When thinking about education in the United Kingdom, it is almost impossible not to consider Oxford and Cambridge. These two-century-old bastions of higher education in England garner recognition throughout the world and lend themselves to an image of British superiority in education. Rightfully so, they sit atop the education system but facilitate the overlooking of the rest of it. When looking further down the hierarchy, imperfections emerge, bordering on a crisis. Despite its image of a wealthy, developed nation, 4.5 million children live below the poverty line, comprising 33 percent of the country’s demographic. With such a substantial proportion of students struggling to feed and clothe themselves, poverty takes a profound toll on British education. Here are eight facts about education in the United Kingdom that illustrate the crisis.

 8 Facts About Education in the United Kingdom

  1. Poverty and Education: As a testament to how staggeringly poverty affects the classroom, 87 percent of teachers and other staff claim that it has a significant impact on learning, according to a survey that the National Education Union and Child Poverty Action Group conducted. Six out of 10 respondents in this survey said that the situation had worsened since 2015. Surveys such as these demonstrate the shift in focus from children’s learning and development to their fundamental well being.
  2. Food Banks: To combat this growing issue, many schools in the U.K. host food banks to feed students and their families. About 8 percent of schools operate a food bank on-site, according to the National Governance Association’s survey. In addition to basic food services, many schools feel the need to provide general welfare as well, including emergency loans for parents.
  3. Teachers Provide Care: Teachers themselves bear much of this burden, often balancing their duty to educate with an instinct to care by providing foods such as cereal to students in the middle of lessons. Additionally, some go to the lengths of washing clothes for their pupils and ensuring they have food during holidays. The most compassionate educators dip into their own bank accounts to buy supplies and clothes for the kids that need it most. The CfBT Education Trust started in 1968 as the Center for British Teachers and became a charity in 1976. It generally researches and supports the education sector, often in service of teachers to alleviate these issues.
  4. Attempt to Garner Funding: With funding strapped already, schools worry about their ability to accommodate disadvantaged pupils. Seventy-eight percent of school governors reported a general failure to meet needs due to inadequate funds and 61 percent said that they could not extend support to disadvantaged students. Compelled to help these children, many lobby for additional funding that they doubt will come.
  5. Sure Start Centers: Record unemployment, stagnant wages and high inflation place low-income parents in a precarious situation, sometimes choosing between sending sick kids to school and losing a day’s pay to stay at home with them. In 2010, 3,500 Sure Start centers operated throughout the U.K. to mitigate some of the daycare and other early childhood necessities for parents who needed them. Since then, however, 1,000 have closed or have severely restricted services.
  6. Challenges for Students: While parents and teachers face hardships due to the poverty crisis, children ultimately suffer the most. Students ashamed of their lack of supplies or new clothes skip school more frequently out of fear of bullying. This exacerbates their already tired, hungry, angry and confused mindset. Their poverty affects their learning at home just as much as at school, where crowded, noisy homes make homework and regular sleep exceedingly difficult. On top of that, their lack of resources shows more dramatically than at school. Computers, textbooks and other supplies become inaccessible in families that do not work or work hard but can barely afford the basics.
  7. Children’s Mental Health: Due to all of this, low-income children often feel that they fall behind wealthy classmates, and may develop mental health issues as a result. In the short term, one in four feels anxious or worried about their family’s financial situation. In the long term, these children have more than two times the chance of developing more permanent mental health conditions. The Sutton Trust encourages social mobility through education by focusing on efforts to combat educational inequality.
  8. Charities: In addition to those aforementioned, numerous charities combat these conditions. The Nuffield Foundation strives to benefit social welfare through funding education, science and social science research projects. Nesta, formerly the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, originated in 1998 to promote innovation in the U.K. by running practical programs, conducting research and supporting partnerships. The Education Endowment Foundation champions a dedication to the insurance that children from all kinds of backgrounds have access to education, fulfilling their potentials and applying their talents. Lastly, the Wellcome Trust funds biomedical research as well as promoting the public understanding of science.

These eight facts about education in the United Kingdom do not cast a particularly optimistic light, although there are several efforts to improve circumstances. Though the U.K. faces an exceedingly uphill task to address poverty and education in Britain, the charities named in this article do excellent work to assist as many children as they can. While their work is important and provides desperately needed support, ultimately the government’s funding cuts impede systematic progress. The good news is that many candidates across the U.K. recognize the need for more education funding and have promised it ahead of the upcoming December 2019 election.

– Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr

airlines fight poverty
When thinking about airlines, people often only think about things such as comfort, price and convenience. Many forget to consider the different ways their favorite airlines make a difference to people around the world. Below lists how five of the world’s top airlines fight poverty.

How 5 Global Airlines Fight Poverty

  1. Qatar Airways: Travelers voted Qatar Airways the best airline in the world in 2019. The airline fights poverty by supporting and donating to charity projects in over 43 countries around the globe. One of these is Educate A Child. Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar founded this initiative to provide children facing extreme poverty with opportunities for education. Since 2013, Qatar Airways’ customers and employees raised $2.3 million for the initiative. The airline matches the funds that customers donate onboard. Educate A Child works in countries around the world, from Uganda to Lebanon and Haiti.
  2. British Airways (BA): This airline fights poverty in partnership with Comic Relief through the Flying Start program. The airline raised more than 23 million pounds since the program’s inception in June 2010. Customers raise funds when they donate via the BA website or onboard the airlines. British Airways staff also gather donations via onboard collections as well as by participating in individual or group challenges such as skydiving, mountain climbing and cycling. Through Flying Start, BA helped more than 620,000 children and youth across the U.K. and other countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica and India.
  3. JetBlue: Travelers voted JetBlue the best airline in the U.S. The airline worked with the Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring (DREAM) Project since 2008 to provide equal opportunity to high-quality education to children in the Dominican Republic. In partnership with DREAM, JetBlue can reach 6,000 youth each year.Since 2006, JetBlue also partnered with First Book to give brand new books to children who would otherwise not be able to afford books or other learning material. The airline successfully distributed more than 430,000 new books to children in local U.S. communities as well as around the world. In 2016, when JetBlue launched its inaugural flight to Quito, Ecuador, its donation of 500 books to the Working Boys’ Center marked the first time since 2008 that the center received new books.
  4. Etihad Airways: The national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) worked with Magic Bus to support children and youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in India. In December 2016, a group of volunteers from the airline’s staff worked in Mumbai and constructed a sports field, a weatherproof outdoor shelter as well as a vegetable garden. Since its founding 20 years ago, Magic Bus helped more than 1 million children across 22 states in India as well as children in Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh to gain skills and knowledge necessary to move out of poverty.
  5. Lufthansa: The German airline won the best European airline award in 2019. Lufthansa Group and Lufthansa employees formed an aid organization called the Help Alliance in 1999. It is through this alliance that the airline fights poverty. Currently, it manages 50 projects worldwide. The donations alone fund these programs. The Help Alliance constructed iThemba Primary School in Cape Town, South Africa where more than 200 students studied since January 2018. When the project finishes, 700 students will have the chance to receive a quality education. This is important as more than 2,000 children in Cape Town do not get the chance to attend school. In Brazil, the Broadening Horizons program enables 30 disadvantaged youth from around Sao Paulo Airport to receive vocational training as bakers or confectioners. The youth undergo six months of training after which most of them find jobs in one of the many catering companies, hospitals and hotels in the region.

Beyond moving people from one place to another, top airlines in the world give back to the communities around them. Customers can choose to travel with airlines that fight poverty and make a small donation to help them in their quest.

Sophia N. Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

Eggs & Bread in London

Based in Walthamstow in East London, Eggs & Bread is a cafe like no other. It boasts “the smallest menu on Wood Street” that includes boiled eggs, jam, porridge, tea and coffee. Eggs & Bread in London is a “pay what you like” cafe, whereby those who overpay for a cup of tea and a boiled egg allow the less well-off to eat for free, or pay a reduced rate for breakfast. A report written by U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on extreme poverty and human rights stipulated that homelessness is on the rise in London, austerity being the main cause. ​

Austerity is a Mindset

“Austerity is a mindset, which is now fully reflected in how the government operates,” Alston reports. The evidence seen on the report points to the conclusion that the driving force has not been economic but rather a commitment to achieving radical social re-engineering. Because of this, people have been relying more on food banks and charities for their next meal, which makes Eggs & Bread in London even more special.​

Thirty-seven percent of all children, 24 percent of all working-age adults and 19 percent of all pensioners live in poverty. While the poverty rate fell over the last few years, the depth of poverty increased.

London, the Capital of Poverty

London remains the capital of poverty in the United Kingdom. Another factor that adds to this is the high rents paid by half of all households who rent their homes. Those who rent from a private landlord have long faced high rents. More recently, housing association and council tenants have seen their rents go up rapidly. This is also due to wealth inequality, predominant in London.

Wealth inequality, which is higher than income inequality, increased over the years. Wealth for someone just in the top 10 percent is now 295 times higher than someone in the bottom 10 percent. In 2010–12 it was 160 times higher, a significant increase.​

As inequality in the capital rises whilst wages stagnate and many are forced to food banks to feed themselves and their families, social ventures like Eggs & Bread in London become ever more vital. As Eggs & Bread’s website states, “Everyone’s welcome, no matter if you are a city broker or simply broke.”

These sorts of cafes existed before, such as the Brixton Pound and The People’s Fridge, but the sheer amount of attention Eggs & Bread has had bodes well for its success, and will hopefully inspire other like-minded projects. With an estimated 28 percent of Londoners living in poverty, Eggs & Bread aims to balance out the inequality seen so often in big cities.

If one wants to pay, the donation box is discreetly placed next to where one puts the dirty plates. If one can afford to put something in the box, one can also pay for the breakfast of others who might not be able to pay. As Eggs & Bread in London states, “Everyone deserves a good start to the day.” ​

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty in the UK

Approximately 14.2 million people live in relative poverty in the United Kingdom, which is about 22 percent of the country’s total population – 65 million. Of those living in poverty, 4.5 million are children, 8.4 million are of working age, and 1.4 million are of pension age. The country’s poverty rate has not changed a great deal from what it was in the early 2000s (about 23 percent). There were some improvements made in 2010 when the United Kingdom was attempting to make an economic comeback after the financial crisis, however this decrease has since disappeared as poverty rates are on the rise once again.

For a country that is considered one of the richest in the world, having a poverty rate of this level seems somewhat unusual. For comparison, the United States has a 12.3 percent poverty rate – considerably lower than the United Kingdom – which begs the question, why the 10-percentage point difference?

Causes of poverty in the United Kingdom

According to a report released by the United Nations earlier this year, poverty in the United Kingdom is due largely to the government’s continuous cuts to public spending and social programs which exist to benefit the poor. Poverty in the United Kingdom has reached such a level that many families must decide between basic needs such as heat and sustenance, since they cannot afford both. Although the government may not have deliberately or willingly chosen to worsen the situation for its poor population, it is the main cause behind the rising poverty levels within the country.

Furthermore, the lack of steady income growth and the quick rise in living costs have furthered the need for the welfare benefits that have been defunded.  The government has attempted to remedy its cuts by replacing six benefits with one monthly payment instead, which has proven rather inefficient. This program, titled Universal Credit, has allowed for an increase in the number of people that seek out foodbanks, listing benefit delays or changes as a major cause for this increase.

Solutions to poverty in the United Kingdom

Many of the policies the government has implemented over the years, which deeply affect the poor, often have easy solutions. For example, policies that include denying benefits to those who miss appointments or limiting the number of children that a claimant can have are rules that can be eliminated almost overnight with hardly any increase in costs.

Additionally, the government is also attempting to create more welfare independent households by focusing on reducing income inequality, increasing incomes overall and providing better long-term economically stable solutions for its citizens.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the United Kingdom poverty issue can be addressed by following this five-point plan:

  1. Increasing incomes while reducing costs.
  2. Having a better and more efficient benefit system.
  3. Overall improving the educational system as well as the skills students acquire.
  4. Strengthening families and communities as a whole.
  5. Promoting economic growth for the long-term future that will benefit the whole population.

Positive developments in poverty reduction efforts in the United Kingdom

The Universal Credit benefit implemented recently by the British government is scheduled to increase work allowances. This is estimated to take 200,000 out of poverty. Additionally, changing how poverty is measured can change one’s perspective on the matter and help improve living conditions for citizens.

The report released by the U.N. focused on relative poverty rather than absolute poverty, the former being defined as “any family that has 55 percent or less of what that median family has”, the latter differs in that the households being measured currently are compared to those of the median household in 2010/11.

Although the British government has many obstacles to overcome before it can see a reduction in its poverty rates, the U.N.’s report has shed light on an important issue in the United Kingdom Because of this, the government can now work even harder to eradicate poverty for its citizens.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

The Marshall Plan
In 1947, Europe was still feeling World War II’s devastation. Rebuilding was not going as fast as necessary and people of every country were feeling the impacts. Economies had nearly come to a complete halt in most countries and there were up to 11 million refugees that needed to find jobs, homes and food. The United States was the only superpower in the world that could offer any assistance to the people of Europe because the war did not entirely influence its industries. The reason for the implementation of the Marshall Plan was to help people rebuild their homes and industries, as well as provide security and an economic boost to the U.S.

The Marshall Plan’s Origins

The Marshall Plan, formerly called the European Recovery Program, was an initiative proposed by the United States Secretary of State, George C. Marshall, in 1947. The plan aimed to accomplish several things. First, it was to provide aid to kickstart European countries whose economies the war destroyed. The second was to promote free trade that would not only benefit those countries but the United States as well. The third was to contain the spread of communism that was sweeping over Eastern Europe.

The Marshall plan gave aid to 15 countries; the United Kingdom, West Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland, Portugal and Norway. President Harry Truman signed the plan into law on April 3, 1948; it brought aid to Europe in the form of machinery, fuel, food and money.

Aid for the Netherlands

World War II hit the Netherlands hard when the German forces occupied the country from 1940-1945. The war heavily damaged its infrastructure, agriculture and housing and they were in desperate need of repair. To rebuild its infrastructure, The Marshall Plan gave half a million dollars to the cement industry to repair roads, bridges and ports. The port in Rotterdam was particularly important because the country uses it to import goods. The Plan provided more funds to build housing for 9.5 million people living in the Netherlands. Fixing the agriculture of the Netherlands required the country to modernize its practices. It spent funds on new farming equipment and the treatment and repairing of the soil destroyed by years of fighting. In total, the Netherlands received $1.127 billion to rebuild its country.

Aid for Germany

Germany split in two shortly after World War II ended. The Soviet Union controlled East Germany while the United States and its allies controlled West Germany. West Germany received $1.4 billion in Marshall Plan aid although the war heavily impacted it. The whole of Germany had an aggressive bombing campaign to destroy its cities and invading armies from the west and east devastated the country’s communities. Twelve percent of the aid to West Germany went towards housing the nearly eight million refugees that had settled there after the war. These houses were necessary with a population of 67.9 million. Coal was another industry that was in desperate need; 40 percent of funding went towards this so that Germany could fuel its industries and factories. The funds from the Marshall Plan helped the German people find homes, jobs and food.

Aid for the UK

German bombings on British industrial sites had a terrible impact on the production of British goods, particularly on its southern cities. By 1948, the United Kingdom had mostly recovered from the war, but it needed to address more. While the U.K. was able to rebuild, the country was deep in debt and was having a challenging time feeding its people and keeping its industries going. Because of its 1948 population of 50 million people and its contribution to the war effort, the U.K. received the largest sum from the Marshall Plan, $3.2 billion. These funds provided the country with financial stability and allowed it to balance out its economy. While the aid did not go towards helping the U.K.’s economy, it benefited from the food and fuel brought in and the breathing room necessary to stabilize its country.

In total, the United States spent over $13 billion in aid for the 15 countries. These countries were able to provide food, fuel, housing and stability for their people during a devastating time thanks to the Marshall Plan. The average GDP of the nations that received aid increased from their prewar levels by 35 percent, and overall industrial production rose by 40 percent. The U.S. was also a beneficiary of the economic success of the European nations engaging in trade. In the decade following the end of the Marshall Plan in 1951, the GDP of the United States had nearly doubled. The Marshall Plan shows the benefits of providing foreign aid that can help not only those receiving but those giving as well.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Top Five Facts About U.K. Foreign AidAs one of the most economically developed countries in the world, the U.K. plays a tremendous role in global prosperity. In 2017, the United Kingdom’s gross domestic product per capita was $39,953.60. Here are the top five facts about U.K. foreign aid.

Top 5 Facts About UK Foreign Aid

  1. How much is being spent?
    Since the 1970s, the United Nations has been urging all developing nations to invest 0.7 percent of their gross national income in overseas aid. This is in collaboration with the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to improve international welfare. The U.K. agreed and reached this target in 2013, along with five other countries. Shortly after, the U.K. included this goal in its legislation. By 2015, the U.K. legally required 0.7 percent of its G.N.I. goes toward foreign development. By 2016, the U.K. spent £13.3 billion ($16.9 billion) on international aid. As the U.K. economy continues to grow, the amount the U.K. spends each year does, too.
  2. What are the goals?
    On top of legislation, the U.K. created an aid strategy. The four primary goals of this strategy include promoting global peace, strengthening crises response, aiding in international development and helping the world’s most impoverished people. The government aims to do so by implementing several tactics. For example, 50 percent of all the Department for International Development’s (DFID) spending goes toward aid in developing nations. Moreover, it funds a £1 billion commitment to global health.
  3. How is funding being spent?
    The DFID spends approximately 74 percent of government spending. Smaller departments within the government spend the remaining 26 percent. Most funding (63 percent) goes toward bilateral aid, sent directly to countries in need. Organizations, such as the U.N., distribute the remaining funds. The top recipients of aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria. In 2015, humanitarian projects received the most amount of support. In order to ensure success and public awareness, the DFID site collects data to track foreign aid spending.
  4. What does the government think?
    Conservative parties within the U.K. have argued to reduce foreign aid. Accordingly, these parties believe the money could be better spent domestically. After the 2016 Brexit referendum, concern surrounding foreign aid increased. However, in 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May publically supported the 0.7 percent target goal. Bill Gates has also been a large advocate in support of U.K. foreign aid. In several interviews, Gates has expressed the U.K. should be proud of its contributions toward international poverty reduction.
  5. How does U.K. foreign aid compare?
    Since 2013, the nation has become a global leader in humanitarian aid. It is known as one of the first nations to offer assistance during crises. The U.K. provided relief during Hurrican Irma and the Ebola outbreak in Syria. In 2016, the U.K. ranked fifth in international aid, behind Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark. Norway gives more than 1 percent of its GNI to foreign aid, making it a model for other countries.

Overall, the U.K. should be proud of its contributions. These top five facts about U.K. foreign aid demonstrate the nation has contributed billions of pounds to reducing global poverty. For the future of society, may the U.K. continue to grow and prosper, deepening its stance against global poverty.

Photo: Google Images