Inflammation and stories on United Kingdom

Homelessness in the United KingdomHomelessness around the world is a symptom of the violation of human rights that does not discriminate between individuals in developed or developing countries. Oftentimes, homelessness can lead to the inability of accessing other basic human rights like the right to work, education and privacy. This reality is especially the case for the homeless population in the United Kingdom. Homelessness in the United Kingdom affects nearly 280,000 people, with even more at risk due to lack of documentation. In the U.K, there are three classifications for homelessness: rough sleepers, statutory homelessness and hidden homelessness.

Rough Sleepers

Rough sleepers are defined as the most visible form of homelessness because these individuals are seen sleeping on the streets. Consequently, rough sleepers are the main image the general public has of homelessness. Most individuals who are classified as rough sleepers struggle with physical or mental health complications. These individuals are at a much higher risk of being in danger or susceptible to violent attacks by hostile aggressors. In 2019, there were nearly 4,266 people estimated to be rough sleepers on a single night, and the majority of the rough sleepers in England are men over the age of 26.

Statutory Homelessness

Statutory homelessness refers to households and families that approach their local authorities for assistance when they find themselves at risk of being homeless. Local authorities have a duty to provide accommodations for those in need of housing assistance. However, not everyone is qualified for the statutory homeless criteria, and are therefore unable to gain housing assistance.

It is worth mentioning that single people are significantly less likely to be considered in priority need of housing accommodations. In 2018, nearly 57,890 households were accepted as homeless in England.

According to Homeless Link, a nonprofit organization that campaigns for policy changes and advocates for services that benefit the homeless population, there are a myriad of reasons why individuals are classified as statutory homeless. These reasons can vary from repossession of mortgaged homes, loss of rented accommodations, violent relationship breakdowns with partners or parents who are unable or unwilling to continue providing accommodations. There are four main groups that are given priority accommodations and assistance. These are households with dependent children, pregnant women, those in an emergency and those considered vulnerable.

Hidden Homelessness

The third classification of homelessness is defined as hidden homelessness. The hidden homeless are not entitled to or do not seek out housing assistance. Consequently, they are not counted in official statistics. Most of these people find shelter in hostels, squatting, or couch-surfing in the homes of friends and families. As a result of the complications and inaccuracies of reporting homelessness to officials, it can be difficult to define a standard rate of homelessness in the U.K. In other words, the true level of homelessness is higher than the recorded 280,000 people documented as homeless.

What’s Being Done

With the COVID-19 pandemic on the rise, homelessness in the United Kingdom has declined significantly as authorities take the necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of contracting the disease. This is done by isolating vulnerable populations by providing supportive accommodations for homeless people. According to government statistics, more than 90% of rough sleepers have been offered accommodation where they can remain safe and are able to protect themselves during the pandemic.

By ensuring rough sleepers are cared for, the rate of COVID-19 symptoms amongst the homeless population will continue to decline. This will protect these vulnerable people while reducing the burden on hospitals. While homelessness in the United Kingdom remains a pressing issue, the government is proactively working to help homeless people.

Serena Brahaspat
Photo: Flickr

United Kingdom's Foreign Aid
The United Kingdom has boosted its foreign assistance to Ukraine with an additional £5 million (about $6.5 million) in humanitarian aid. Announced during a recent visit to London by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the United Kingdom’s foreign aid will help alleviate widespread suffering caused by the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the coronavirus pandemic.  Among other objectives, such assistance will allow for the procurement of food, water and medical supplies in addition to providing much-needed psychosocial support to victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Furthermore, President Zelenskyy has also received a commitment from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson for preferential trade and for greater cooperation between the two countries on issues relating to politics, security and foreign affairs.  The Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement that both leaders signed during their London meeting outlined these goals.  According to U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the combination of humanitarian assistance and bilateral cooperation “[…] is a clear demonstration of the U.K.’s commitment to Ukraine’s prosperity and security.”

Conflict in Crimea

The United Kingdom’s foreign aid will support efforts to address the humanitarian emergency in eastern Ukraine, which developed as the result of years of armed conflict.  After popular anti-government protests prompted former President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country in February 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin seized the opportunity to send troops to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.  His formal (and illegal) annexation of Crimea one month later exacerbated ethnic tensions throughout the region, inspiring pro-Russia Ukrainians to hold a referendum and declare their independence.

Since April 2014, violence between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian military forces has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people, but many more have experienced serious injury.  Diplomatic efforts to broker a peaceful resolution have been unsuccessful; skirmishes and shelling continue, and unexploded landmines remain a serious threat.

As of December 2019, reports determined that 730,000 people were internally displaced in territories that the Ukrainian government controlled, while the majority of those who have remained in eastern Ukraine are elderly, ill or disabled. The United Nations has estimated that over 4 million people are dependent upon some form of humanitarian support, but this number could increase as temperatures drop during the coming months.

Economic Turmoil

Six years of bloodshed is not the only trial Ukrainians have faced, however; they must also contend with a struggling economy. Although poverty rates have fallen in recent years and President Zelenskyy has promised to root out corruption among the political elite, Ukraine currently ranks as the poorest country in Europe, with a GDP per capita of only $3,140. And yet, economic conditions could worsen significantly in the wake of COVID-19.

Even if the full extent of the pandemic’s financial impact is still unclear, the latest Economic Activity Report that Ukraine’s Ministry for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture released reveals that the country’s GDP decreased by 5.9% between January and May 2020. This has led the Cabinet of Ministers to predict that the Ukrainian economy may shrink by as much as 8% in 2020, with the potential for lower wages and greater unemployment. According to conservative estimates from UNICEF, the economic downturn could cause 6.3 million more people in Ukraine to fall into poverty, 1.4 million of these being children.

In the current context of a global health crisis layered above political and economic instability, an increase in the United Kingdom’s foreign aid to Ukraine will provide essential humanitarian relief. Moreover, the additional £5 million will also support essential projects to rebuild housing and health facilities and to help finance business ventures that encourage the country’s economic recovery. Finally, it is just a fraction of the total foreign aid—£40 million, or $51.8 million—that the British government has allocated to Ukraine during 2020.

Benefits of Foreign Aid

Beyond those benefits mentioned above, there are other significant advantages of the U.K.’s foreign aid and its Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement with Ukraine. These include:

  • Expressing the U.K.’s support for the protection of vulnerable people in eastern Ukraine and for the maintenance of an international community that respects human rights;
  • Creating a channel for the U.K. to pressure Ukrainian officials to enact reforms for future economic growth; and
  • Restoring peace in a democratic country whose stability is, as Foreign Secretary Raab stated, essential for the security of the entire European continent. This is especially true in light of Ukraine’s intention to join the European Union and the NATO alliance.

Combined with similar actions by other governments, including the E.U. and the United States, the steps in London earlier in October 2020 to increase the United Kingdom’s foreign aid and strengthen its ties with Ukraine will hopefully alleviate the immediate struggles of the Ukrainian people while bolstering their country’s efforts toward peace and recovery in the longer term.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Policies In 2019, the Overseas Development Institute came out with the principled aid index to assess the degree to which donor countries are contributing to a prosperous world. According to the report, the principled foreign aid policies not only benefit the country that receives the aid, but it also serves the interests of the donor country. Below is a list of how this report’s top five countries are using their foreign aid:

5 Countries Foreign Aid Policies

  1. Luxembourg is a small country in Western Europe that has pledged 0.96% of its gross national income (GNI) to go towards development and aid. It is one of the few countries that meet a goal set by the U.N. to dedicate 0.7% of a country’s GNI to foreign aid. Luxembourg starts by targeting some of its partner countries, which include Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Mali and Senegal. With remaining funds, Luxembourg helps provide humanitarian assistance in Kosovo, the Palestinian territories and Vietnam. The country also focuses on private enterprises through microfinance and inclusive finance to help promote productivity. In 2020, Luxembourg joined the International Aid Transparency Initiative which motivates the government to share data about foreign aid spending with the public. Accountability is an important factor in creating sustainable aid.
  1. The United Kingdom is another country that has met the U.N. goal of 0.7% of GNI for foreign aid. The U.K. set the goal back in 1974 but recently achieved it in 2013. Additionally, the government inscribed the goal into law in 2015 so that the country now has a legal duty to achieve it. Around 64% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to countries for bilateral aid. The main recipients of bilateral aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria and Afghanistan. The remaining 36% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to multilateral institutions like the E.U. and the U.N. Additionally, the U.K. has also provided humanitarian aid for Liberia and Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak. Also, the country offered assistance to Nepal and Indonesia — following natural disasters and Somalia during the hunger crisis.
  1. Sweden has continuously met the U.N. goal since 1976. The country even made its own goal to dedicate 1% of its GNI to foreign aid in 2008. In 2019, Sweden allotted 0.98% of its GNI for foreign aid. Along with Norway, Sweden is considered to be a “humanitarian superpower.” The Swedish development cooperation, also known as Sida, is Sweden’s leading agency for providing foreign assistance. Sweden has 33 partner countries that it helps by creating income opportunities and strengthening democracy. Sweden is dedicated to helping achieve the U.N., 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country’s primary goals include human rights, democracy and the rule of law, gender equality, the environment and climate change, health equity and education and research.
  1. Norway has met the U.N. goal for providing foreign aid since 1976. In 2019, Norway apportioned 1.02% of its GNI for foreign aid and development. Norway’s foreign aid policies use an approach that follows the 2005 Paris principles. These principles value ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results and accountability. Norway provides foreign aid funding for civil society organizations and budget support. The country also uses a large part of its budget to help people inside its borders. For example, Norway has used part of its budget to provide for its refugee population, which included more than 50,000 refugees in 2019.
  1. Ireland currently does not meet the U.N. goal, but the country is hoping to double its impact by 2025. In 2017, 0.36% of Ireland’s GNI went toward its foreign aid budget. Ireland’s foreign aid focuses on developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The country hopes to combat the issues of displacement and conflict, which Ireland’s main concern — climate change, tends to exacerbate. Additionally, developing countries are more likely to feel the effects of climate change disproportionately as compared with developed countries.

Striding Forward

These five countries’ foreign aid policies are impressive examples of how developed nations can make valuable contributions to global well-being. Hopefully, more undeveloped countries continue to benefit from foreign aid policies of more developed nations. Likewise, it is important these developed countries continue their efforts to achieve the U.N. goals, for theirs and the world’s greater benefit.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay

Women’s Rights in the United Kingdom
When analyzing the issues that are prominent regarding women’s rights in the United Kingdom, one that catches the eye is the dominant source of inequality between men and women, the wage gap. Through research, it has become evident that the gender wage gap has caused some tremendous strife when it comes to women’s rights in the United Kingdom. In fact, the country has worked for many years to try to tighten the gap with little luck.

The Wage Gap and the Equal Pay Act

According to an article that the Independent published, 78% of the United Kingdom’s biggest companies have widened the gap in favor of men as of 2020. However, it is evident that the movement for equal pay in the United Kingdom has actually regressed in the most recent years.

Historically, the United Kingdom saw a tremendous decrease in the wage gap in 1970, which marks the official passing of the Equal Pay Act. According to a journal by authors Peter Dolton, Donal O’Neill and Olive Sweetman, there was much development that went into the Equal Pay Act. Their discoveries have led to the conclusion that within the workforce there were many, “gender-specific forces” that drove the United Kingdom legislature to pass the Equal Pay Act.

However, this act proved to solve so few of the problems for women’s rights in the United Kingdom, as companies simply did not believe in the idea of equal pay. As found in the graphs within Susan Harkness’ essay, the year 1977 showed a tremendous spike in the wage gap that ultimately stayed consistent from then on. Overall, with proper legislation in place, the U.K. is still struggling with a wage gap issue even in such revolutionary times.

Defining the Wage Gap

When looking at data, it is appropriate to ask how much this gap truly is. Now, according to an essay by authors Claudia Olivetti and Barbara Petrongolo, they mentioned that men’s hourly wages are between 27 and 33 log points higher than that of a woman.

More specifically, in the Independent article, by Sophie Gallagher, she spoke to a handful of women who have struggled with this issue first hand. Gallagher wrote that “head chef Kay Collins didn’t have to go digging to find out she was being paid £6,000 less than her male colleague,” which allows readers to fully understand how big this gap is based on a yearly salary. Though the issue is still very prominent, people are working hard at minimizing the gap.

With this information, women in the U.K. are not settling for this type of inequality. Gallagher went on to explain how many women who are falling victim to the gender gap are challenging the legality of their personal situations. As written in the same article, “… the BBC’s former China editor Carrie Gracie won her unequal pay claim after it emerged she was being paid around £100,000 less than a male comparator,” which proves that the fight is still being fought for women’s rights in the United Kingdom 50 years after the Equal Pay Act.

Fawcett Society and YESS Law

However, in contradiction, recent numbers show that as of 2019, the gap among employees has dropped 0.5% and continues to drop as the years go on. Though the issue is still very prominent, people are working hard at minimizing the gap. Working through many setbacks that have appeared in the past, many charities have been working in favor of women when it comes to receiving equal pay. For example, Campaign group Fawcett Society and legal charity YESS Law started the Equal Pay Advice Services, which supports women when speaking out about the wage gap that they have fallen victim to.

What the two organizations are doing is educating women on what the gender gap is and how large it has become in more recent years. They want to advise lower-paid women on equal pay in order to raise awareness of the issue. According to Fawcett Society, 40% of women are unaware that equal pay is a right. The organization also created a “Right to Know” petition to help raise awareness.

These charities are great examples of how an outsider can help the movement for equal pay in the U.K. By showing support for these groups, one can express their own support of women’s rights in the United Kingdom.

Simply by becoming more educated on the topic, women are discovering that more and more are fighting for what is truly theirs. The U.K. is following the notion that there is no need for the prevalence of a gender gap in current society. In fact, many are using protests, facing legal challenges and speaking to policymakers as a means to get what they truly deserve, that being equal pay.

– Sophia Cloonan
Photo: Flickr

hunger in the united kingdomThe United Kingdom (U.K.), which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is home to 32 recognized UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like Stonehenge. In addition, the British Library in London is the largest library in the world. However, the United Kingdom struggles with high levels of hunger and food insecurity compared to its European neighbors. In 2018 and 2019 alone, food banks distributed an estimated 3 million parcels of food. Here are 10 facts about hunger in the United Kingdom.

10 Facts About Hunger in the United Kingdom

  1. According to the Evidence and Network on U.K. Household Food Security, 10% U.K. adults live in marginally food insecure households. Another 10% live with moderate or severe food insecurity. Marginal food insecurity indicates concern about one’s ability to access food. However, moderate food insecurity includes compromises and limitations in food quality and variety. It may also include skipping meals and reducing food intake and quantity. Individuals experiencing severe food insecurity often go hungry.
  2. Many children in the U.K. also face food insecurity. UNICEF estimated in 2017 that 19% of children under the age of 15 live with someone who faces moderate or severe food insecurity. Furthermore, 10% of children live with severely food-insecure people.
  3. On a global scale, hunger in the United Kingdom may seem low. UNICEF reports that an 41% of children live in a moderately or severely food-insecure household. However, compared to food insecurity levels in the E.U., the U.K. ranks poorly. Hunger in the United Kingdom puts it fourth among E.U. nations, behind Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
  4. People in the U.K. are spending more on food while eating less. In 2012, the poorest 10% of U.K. households spent approximately a quarter of their income on food and non-alcoholic drinks. In contrast, the wealthiest 10% of households spent 4.2% of their income on the same supplies.
  5. Food waste feeds hunger in the United Kingdom. The U.K.’s food waste in 2018 amounted to approximately 9.5 million tons. However, 70% of the wasted food was edible. Only a minuscule amount of this waste went to charities or animal feed. Efforts to prevent food waste therefore remain critical in the fight to end hunger in the United Kingdom.
  6. The need for emergency food supplies in the U.K. is increasing. The Trussell Trust, a U.K. nonprofit whose mission is to stop poverty and hunger in the U.K., distributed 1.6 million three-day emergency food supplies from April 2018 to March 2019. Approximately 577,618 of the emergency food supplies went to children. Further, the amount of food distributed marks an 18.8% increase from the previous year.
  7. The U.K. participates in the U.N.’s effort to tackle poverty through The Sustainable Development Goals. The U.N.’s agenda also includes ending hunger by 2030. Nonetheless, a 2018 report released by the U.K. Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) states, “While there is an enormous amount to celebrate, the most vulnerable places and people in our society are increasingly left behind.” Challenges include food insecurity, rising obesity and malnutrition.
  8. The U.K. agreed to measure food insecurity in the Family Resources Survey, which measures U.K. poverty statistics annually. Data collection from 20,000 surveyed households began in April 2019 and will come out in April 2021. Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said, “We’ve known for too long now that a disturbing number of people in the U.K. don’t have access to enough nutritious food, but our knowledge has been too patchy to identify real solutions. But this new national measurement of food insecurity is a massive step forward and will provide essential foundations for the response we so urgently need.”
  9. U.K. nonprofit FareShare is helping overcome hunger in the U.K. It does so by redistributing surplus food to charities that then turn the food into meals for community members. So far, the organization’s 1,500 volunteers have redistributed 24,074 tons of food to charities. This is an estimated 14.1 million pounds of food.  Importantly, this is enough to help 10,962 charities and community groups. Overall, the organization has provided 57.3 million meals to people facing food insecurity.
  10. End Hunger U.K., a coalition of 40 organizations, is also working to end poverty and hunger in the United Kindgom. This organization encouraged the U.K. government to fund school programs and holiday food. In 2020, the government invested up to 11.8 million pounds to support families facing food insecurity and provide children with healthy breakfasts. This investment will add up to 650 schools to the National School Breakfast Programme, which provides breakfast delivery grants and healthy food deliveries to schools across the U.K.

Moving Forward

In the past five years, the U.K. government has taken important steps to help end hunger in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, organizations like FareShare and End Hunger U.K. remain central change-makers on the local and national level. Government actors and organizations together provide hope that they can end hunger in the United Kingdom sooner rather than later.

– Zoe Engels
Photo: Flickr

Effective Altruism Movement
The effective altruism movement explores the concept of how cost-effectiveness can improve the world. The U.K. recently formed a merged Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, reshaping its foreign aid program. Effective altruism ingrained in foreign aid programs can create more sustainable institutional change.

The Basics of Effective Altruism

Dominic Cummings, an influential advisor of the U.K.’s Prime Minister, is a proponent of the effective altruism movement. The concept of guiding the campaign promotes the use of reasoning and resources to maximize the good and apply it to the world to make it a better place.

The principles of effective altruism are scale, solvability, neglectedness and long-termism. Scale pertains to the range of effect and potential for positive impact. Therefore, if applied, U.K. aid and international development can render significant change through the multilateral system. This can lead other powerful actors to make their governments’ spending cost-effective. Solvability refers to the probability of growth regarding the relationship between the number of resources and eradicating epidemics. Neglectedness relates to the specific significance and size of under-resourced issues. Meanwhile, long-termism undoubtedly regards the long-run effects of projects’ decisions. They could either increase or decrease the expected value.

In the past, the U.K. considered the benefits and costs of projects’ impacts on the poorest and most conflict-affected regions. Its significant influence is in the multilateral system due to its contribution to official development assistance. It embodies effective altruism through pushing for greater cost-effectiveness and evidence to create a more significant impact on the development system. Department for International Development (DFID) projects, for example, tend to be high-risk and high-return.

How UK Aid Can Go Further

The UK currently funds thousands of projects. However, effective altruism principles suggest that the government merely focuses solely on the most significant projects to prioritize optimal allocation. The government must also consider relatively neglected countries while focusing on critical partnerships. Furthermore, as the U.K. works to fulfill its high-risk, high-return pledge, it should also increase research aid productivity to maximize the impact of support.

The Center for Global Development displays that adding additional objectives onto focused single-objective programs weakens the project, becoming more ineffective. Additionally, due to the U.K.’s significant influence in the multilateral system, DFID needs to hold funds accountable. This can occur by measuring its agencies’ achievements first and by multilateral spending. This is preferred over spending aid via large organizations.

Becoming More Effective

Due to the focus on systemic change, the U.K. can adhere to effective altruism values through investments in energy infrastructure, transportation infrastructure and market integration. Effective altruism principles also suggest that foreign aid can benefit national interests and the economy. Investing more in a global system for different funds for assistance and research helps the U.K. and other countries in its more notable impact.

The U.K.’s foreign aid programs are changing due to the recent formation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. By applying the principles of the effective altruism movement, the U.K. can ensure that aid reaches the poorest and most affected countries. Government aid programs can create institutional change by depending on the evidence that displays where and how they should give support and through which agencies.

Isabella Thorpe
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the United Kingdom
While employment in the United Kingdom has seen steady growth over the past decade, ongoing poverty continues to threaten many of its citizens’ health and well-being. Recent reports have documented a growing trend in child poverty in the United Kingdom, specifically among families where at least one parent was employed, with many struggling to make ends meet as living costs continue to rise.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an organization focused on poverty reduction in the U.K., the proportion of individuals in working U.K. families living in poverty has grown by nearly 17% in the past 20 years. This rising phenomenon has made the need for innovations in poverty eradication in the U.K. more critical than ever, as increasing numbers of people struggle with food and housing insecurity. In recent months, the global COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation further, as many have faced cuts to their regular hours, pay, or have even become unemployed altogether.

Children and In-Work Poverty

In-work poverty is a problem that leaves families and especially children extremely vulnerable. A 2018 report by Shelter, a London-based organization that offers support to the homeless, found that nearly 55% of homeless families in the U.K. fell into the “in work” category. As rising housing costs continue to surpass working-class earnings, families must choose between food and Shelter. A 2019 report by the U.K. Parliament recognized food insecurity as a pervasive problem that has “…fallen between the cracks in government plans,” with an estimated 19% of children under 15 facing food and nutrition deficits. In response to this crisis, numerous organizations are campaigning for new strategies and innovations for poverty eradication in the U.K., addressing economic stress on working families struggling to stay afloat.

One of the numerous organizations combatting poverty among families is the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). Founded in 1965, CPAG has been fighting poverty in the U.K. for more than 50 years. In 2018 and 2019 alone, the organization made numerous strides in improving conditions for low-income families. This includes providing professional advising for thousands of families applying for public assistance in London, as well as leading a campaign that made school uniforms more accessible for low-income schoolchildren in Scotland. As part of its most recent efforts, the organization is focusing on three immediate reforms to reduce poverty among children.

Reforms to Reduce Child Poverty

  1. Adjusting the U.K.’s Universal Credit system to better assist families. In 2013, the U.K. introduced its Universal Credit system, a blanket credit for low-income or unemployed individuals. However, CPAG argues that the loan, as it currently exists, fails to fully acknowledge the needs of families as opposed to individuals. The organization estimates that even a modest re-investment into the Universal Credit children’s benefit could potentially lift 700,000 children out of poverty in the next few years alone.
  2. Removing the U.K.’s “two-child” limit on tax credits for families. CPAG’s All Kids Count campaign advocates for the removal of the rule, which limits tax credits to only the first two children in a family. This restriction puts larger families in situations of greater stress, specifically in the case of single parents or households in which only one parent works. CPAG estimates that the removal of this policy could lift nearly 300,000 children out of poverty.
  3. Removing the “benefit cap” for vulnerable families. In the U.K., individuals and families may be eligible to receive government benefits based upon their employment status. As of 2020, the maximum amount is £23,000 per year, but many still encounter significant difficulty making ends meet. For example, new challenges posed by COVID-19 in recent months have caused many families to exceed their allotted £442.31 per week. Thus, it has become clear that the benefits policy for families requires adjustment to meet the needs of U.K. residents.

The Road Ahead

These campaigns represent only a few examples of the issues CPAG engages on behalf of low-income families. In its search for solutions and innovations in poverty eradication in the U.K., the organization has already secured an estimated £5 million for families who are no longer affected by the two-child restriction due to its legal efforts. While currently this victory only applies to adoptive parents and kinship carers (non-parent relatives), the organization plans to continue pursuing the case until the court completely lifts the restriction.

It is clear that much work remains to be done when it comes to eradicating child poverty in the United Kingdom, as thousands of families continue to struggle with the challenge of meeting their basic needs. However, CPAG and other groups are making great strides in changing the lives of many U.K. citizens.

Matthew Otey
Photo: Pixabay

UK Poverty Reduction Efforts
In the last decade, the United Kingdom’s most influential international organization, known as the British Council, has made various cuts to British foreign aid in developing countries. The world recognizes the U.K. for generous foreign aid, but policymakers are beginning to push for “development assistance.” These budget cuts are occurring to fulfill more self-serving international interests. This bureaucratic debate has sparked increasing tension among council members over the value of U.K. poverty reduction efforts.

Imminent Change

In her December 2019 speech, Queen Elizabeth II announced that the U.K. government would restructure international policy in more integrated terms. Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently made the most drastic change to U.K. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.

On June 15, 2020, the tension over foreign aid led Johnson to merge two historically distinct departments: the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). This essentially terminated the DFID, which championed World Bank’s “poverty reduction strategies.” This change has not sparked an immediate consequence. British policy-makers and journalists alike are asking a fearful question: will this shift put ongoing U.K. poverty reduction efforts in danger?

A Threat to “Soft Power”

The merging of DFID and FCO will likely compromise a significant amount of funding for the Official Development Assistance (ODA), which provides poverty-reducing aid to developing countries. The projected 30% loss to the aid budget, equivalent to $2.5 billion, will force the government to cut a variety of aid programs.

While outstanding U.K. poverty reduction efforts remain vital to the ongoing development of countries, they also maintain the soft power on which Britain prides itself. The June 2020 interim report by the U.K. House of Commons International Development Committee argued for the DFID to remain independent. Independence would maintain Britain’s global reputation for aid and soft power. Soft power is Britain’s ability to shape another country’s decisions through collaboration rather than coercion. Nevertheless, the departments merged a week after the report’s publication.

As far back as a decade ago, foreign policy reports projected a collapse in Britain’s diplomatic capacity if the government made cuts to an already inexpensive foreign aid budget. In comparison, the U.K. spends significantly more on other foreign policy matters, such as defense. Britain gains diplomatic influence at both a bilateral and multilateral level by providing aid to impoverished countries; thus, cutting back on foreign aid reduces Britain’s voice and reputability in these meetings and relationships.

Active Solutions

There is much uneasiness around cutting vital aid to developing countries. Still, the restructuring of DFID and FCO may not undo years of U.K. poverty reduction efforts. If the government takes certain steps, the U.K. could remain a leader in international aid efforts. Namely, the newly combined department must adhere to the International Development Act of 2002, which allows the U.K. to allocate aid money to poverty reduction initiatives. Additionally, the government could appoint a cabinet minister for development. This role would ensure that poverty reduction efforts remain at the forefront of the U.K. aid strategy.

According to the International Development Committee member Sarah Champion, Britain is a country of humanitarians who value helping the world’s most vulnerable communities. As a result, it only makes sense to represent their values through policy and action. Ultimately, it is the duty of FCO to ensure that U.K. poverty reduction efforts remain a priority. Supporting the world’s poor is more imperative than ever in the midst of a global pandemic. With hope, British leadership will continue to aid communities suffering from systemic underdevelopment and poverty.

– Stella Grimaldi
Photo: Flickr

Buses Aid the Homeless
In London, a nonprofit called Buses4Homeless is making good use out of decommissioned double-decker buses by turning them into mobile homeless shelters. These innovative buses aid the homeless, working towards ending homelessness in London and protecting vulnerable communities.

The Harsh Reality: Homelessness in London

Following the economic crisis that the global COVID-19 outbreak caused, the number of homeless people in London may rise. Even before the outbreak, however, homelessness in London has been an ever-growing problem. Since 2010, the number of homeless people in the major U.K. city has grown by 141%.

A rising homeless population comes with a plethora of related social problems. For instance, “rough sleepers,” or people who sleep on the street, are more likely to be victims of violence and suffer from mental health issues. Though the city government has social programs that aim to end homelessness, only 13% of London residents think that these programs are sufficient. Consequently, a few Londoners including Dan Atkins, founder of Buses4Homeless, are taking matters into their own hands and creating innovative solutions to homelessness.

Turning an Idea Into Action

Dan Atkins came up with the idea for Buses4Homeless in 2018 after he found that a friend had spent a night rough sleeping in the luggage bay of a coach bus. His idea was simple: refurbish buses into mobile homes that can function as social housing. Since then, his idea has grown into a successful nonprofit that serves as “a low-cost, holistic solution to homelessness.”

The nonprofit’s method is simple and sustainable. Buses4Homeless buys decommissioned double-decker buses and upcycles them into four types of mobile homeless shelters that travel through London: buses for eating, sleeping, learning and relaxing. The troupe of buses aid the homeless by working in tandem as a three-month program to secure housing and employment for each member. Importantly, the nonprofit strongly believes in taking a rehabilitative approach to end homelessness; the nonprofit provides job training and mental health services to members of the program to prevent suffering from the long-term consequences of chronic homelessness.

A Mobile Approach to Ending Homelessness

Buses4Homeless is unique in its ability to travel. The buses aid the homeless by being where people need them and going to places to benefit members of the program. In an interview with Reuters, Jonathan Pfahl, a training leader and mentor for the nonprofit, stated that “the genius thing with a bus is that we can take it wherever it’s needed … so park it in front of a job center, for example.”

The nonprofit’s innovative approach to ending homelessness has already motivated other passionate U.K. citizens to follow suit. Helping Open People’s Eyes, known as HOPE, has been working to end homelessness in Wales for years, but Buses4Homeless recently gave them the idea to purchase and transform a bus into a mobile homeless shelter. Now HOPE is almost done refurbishing their bus and looking forward to getting it on the streets of Wales.

Nonprofits like Buses4Homeless and HOPE are reimagining solutions to homelessness by transforming unused buses into mobile homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers. Their mobility allows them to be more adaptable and able to reach more people in need. Buses4Homeless has only been operating for two years, but its impact has been immense. Founder Dan Atkins hopes that the nonprofit will grow to a national and possibly international level in the future.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Unsplash

UK's Energy Efficiency Program
British politician Rishi Sunak recently announced the U.K.’s official energy efficiency plan. The £3 billion plan includes a £2 billion Green Homes Grant and £1 billion of funding to make public buildings more energy-efficient, among other initiatives. Each of these projects presents an important step toward sustainability, particularly the Green Homes Grant, and could even contribute to the reduction of poverty within the United Kingdom.

Green Homes Grant

The U.K. government hopes that the £2 billion Green Homes Grant will encourage homeowners and landlords to apply for vouchers, starting in September 2020, to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The vouchers will cover at least two-thirds of the total cost, which is up to £5,000 for most households. For low-income households, the vouchers will cover the full cost of improvements, up to £10,000.

Effects of the Energy Efficiency Plan

The U.K.’s energy efficiency plan will create approximately 140,000 green jobs, improve the energy efficiency of over 650,000 homes, reduce carbon by more than half a megatonne a year and potentially shave £300 a year off of homeowner’s bills. These changes also have the potential to drastically alter the nation’s interaction with the environment for the better.

How will the UK’s Energy Efficiency Plan Help People in Poverty?

  1. Low-income households typically spend more on energy expenses. A 2010 study found that “low-income householders spend 10 percent or more of their income on energy expenses”, pointing out that as income goes up, expenses go down, since middle- and upper-income households tend to only spend 5% or less of their income on energy expenses. Therefore, the U.K.’s efforts to help low-income households become energy-efficient will allow them to have more disposable income.

  2. Low-income households have a more difficult time adapting to large fluctuations in natural gas prices, as they have less disposable income compared to middle and upper-income households. Due to market supply and demand, natural gas prices can experience fluctuations as large as 140%, as was seen in 2016. In March 2016 natural gas was $1.639/MMBtu, and by December of the same year, prices had risen to $3.93/MMBtu. The U.K.’s energy efficiency plan can help to alleviate low-income households’ concerns over the uncertainty of natural gas prices by making their homes less dependent on them.

  3. Low-income households are at greater risk of developing health problems. Many low-income households do not have enough income for necessary home improvements, meaning that these homes can often suffer from structural problems such as leaks, which can lead to the development of mold and infestations. Exposure to these issues can increase the chances of arthritis, respiratory disease, mental illness and heart disease. When homeowners make improvements to their homes to make them more energy-efficient under the Green Homes Grant, they will also lower their risk of experiencing these health issues.

The U.K.’s energy efficiency plan is taking the initiative that all developed countries should be to alleviate poverty in their country and increase the use of sustainable energy. By providing grants to homeowners and updating technology in public buildings, the U.K. is making great strides toward environmental stability.

Araceli Mercer
Photo: Flickr