Inflammation and stories on United Kingdom

Period PovertyPeople often stigmatize menstruation or periods in many countries. This makes it difficult for women to seek help and speak openly about what they need. Lack of education on the subject leads to a threat to women’s well-being. As a result, conversations about period poverty arise. Period poverty is a lack of access to period products, menstrual education and facilities for managing menstruation. It affects many lives. In 2022, 3.1 million people in the U.K. were struggling with hygiene poverty.

What Does Period Poverty Mean to Women?

Apart from stigmatization, period poverty poses another endangerment for girls and women. According to data published in spring 2021, in the U.K., every second girl no-showed to class in school because of her period and every third girl had problems accessing period products after the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Skipping classes or being concerned about other things instead of studying decreases academic performance and can impact the future. When women do not have access to period products, they may use unhygienic materials like old clothing, and this can increase the risk of infections and other health problems. This can also have effects on mental health due to the stress and anxiety of not being able to afford period products. Research in 2019 reported that 27% of girls in the U.K. aged 10 to 18 skip going out for fear of menstruating. Unfortunately, this can result in anxiety and social isolation.

What is the Solution?

The United Kingdom has decided to address this problem. In 2019, the government announced steps to create a task group that includes Plan International UK, Procter and Gamble and Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt, to educate society and to supply free period products to schools and hospitals. Beginning in January 2021, the U.K. government abolished the so-called ‘tampon tax,’ which had imposed a 5% VAT on period products. The decision also brought the U.K. into line with other countries, such as Australia and Canada, which had already removed the tax on sanitary products.


In 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free women’s sanitary products across different levels of educational institutions. Moreso, from 2018 to 2022, the government allocated £1.86 million for women’s sanitary products for families with low income. Since 2019, the Scottish Government also committed to providing £2.8 million annually to local councils to ensure everyone gets free period products all over Scotland. As of 2021, it has implemented a free period product scheme that provides all menstrual products free of charge to anyone who needs them. Under the scheme, free period products are available in public locations, including schools, colleges, universities, community centers and libraries. Products are accessible through vending machines or free-standing dispensers. As of 2023, a special app, ‘PickupMyPeriod,’ allows an individual to track all the products online in real-time. Individuals can also order a home delivery from the local councils.


In England, the government has implemented a fully-funded, four-year period product scheme that provides free period products to primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges. The scheme has been working since January 2020. Educational institutions can order a range of period products for their students. As of January 2022, 61% of primary schools, 94% of secondary schools and 90% of post-16 organizations have ordered toiletries for their pupils. By providing free period products in schools, the government hopes to ensure that students can attend school without worrying about the cost or availability of period products.

Northern Ireland

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen decided to encourage period dignity in schools. In September 2021, she launched a three-year pilot version of a project that aims to supply menstrual products to everyone in need. The scheme covers primary, secondary and special schools as well as Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) settings. The expected cost of the program is £2.6 million.

Lidl in Northern Ireland is one of several businesses that have taken steps to address period poverty in Northern Ireland. In 2021, the company announced the Period Poverty Initiative. It provides free period products in all of its stores in Northern Ireland. Since August 2021, all customers who have a Lidl Plus account can receive a monthly coupon for free period products.


The Welsh Government’s Period Dignity Strategic Action Plan is a plan that sets out the government’s approach to addressing period poverty in Wales. The government has already implemented a free-period product scheme to ensure that individuals have access to the menstrual products they need. There are free period products in schools, public buildings and leisure and sports centers. Since 2018, the Welsh government started to allocate finances on this matter. Each year, it distributes more and more funds for period products. In 2018, it distributed £920,000 between local councils, and in 2022, this number reached £3.7 million. The total amount of spending beginning in 2018 has reached about £12 million.

Going Forward

Period poverty is a complex problem. Apart from period product supply, the question of ruining stigmas and taboos around menstruation is no less important. This problem impacts people’s lives, influencing their physical and mental health. On the bright side, the U.K. continues to take action by implementing initiatives that aim to address period poverty and put an end to stigmatization.

– Anna Konovalenko
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in the U.K.In March 2023, the U.K. government set out to implement its new solution to the challenge of small boat Channel crossings, a route that at least 45,755 migrants used to gain entry into the country in 2022 alone. The new Illegal Migration Bill could see asylum seekers who arrive in the U.K. through this route removed from the country, potentially impacting the legal and practical support available to victims of human trafficking in the country.

Human Trafficking and Migration in the U.K.

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that involves the exploitation of individuals through the use of force, fraud or coercion to entrap victims into manual labor or sex work. Traffickers use various forms of violence and manipulation to entrap victims. And often, victims from vulnerable backgrounds fall for enticing promises only to find themselves facing the threat of violence once the charade is over.
As things stand, accurately quantifying rates of human trafficking is a challenge, but police records, reports and legal evidence all point to a year-on-year increase in cases of human trafficking in the U.K. In fact, estimates suggest that human trafficking was responsible for the majority of the 130,000 victims of modern slavery identified in the U.K. in 2022. In 2018, 6,993 potential victims of human trafficking, originating from 130 different countries, were identified in the U.K.
Migration and human trafficking are closely linked. And sadly, migrants are especially vulnerable to human trafficking for reasons including poverty, marginalization, language barriers and conflict. Traffickers actively prey upon vulnerable individuals, seeking out signs of economic, political and psychological hardship, as well as a lack of social support.

The Importance of Legislation

The vulnerability of migrants to human trafficking can be entrenched or alleviated by legislation. For instance, restrictive immigration laws that limit the legal movement of people into a country can force migrants to seek entry routes with higher levels of risk, including relying on smugglers and traffickers. The U.K.’s new Illegal Migration bill is an example of such legislation.
The Illegal Migration Bill stipulates stopping any migrant entering the U.K. on small boats across the English Channel from having their claim considered, constituting an effective ban on migration. Practically, this would extend to all victims of human trafficking who entered through this route. Between 2018 and 2022, 7% of migrants entering the U.K. on small boats claimed to be victims of trafficking and modern slavery.
So far, leading human trafficking organizations in the U.K. have raised concerns that the government’s plan would “needlessly block victims of trafficking and slavery from accessing safety and recovery.” Under the new legislation, victims of human trafficking who enter the U.K. through this route would be disqualified from the National Referral Mechanism, which is the only national framework in place for identifying and supporting potential victims of human trafficking.
Alongside reducing protection and support for victims, stricter immigration laws may increase the profitability of human trafficking. A reduction in legal routes through which to enter the U.K. would likely drive people to rely on traffickers. Furthermore, the illegality of all small boat Channel crossings would tighten the hold that traffickers have over their victims as they can exploit migrants’ fear of criminalization and deportation. By denying any migrants who enter in small boats the right to identify as victims of crime, this bill could increase the hold that traffickers have over victims and trap countless victims in unsafe, exploitative situations.

The Pushback

Anti-Slavery International is an organization working to combat detrimental legislation in the U.K. In 2009, it established the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG), a coalition of organizations that exists to monitor the state of the U.K.’s implementation of European anti-trafficking legislation. Since its establishment, the ATMG has successfully influenced legislation such as the Modern Slavery Act, supported the introduction of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner, supported the reversal of a decision to cut down the financial support given to victims of trafficking and ensured that survivors have long-term support from the government. Even more, by amplifying the voices of victims and survivors, the ATMG has made a significant impact in the U.K. and has ensured that legislation such as the Illegal Migration Bill cannot leave all victims ignored and unrepresented.

Reducing Human Trafficking in the U.K.

Aside from a focus on the legislature, there is already a solid foundation of support for potential victims and survivors of human trafficking in the U.K. The Medaille Trust, a leading organization in the fight against human trafficking, takes a holistic approach that aims to reduce trafficking, encompassing prevention, protection and prosecution.


The Medaille Trust emphasizes the importance of raising awareness about the risks and signs of human trafficking. Furthermore, one of its main goals is to support socioeconomic development among impoverished communities. By addressing the root causes of vulnerability to trafficking, such as poverty, the Medaille Trust empowers individuals to withstand and protect themselves against the efforts of human traffickers.


The Medaille Trust provides comprehensive support to victims and survivors of human trafficking through the provision of legal, therapeutic and financial support. Through collaboration with law enforcement agencies, the organization improves arrest rates and offers accommodation for those rescued. In the longer term, the Medaille Trust provides supported accommodation and a specialized ‘moving on’ program that focuses on the resilience and well-being of predominantly female survivors.


The Medaille Trust actively contributes to the prosecution of traffickers. The organization provides U.K. law enforcement agencies with monthly intelligence summaries about human trafficking, facilitates annual conferences for sharing best practices and works alongside survivors who are providing evidence to improve their chances of successful convictions. Through the work of advocacy organizations like the Medaille Trust, the U.K. has seen an increase in convictions for traffickers, a vital step toward combatting human trafficking in the U.K.

Looking Ahead

Overall, legislation plays a crucial role in determining the level of protection and support afforded to victims of human trafficking. And the proposed Illegal Migration bill presented by the British government creates risks for victims of human trafficking in the U.K. as it threatens to strip all migrants entering in small boats of their right to claim support as victims of crime and exploitation. Despite these challenges, a diverse range of international and domestic organizations advocate intently for this vulnerable group, offering support to both survivors and potential victims. Moreover, organizations such as the Medaille Trust actively foster collaboration within the U.K., creating a united front against human trafficking and mitigating the increased risks presented by legislation such as the Illegal Migration Bill.

– Polly Walton
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence BenefitsA branch of computer science that makes machines and technology usually performed by humans, artificial intelligence (AI) includes problem solving, decision-making and understanding language. AI systems rely on algorithms and data collection to observe patterns, make predictions and provide answers.

By ethically using the power of machine learning and analytics, AI can complete administrative and automotive tasks. It can also make informed decisions, and cater to individuals who are typically underrepresented in communities. Artificial intelligence benefits has the potential to transform our society by improving education systems, health care and environmental sustainability.


One of the main advantages of AI is its ability to create personalized learning plans for students. AI can collect data and analyze a student’s learning style and performance. It does this based on students’ response time and the types of questions they get correct. Data can be used to customize curriculums that are tailored for individual students.

A “one-size-fits-all” approach is what most education systems use today because it is unrealistic to expect a teacher to create a custom plan for every student in their classroom. Challenges are presented with this education system, though. Many students do not find the current approach engaging. In fact, they actually find that it hinders their learning experience. Personalized learning can help resolve issues that higher education institutions face, such as dropout rates and overall lack of motivation.

In Pakistan, the educational platform Maqsad creates personalized educational content for students, catering to their specific needs through data analysis. This digital learning has been embraced when its need surged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Artificial intelligence benefits education systems inside and outside of the classroom. At Staffordshire University in the U.K., an AI chatbot provides personalized answers to questions regarding university services and other support. This allows professors and campus staff more time to handle other administrative tasks. It also allows them to collect data on what individuals are confused about to better serve their student population.

Environmental Sustainability

Artificial intelligence benefits have the potential to facilitate environmental sustainability in many ways. Energy consumption, agriculture, manufacturing and resource management can improve with the help of AI technology.

When it comes to energy consumption, AI can optimize energy usage in buildings, transportation systems and manufacturing processes. The technology does this by using predictive analytics to manage the supply and demand chain of energy and stop carbon pollution.

In agriculture, AI can help predict weather patterns that would impact crops. It can reduce the use of fertilizer and water, two resources that, when used in large quantities, could harm the environment and ecosystems.

In Africa, advanced technology is being used to optimize agriculture and improve crop yields through “Digital soil mapping.” Digital soil mapping uses spatial data to predict the soil’s capacity to provide quality resources such as crops. It also identifies any deficiencies the soil might have, such as harmful aluminum toxicity.

By leveraging AI and machine learning, companies and communities can make data-driven decisions that have positive impacts on the environment and their businesses.

Health Care

Artificial Intelligence can improve patient outcomes with personalized treatment plans, medical imaging, decision-making and much more. It is documented that reviewing medical records and recording notes can take up to more than half a physician’s time. The use of AI language technology can free up time for medical practitioners by transcribing their meetings and inputting data into medical software. AI can also help diagnose patients by asking them a series of questions and analyzing their symptoms to provide accurate medical explanations.

In India, 70% of health care services operate from the private sector, which makes access to adequate health care extremely difficult for those living at or below the poverty line. AI-based technologies are being used to detect diseases and diagnose patients. One company, SigTuple, is developing a system that can analyze blood samples to detect abnormalities and diagnose diseases like tuberculosis.

These AI systems can help resolve the medical inequalities faced by people living in poverty. It can also uneven the ratio of doctors to patients in impoverished communities, as well as improve the overall efficiency of public health care.

Mental Health

Mental health is another area in which artificial intelligence benefits many people. A study conducted by the University of Southern California found that individuals suffering from PTSD and other mental illnesses are more comfortable speaking with virtual programs because of the fear of being judged. This could help advance mental health services by initially having patients speak with AI technology and then taking those answers and providing them with the best care.

Moving Forward

Based on recent trends, artificial intelligence can be beneficial to society when used correctly. In places like Pakistan, India and Africa, artificial intelligence and advanced technology models have already led to progress in areas of education, environmental sustainability and health care. And the positive outcomes suggest that there is room for even more progress.

Kellyjohana Ahumada

Photo: Pexels 

Disability Pay Gap
Recently, more and more information has been coming to light on how employment and wage differ for people, especially for minorities such as women and people of color. However, one group of people has frequently experienced exclusion from the conversation: people with disabilities. On average in the U.K., disabled employees receive almost £2 per hour less than their coworkers without disabilities. Over the last couple of years, the disability pay gap has been widening. In 2014, employees with disabilities earned 11.7% less than non-disabled employees. In 2019, they earned 14.1% less.

The pay gap is significantly more apparent for women than men. From 1997-2014, the disability pay gap for men was 13%, whereas it was 7% for women. The pay gap also differs significantly for those with mental versus physical disabilities. Men with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety had a pay gap of 30%, whereas women suffering from the same mental illnesses had a pay gap of 10%. Men with learning disabilities experienced even higher pay gaps, making around 60% less than other workers without disabilities.

The Cause of This Pay Gap

Many factors influence the disability pay gap, from facing discrimination to impairments due to their disability. However, the most influential factor is that many people with disabilities are less likely to work full-time and year-round in nearly every occupation, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report. When factoring in the schedules and occupations of a worker with disabilities, the pay gap nearly disappeared. Similarly, accounting for sickness leave also significantly reduces the pay gap.

Despite this, people with disabilities still earn significantly less than the average non-disabled worker meaning they are more susceptible to falling into poverty. People living in poverty are also more likely to develop a disability, meaning their chance of employment is even lower. In fact, almost half of those living in poverty in the U.K. are people with disabilities.

The disability pay gap only exacerbates the poverty rate for those with disabilities, as they often have a higher cost of living due to extra health care and accommodations. In addition, many people with disabilities face higher levels of unemployment and poverty because they tend to be less educated. For example, in the U.S. one in five adults with disabilities has less than a high school education, more than double the rate for those without disabilities. Only 19% of disabled adults possess a college degree, compared with more than 35% of non-disabled adults. 

Organizations and Legislative Bills Assisting

Despite the tremendous hurdles that people with disabilities face, many organizations and legislative bills are seeking to assist people with disabilities.

  • In the U.K., the Jobcentre Plus Support for Schools, first introduced in 2016, is a program that provides career advice and assistance for young people who have a disability. Since then, it has partnered with more than 1,400 schools to provide career advice and guidance to young people with disabilities.
  • Introduced in 2017, the Personal Support Package offers employment support for people with disabilities that is delivered through the U.K. government.

In conclusion, those with disabilities face a tremendously higher rate of poverty, something that people often leave out of the discussion regarding global poverty. However, organizations and governments are making an effort to combat it and as they put more and more measures into place, the poverty rate is slowly reducing.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Unsplash

British Warm Banks
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. This war has sparked an intense energy supply crisis in the U.K., Europe and other parts of the world. According to a new report that academics at York University published, 53 million people, or more than 75% of households, in the U.K. will have ended up in fuel poverty by January 2023. Fuel poverty is typically defined as when energy costs exceed 10% of a household’s net income. British ‘warm banks’ may be a solution.

About 86.4% of pensioner couples in the U.K. may fall into fuel poverty in January 2023 according to estimations. Of single parents, 90.4% of those with two or more children may also suffer from energy poverty. In January 2023, energy bills in the U.K. could top £4,200.

Creating British Warm Banks

The staff at Brickyard Bakery and Academy cookery school, in Westgate Guisborough, Britain, are providing good-natured help. The academy has been opening up a British warm bank above the shop every weekday for citizens to be in a warm place. Bakery and Academy owner Ed Hamilton-Trewhitt has stated that “heat from the bakery’s huge oven was being wasted heating an empty room above.” Hamilton-Twewhitt has subsequently furnished the area in a style full of nostalgia for the British psyche.

For the Community

Hamilton-Trewhitt spoke of the elderly community by stating that “I was worried about them during the pandemic and I’m worried about them now. I’ve got all this extra heat which is just disappearing up through the floorboards.” The owner also stated how “This is completely free, there’s newspapers and magazines and tea and coffee.”

This might just be the attitude necessary to help people survive this winter as the estimated bill of £4,200 per household is quite significant. Hamilton-Trewhitt stated that the bakery had always done its best to help the community and has previously offered free school meals to local children in the style of Marcus Rashford.

Previously, Hamilton-Trewhitt has cooked for the Queen and created dishes at the Ritz Club London.

Other British Warm Banks

British warm banks have opened across the United Kingdom in libraries, museums, cafes and even fire stations. These are publicly owned spaces or ones that are in a relationship with the government, available for the public to escape the cold. Young families, restaurant workers and an NHS cleaner are among those who have taken advantage of the free heat of Gainsborough library in southeast Ipswich. Carla Francesca spent some time here on Thursday with her two-year-old daughter. Francesca reported it was warm and a more cheerful place than her home, which remains unheated during the day to save money.

In a cold winter during a fuel crisis, British warm banks are becoming a significant coping method for the world’s second most altruistic country and making a difference.

William Fletcher
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Cambridge
As of 2020, Cambridge stood as the “U.K.’s most unequal city” — a surprising ranking considering that the city is famous for its university and education system. Cambridge is one of the U.K.’s most unaffordable cities to live in and food insecurity and homelessness are becoming more prevalent. Efforts to reduce levels of inequality and poverty in Cambridge are currently underway.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, “one in every six children in Cambridgeshire” endured poverty. By March 2020, 33,449 children lived “below the breadline in the country,” CambridgeshireLive reported. It is also important to consider that this statistic does not account for the cost of housing, meaning the number is likely higher.

The Social Mobility Index has assessed the likelihood that “a child from a disadvantaged background will do well at school and get a good job across each of the 324 local authority district areas of England,” a briefing note from the Cambridge City Council says. The Social Mobility Index 2016 ranks Cambridge as a “social mobility coldspot,” which describes “the worst performing 20[%] of local authorities.” The report notes that Cambridge has “weaknesses in education for disadvantaged children but relatively good performance on adulthood measures.”

Geographical Divisions

Poverty in Cambridge is also geographically disparate. The Equality Trust reported that poverty is most prevalent in the northern and eastern parts of Cambridge. Furthermore, “the difference in life expectancy between the highest ranked neighborhood compared to the lowest is around 10 years.”

The Guardian notes that inequalities in Cambridge reflect the “town and gown” divide in the city, a phrase coined to express the separation between city residents and university students. “Academics are protected from the worst financial pressures of living in Cambridge, benefiting from central, subsidized college accommodation, free meals and access to a cheap, university-backed shared equity mortgage scheme,” the Guardian said.

The inequality is evident when considering that the 31 colleges in Cambridge had a collective wealth of about £6.9 billion in 2018. Community initiatives on the part of Cambridge’s tertiary institutions would contribute to reducing levels of poverty and inequality.

Cambridge City Council’s Efforts

The Cambridge City Council looks to reduce inequality and poverty in Cambridge through its vision “One Cambridge – Fair for All.” This vision includes addressing social exclusion and poverty and merging “town and gown.” This vision will undergo implementation in the Council’s corporate plan for 2022 to 2027.

The Cambridge City Council also has in place an Anti-Poverty Strategy for 2020 to 2023. The previous Anti-Poverty Strategy that the Cambridge City Council implemented in 2014 noted progress in several areas, including building council-owned residential homes leased at affordable rates and raising the incomes of lower-income families.

The Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance and Cambridge 2030

Cambridge Sustainable Food is a partnership of organizations working to alleviate food insecurity in the city. It leads the Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance (CFPA), formed in October 2017. Through an action plan, the CFPA aims to meet several food security objectives. One of the goals listed in the action plan is guaranteeing daily access to food for children across an entire year. The objectives under this goal include “funding for [three] community fridges and an associated surplus distribution scheme” as well as “funding for ingredients for holiday lunches across the city.”

Other key focus areas in their scheme include raising “the uptake of a living wage” and expanding the uptake of cost-free school meals among eligible students. These aims will lead to greater household incomes and ensure children make the most of their state-entitled food provisions for better health and educational outcomes.

Cambridge 2030 aims to “bring together the public, private, voluntary and community sectors in collaborative action to bridge gaps in the provision of resources” in Cambridge. The Cambridge 2030 website states that the central goal of the “first phase of action” is “promoting wellbeing, beginning before birth.” The initiative brings together many organizations such as It Takes a city and Cambridge United to action its promises.

The efforts currently underway have the potential to significantly reduce poverty and inequality in Cambridge.

– Priya Maiti
Photo: Unsplash

Type II Diabetes in the UK
Type II diabetes in the U.K. is a prevalent issue. Type II diabetes, also known as “adult diabetes,” is when the body fails to regulate and use sugar. Sugar (glucose), is what the human body uses as fuel and thus, failure to properly utilize sugar results in a stream of health complications. One condition, for example, is when there is an accumulation of too much sugar in the blood resulting in circulatory, nervous and immune system disorders.

With type II diabetes, one’s pancreas does not produce an adequate amount of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates sugar in cells. Along with low amounts of insulin production, the cells in type II diabetes patients typically do not respond well to insulin and thus, take in less sugar.

Man previously believed that type II diabetes was an adult-onset disease. Today, however, it is increasingly common in children with obesity. The causes of type II diabetes are often associated with lifestyle factors, making it largely preventable. Apart from lifestyle factors, there are also social determinants that if addressed, can help reduce the likelihood of disease. The U.K., like many other nations around the world, is trying to cope with the increases in type II diabetes in both adults and children. Here is some information about type II diabetes in the United Kingdom.

Type II Diabetes in the United Kingdom

Diabetes U.K., a British-based healthcare research charity, has predicted that if changes do not occur to combat the increase in diabetes, 5.5 million people in the U.K. will have the disease by 2030. Currently, 90% of people suffering from diabetes in the U.K. have type II diabetes. Along with this, 13.6 million people are currently at risk of developing type II diabetes in the U.K.

The Relationship Between Type II Diabetes and Social Determinants of Health

Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires extensive, careful monitoring. This monitoring can be extra difficult for people who are facing social disparities such as food insecurity, unemployment, access to transportation and health care and economic worries. The impact of the uptick in diabetes cases, especially type II diabetes, is one that society members share equally. People experiencing poverty or economic insecurity are two and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with type II diabetes than the average earning person and two times as likely to face serious health complications. One can attribute this phenomenon to the “social gradient.” Under this idea, the less money someone has, the more likely they are to become ill and experience poorer health outcomes, thus a social gradient develops.

Those who are more advantaged may have access to prevention resources such as blood sugar monitoring, exercise programs and nutritious foods. They may be able to seek healthcare more regularly and develop regimes to help prevent or control their diagnosis. Among people in the U.K. suffering from diabetes, 28% report difficulties in obtaining medication or equipment in order to self-manage their condition. With this, there is around a 19-year life expectancy gap between the wealthiest and poorest people suffering from diabetes in the U.K.

Along with income impacting the likelihood of developing diabetes and more specifically type II diabetes in the U.K., race is another social factor. For people living in the U.K., the risk for diabetes increases for white people when they turn 40, however, if they are black African, African-Caribbean or South Asian, the risk increases starting at 25 years old. For people who identify as Black African, African-Caribbean or South Asian, the risk of developing type II diabetes is two to four times more likely than those who are white in the U.K.

How the UK is Addressing Type II Diabetes

The U.K. government is working to reduce the number of diabetes cases in the nation. The government has developed the NHS Diabetes Programme to help combat the influx in cases, particularly with type II diabetes. This program aims to identify individuals who are at risk for the disease. Along with this, the program will offer support resources to help reduce the risk of receiving a type II diabetes diagnosis.

Apart from the government, a collective group of more than 180 organizations called the Inequality Health Alliance is working to end health inequalities, especially those that impact the likelihood of getting type II diabetes in the U.K.

– Emma Cook
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the United KingdomPoverty in the United Kingdom and the cost of living has increased steadily since early 2021. After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, wholesale natural gas and oil prices soared, leading to more expensive bills for domestic consumers. The price of gas surged by 96% in a year and electricity has increased by 54% as it relies on gas for generation. Energy prices greatly impact the cost of living in the U.K., along with increasing prices of consumer goods such as food. The war in Ukraine has disrupted the country’s glass manufacturers, causing bottles for common products such as Coca-Cola to halt. According to the House of Commons Library inflation reached an astonishing 10.01% in July 2022, only dropping to 9.9% in August.

The U.K. remains at the high end of the worldwide inflation scale, ahead of the U.S. at 8.8% in April 2021, and 8.6% in the Eurozone from June. Low-income households spend more on housing, transport and food causing the high cost of living to disproportionately impact them, increasing poverty in the United Kingdom.

Movement in Geopolitics

Recent explosions of pipelines Nord Stream 1 which carried natural gas to Germany from Russia add pressure to the energy crisis. Although the pipelines have been inactive since early September, the accusations of sabotage of energy supply connections sparked anxiety in the U.K. and Europe. The fear has spread quickly as Norway, Europe’s largest natural gas supplier, has announced increased security on all of its gas and oil infrastructure. Panic could occur as millions are dealing with the mounting debt of rising food prices pitted against the high cost of energy bills.

Soaring costs of food and energy impact the most marginalized people the hardest. Bloomberg reports a peak inflation rate of 8.7% in June for low-income households. Whereas high-income households stood at 7.8% that same month. The data shows lived experience: if one earns more, one will likely have more to supplement rising prices; however, if one does not, one will likely fall short in purchasing power.

Confronting Crisis

Liz Truss’ tax cuts stunned economists and sent the pound into a free fall. On September 23, 2022, the British government announced a 45 billion pound tax cut ($48 billion USD) which caused the pound to drop to a record low of $1.03. In an unprecedented ‘mini-budget’ announced Friday, the government abolished the top 45% rate of income tax paid by the highest earners. As a result, YouGov polling shows that the Labour party has a 33-point lead over the Tories.

Only a year ago, Boris Johnson’s government made a decision to raise taxes to avoid public spending in the wake of the pandemic. Now the new government Truss has assembled caused markets to crash and investments in British industry to be withdrawn. In mid-September, the Bank of England announced that England might already be in a recession, as many are already feeling the sting of autumn without adequate heating.

Politico has quoted Truss in transit to New York this week saying, “Lower taxes lead to economic growth, there is no doubt in my mind about that,” although, with the value of the pound diminishing and the cost of goods, energy and transport already on a high the immediate effect is a negative one. The markets are one metric that helps weigh the viability of a Prime Minister. Currently, her reputation is not strong, even in her constituency. Truss has only two years to prove herself to voters with an election waiting around the corner in 2024.

Although Truss introduced the Energy Price Guarantee on September 8, 2022, which caps energy bills at 2,500 pounds ($2,788 USD) and went into effect on October 1, 2022. Even though this program will keep bills significantly lower than predicted, at least until January, many are skeptical of the Conservative government’s attempts to help people and businesses.

Charities Lending a Hand

Organizations such as Independent Age, Groundwork and the Smallwood Trust have stepped in offering grants for a range of people and communities affected by poverty in the United Kingdom. These grants will provide financial relief for material goods and basic essentials, as well as specialized needs.

Independent Age will give 25 grants of 45,000 pounds each to charities and community organizations helping older people through the crisis. Groundwork is partnering with One Stop Stores in awarding 1,000-pound grants to successful applicants. Smallwood Trust is focused on getting relief to women who need grants in the wake of the cost of living crisis. Women are especially important because they are underpaid and often overworked in society, on top of being the main caretakers in most households. As autumn begins, people are mobilizing to help each other through any difficult day, and that is always something to be thankful for.

During the period of volatility in the United Kingdom, the various organizations providing aid are extremely beneficial. Hopefully, with these charities’ continued efforts, poverty in the United Kingdom will reduce.

– Shane Chase
Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living Crisis
Period poverty is not a new issue. In the U.K., it has been around for countless years, causing profound problems for those that suffer from it. However, the
cost of living crisis, something which has involved the prices of essential items increasing and wages and disposable income falling, has exacerbated it. The cost of living crisis in the U.K. has only worsened the period poverty.

The Crisis

The Institute for Government refers to the cost of living crisis in the U.K. as being the fall in ‘real’ disposable incomes, something caused by high inflation going above wages. The arrival of this crisis in the U.K. is an economic consequence of two major events that have occurred over the last two years. The events are the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. The former has prompted the largest recession in modern times, with gross domestic product (GDP) declining by 9.7% in 2020, the steepest since 1948, while the latter has placed the economy at risk. The invasion has contributed to even more debt, the plunging of the pound’s value and perhaps the most far-reaching consequence, increased costs, especially in relation to household necessities (including, energy, petrol and food).

It is no mystery that the crisis will affect poorer households in the U.K. more than richer ones. The households experience higher inflation rates at 10.9% on average than richer households at 7.9%. Despite this not seeming like a large difference, increasing costs mean that the poorest households are unable to afford and thus, utilize household necessities. One such necessity is period products.

Period Poverty

Period poverty is a global problem, even in the industrialized and wealthy west, including the U.K. The phenomenon describes the struggle that many women and girls, especially those from low-income backgrounds, face when accessing period products. It does not relate only to sanitary products, such as pads and tampons, but other related costs such as pain medication and underwear.

Difficulty in affording these products has profound consequences on the lives of sufferers. Oftentimes, this issue threatens education and economic opportunities as girls and women have to stay at home from school and work. Plan International estimates that more than 137,000 girls across the U.K. have missed school days due to period poverty. This impact justifies the economic, social and political ramifications of period poverty.

The Cost of Living Crisis and Period Poverty in the UK

The cost of living crisis in the U.K. has had a profound impact on period poverty sufferers. In the U.K., period poverty affects one in three girls. Due to high production costs because of inflation, many supermarkets are forced to increase the prices of products. For instance, Tesco has doubled the price of its least expensive period product (pads) from 23 pence a pack to 42 pence. Due to the high costs, many women and girls have had to prioritize other essential items (food and energy) over period products, forcing them to keep current sanitary products in for longer or continuously using tissues.

The crisis has also increased the demand for ‘hygiene banks,’ services that provide free products. In the first 3 months of 2022, the charity Bloody Good Period reported a 78% increase in this, with products provided rising from 7,452 packs in 2020 to 13,284. The banks emerged to bridge the financial constraints that charities that typically provide period products were facing by making period products available themselves.

Two Organizations Making a Change

The cost of living crisis and its impact on period poverty in the U.K. justifies the fact that the phenomenon does not only appear in the developing world. Fortunately, in the U.K., there are organizations working to support those that suffer from the phenomenon.

Bloody Good Period

Bloody Good Period originated with the aim of creating a more sustainable flow of menstrual products. Since its founding in 2016, the organization has worked with more than 100 organizations across England and Wales, supporting more and more women and girls. It does this in four ways:

  • Delivering: Helping to provide menstrual supplies to those that suffer from period poverty.
  • Educating: Providing sexual and reproductive health education to those that cannot access it.
  • Normalizing: Fighting to eradicate the shame and stigma around menstruation and period poverty.
  • Amplifying: Demanding free treatment for those that bleed.

Bloody Good Period’s continuous usage of these four ways has been successful in enabling the organization to carry out its aim to recognize “the trauma and anxiety caused by not having access to essential menstrual products.”

Period Poverty UK

The founder of Gift Wellness Limited, Dr. Zareen Roohi Ahmed, established Period Poverty U.K. in 2013 with the aim of eradicating period poverty by 2025.

In March 2022, the organization launched a fundraiser called Red Rebel Day to end period poverty. It had two core objectives:

  • To raise £50,000 to supply 12,000 period products to women in need, including homeless women in the U.K. and refugees in war-torn countries.
  • To campaign for period products to make them available free of charge in all public spaces across the U.K.

This fundraiser has been successful in providing sanitary products to homeless women, students and women in low-income employment.

The rise in those suffering from period poverty and the U.K. cost of living crisis cannot be separated. The former has been present and wide-ranging for years, while the latter has ensured that the costs of essential period products have increased at exponential rates. Nevertheless, the increase of organizations working to support those that suffer from period poverty has grown and is continuing to grow, something which presents a hopefully more optimistic future.

– Harkiran Bharij
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Imprisonment
While many can acknowledge that criminal justice is inseparable from social justice, there is an underrepresented community at the center of this overlap, in need of support. As an individual loses their liberty through imprisonment, the family members relying on them become more susceptible to financial insecurity and economic burdens. These families face new expenses in relation to visits and contact costs, often with decreased income. The England and Wales prison population saw an increase of four times from 1900 to 2020 from about 17,400 prisoners to around 80,000. Contrastingly, crime rates in England and Wales have decreased by more than half from 1981 to 2021. With poverty and imprisonment so interconnected, one may consider whether imprisonment is pushing more families below the poverty line.

The Families Behind the Data

As the British approach to crime and punishment concentrates on retributive justice, such as imprisonment, working-class families are suffering the consequences. The threat to financial stability is partially attributed to income reduction and families unable to rely on relatives’ earnings following imprisonment. Many family members find themselves leaving employment to take on full childcare responsibilities despite increased financial strain.

Research finds that some individuals who do not have children leave work due to the detrimental impact of the criminal justice system’s procedures on their mental health. Outgoings will also often increase for families, in the form of traveling costs for prison visits and phone calls. According to Action for Prisoners’ Families, in 2006, U.K. prisons charged prisoners a phone call rate “five times higher than the standard payphone rate.”

Further costs stem from financial support to the prisoner to make prison time more bearable, especially considering that almost 40% of young offenders aged 18-21 are in their cells for more than 22 hours a day, often in unsanitary conditions.

Impact on Women

Research shows that female family members primarily suffer the strain of poverty and imprisonment, regardless of the gender of their incarcerated loved ones. These women sacrifice both money and time to ensure the well-being of their relatives in prison.

Simultaneously, female caregivers tend to take on childcare responsibilities that are usually abundant, morally expected and heavily gendered, but with a significant lack of support and available resources. Furthermore, female relatives face an increased likelihood of negative stigma and tarnished identity. Many women are even condemned for the crimes of their imprisoned family members.

Impact on Children

Financial and emotional strain for families with an incarcerated co-parent can be even higher than when children experience separation from this parent due to loss or divorce. This links to a tendency for parental mental health to deteriorate in these circumstances, which can lead to lower-quality parenting, a lack of support and neglect.

Studies continuously show a strong association between family dysfunction and legal misconduct tendencies. As financial strain heightens and living conditions become more difficult, a cycle of crime may develop. Crime can also become generational, with children being more likely to offend when their parent has a criminal record. This pattern is intensified by frequent parental reoffending.

The Discrimination That Ethnic Minorities are Facing

The disproportionate impact of poverty on those from ethnic minority backgrounds exacerbates inequality in the U.K. Those who are white British are less likely to live below the poverty line than other ethnic groups. According to a study, in 2018, “50% of all Bangladeshis and 46% of all Pakistanis [fell into] the most deprived fifth of the population.”

The impact of imprisonment can intensify this vulnerability due to the multifaceted financial strain placed on families with incarcerated individuals. According to the Institute of Race Relations, law enforcement authorities are more inclined to subject racial minority groups to search and arrest procedures due to the discrimination and stereotypes entrenched in societies. Furthermore, law enforcement authorities are more likely to arrest racial minority groups for drug-related offenses in comparison to white people. These patterns, particularly over-policing and over-imprisonment, are due to institutional racism.

Moving Forward

In 2017, the U.K. Ministry of Justice vowed to raise the standard of prisons and support the relationships between prisoners and their families while redistributing “funding for delivery of family services” in an even and appropriate manner. This involves prison reforms adopting a holistic focus that will help to prevent reoffending alongside wealth inequality.

Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) is a U.K.-based charity committed to helping prisoners and their families. In 1898, two Catholic legal professionals initially established the organization as the Catholic Prisoners Aid Society. Renamed Pact in 2001, the organization has helped more than 100,000 families maintain contact with relatives in prison over the last year. Pact also gave “relationship and parenting education” to 661 incarcerated individuals and their families, among other initiatives. Through the befriending project, trained volunteers knowledgeable about the imprisonment process and experience provide support to individuals with imprisoned relatives.

Efforts like these address the links between poverty and imprisonment, enabling prisoners and their families to access the resources for a better future.

– Lydia Tyler
Photo: Unsplash