Inflammation and stories on United Kingdom

Combating Food WasteThe British Government has led successful campaigns to get citizens to rethink the food they throw away. The British charity, Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), works with larger businesses and local communities to use resources efficiently and sustainably. Charities like FareShare are combating food waste by redistributing food to hungry people in the U.K. For about 25 years, the organization has been keeping communities fed by providing millions of meals to those in need.

The Facts on Food Waste

Since World War I, the U.K. has struggled with food waste. The country implemented rationing methods in both World Wars to combat excess waste in times of crisis. These methods have undergone adaptation to address modern food waste issues.

Several campaigns target the impact of domestic food waste in the U.K. There has been a great success, with household waste falling 6% in a three-year span. Still, an estimated 4.5 million tons of food goes to waste. Meal planning and using food within the home reduce domestic food waste. Small and simple actions on the individual level lead to large change across the nation.

The exact amounts of waste in the food industry are not clear, however, estimates are concerning. Food services waste roughly one million tons, “equivalent to throwing away one in six meals served.” Surplus food is responsible for much of this waste. Food producers produce food in quantities too large to match consumption. Additionally, while some of the food remains edible, it may be undesirable due to its appearance. In 2018, 20-40% of supermarket produce underwent disposal for failing to meet cosmetic standards.

Food waste comes with a price tag for individual households and the food services sector. Industries lose £2 billion due to excess food. Meanwhile households, manufacturing, retail and food services waste an estimated £19 billion worth of food annually. Solving the matter of food waste is not only of humanitarian interest but of economic value too.

The Role of WRAP

WRAP came about in 2000. It has successfully brokered agreements with several industries to reduce waste, including food retail. With the United Kingdom’s population expected to grow in coming years, there will be an increased need for food, resulting in possible excess waste. WRAP’s 2025 Food Vision tackles seven aspects of food waste:

  • Food production
  • Food packaging
  • Supply chain wastage
  • Role of consumers
  • Food waste collections
  • Waste management infrastructure
  • Energy conversion

Each focus point works in tandem. Improving efforts in one sector will benefit the others. Therefore, food waste reduction initiatives must address each aspect to ensure optimal success.

WRAP works with businesses and provides a roadmap and toolkit to guide parties interested in reducing food waste. The organization encourages businesses to set a target goal for reduction, to measure appropriately and to effectively act. The initiative aims to ensure the U.K. meets its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

WRAP began the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in 2007. The campaign raises awareness and teaches simple steps to reduce waste on an individual level. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign also offers recipes to ensure that each food item goes to use.

FareShare: Combating Food Waste

The longest-running food redistribution charity in the United Kingdom, FareShare, has been giving back to communities since 1994 by ensuring that no food goes to waste. The organization solves two problems with one solution: reduce waste and solve hunger by putting surplus food to good use. Powered by volunteers and fueled by charities, FareShare has provided millions of meals to vulnerable populations.

The process is simple: retailers supply FareShare with their surplus food and FareShare redistributes the goods to local charities. FareShare supports almost a million people every week. The U.K. economy also benefits by saving £51 million each year.

FareShare does not tackle its grand mission alone. The Borgen Project spoke with James Persad of FareShare who says, “There are still tons of food going to waste, enough for millions of meals. Our mission is not possible without our partners.” Businesses both big and small have committed to the cause. Nestlé is one of FareShare’s longest ongoing partnerships. From 2005 to 2016, they redistributed “roughly six million meals worth of food” to those in need.

Efforts have led to creative innovations. One such success is FareShare Go, a service that allows local supermarkets to donate surplus food to charities through text messages. The initiative received recognition from the World Food Innovation Awards in 2018.

Addressing Dual Issues

Food redistribution efforts are successfully combating food waste. Hunger and food waste are two dire problems society faces, but thankfully, solutions have emerged that address both. These food rescue solutions combat hunger by ensuring that no food goes to waste.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Rights-Based Drug Policy
Rights-based drug policy has been increasing in popularity in recent years. In 2019, the U.N. Development Programme and the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policies collaborated with legal and scientific experts on a three-year project to develop guidelines for a rights-based drug policy approach. The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy laid out recommendations that nations should follow regarding criminal justice, addiction treatment and pain relief accessibility in order to be in accordance with international humanitarian law. These recommendations include:

  • Ensuring access to all drug dependence treatment services and medications to anyone who needs them
  • Ensuring access to all harm reduction medication and services, such as those used to reduce the likelihood of overdose or HIV infection
  • Providing a reasonable standard of living to populations vulnerable to drug addiction
  • Repealing policies that strip drug offenders of their right to vote
  • Repealing laws that allow detainment solely on the basis of drug use

Worldwide, the most common approach to addressing drug use and trafficking relies on punishment. This is often in lieu of providing care to those affected by addiction and violence relating to the drug trade. According to the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy, punishing drug users and withholding addiction treatment and harm reduction services are violations of human rights.

Some nations have been reforming their drug policy to address community needs and uphold humanitarian practices. Here are a few success stories.

Britain: Controlled Treatment for Opioid Dependence

In 2009, the British government undertook a four-year trial where doctors used injections of the opioid diamorphine, in addition to counseling, to stabilize addiction patients who had not responded to conventional treatments. After just six months of diamorphine injections, three-quarters of the trial participants stopped using street heroin. Crimes that the group committed dropped dramatically.

Today, many British citizens suffering from extreme opioid addiction are qualified to receive diamorphine through the National Health Service. From 2017-2018, 280 patients received this treatment to recover from addiction. However, conservative attitudes about the treatment threaten to cut services. Experts warn that patients who are no longer able to receive diamorphine may return to street heroin.

Scotland: Saving Lives with Naloxone

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Scotland began providing communities with take-home Naloxone kits in 2011 and issued 37,609 kits between 2011 and 2017.

The Scottish Ambulance Service recently rolled out a program to send Naloxone kits home with the friends and family of users after an overdose and train them how to administer the medication before an ambulance arrives to reduce the risk of death. Some Scotland police officers are beginning to carry Naloxone, though many are resistant to the practice.

Portugal: Humane Treatment for Users

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized drug use. Instead of jail time, drug users receive fines or have to complete service hours and/or addiction treatment. Drug trafficking remains a criminal offense.

To replace incarceration, Portugal increased treatment programs. As of 2008, three-quarters of those suffering from opioid addictions were on medication-assisted treatment. Since the policy shift, opioid deaths have fallen dramatically, as well as HIV and Hepatitis C infections. In addition, U.S. research studies indicate that spending money on treatment returns more than investing in traditional crime reduction methods. Portugal also implemented a needle exchange program to provide intravenous drug users with clean needles, which experts say returns at least six times its expenses in reducing costs associated with HIV.

Decriminalization did not lead to a rise in addiction and Portugal’s prison population is lower now than before decriminalization. Rights-based drug policy has flipped the script on addiction in Portugal. Criminalization exacerbates issues related to addiction, such as poverty. Rights-based drug policies are better at breaking the cycle of addiction and thus, alleviating poverty.

Rights-based drug policy means treating users with respect and providing communities with the resources they need to address the devastation drugs can cause. Adopting legislation in line with The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy is a crucial step towards a scientific and rights-based approach to combating the worldwide drug crisis.

– Elise Brehob
Photo: Flickr

 

A Surprising Upside to COVID-19
Although the COVID-19 pandemic yielded many medical devastations, many young doctors fast-tracked into residencies to answer the demand for caregivers and essential workers, showing the surprising upside to COVID-19. This succeeded in easing the burden on the medical community. While COVID-19 cases are significant, young doctors are providing aid in places such as the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Italy.

The UK

Across the United Kingdom, the March 2020 events immediately implored the Medical Schools Council (MSC) to expedite qualifications for final year medical students solely based on their clinical examinations. This fast-tracked those in their last year of medical school by unburdening them from having to work with patients in a hospital setting – something that became nearly impossible during the first stages of the pandemic due to a lack of information about the spread of the disease. A BMC Medical Education study found that almost 40% of students had their Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) canceled, allowing some students to graduate early and join the workforce.

Over the past 12 months, the United Kingdom endured over 4 million cases and over 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. The Mirror reported on January 20, 2021, that over 50,000 NHS staff members have been sick with COVID-19 and around 800 have died from the virus. The government is trying to respond quickly, not only allowing medical students to wave clinical examinations in some cases but also reconsider whether or not to fast-track the registrations of refugee doctors with foreign degrees. Anna Jones of RefuAid said to the Guardian, “We have 230 doctors who are fully qualified in their own countries. Most have many years of experience as doctors.”

The latter program offers a pathway out of poverty for refugees and immigrants in their new countries. The former has given young people the opportunity to help the global cause in a profound way. Meanwhile, the medical field gave more people of diverse backgrounds more opportunities, which is another surprising upside to COVID-19.

The Czech Republic

In Eastern Europe, medical schools had similar ideas. Many university students took it upon themselves to volunteer at overworked hospitals to help fatigued systems on the verge of collapse.  Students received important medical responsibilities in clinics and administrative roles. Aleksi Šedo, dean of the First Faculty of Medicine at Charles University in Prague, stated, “It’s an honor for our faculty that its students have spontaneously created an initiative to help our health care and, more broadly, the entire society.”

Perhaps another surprising upside to the COVID-19 pandemic is the opportunity for young people to stand out and receive recognition. Although, the Czech Republic obtained praise for how it responded to the pandemic, the second wave in October 2020 hit it hard, resulting in over 15,000 new cases per day. Additionally, just under 3,000 people died in the country from March to September. Moreover, more recent months have yielded a sharp increase, with the death toll now tracking upwards of 20,000.

Only 3.4% of the Czech population is at risk of poverty but there is a strong link between education and poverty in the country. This corroborates the trend of fast-tracking doctors (or in this case, the doctors taking control of fast-tracking themselves through volunteering) as a method of rising out of poverty. The Czech Republic is welcoming young doctors with first-hand pandemic experience into its qualified and registered ranks.

Italy

One of the surprising upsides of COVID-19 comes from Italy and its ‘Cure Italy’ campaign, which emerged during the first days of the pandemic. The whole world was horrified by Italy’s plight as Italy accounted for 10,000 of the first 30,000 reported COVID-19 deaths. The country expedited the process by “cutting the hospital exam and increasing the number of doctors being recruited.” This gave many young doctors their first professional job experience and saved them the standard practice of many Italian medical school graduates: work abroad.

For Italians like Chiara Bonini, Samin Sedghi Zadeh and Stefania Pini, the pandemic gave them a much appreciated if not worrisome opportunity to help in the northern regions when their neighbors needed it. Bonini was in the process of studying for her final exams when the government began to change the process and invited many up north. She jumped at the chance. Zadeh left a job as a general practitioner to help in the face of a crisis. He hopes this will be a call to action regarding the bolstering of health networks. Meanwhile, Pini transferred back to Italy in order to ease the burden after working in Switzerland’s hospitals. She thinks this might be an opportunity to return to work in her home country. One surprising upside to COVID-19 for Italian doctors has been young medical professionals the opportunity to return to Italy.

One Year Milestone

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has reached its one-year milestone, one can process its effects on health and poverty a little more clearly. The study of medicine has long been one way for those in poverty to change their socioeconomic status and a surprising upside to COVID-19 has been its effects on young and foreign doctors in the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and Italy. From inviting those in their final year of school to be fully qualified without traditional clinical tests, passing doctors with qualifications from other countries into the health system and bringing doctors back home to fight the disease ravaging their communities, the novel coronavirus has provided glimmers of hope for those in the medical community: it has presented opportunities for essential workers.

Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Romania
Human trafficking is a highly profitable business and on the rise in Romania. Human trafficking is a complex phenomenon and a few factors might explain why it is so prevalent in Romania including poverty, corruption, social inequality, uneven development, harmful traditional and cultural practices. For example, Romania has a shame-based culture so victims often find it difficult to return home. Additionally, Romania suffers from civil unrest and a lack of political will to end human trafficking in Romania.

The 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the Romanian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” and is on the Tier 2- Watch List for the second consecutive year, along with Ireland. For example, in comparison to the previous report, Romania did not increase its efforts to reduce human trafficking. Moreover, authorities investigated, prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers, and complicity in trafficking persisted without punishment, especially in the case of officials who exploited minors in government-run facilities.

As a response to the report, Adrian Zuckerman, the U.S. ambassador to Romania, stated that the report is correct. Gangs trafficked people knowing that they probably will get away with it. Zuckerman urged the parliament to start working with the government to create the necessary legislation to end human trafficking in Romania.

Following negative reports from both the U.S., the Romanian parliament published a decision on November 24, 2020, which includes the following recommendations to the government:

  • Raising the minimum sentence for traffickers
  • Mitigating the trial period
  • Accelerating the process of criminal investigations
  • Making a sexual act with a minor aged 15 or under a felony
  • Including child disappearances and human trafficking in the country’s National Strategy
  • Modifying the legislation to properly fund nonprofit organizations working to reduce human trafficking in Romania

Modern-Day Slavery in Romania

The Global Slavery Index shows that Romania, with 86,000 trafficking victims, has one of the highest rates of modern-day slavery in Eastern Europe and most victims experience sexual exploitation. However, modern-day slavery is common in the following sectors including agriculture, construction, car-washing and housekeeping. Human trafficking in Romania strongly intertwines with migration and encompasses the following activities including prostitution, begging, theft, forced labor and organ cropping. It is especially worrisome that about 50% of the trafficked persons are minors who undergo sexual exploitation, end up in forced labor or have their organs harvested.

Victims of human trafficking in Romania fall into it through numerous means. Sometimes, traffickers will kidnap them or their parents will sell them. At other times, traffickers will recruit them through the “lover boy method” or “a sham marriage.” Altogether, it is a highly vicious circle because there is rarely a way out, and it can sometimes involve multiple generations from mother to daughter. Additionally, gangs may approach low-income families or the victim and charge extremely high-interest rates on the loan they provided for transportation costs and housing after luring their victims.

Trafficking to the UK

Trafficking victims from Romania frequently undergo exploitation in the United Kingdom. In fact, around three-quarters of women trafficked to the U.K. come from Romania and the majority end up in the sex trade.

Begging is also a highly profitable business, as some children can earn £300 a day. According to police reports, gangs value one child at £100,000 a year. Gangs sell the best performing children to other gangs, and virtually all the money makes its way back to Romania, in the case that the traffickers decide to move back to the country.

According to the BBC documentary “Inside Out,” Romania is posing one of the biggest trafficking threat to the U.K. However, it also determined that the British authorities are doing less than their Romanian counterparts in the fight against human trafficking.

Reaching Out Romania and Other NGOs

The main nonprofit organizations fighting human trafficking in Romania are Reaching Out Romania, Eliberare and Antitrafic. Iana Matei is the founder of the shelter Reaching Out Romania which has assisted around 470 victims, mostly Romanians, since 1998. About 54.5% of rescued victims enrolled in further education, nine cases went to court, four persons gave no statement to the police, two returned to prostitution and eight people are still in the program.

Eliberare is an organization that has fought human trafficking quite successfully since 2013. It has accomplished this through awareness campaigns, prevention training, restoration assistance and lobbying events. Meanwhile, Antitrafic works to eliminate human trafficking in Romania and receives co-funding from the European Commission.

In order to end human trafficking in Romania, it is critical that governments and anti-trafficking actors work holistically and across borders. Given that human trafficking is a transnational crime, an integrated and supranational structure could be the best way to reduce it.

– Maria Rusu
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in WalesWales, one of the four scenic countries that comprise the United Kingdom, has 25% of its population facing poverty. Around 200,000 children live in poverty in the country too, with 90,000 of these children enduring extreme poverty. As Wales struggles with poverty on a daily basis and searches for improvement, NGOs in the country are doing their part to combat poverty.

5 NGOs Fighting Poverty in Wales

  1. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an independent NGO working to solve poverty in the United Kingdom and Wales. Through research, policy, collaboration and practical solutions, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation aims to inspire action and change inside of the United Kingdom. By shining a light on poverty in Wales while offering solutions of potential change, poverty in the country can be clearly addressed and better managed.
  2. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD). CAFOD is an international NGO that reaches out to people living in poverty with practical help in the overall pursuit of campaigning for global justice. Through donations, campaigning and calling upon individuals to volunteer in both their local communities and internationally in Wales, CAFOD looks to immediately impact poverty with positive results. CAFOD is also a member of Caritas Internationalis, one of the largest humanitarian, development and social service networks in the world.
  3. The Trussell Trust. This is an NGO that supports a nationwide network of food banks that collectively provides emergency food and support to people locked in poverty. The Trussell Trust handed out 70,393 emergency food parcels in April through September through its 117 food banks that comprise the Welsh network of the NGO. Across the United Kingdom, more than 1.2 million emergency food parcels were distributed through the Trussell Trust’s network during the first six months of the pandemic.
  4. Save the Children. An NGO founded in 1919, Save the Children combats child poverty worldwide in the mission of keeping children safe, healthy and learning. The Wales sector of Save the Children works with education, social care and health partners to deliver a range of programs that directly benefit the livelihoods of children in Wales. Children growing up in poverty in Wales are deeply affected, and as they fall behind in school due to the limited income of their parents, the cycle of poverty continues. Save the Children directly combats this cycle in Wales, advocating to the Welsh government about the importance of childhood education.
  5. The Bevan Foundation. Located directly in Wales, this NGO is on the constant lookout to reduce poverty in the country through innovation and ideas. Working alongside the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to find new solutions to poverty, the Bevan Foundation has presented evidence to the Welsh Parliament’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee inquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on communities, poverty and housing. The evidence will be beneficial for implementing anti-poverty strategies in Wales. The Bevan Foundation has also advocated consistently for social security benefits that would alleviate poverty.

The Future of Wales

Wales, facing increasing poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finds its poverty worsening among children of the country more so than adults. Amid this poverty, organizations are working to address the situation in different ways. With the help of more NGOs, poverty in Wales can see even better results by addresing the very core and cycle of it.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

How the Hygiene Bank is Addressing Sanitation and Wellness in the UKSince its conception in August 2018, the Hygiene Bank has upheld its mission statement: To tackle hygiene poverty by providing essential products to those in need. Founded by Lizzy Hall, the grassroots organization prides itself on building a local community involved in both volunteering and donating.

Hygiene Poverty

The Hygiene Bank defines hygiene poverty as a constant battle between whether or not to spend money on other essentials or on hygienic products. According to the Trussel Trust, people first stop buying toiletries for a substantial time before entering a food bank. This evidence suggests that those who cannot afford bathing or cleaning products, toothpaste and similar items do not seek help immediately to address it. Instead, due to other priorities or possibly shame, they go without these essential products for longer than necessary. By not having this accessibility, several challenges can arise. These include sharing toothbrushes, not being able to properly launder clothes, skipping deodorant, infrequently changing a baby’s diaper, using dish soap as body soap and other circumstances that people may not usually think about.

Addressing hygiene poverty not only means sanitation provisions but also caring for impoverished communities’ well-being. While nonprofit organizations typically focus on broader needs, such as shelter, medical care and access to clean drinking water, general hygiene is also extremely important.

In the U.K., one-fifth of the population lives in poverty. Though this figure does not account for the homeless population, two-thirds of those living in poverty work in a conventional society that still struggles financially. Due to low incomes or other circumstances, a majority of people sacrifice basic hygienic needs for other necessities, such as heat, rent or food.

Advances Through Partnerships

By realizing this, founder Lizzy Hall aims to spark a conversation around hygiene poverty and its seemingly unknown prevalence. Through her initiative, she plans to instill a general acceptance of the unseen struggles many impoverished communities face.

In partnership with Boots, the largest pharmacy chain in the U.K., the Hygiene Bank has placed donation collection bins throughout the nation. This physical and visual reminder has shown to increase donations and overall awareness.

From March 2020 to June 2020, the Hygiene Bank also collaborated with beauty brand, Soap & Glory. This partnership entailed that, for every 50 products sold, Soap & Glory donated one full-size bottle of their shower gel to the organization. As a result, the company donated over 19,000 bottles.

Through this partnership, the Hygiene Bank was able to provide a necessary product to those in need and spread its message to a wider audience. This initiative proved especially useful in light of COVID-19’s impact on job security and the overall importance of sanitation practices during this time.

Going Forward

In understanding that feeling clean should not be a luxury or privilege but a fundamental human right, the Hygiene Bank continues to fight to end hygiene poverty and accomplish its mission.

To date, the organization has established 749 drop-off locations, donated 332,981 kg of new and in-date products and supported 1,172 nonprofits. Through their simple process of collecting donations, hiring volunteers and distributing the products to other organizations specializing in helping the impoverished, the Hygiene Bank has made significant contributions toward ending hygiene poverty in the U.K.

– Samantha Acevedo-Hernandez
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the United KingdomWith the sixth-largest economy in the world, the United Kingdom has vast financial resources. Despite its economic strength, however, child poverty in the United Kingdom is a severe and growing problem.

Child Poverty in the UK

More than four million children live in child poverty in the United Kingdom, which accounts for nearly a third of children in the U.K. A child is considered to be in poverty when they live with a family whose income is less than 60% of the United Kingdom’s national average. For such a wealthy country, this is a staggering statistic.

Child poverty is becoming even more problematic. The rates of child poverty in the United Kingdom are expected to rise from four million to five million in 2020. There are a variety of reasons for the increase in poverty. Some of these include rises in living costs with lower labor wages, leaving parents having to choose between essential goods and services and feeding their children.

Does Employment Solve Poverty?

Poverty affects children, even when their parents are employed. Two out of three children living in poverty have a parent who is employed. A recent report highlighted the government’s role in child poverty, noting its increased cutting of social services since 2010. By enforcing work as a solution to poverty, the government essentially dismantled much of the social support systems upon which many citizens rely. Despite record levels of employment, one-fifth of people are in poverty, showing the limiting effects of work on decreasing poverty.

Child Poverty and Minorities

The impacts of child poverty in the United Kingdom are widespread and affect minority groups the most. Children who face poverty are more likely to struggle in academic environments, impacting their ability to find employment later in life, leading to lower wages, an increased likelihood of imprisonment for men and becoming a single parent for women. Children from minority groups, mainly Pakistani and Bangladeshi, are most likely to suffer from child poverty in the United Kingdom.

Buttle UK

There are charitable organizations addressing child poverty in the United Kingdom. While the government has cut social services funding, Buttle UK, a charitable organization, provides funds for desperate families who need to buy necessary household items. Of the 10,000 families it helped in 2017, over 3,000 of them used the money to buy beds for their children. Buttle UK estimates that hundreds of thousands of children could be without their own bed in what it calls “bed poverty.” Although the government has cut social services funding, fortunately, organizations like Buttle UK have helped thousands of families and their children every year.

The United Kingdom has many governmental and financial resources with its economic fortitude; however, the cutting of social services has been problematic for many families struggling with a lack of resources. Consequently, millions of children live in poverty, even when their parents are working and trying to provide for them. Fortunately, charities like Buttle UK are addressing some of the difficulties that children face in dire circumstances. Hopefully, with more awareness and support for social services, child poverty in the United Kingdom will soon subside.

– Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty Rates in the U.K.Approximately 4.2 million children live in poverty in the U.K. based on the latest data from the Child Poverty Action Group. As unemployment rates rose amid COVID-19, several organizations focusing on child poverty have campaigned to continue several relief programs as solutions to U.K. child poverty levels. One form of child poverty relief comes from the universal credit program. This U.K. initiative gives eligible families an extra £281.25 per month for their first child up until the age of 3 and an extra £235.83 per month for a second child or a child aged 3 to 19 in school. Universal credit also includes the recently increased £409.89 monthly payment for individuals over 25 in 2020.

England

The Director of Policy, Rights and Advocacy at the charity organization Child Action Poverty Group, Louisa McGeehan found that nearly 30% of children are living in poverty across the entire U.K. McGeehan advised The Borgen Project that child poverty rate in the U.K. “varies, some areas have very low levels of poverty while some areas are extremely high.” McGeehan and other child poverty charity organizations have found that the increase in unemployment, business closures and limited benefits for select low-income families have resulted in higher U.K. child poverty rates that have not been published yet. McGeehan advised The Borgen Project that in London, “there was another announcement today to try to prop up incomes, so we don’t know the final numbers, but we think we are going to be at levels of unemployment that we haven’t seen since the late 80s or early 90s.”

London had a 37% child poverty rate prior to COVID-19 according to the Child Poverty Action Group. With this information, the Child Poverty Action Group continues to research and campaign for various U.K. child poverty-related preventative actions. The poverty rate attributions are considered to be high housing costs, lack of full-time work and high childcare costs. McGeehan told The Borgen Project that the two-child policy states that “if a family has more than two children, they can’t receive any extra money for any subsequent children which is directly discriminatory to the children.” McGeehan and the Child Poverty Action Group have campaigned to abolish the two-child policy, keep up the free school meals program during school closures and to continue the additional £20 weekly payment that the U.K. Universal Credit system has included for families and individuals since April 2020.

Scotland

Scotland has been focusing on child poverty as the Scotland Child Poverty Act of 2017 provided the targets necessary to reduce child poverty rates. Based on the last reported data set in 2019, the child poverty rate in Scotland is 24% with 230,000 children living in poverty. One child poverty solution introduced in late 2019 is the “Poverty Alliance’s Get Heard Scotland initiative,” which gives the people of Scotland an opportunity to voice their concerns about the various causes of poverty in Scotland. The CPAG has worked to help children in low-income levels through the CPAG’s Early Warning System and discussions with the Scotland government. McGeehan advised The Borgen Project that “my colleagues in Scotland are having different kinds of conversations with a similar lead, so they have managed to work with the government to introduce a new child payment, which will improve life up there.”

Wales

Currently, Wales has a child poverty rate of 28%. To assist in tackling the consequences of child poverty, the Bevan Foundation helps come up with policy ideas for government approval, which has led to an extension in the free school meals project during school closures through an equivalent cash payment to parents in Wales. Bevan Foundation Policy and Research Officer, Dr. Steffan Evans explained that the Welsh government has been active as it relates to the COVID-19 response for low-income families. Evans told The Borgen Project that “the Welsh government has significantly increased the number of emergency payments to families who were struggling and they have also given some funds to provide 4G enabled laptops to families who have not got internet access at home so they can do their learning.” Still, Evans notes that “we are expecting to see poverty rates increase in the next few rounds of data as we deal with fallout [from the COVID-19 impact].”

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland estimates that 107,200 children or 24% of the child population were living in poverty as of the last reported data set in March 2019. Before the pandemic, Northern Ireland enacted child poverty-related policies including the Child Poverty Strategy from the Northern Ireland Executive, which has been active since 2016 with one report per year. The aim of the strategy was to reduce child poverty in Northern Ireland through increasing employment rates and improving lower-cost housing while keeping children healthy in school. Northern Ireland has also enacted a cash distribution plan to keep up the free school meal plan that approximately 97,000 children used.

Final Thoughts

With increasing unemployment and poverty rates due to the pandemic, the U.K. government and several child poverty charity organizations have supported and discussed similar child poverty solutions. These policies are considered to act as solutions to U.K. child poverty levels by U.K. researchers as the additional £20 weekly universal credit payment is set to continue until April 2021.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

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