Inflammation and stories on United Kingdom

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

5 Countries Foreign Aid Policies

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

Striding Forward

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

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay

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

The Wage Gap and the Equal Pay Act

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

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

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

Defining the Wage Gap

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

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

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

Fawcett Society and YESS Law

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

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

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

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

– Sophia Cloonan
Photo: Flickr

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

10 Facts About Hunger in the United Kingdom

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

Moving Forward

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

– Zoe Engels
Photo: Flickr

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

The Basics of Effective Altruism

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

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

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

How UK Aid Can Go Further

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

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

Becoming More Effective

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

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

Isabella Thorpe
Photo: Flickr

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

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

Children and In-Work Poverty

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

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

Reforms to Reduce Child Poverty

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

The Road Ahead

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

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

Matthew Otey
Photo: Pixabay

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

Imminent Change

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

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

A Threat to “Soft Power”

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

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

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

Active Solutions

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

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

– Stella Grimaldi
Photo: Flickr

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

The Harsh Reality: Homelessness in London

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

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

Turning an Idea Into Action

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

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

A Mobile Approach to Ending Homelessness

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

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

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

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Unsplash

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

Green Homes Grant

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

Effects of the Energy Efficiency Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Araceli Mercer
Photo: Flickr

BrexitJanuary 31, 2020, was a historic day for the European Union, for it marks the day the United Kingdom left the Union based on a public vote (referendum) held in June 2016. Seventeen point four million citizens opted for Brexit in 2016 and, after several negotiations and talks, the U.K. is now the first former member of the European Union. An important and large-scale decision such as this has the ability to distort economic stability greatly.

Trade

The EU is the world’s largest single market that allows free trade among all its members. It is also responsible for negotiating trade policies on behalf of its members, establishing a single, strong voice throughout various negotiations. Since Britain is no longer a member, it must create its own suitable trade policies with the countries it wishes to trade within the Union. Britain also needs to negotiate for its own demands. It was projected that the U.K. stood to lose $32 billion after Brexit, with no trade agreement in place between the U.K. and the EU. Losses incurred are more likely to increase as the EU accounts for nearly 46% of the U.K.’s exports. Researchers project that Ireland’s exports to Britain may drop by at least 10%. This creates a serious trade imbalance and hence contributes to the national deficit of the nation.

Food Poverty

British citizens consume a significant amount of imported food. Brexit could lead to a rise in food poverty, as about 30% of food is imported from the EU and 11% is from countries whose trade policies were negotiated by the EU. Since there is no trade policy in place, food insecurity is bound to rise. Food prices will likely rise 6% by June 2020, according to researchers. Overall, an increase in food poverty may be on the horizon.

Immigration

The U.K. had announced that post-Brexit only highly skilled immigrants will be able to secure jobs and the additional requirements have already created an impact on the economy. Immigrants mostly work low-skilled jobs and the implementation of this policy has already lead to shortages. At least one in 11 posts are vacant. Also, immigrants occupy nearly one-sixth (140,000) of the 840,000 care worker jobs. The new regulations will soon prompt vacancies and greatly affect people with disabilities and the elderly.

The Potential Solutions

Trade talks between the U.K. and the EU are taking place effectively. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a “Canada-style free trade agreement” which the EU is prepared to accept, given the fact that the agreement would demand no tariffs or quotas from them. This shows that negotiations are productive and that the U.K. is trying to cause very little disturbance to the economy. Aware of its reliance on imports from the EU, the U.K. has opted for a mutually beneficial free trade agreement. As the cost of imports and exports are reduced, the trade imbalances are corrected. This in turn will influence food poverty as the general price levels will decrease and imported food will become affordable.

Additionally, there are multiple organizations and government schemes that help combat food poverty in the U.K. For example, The Trussell Trust and other independent foodbanks have distributed nearly 3 million food packages between 2018 and 2019. The organization Healthy Start allows the purchase of basic food necessities for pregnant women and mothers with infants.

What Are the Benefits of Brexit for the UK?

The U.K. is free to trade with other nations such as Japan, the U.S. and India without EU restrictions. This will stimulate growth in all nations involved in possible free trade and help tackle domestic issues, such as unemployment and hunger. Effective trading can lead to increased employment opportunities and better living standards.

The U.K. has given almost half a trillion pounds to the EU to be a member of the bloc. The amount the U.K. will save is significant enough to be directed at rising food insecurity, short-term deficit and unemployment. The U.K. is also able to craft specific policies to suit its needs instead of being subject to the ones crafted by the EU. The ability to do this helps the U.K. and other nations involved, as all policies will be tailored to be mutually beneficial and appropriate.

Overall, Brexit is a challenge. It is difficult to adjust to and likely poses serious threats to economic stability in the near future. However, this is only a short-term issue. Once the transition period is over, a structured agreement between the E.U. and the U.K. will help their economies regain stability.

 Mridula Divakar
Photo: Flickr

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

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

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

What is the Role of the Government?

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

Ensuring Quality and Reducing Disparities

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

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

What is the Impact of COVID-19?

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

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

Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

– Mia McKnight 
Photo: Flickr