Inflammation and stories on United Kingdom

Children at a nursery in Lancashire
Some advocates call for better access to high-quality, early childhood education to help keep children living in poverty in the U.K. from falling behind developmentally and educationally.

International charity Save the Children urges Parliament to deliver world-class early childcare in the U.K. through its “Giving All Children the Best Start in Life” campaign. The campaign focuses on young children who are currently falling behind before they start school, especially impoverished children.

In March 2016, Save the Children released a report called Lighting Up Young Brains, which shows how parents, caregivers and nurseries support a child’s brain development in the first five years of life. The paper includes a recommendation to the government to ensure an early childhood educator leads every nursery in England by 2020.

The report explains that the brain begins processing information in a more efficient and complex way between the ages of three and five.

However, poverty can get in the way of this essential development. According to Save the Children, the poorest children in England, on average, begin school 15 months behind their wealthier peers in developing key skills, such as language skills.

The Child Poverty Action Group, a U.K.-based nonprofit, reports one in four children in the U.K. is being raised in poverty.

According to UNICEF, investing in early childhood education is one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing poverty because the estimated economic returns on investment in early childhood education are as high as a one to 17 ratio.

Numerous countries recently made early childhood education a priority. In 2010, the government of China increased early childhood education significantly. UNICEF reports the percentage of children between the ages of three and six in kindergartens in China increased from 45 percent in 2009 to 70.5 percent in 2014.

Efforts to enrich the development of young children living in poverty in the U.K. go beyond just the nursery school classroom. For instance, CPAG reports that a child’s home environment influences them the most, and poverty experienced in this environment should be taken into account.

“While good quality nursery care and education can supplement this (the home environment),” CPAG’s website states, “it cannot substitute for an impoverished home life.”

The Lighting Up Young Brains report explains how research shows that a strong home-learning environment provides the types of experiences and environment necessary for child brain and language development, such as opportunities to read and be read to.

CPAG’s website states social policies focusing on early years interventions for poorer children are “welcome,” but should not distract from the needs of impoverished children of school age, such as not having a place to study because of the cold or overcrowding.

You can learn more about the “Giving All Children the Best Start in Life” campaign by visiting Save the Children’s website. You can also visit the Child Poverty Action Group’s website to learn more about child poverty in the U.K. and see how the organization works for families affected by poverty.

Kate Miller

Photo: Save the Children


Glastonbury Live Album
The Glastonbury Festival has been held in Pilton, England every summer since 1970. This year’s festival is exceptionally special as the first ever Glastonbury live album will be released on July 11.

NME, the British music and entertainment publication, reports that all proceeds from the Glastonbury live album, Stand As One, will go toward Oxfam International’s Refugee Crisis Appeal initiative.

Oxfam International is an alliance made up of 18 organizations that began its mission in 1995. According to their website, Oxfam “works to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive.”

Oxfam works globally to fix a number of issues like inequality, fair distribution of natural resources, women’s rights and the growth of sustainable food in developing countries.

The Refugee Crisis Appeal is an emergency campaign to raise money for countries that are overwhelmed by refugees, such as Jordan, Syria, Italy and Greece.

The Oxfam website states that they have already provided 45,000 people with water on the border of Syria and Jordan by constructing a water tank, served 100,000 meals on the Greek island Lesbos and given legal counsel to many refugees in Italy.

Oxfam decided to dedicate the album to the late Jo Cox, a member of Parliament and Labor Party politician. Cox spent 10 years working at Oxfam and was a longtime advocate for refugees across the globe.

“Given Jo’s tireless work to help refugees both at Oxfam and beyond it felt appropriate to dedicate the album to her,” Oxfam’s Chief Executive Mark Goldring said in a press release.

Goldring stated later in the interview that Glastonbury’s live album will be, “bringing the weight of the music world in support of people in desperate need.”

Thousands of people will crowd 900 acres of farmland to see artist like Coldplay, Muse, Sigur Ros, Chvrches, The 1975 and Wolf Alice.

There will be incredible music, beautiful art displays and fields filled with passionate fans, but this year refugees will be represented on one of the largest stages in the world.

Liam Travers

Photo: Radio X

On May 9, 2016, Sadiq Khan entered the London City Hall to commence his new role as London’s duly elected mayor. His ascension to this role over Europe’s financial capital was a historic moment for economic equality and progression within London.

In his acceptance speech, Khan said, “I am determined to lead the most transparent, engaged, and accessible administration London has ever seen, and to represent every single community and every single part of our city as mayor for all Londoners.”

Over the last year, Khan has risen from a relatively obscure character in the British parliament to a world-renowned figurehead. His campaign was fraught with controversy over his reputation, and many did not trust his intentions as a politician. Why? Who is Sadiq Khan, and what is it that makes him such a controversial figure in British politics?

Sadiq Khan is the first Muslim to become mayor of a major Western city. And though some radicals believe the world is coming to an end with such a change, this historic event is generally viewed as a positive political breakthrough. London specifically sees this significance, but various countries throughout Europe and the West agree.

Originally planning to become a dentist, Khan instead pursued law after a teacher commented on his talent for arguing. A few years later, he graduated from the University of London and began his career as a human rights lawyer.

He quickly received attention from various high profile cases, but after a number of years as an attorney he left his practice in order to become more involved in politics. The rest is history.

In his new job as mayor, Khan plans to focus on two central points: significant reductions in poverty and inequality. CNN has observed that the divide between rich and poor in the financial powerhouse of Europe has been steadily increasing.

Statistics show that 27 percent of the nearly 9 million inhabitants are living below the poverty line. Additionally, prices for travel and housing are rising and jobs cannot compensate for the cost of living in London.

Khan has listed a number of strategies that he will implement to improve the current financial situation. First, he intends to attack the housing crisis currently facing London.

On his campaign webpage he writes, “For young families and individuals on average incomes, housing is increasingly unaffordable – with home ownership a distant dream.” Khan also intends to make affordable homes a focus of his tenure through construction reform. He plans on stopping the outsourcing of property to foreign investors.

Another problem that currently besets London is in-work poverty. Employers cannot give their workers sufficient pay raises to compensate for rising price inflation. Consequently, Khan intends to provide tax breaks to companies who pay their employees enough money to cope with London’s high living costs.

The new mayor also plans to address ethnic and gender inequality. Khan is committed to tackling each of these issues in order to help London stem the tide of its inflation while bringing poverty and inequality rates down.

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

Countries like Ghana, Kenya and the Congo have been making drastic improvements with regards to health, business and reducing overall poverty.

However, there is still a long way to go to completely eradicate poverty issues. Several countries and organizations have banded together in order to continue making progress in these areas.

One such project that is underway is the United Kingdom’s Energy Africa campaign. The goal of this campaign, as stated by the UK’s government site, is to “help Africa to achieve universal energy access by 2030. A reliable electricity supply is one of the most powerful tools for lifting people out of poverty and ending dependency on aid.”

Despite drastic improvements that have been made in Africa, USAID still reports, “Two out of three people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity.”

Addressing this issue, the UK’s Energy Africa campaign states that “together with African governments, investors, businesses, NGOs, think tanks and other donors, DFID will work to increase investment in off-grid energy firms, overcome regulatory barriers, foster innovation, and accelerate delivery of solar energy systems to households across Africa.”

The UK alone is not the only group interested in renewable energy in Africa, though. The IRENA, International Renewable Energy Agency, has shown high hopes for an improved Africa through energy changes.

The IRENA recently came out with a report, Africa 2030, that outlines these hopes. In the report it is stated that “modern renewable energy will provide a prominent alternative to support the African population, which is striving for better living standards, more comfort, and fewer health hazards and avoiding extreme inconveniences.”

The main focus is to switch Africa to four key energy sources: biomass, hydropower, wind and solar power. While this large switch sounds expensive, professionals have shown it as a necessary investment.

The IRENA report has shown that “the abundance and high quality of renewable-energy resources render renewables economically competitive, in particular as the costs of renewable technologies are rapidly decreasing. Recent renewable-energy project deals concluded in Africa will deliver power at some of the lowest costs worldwide.”

The Energy Africa campaign was launched on Oct. 22. The promise of success in renewable energy campaigns is there. The hope to bring reliable and sustainable energy to everyone brings the promise of really “lifting people out of poverty and ending dependency on aid.”

— Katherine Martin

Sources:, USAID, IRENA
Photo: Assets Inhabitat

Early childhood development (ECD), or the time from a child’s birth to turning 8 years old, is considered the most critical window of childhood development.

During this eight-year window, children undergo intensive physical and social growth, shaping their bodies and perceptions of society.

But many children in developing nations lack the nutrition, healthcare and social engagement necessary during ECD to have a strong foundation for future growth and development.

ECD initiatives, ranging from parental training to preschool, have been shown to dramatically improve children’s earning potential and help them to escape the poverty cycle.

In the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations specifically addressed the value of ECD in Goal 4, stating that by 2030 all children will “have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.”

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, echoed the importance of providing aid to ECD for the termination of global poverty, saying, “Children have been educated who otherwise would have missed out.”

Through aid efforts, programs are sprouting throughout some of the world’s poorest regions, showing promising results.

The World Bank reports that children in developing nations who have participated in ECD programs have higher levels of cognitive and academic performance than their peers.

Children who have benefitted from ECD initiatives are also more prepared to enter primary school and learn more efficiently while in class. This early success in schools has led to lower levels of dropouts and grade repetitions.

As educational levels rise, so does earning potential. Especially for girls. For every year of primary education a girl receives, her earning potential rises 10 percent to 20 percent, and for every additional year of secondary education, her earning potential rises another 15 percent to 25 percent, empowering her in the workforce.

As the workforces in developing nations expand with more educated and skilled laborers, the population at large benefits from an expanded consumer base.

With increased earning and buying power comes a more complex and stable economy that is less susceptible to shock and a higher gross domestic income.

According to UNICEF, this increase in school attendance shrinks the gap between the wealthiest and poorest families, hoisting children and their families out of the poverty cycle.

Claire Colby

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2 UNICEF, UN, USAID, World Bank
Photo: Sharp School

Since the United Nations’ decision to focus on education in 2000, approximately 58 million more children have been able to attend school thanks to various governments and organizations like Send My Friend to School banding together.

While this number seems large, that still leaves 58 million children out of school. And that doesn’t account for all of the dropouts that have taken place since.

In developing countries, there are still many obstacles getting in the way of a primary education for all children. Disability, cost, work, distance, conflict and a lack of teachers are only a few of the struggles that are still being addressed.

In the United Kingdom, the Global Campaign for Education began a program entitled “Send My Friend to School” in order to help the remaining 58 million children that are currently unable to receive a primary education.

This campaign focuses on allowing the children of the U.K. to participate in the solution. According to the campaign website, “over 10,000 schools and youth groups, and millions of children, have been involved so far in the U.K.”

The focus for these children is to band together and speak out for everyone’s right to an education. By speaking with and reminding leaders about their promise to get every child in school, they are able to keep education a priority.

According to Oxfam, an educational resource site, “Send My Friend to School is asking UK pupils to imagine that they were a world leader and tell politicians what crucial decisions they would make to get every child worldwide into school now.”

Since the campaign’s start in 2005, success stories have built up showing how much these children are capable of.

After the Southfield School campaign targeting MP Philip Hollobone and David Cameron, the two leaders expressed, “I am very impressed by the concern you have shown for the education of children in developing countries. Your colourful drawings demonstrate this as well as your enthusiasm for the campaign.”

Other such success stories have flooded the U.K. news.

The Send My Friend to School campaign has consistently shown that children are excellent advocates for global education needs. When organizations and direction are in place, children are able to accomplish much good.

Katherine Martin

Sources: Send My Friend, Oxfam, Southfield School
Photo: Flickr

This past week, the recent migration crisis—which has currently been sweeping across Europe and other developed nations in the world—came to a head in the small port of Calais, France. Located in the west of the country, Calais strategically connects France to the United Kingdom via the Channel tunnel and port, and has in recent years become an increasingly popular spot for migrants to try and smuggle themselves into Britain.

In recent weeks, the number of migrants inhabiting the area of Calais has dramatically increased in number, as 3,000 new migrants escaping from conflict-ridden areas in Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan set up camp near the port. According to British authorities, this situation has caused chaos and fear among British truck drivers, who are often forced to transport migrants illegally with them in their vehicles as they make their way back into Britain. Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulauge Association, which represents over 83,000 truck haulers in Britain, has stated that “[British] drivers are fearful [but]… can’t do anything about it when they’ve got 10 to 20 [usually armed] people trying to get on board.”

The chaotic situation in Calais, brought about by migrants jumping in the back of trucks, was further exacerbated this past week following a Eurotunnel labor strike which took place on Tuesday. Angered at discovering that 400 employees were going to be cut from the Eurotunnel company, strikers shut down the port and threw burning tires onto the tracks, effectively blocking both the tunnel and port.

The striker’s actions last week led to hours of stand-still traffic in Calais, as truck drivers and ordinary passengers waited desperately in order to be able to cross back into Britain. Drivers also described the effect of the labor strike as scary and intimidating, with many refusing to open their windows or doors during hours of sitting in motionless traffic for fear that migrants would climb in.

This situation has in turn created frustrations on both sides of the Channel, as British and French authorities struggle with how to deal with the strike and its effect on cross-country migrant smuggling. Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, has argued that “Calais has been taken hostage by the decisions of the British government,” blaming the British for the strike, and for refusing to absorb more migrants into the country.

Richard Burnett has similarly blamed the French, by arguing that the French authorities in Calais have failed to directly tackle the issue. British authorities have also complained that the chaotic situation in Calais has cost the United Kingdom millions in trade revenue, with the Fresh Produce Consortium estimating that at least 10 million pounds worth of fresh fruit and vegetables have been thrown away in the past year as a result of delays brought about by migrant truck-jumping in Calais.

At the moment, Prime Minister David Cameron and President Francois Holland say that they are working closely together in order to resolve the labor dispute, with Cameron tweeting on Friday, “I’ve called on @fhollande on Calais & the need to stop the illegal blockade & maintain port security.”

Calls to expand the nearby port at Dunkirk, 45 miles from Calais, have also been considered in attempt to deescalate the situation, while British Home Secretary Theresa May and French Minister of Interior Bernard Cazenueve have also agreed to increase funding in order to improve the security situation in and around Calais.

Ana Powell

Sources: The Guardian, New York Times
Photo: Flickr

Early in 2015, Malawi witnessed severe flood damage. Recuperation efforts are trying to get citizens back on their feet in new areas after hindrances to national development. The U.K. government, Met Office, NASA and Google created a partnership with the U.S. in June 2015 in order to ground exponential tactics in Africa to prepare for natural disasters.

To protect outside countries from weather-related disasters, on June 9, 2015 organizations met in Washington, D.C. to access, with more depth and analysis, the forecast and climate of poor nations. U.K.’s Met Office houses top scientists in weather research. The Department for International Development (DFID) is working with African scientists, U.K. universities and the Met Office to help create the first continental climate plan.

The plan is to help in-country capabilities and strengthen resilience. This project will help farmers plan ahead when droughts, floods and other storms are predicted. Governments and communities need help to adapt to certain practices and learn valuable information to protect their food supply.

In 2011, the U.K. improved its foreign aid capabilities to respond to disasters such as Malawi’s flood. Its government launched a proposal to increase its goal to help those in need within a timely manner.

It helped to better countries’ resilience by supplying resources, delivering technological advancements and sending experts in science and medicine. The U.K. also encouraged militaristic involvement when responding and created partnerships with China, Brazil, the Gulf States and various charities.

In 2012, DIFD announced at the Rio+20 Earth Summit that it would be improving extra support of small scale farmers. Agricultural workers need to find ways to adapt to climate change, build storage units and create stronger crops.

The people of Malawi rely heavily on agriculture to survive. The flood destroyed 158,147 acres of farmland, and approximately 230,000 people were misplaced after the storm. Crops were no longer usable, and homes were swept away.

Yet the President Peter Mutharika predicted that US$51 million was needed to uplift the country to its former self. UNICEF had sent $9.3 million for an emergency response unit to instill clean water and sanitation amenities to fight disease.

The number of natural disasters has tripled in the past 30 years. Poor countries are especially vulnerable due to slow recovery after disaster strikes. Malawi’s flood closed roads, turned off power supplies and made going to school hazardous.

DIFD suggested that farmers need to construct much sturdier facilities to hold their food. The department understood that monitoring the weather was equally as important in order to prepare for disaster. Monitoring and reporting are essential in the process of preparing for change. The DFID hoped to benefit 6 million farms in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Google will also give one petabyte (or 1,000 terabytes) of Internet storage data housing satellite screenshots and weather analytics. All organizations under this new, life-saving mission have invested a total amount of $31 million. USAID is supplying $10 million, and DFID has committed to $10 million as well.

After the devastation in Malawi, it is time to incubate preparation strategies. The storms may be unstoppable, but their impact can be much more minimal. The best emergency response begins before disaster hits. With upgraded technologies stationed in target areas, countries will be able to organize and plan well in advance.

– Katie Groe

Sources: Gov.Uk 1, Gov.Uk 2, The Guardian, The Global Mechanism
Photo: Flickr

Many refugees in Calais, France are using any means possible — most of them using rather dangerous means — to make their way to Britain in hopes of a new life.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants sit in refugee camps in Calais waiting to make their next attempt into the United Kingdom. Many of these individuals have traveled all the way from Africa, the Middle East and some from even further away. For most, sanctuary in Britain is the last stop on a very long journey that may have lasted for months, with hopes that a better life and more opportunities await them on the other side of the English Channel.

In France, where many migrants await the next move, which may potentially land them in Britain, lie refugee camps filled with hundreds of thousands of migrants from all around the world. Many have fled injustice and corruption within their native countries, such as that of Sudan, Eritrea and other crime-ridden and infamously violent nations.

Within the camps are volunteers and medical staff to help those who have been injured or have fallen ill throughout their long journeys. Nurses in the camps have recounted a number of cases where individuals have even been hit by trains and fallen off moving trains while trying to make their way across the Channel. This is a horrific image to imagine, but it is the reality of the extent people in these circumstances are willing to go to make it to their final destination. The legitimacy of their travels are backed by the success of others. An estimated 40 people actually make it across each day, though the numbers have varied greatly. Those who have been successful give those still struggling the hope they need to keep going.

With all these people from around the world flooding the entrance to the United Kingdom, both Britain and France have asked for more intervention, particularly from other members of the European Union. The French government has upped their security measures by increasing the number of police officers at the French side of the Channel as well as implementing other new security means. However, with the number of migrants in the hundreds of thousands at least, and a handful of migrants making their way to the UK each day, there obviously is need for more assistance in order for the two countries to maintain border security.

This issue has been going on since the beginning of June, and a recorded 10 migrants have died in the journey specifically from Calais to the other end of the Channel. This is an issue of international security for which no clear solution has been found thus far, neither the migrants seeking refuge, nor the European nations themselves.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: The New York Times, BBC
Photo: The New York Times

Last year, the U.K. Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure published a literature review that summarized research regarding poverty and its impact on people’s engagement with culture, arts and leisure. While it drew some fairly obvious conclusions, other findings were insightful and thought-provoking.

The first object of research was measuring how much poverty impacts people’s participation in sports. It found that adults who lived under the poverty line played fewer sports for far less time. These findings replicated those in similar studies in Canada and Australia. The lack of involvement in sports is believed to increase health risks such as obesity that are already present in lower income groups.

Some people blamed the lack of sports facilities provided in their neighborhoods. Financial and logistical barriers are a constraint. Sports equipment and transportation to and from facilities may cost extra money that the family cannot afford to spend. Moreover, parents who work more than one job find it difficult to take the time out to supervise their children, especially if their neighborhood is perceived as unsafe.

Another reason for poorer people’s reluctance to take part in sports is that they are simply not interested in them, as a study in Ireland concluded. Research in Australia demonstrated that even with ease of access to facilities and training, lower income children and adults were still less likely to play sports than their middle and upper income counterparts.

The second objective of the research was to determine how poverty impacts people’s engagement with arts, libraries and museums. Unsurprisingly, people living under the poverty line were less likely to be interested in or involved in their community’s culture. Even libraries, which are free and open to the public, see lower levels of engagement from poorer people. Children living in poverty are more likely to use the computer or TV for entertainment.

In addition to the obvious barriers of transportation costs and time constraints (for adults), poorer people frequently voiced the view that arts was for “other people and not for them.” They reported feeling out of place and uninterested. In their daily lives, art was perceived as being completely irrelevant.

To fight the main barriers to engagement in sports and culture—a dearth of facilities, extra costs and a lack of interest—the literature review recommends a few solutions: community-based solutions, personal and trusting relationships between mentors and participants, and lower costs.

– Radhika Singh

Sources: UK Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Art Council of Wales 
Photo: Poverty and the Arts