Category Archives: London

UK cost-of-living crisis reveals ‘hidden’ child poverty

A woman and children cast their shadows as they stroll in the sunshine on the Southbank in London, Britain September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

LONDON, – Kim dreads her children’s birthdays. When her son recently turned 11 she gave him a chocolate bar and a card – with food and fuel costs sky-rocketing, it was all she could afford.

The family’s north Wales home gets bitterly cold in winter, but heating remains a luxury.

Kim’s four sons – among 4.3 million British children living in poverty – walk round the house bundled in layers of clothing, dressing gowns and blankets, clutching hot water bottles.

“I try and make it out to be an adventure to them. But it’s not an adventure for anybody. They’re cold,” said Kim, whose husband lost his job as a builder six months into the pandemic.

Poorer families, already squeezed by years of austerity, are struggling more than ever as food prices surge – and things are set to get even tougher in April when energy bills soar by 54%.

Anti-poverty charities have called for urgent fixes to the country’s welfare system, saying growing numbers of families are being forced to choose between eating and heating, while parents like Kim skip meals so their children get enough.

“It’s shocking. We’re in 2022, living in an advanced country – apparently, but we’ve got families where people are starving,” Kim told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Inflation hit 5.4% in December, a 30-year-high, and could top 7% in coming months – welfare benefits will only rise 3.1% in April in what is the world’s fifth richest economy.

A likely increase in housing costs and a looming tax hike to help fund the country’s struggling health and social care systems will only add to the pressure.

The boss of budget supermarket Iceland, Richard Walker, made headlines recently when he said his stores were losing customers to food banks and hunger, amid rising food prices.

Kim, 37, used to cook everything from scratch, but is now reduced to feeding her children “cheap, processed crap”.

“That’s the only way I can describe it because it’s not food,” said Kim, who asked not to use her full name.

For two pounds ($2.70) she can put chicken nuggets, noodles and tinned beans on the table. Cooking a roast chicken with vegetables would cost more than four times that – money she does not have.

Kim and her husband miss most meals, surviving on toast.

It pains her to see the children missing out.

“Birthdays are heart-breaking,” she said. “What kid wants to open nothing on their birthday?”

RISE IN DESTITUTION

More than 31% of children in Britain were living in poverty in 2019/2020, up from 27% in 2013/14.

But the latest data predates COVID-19 and the jump in costs, which charities say have tipped yet more families into hardship.

Even before the pandemic, the numbers in extreme poverty had soared. More than a million households, including 550,000 children, experienced destitution in 2019, up 35% since 2017, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Child poverty rates are particularly high in single-parent homes, larger families and those from ethnic backgrounds.

Single mother Jo Barker-Marsh, 49, who lives with 12-year-old son Harry in the northern city of Manchester, said child poverty remained hidden in Britain with many families sliding into hardship after relationship breakdowns and job losses.

Ten years ago, she was a filmmaker earning a good salary. But as a single mother raising a son with special educational needs, she could not resume a full-time career.

She took a part-time cleaning job, but lost it as the pandemic struck.

“There’s shame and humiliation that comes with poverty,” Barker-Marsh said.

“People think they’re better than us. They accuse you of scrounging.”

Poverty is not only exhausting but physically painful, said Barker-Marsh, who like Kim has reduced what she eats.

“The cold radiates from the centre of your being. Because you can’t eat enough food, your body doesn’t operate properly. You go to bed freezing and wake up in pain.”

‘UNFIT FOR PURPOSE’

Kim and Barker-Marsh are part of a project called Covid Realities, spearheaded by the universities of York and Birmingham and the Child Poverty Action Group charity, which has charted the lives of low-income families during the pandemic.

A report published last month called for major reforms to the social security system, branding it “unfit for purpose”.

The government was praised at the start of the pandemic for temporarily boosting Britain’s Universal Credit welfare payment by 20 pounds a week, but it withdrew the top-up in October.

Anti-poverty campaigners want it restored urgently.

Dan Paskins of Save the Children UK said some European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, had much lower child poverty rates.

This was largely due to better childcare support, so more parents were able to work, and higher welfare payments.

Britain, however, has seen significant cuts to social security in the last decade and is one of the world’s most expensive countries for childcare, Paskins said.

The Conservative government has rejected accusations of doing too little, pointing to measures worth 12 billion pounds to help struggling households and a 9-billion-pound package to counter rising energy costs.

But the massive hike in fuel prices, which will add hundreds of pounds to household bills, triggered further outrage this month after energy giants unveiled multi-billion-pound profits.

Some politicians have called for a windfall tax on their gains to help families facing fuel poverty.

Barker-Marsh said the higher bills meant she would have to sell her home, and accused energy suppliers of “dancing on the bodies of the poor”.

“My son is sick of being cold,” she said, her voice breaking.

“I’m really, really angry right now. There are so many of us. But no one is listening.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20220210145953-78k1z/

Faith institutions launch new wave of fossil fuel divestment

Today, 47 faith institutions from 21 countries, including nine institutions from the UK, announce their divestment from fossil fuels as a practical response to the climate emergency.

Participating institutions include five Catholic religious orders in the UK, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, two United Reformed Church Synods, local Anglican and Methodist churches and American Jewish World Service. (See link to full list of participating institutions below.)

This week, from 19-21 November, Pope Francis has convened the ‘Economy of Francesco’, an online conference involving more than 1,000 young adults, which will explore innovative ways of shaping a sustainable economy. This conference builds on an announcement in June, when the Vatican recommended in its first-ever operational guidelines on ecology that all Catholic organisations divest from fossil fuels.

Fr Dermot F Byrne MHM, Regional Representative of Mill Hill Missionaries (British Region), said: “Our members have always worked among the poorest and most disadvantaged in Africa, Asia and South America, and the pursuit of social equality and justice has always been a serious priority for us. Concern for what Pope Francis reminds us is ‘our common home’ has to be part of that pursuit. As our numbers decrease worldwide, there can seem to be little that we can do to make an impact, but divestment from fossil fuels is a practical choice that is open to us all and may have far-reaching results. Consequently, we feel that such divestment is in line with Catholic social teaching and the spirit of the present age, and we are happy that we, as a Region, are able to make this small contribution.”

Sr Catherine Lloyd RSCJ, Provincial of the Society of the Sacred Heart (England and Wales Province) said: “The Province has actively engaged in reducing its carbon footprint for a number of years as the impact of the climate crisis became more apparent and urgent. After reflecting on our own values and the charism which underpins them, we have actively engaged with our fund managers to divest our investment portfolio of fossil fuels. Hopefully, we are making a contribution to working towards a future which is more sustainable and carbon neutral.”

The announcement coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement on climate change. The UK government faces increasing pressure to demonstrate global leadership on the climate crisis ahead of the UN climate talks (COP26) taking place in Glasgow in November 2021. Faith organisations participating in the announcement amplify calls for the UK government to end support for fossil fuels overseas and act more decisively, having failed to meet its climate targets according to the Committee on Climate Change.

Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, recently advocated for Catholic leaders to play a more active role when he addressed hundreds of people in a webinar on Catholic investment for an integral ecology. He said: ‘The most urgent, most serious material threat to this world is a moral question… The defence of creation is the most fundamental fact of the Christian faith.’

In September, it was revealed that Shell plans to resume oil and gas exploration in the Arctic for the first time since 2015, despite pressure from faith investors and others that has exposed the inherent weakness of the fossil fuel industry. Shell has cited divestment as a material risk to its business.

Today’s divestment announcement means that more than 400 religious institutions have now committed to divest.

Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, said: “The economic power of faiths, turned to responsible investments and the green economy, can be a major driver of positive change, and an inspiration to others, as we rebuild better.”

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: “It is hugely encouraging that so many faith institutions have stopped investing in the fossil fuel industry. Churches need to divest from fossil fuel companies as a practical response to the climate emergency ahead of COP26 next year. The UK government urgently needs to end subsidies for fossil fuels at home and overseas.”

The Leadership Team of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in England said: “As Sisters of the Holy Cross in England, Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, has encouraged us to focus on care of creation. For some time, we have been urging our investors to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels… We have realised that engagement with these companies only has limited success. We have now informed our investors that we have decided to completely disinvest from fossil fuels, and thus work towards a zero carbon future.”

The Congregation of Our Lady, Canonesses of St Augustine (UK Delegation) said: “According to our founders, our aim is to ‘do good to all and harm to none’ (St Peter Fourier) and ‘to do all the good possible’ (Blessed Alix Le Clerc). How can we put this into practice when we hold investments in oil and gas and we don’t go for investments that ‘promote a more just distribution of this world’s goods’ (from our Constitutions, 166)? ‘In our times the whole world has become our neighbour'(ibid, 3). One little way of loving our neighbour out there was for us to divest from oil and gas, which we did this February. And we’ve a long way to go yet.”

The Sisters of St Andrew in England gave the following statement: “At our last General Congregation in January 2017, one of the three main themes was ‘Justice, Peace and Safeguarding of Creation’. The final document states: ‘…we are in close interdependence with all of Creation. What happens in one part of our world has an impact on the rest of the planet.”

“Deepening this awareness led us to have a closer look at our investments here in England. We realised that part of our financial resources were actually financing more fossil fuel extraction and burning. We were thus contributing to the worsening of the climate crisis and its devastating impact on the poorest peoples of our human family, as well as the destruction of vast areas of wildlife on our beautiful planet Earth. We therefore decided to make the commitment to divest from fossil fuel and invest in funds that support constructive ecological, social and peace initiatives. This is one more important step on our journey of ‘integral ecological conversion’ (Laudato Si’).

“We pray that this step may contribute to the healing and wellbeing of our world and the flourishing of our Earth Community.”

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/40909

Bring more traffickers to justice, UK anti-slavery chief urges

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Britain’s anti-slavery commissioner Sara Thornton poses for a picture in London, England, on August 6, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Kieran Guilbert

LONDON, – Police and prosecutors in Britain are not bringing enough human traffickers to justice, the country’s anti-slavery commissioner said on Thursday amid concerns that the coronavirus pandemic is preventing many victims from being identified or seeking help.

Modern slavery prosecutions have fallen during the last year despite a rise in police operations to combat the crime – whether labour abuse at car washes or children forced to deal drugs, said a report by Sara Thornton who took up the role in May 2019.

Thornton’s report follows criticism that Britain’s world-first 2015 Modern Slavery Act is being underused in efforts to jail traffickers, spur action from companies or help victims.

“The number of prosecutions under the Modern Slavery Act remains too low and organised crime groups continue to see the rewards as high and the risks as low,” she said in a statement.

“There needs to be scrutiny of the low number of prosecutions and convictions under the Modern Slavery Act.”

About 301 people were considered for slavery prosecutions under various laws in the 2019-20 period – down from 322 in the previous timeframe – government data shows. However, some of the defendants may have ultimately been charged with other offences.

Under the Modern Slavery Act alone, at least 67 people were prosecuted in 2019-20, against 82 in 2018-19. Yet the data does not include cases where more serious charges were also filed.

Thornton said training around modern slavery in the criminal justice system had improved recently but was still insufficient.

Police chiefs have previously cited getting victims to give evidence as a major obstacle to securing more prosecutions, and said slavery suspects were often charged for other crimes such as sexual violence as it may prove the simpler route to justice.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said its work with the police had led to more cases being referred for consideration.

“Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime and one we are tackling as hard as we can,” a spokesman said. “We continue to work (with the police) to build strong cases for prosecution.”

The National Police Chiefs Council declined to comment.

In a separate publication on Thursday, the Home Office (interior ministry) found that reports of suspected modern slavery had dropped for two consecutive quarters this year.

About 2,209 possible victims were referred to the British government for support in the second quarter of the year – down 23% from the previous three months – according to the data.

“COVID-19 has delivered unprecedented challenges in supporting victims and in many ways has increased vulnerability to exploitation,” Thornton said.

“Many are concerned that work across the world to end slavery will be knocked back years as governments prioritise building economic activity above concerns for human rights.”

A study in July said Britain was home to at least 100,000 modern slaves – 10 times more than the official estimate – and warned that 90% of victims may be going undetected.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200917151555-3xk4g/

British prison launches meal delivery service run by inmate trainees

Sea Bream made by inmates at the Clink restaurant at Brixton prison in an undated handout photograph. Paul Griffiths via Thomson Reuters Foundation

LONDON, – A British prison has launched a meal delivery service staffed by inmates as part of a charity initiative that aims to cut reoffending rates by giving prisoners a better chance of finding jobs after their release.

The Clink Charity opened a restaurant at Brixton prison in London six years ago, but the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close in March, prompting the debut of the “Clink at Home” delivery service last week.

Prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences get on-the-job training and work towards industry-recognised qualifications. They work on a voluntary basis in exchange for the training they receive.

Christopher Moore, the Clink Charity’s chief executive, said the restaurant programme gives prisoners a vital taste of “life on the outside, on the inside”.

“Prisoners come down for eight hours a day, in an environment that doesn’t look or feel like prison, replicating a real-life working environment,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“They’re learning to work as part of a team, they’re gaining confidence and are motivated and proud of what they do.”

According to the Clink Charity’s 2019 report, which draws on government statistics, reoffending rates among former prisoners who were enrolled in the programme fall by up to 66%.

Those who take part in the programme leave with industry-standard certificates in food service, preparation and cookery, as well as soft skills essential to helping them readjust to life outside prison, Moore said.

The Brixton restaurant, where diners have to pre-book a table to enter the jail, is one of four similar eateries based at prisons across the country. Between them, they train about 200 prisoners at any one time.

Moore said many former trainees do go on to find jobs in the restaurant business, with several now working at four- and five-star hotels and Michelin restaurants.

Elizabeth Orr, 42, one of the programme’s first participants at a prisoner-run restaurant in Styal Prison in northwest England, is now head chef at her family-run business in Liverpool.

“I lost everything when I went to prison but the support that was given to me absolutely changed my life,” said Orr, who has been nominated to receive a local award for her contribution to helping maintain vital services during the lockdown.

“When I first came home, I was in full-time employment as a pastry chef within two weeks. It felt like a sense of normality.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200731143614-w4n5j/

Climate change activists target London’s financial district

London
Extinction Rebellion members stage a protest calling for action on climate change, outside the Bank of England, London, UK, on October 14, 2019. HANDOUT/Vladimir Morozov/AKX Media

LONDON, (Reuters) – Climate change activists targeted London’s financial district on Monday blocking Bank junction, vowing a day of disruption for major institutions which they said were financing an environmental catastrophe.

Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked the streets around Bank in the heart of the City of London.

“The City of London is a preeminent nexus of power in the global system that is killing our world,” said Carolina Rosa, spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion.

The activists will target major financial institutions which they say are financing fossil fuel exploration and infrastructure. A mock trial of the financial sector will take place at shortly after midday.

The group, which promotes a rebellion against the political, economic and social structure of the modern world to avert the worst devastation outlined by scientists studying climate, is engaged in two weeks of civil disobedience in London.

Police said there had been more than 1,300 arrests since the protests began.

“There are currently protesters blocking roads around Bank Junction,” the City of London Police said on Twitter, which has previously warned of disruptive demonstrations on Monday.

Extinction Rebellion wants non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis it says will bring starvation and social collapse.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said the financial sector must transform its management of climate risk, warning that global warming would prompt reassessments of the value of every single financial asset.

Carney has been a leading voice among regulators in warning of the risks climate change poses to the stability of the global financial system. He has led various international initiatives to improve supervision and disclosure.

“Climate disclosure must become comprehensive, climate risk management must be transformed, and sustainable investing must go mainstream,” he told a United Nations climate summit last month. (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden)

 

 

 

 
http://news.trust.org/item/20191014060405-ya6az/

A London college bans beef to fight climate change

8F8E5DC5-294D-404A-B92E-C595D904A71FUniversity of London’s Goldsmiths college is tackling climate change by introducing a small levy on bottled water and single-use plastics that are sold on its London campus [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

A London college said on Monday it has banned beef from its campus to combat climate change, becoming the first higher education institution in Britain to do so.

From next month onward, Goldsmiths, part of the University of London, will no longer sell beef anywhere on its campus. It will also introduce a small levy on bottled water and single-use plastics to discourage their use.

“The growing global call for organisations to take seriously their responsibilities for halting climate change is impossible to ignore,” said Frances Corner, head of Goldsmiths.

Staff and students were “determined to help deliver the step change we need to cut our carbon footprint drastically and as quickly as possible,” Corner said.

The college said it aimed to switch to clean energy and become carbon neutral – meaning it will produce no more carbon emissions than it can offset – by 2025.

Livestock farming is a major driver of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes a tenth of the world’s freshwater and causes large-scale deforestation, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Forests soak up heat-trapping gases from the atmosphere and deforestation can amplify global warming due to the loss of vegetation and soil erosion, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said.

Plant-based foods and sustainable animal-sourced food could free up several million square kilometres of land by 2050 and cut 0.7 to 8.0 gigatonnes a year of carbon dioxide equivalent, the IPCC said in a major report last week.

“Declaring a climate emergency cannot be empty words … Goldsmiths now stands shoulder to shoulder with other organisations willing to call the alarm and take urgent action to cut carbon use,” said Corner.

Goldsmiths has joined a growing number of businesses and organisations to discourage meat consumption.

Last July, global office-sharing company WeWork, which operates in 22 countries, became one of the first international firms to ban staff from expensing meals that contain meat.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/london-college-bans-beef-fight-climate-change-190812172654478.html