Tag Archives: communities

Bleak houses: homeless children are being housed in shipping containers

Shipping containers (these were at Felixstowe): They’re very handy for moving goods between countries – but would YOU want to live in one?

Children in the UK are being housed in shipping containers because so many of them are homeless, according to the Children’s Commissioner.

Anne Longfield reportedly said it was a scandal that children were being housed in “office block conversions, in which whole families live in single rooms barely bigger than a parking space, and shipping containers which are blisteringly hot in summer and freezing in the winter months”.

In her report, entitled Bleak Houses, she said 124,000 children were considered officially homeless – but a further 90,000 were known to be “sofa-surfing”.

According to the BBC:

Office blocks and warehouses are also being used as temporary accommodation for families, with at least 13 office blocks in Harlow, Essex, converted into more than 1,000 individual flats.

In one such building, Templefields House, some units measure 18 sq m and are being used to house whole families, with parents and children sleeping in a single room also used as the kitchen, the report found.

The report said shipping containers were often located on “meanwhile sites” earmarked for future development.

As with office block conversions, there is often anti-social behaviour in the areas which means parents keep their children inside the small units instead of letting them out to play.

Ms Longfield also expressed concerns about B&Bs used as temporary accommodation, creating “intimidating and potentially unsafe environments” for children.

The bathrooms in B&Bs are often shared with other residents and vulnerable adults, including those with mental health or drug abuse problems.

The scandal here is the matters have worsened. I recall hearing of children being housed in B&Bs alongside people with mental health, drug abuse or violent crime histories more than a year ago.

Now they are being put up in cramped former offices and stifling shipping containers, of all places.

It simply isn’t acceptable. These places are unfit for human habitation.

Local councils, that are responsible for housing the homeless, say they are facing a huge, £159 million, funding shortfall from the Conservative-run central government.

The housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, Martin Tett, has urged the government to fund and give back councils their historic role of building homes with the right infrastructure.

Perhaps astonishingly, the Tory-run Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which is responsible for the funding shortfall, said it had put £1.2bn into tackling all types of homelessness which had helped reduce the number of families in B&B accommodation.

By putting them in cramped ex-offices and boiling shipping containers instead?

Insanity.

It seems clear that the money could have been better-used.

Only yesterday evening (August 20), This Writer reported on a move by the National Audit Office to examine whether the government has been spending the £6.6 billion earmarked to cope with a “no deal” Brexit responsibly.

Perhaps that organisation should consider the DCLG as its next project – before someone in a shipping container dies from heat exhaustion.

Source: Shipping containers used to house homeless children – BBC News

Women’s marches across the world: Great placards, but do we really feel safer?

Sir Ian McKellen with a placard showing his friend and colleague, Sir Patrick Stewart, in the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation ‘facepalm’ meme.
“Not my own – I found it at the end of the march in Trafalgar Square,” he admitted on Twitter.

I really hope the Women’s Marches, not only in Washington DC, or London, but everywhere they happened across the world, were declarations of intent, rather than end in themselves.

I don’t think anybody is safer from the ravages of Donald Trump (in the States), Brexit (in the UK) or any of the other evils taking place in the world right now, as a result of taking a weekend walk.

The events were tremendous outpourings of feeling – against oppression, “for the protection of our fundamental rights and for the safeguarding of freedoms threatened by recent political events; for the dignity and equality of all peoples, for the safety and health of our planet and for the strength of our vibrant and diverse communities” according to the Women’s March London website.

Those things are no safer today than they were on Friday.

I hope that everybody, who marched with placards held high, was also looking at the people around them, making connections, forming networks, and planning the steps that will need to be taken after the marches ended.

It was great to see so many celebrities taking part as well. I sincerely hope that they, with their much higher public profiles, will continue to support the rest of us. Ultimately, we are no different from them and the changes being inflicted on our way of life will harm them as well as us.

Those placards really were great, though. Let’s have a look at some of them, and some of the celebs who took part.

Carrie Fisher may have passed on but she has also passed into legend. This was just one of the many images based on her character, Princess/General Leia, from Star Wars. Many marchers turned up in costume as her.

Protesters called themselves ‘nasty women’ in reference to Donald Trump’s attack on Hillary Clinton:

‘Supernatural’ star Misha Collins with some ‘nasty women’.

https://twitter.com/vergilophile/status/822927031834963969

The march attracted many more people than the inauguration of Mr Trump, who has already been dubbed the least popular modern president:

ITV’s Queen Victoria – Jenna Coleman – marched in London. I’ve included the inset image of her as she took the main photo and therefore isn’t in it.

Likewise [Image blurred deliberately].

I’ll leave the last words to Sir Ian McKellen, who posted the following on Twitter:

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Right-to-buy scheme WILL deplete social housing; Tories are taking us for fools

These Tories are trying to take us all for fools.

Communities secretary Greg Clark (who?) reckons councils will have to replace any housing association property that is sold under the Conservative Government’s latest plan.

But this won’t work, because the plan is to offer a discount on the purchase of each property, of up to 70 per cent.

That means councils, who are being starved of money by – guess who? – the Conservative Government, will be either unable to replace 70 per cent of the lost accommodation or will be forced into serious debt.

Don’t be deceived by this blatant lie – it’s all part of the Tory plan to deplete social housing.

The new communities secretary, Greg Clark, has insisted government plans to provide a right to buy for 1.3 million housing association tenants will not lead to a fall in overall provision of social housing in England.

The measure is due to be included in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday and Clark defended the policy saying “consistently, over many years, nearly 86% want to own their home and just because you have signed a social tenancy should not mean you sign away your aspiration to own your own home”.

Ministers have insisted that social housing will not fall because councils will be expected to replace any housing association property that is sold. The new properties are due to be provided by the enforced sale of more expensive council-owned property when the tenancy falls vacant. Housing association tenants who have lived in a property for three years will be entitled to seek a discount on the purchase of the property of up to 70%.

Clark said there would not be a net fall in affordable property. “Where the flat is sold to the existing tenant it is not lost, it does not evaporate, and it is sold to someone that has means to pay for it, so then what is released in terms of the sale can then build an extra home – so it is adding to the housing stock. Every housing association property that is sold will be replaced one for one for a new property, so it is not only allowing people to meet their housing aspiration, but to increase the housing stock as well.”

Source: Right-to-buy scheme ‘will not deplete social housing stock’ | Society | The Guardian

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Gaza resignation exposes splits among Conservatives

Policy-based resignation: Baroness Warsi's decision to leave the government over Gaza is the first resignation on a matter of principle in more than a decade - since Clare Short resigned over Iraq (as far as we can tell).

Policy-based resignation: Baroness Warsi’s decision to leave the government over Gaza is the first resignation on a matter of principle in more than a decade – since Clare Short resigned over Iraq (as far as we can tell).

This blog has had very little time for Sayeeda Warsi in the past.

When she pleaded to stay in the cabinet, back in 2012, claiming she fits the demographics of all the people the Tories need to get voting for them at the next general election, being a woman who is not white, from an urban area in the North, who is – she claimed – working class… this blog mocked her. And rightly so.

But Vox Political also praised her honesty when she admitted failing to declare rental income. She was let off the hook, but that is a reflection on the corruption in Parliamentary affairs, not on her.

Perhaps we have seen that rare (in a Tory) streak of honesty again today, motivating the Foreign Office minister to resign over what she described as her own government’s “morally indefensible” policy on the crisis in Gaza.

Her resignation letter went on to state that the Coalition government’s policy was “not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long-term effect on our reputation internationally and domestically”.

She added that the decision “has not been easy” but there is “great unease” within the Foreign Office over “the way recent decisions are being made”.

Lady Warsi, who was also minister for Faith and Communities, stated: “I must be able to live with myself for the decisions I took or the decisions I supported. By staying in government at this time I do not feel that I can be sure of that.”

She is not the only Conservative to be suffering doubts over the government’s position. The UK’s abstention from a UN vote to investigate possible human rights breaches in the disputed territory has been extremely controversial, and several backbench Tories have called on David Cameron to take a firm stance with Israel over its “disproportionate” actions in Gaza.

Commenters on this blog and elsewhere have voiced the belief that Cameron is supporting “the money”.

Labour has praised Baroness Warsi for the principled position she has taken. The Opposition Party led by Ed Miliband (himself accused of Zionism by many) has consistently opposed the Israeli incursion into Gaza.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said his party had “repeatedly urged the Prime Minister to… speak out against the horrific loss of life witnessed in recent weeks, but he has so far failed to do so.”

He said Labour welcomed a decision by Israel to withdraw its forces, “but both sides must now fully respect the ceasefire to prevent further suffering and loss of life.

“In the longer term, both sides must also act to address the underlying causes of this conflict, and it must be recognised that Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised.”

Considering his government’s plans for human rights here in the UK, it seems unlikely that Cameron will accept such a notion.

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Cumulative effect of welfare reform revealed – deprived areas hit much harder than the rich

Deprived parts of Glasgow were worst-affected by 'welfare reform' according to The Courier [Image: thecourier.co.uk].

Deprived parts of Glasgow were worst-affected by ‘welfare reform’ according to The Courier [Image: thecourier.co.uk].

The headline should not come as a surprise – of course changes that cut benefits for the poor are going to harm them more than rich people.

But do you remember David Cameron’s claim that his government would be the most transparent ever?

Isn’t it interesting, then, that the independent Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found a way to compile information on the effects of tax, social security and other spending changes on disabled people, after the government repeatedly claimed it could not be done?

It seems Mr Cameron has something to hide, after all.

We already have a taste of what we can expect, courtesy of our friends in Scotland, who commissioned the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University to study the relationship between deprivation and financial loss caused by “welfare reform”.

The study shows that more than £1.6 billion a year will be removed from the Scottish economy, with the biggest losses based in changes to incapacity benefits. The Scottish average loss, per adult of working age, is £460 per year (compared with a British average of £470) but the hardest hit area was impoverished Glasgow Carlton, where adults lost an average of £880 per year.

In affluent St Andrews, the average hit was just £180 per year.

Of course, the cumulative effect will hit the poorest communities much harder – with an average of £460 being taken out of these communities it is not only households that will struggle to make ends meet; as families make cutbacks, local shops and businesses will lose revenue and viability. If they close, then residents will have to travel further for groceries and to find work, meaning extra travel costs will remove even more much-needed cash from their budget.

For a nationwide picture, the EHRC commissioned the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and the consultancy Landman Economics to develop a way of assessing the cumulative impact of “welfare reform”.

The report will be published in the summer, but Landman Economics has already told Disability News Service that the work was “not actually that difficult”.

Why, then have Mark Hoban, Esther McVey and Mike Penning, the current minister for the disabled, all claimed that a cumulative assessment is impossible?

Some might say they have a vested interest in keeping the public ignorant of the true devastation being wreaked on Britain’s most vulnerable people by Coalition austerity policies that will ultimately harm everybody except the very rich.

Some might say this is why the BBC – under the influence of a Conservative chairman – failed to report a mass demonstration against austerity by at least 50,000 people that started on its very doorstep.

Misguided conspiracy theorists, all!

Or are they?

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At last the crisis of British democracy is addressed by a party leader: ED MILIBAND

Champion of democracy: Ed Miliband told the country he wants Parliament to provide what the people want, signalling a return to the principles of democratic government that have been abandoned by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Champion of democracy: Ed Miliband told the country he wants Parliament to provide what the people want, signalling that Labour plans to return to the principles of democratic government that have been abandoned by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Hopefully the naysayers among Vox Political‘s readership will have a little more respect for Mr Miliband after today.

He is the first – and so far, the only – leader of a mainstream British political party to have correctly identified the biggest problem facing our democracy at this time:

The fact that people aren’t bothering to vote.

Here’s what he said, in his response to the Queen’s Speech:

“The custom of these debates is to address our opponents across the despatch box in this House, but today on its own that would be inadequate to the challenge we face.

“There is an even bigger opponent to address in this Queen’s Speech debate – the belief among many members of the public that this House cannot achieve anything at all. Any party in it.

“About 10 per cent of people entitled to vote, voted for UKIP in the recent elections. But – as significant – over 60 per cent did not vote at all.

“And whatever side we sit on, we will all have heard it on the doorstep: ‘You’re all the same, you’re in it for yourself, it doesn’t matter who I vote for.’

“Of course, that’s not new, but there is a depth and a scale of disenchantment which we ignore at our peril – disenchantment that goes beyond one party, beyond one government.

There is no bigger issue for our country and our democracy.

“So, the test for this legislative programme, the last before the general election, is to show that it responds – to the scale of the discontent and the need for answers.

“In this election, we heard concerns about the way the EU works and the need for reform. We heard deep-rooted concerns about immigration and the need to make changes. But I believe there is an even deeper reason for this discontent.

“Fundamentally, too many people in our country feel Britain doesn’t work for them and hasn’t done so for a long time:

“In the jobs they do and whether their hard work is rewarded.

“In the prospects for their children and whether they will lead a better life than their parents, including whether they will be able to afford a home of their own.

“And in the pressures communities face.

“Above all, whether the work and effort people put in is reflected in them sharing fairly in the wealth of this country.

“The Governor of the Bank of England gave a remarkable speech last week saying inequality was now one of the biggest challenges in our country. We should all be judged on how we respond to this question, right as well as left.

“There are measures we support in this Queen’s Speech including tackling modern slavery, an Ombudsman for our Armed Forces and recall.

“But the big question for this Queen’s Speech is whether it just offers more of the same or whether it offers a new direction, so we can genuinely say it works for all and not just a few at the top.”

Yes – exactly. Yes!

Within the last couple of days, I was saying on the Vox Facebook page that Labour needs to recognise the threat posed by UKIP in the context of disenchantment with democracy: With so few people voting, the door is thrown open to loony extremist right-wing parties.

The only solution is for the mainstream parties to ensure they know exactly what the people will support and offer the electorate what we want, rather than what they want to push on us.

With this speech, Mr Miliband has made it clear that he gets it, and that he is listening.

As the only leader who does – and is – this should put him well ahead by next May.

All he has to do is deliver what he has promised.

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