London is not OK

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I want to remind you of a few news stories that broke just before Christmas, they show serious problems with poverty in London and the rest of the UK. These kinds of stories are often in print at that festive time, I guess because that’s when people are feeling generous and donate to charities. However, it also means that once Christmas is over, everyone feels the problems are finished too, they’ve donated, they’ve done their bit. The truth is, the situation in the UK is getting worse, and donating money to charity is only a sticking plaster. Austerity measures have destroyed lives, even ended lives, and the government show no sign of stopping cuts.

The focus of some of these stories is on London, primarily because that’s where I live, so I see news stories for here, but also because London is generating some disturbing statistics at the moment. People tend to assume because London is clearly a rich city, poverty induced problems must be minimal, but the opposite seems to be true. These stories might be familiar to you, so I’ll keep them brief, but there are links if you want to read more.

How Rich Are We

Out of all countries, the UK is ranked fifth for GDP (value of all goods and services produced. Article), and seventh for where the most billionaires live (article). Out of cities across the world, London is ranked fifth for where the most rich people live (London fifth richest city ) and also fifth in terms of GDP. Most of the inequality between rich and poor comes not from money being earned, but owned wealth (ie inherited or invested in property) (Wealth in London ). For a wealthy country, with a wealthy capital city, the following problems are ridiculous.

Homelessness

new homeless article

Article

new homeless article 2

Article

rough sleeper 2

Article

Up until 2010, homelessness had been declining, but since then has risen every year.

People sleeping rough  numbered 1768 in 2010 and 3569 in 2015 in the Uk. So double the numbers.

There are many more people homeless, but less visible, sleeping on floors of friends or in derelict buildings. It is thought that over 60% of homeless people don’t show up in figures.

However, in London the rise was biggest, from 400 in 2010 to 940 in 2015.

The other highest figure, and highest rise in figures, is in South East England.

Here are the facts and figures

2010 was when the Coalition government initiated the austerity program. It involved reducing funding for housing-related services, for example reducing housing benefit to a level that often didn’t cover rent, increasing sanctions for benefit claimants leaving vulnerable people without any assistance, introducing the bedroom tax (claimants had money reduced if they had an unused bedroom). It’s these measures, and rising rent prices that have lead to homelessness.

 

Foodbanks

foodbanks

The Independent did a poll of London families and discovered that 18% have to choose between heating or feeding their family.

33% (a third) struggle to afford healthy food for their family.

14% rely of foodbanks or free breakfast clubs.

Article about foodbank use

Austerity and the wider problem

There have been reports in the newspapers this month about a lack of beds in A&E hospitals and the cancellation of 50,000 operations. This situation has clearly hit a crisis point, but at the end of last year a study was brought out calculating that 45,000 deaths had been caused by austerity measures, many of which were caused by inadequate hospital care. Substandard care for the elderly was another factor.

cuts death

Effects of health and social care spending constraints on mortality in England

Note: this has been reported as 120,000 deaths, but that is a projected figure for 2015-2020, it may well prove to be an accurate prediction, but 45,000 actual deaths is shocking enough, there’s no need to inflate it.

Thank you for reading…

35 thoughts on “London is not OK

  1. I’ve ‘liked’ your post but of course I don’t like what has happened and is continuing to happen in the name of austerity, nor how the gap between rich and poor is widening, nor that this discrepancy is happening is our cities, whether London or elsewhere. And, because of the Brexit shenanigans, is not going to get better any time soon, nor that where health and social care is concerned that the government (along with their mates) is fiddling while the rest of us – – and particularly the least advantaged – – are burned. I don’t like it, I loathe it, and can’t believe, as a postwar baby, that conditions have come to this sorry state of affairs, and that voters have allowed it to happen.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You’re coming to London? I hope you have a great trip! You probably won’t see much, although there are noticeably more homeless on the streets, many councils and businesses try to move them away from sight. It’s pretty shocking.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m staying with a friend and she is taking me to all kinds of places. Stonehenge included! I’ve been to Oxford so now I want to go to Cambridge. I’m there for 11 days!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I lived in Cambridge for a while, it’s one of my favourite places – filled with quirkiness and history. I hope you have an adventure!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This has always been a problem that people like to overlook; because it doesn’t directly affect their own lives, they can’t relate and don’t give it the attention it deserves. I think it’s truly shocking and saddening how people are left without there basic human needs, in a country that has the resources to help if only time be attention would be paid to the problem. One of the things I was most shocked to learn a while ago was that often people are only allowed to visit food banks 3 times in a 6 month period, and each time they are only given 3 days worth of food! As if their problems will be solved after those three days! It’s awful- so much more needs to be done! I think it’s great that you’ve taken the time to address this issue.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful response. I had heard there were restrictions on food banks, but didn’t realise it people only got three days worth of food. I think you’re right, people like to live in the bubble of their own lives and pretend everything outside is ok – it’s understandable when life is complicated, but the situation is just getting worse.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s sounds like a dreadful situation. That empty bedroom sanction is just plain draconian. I know in Melbourne homelessness is increasing because of joblessness and the ever increasing rise in the cost of living, particularly in the utilities. It’s a vicious circle because it is harder to get a job without an address. The charities are finding it difficult to cope with increased demand on their services. Many working people are struggling to make ends meet so there is less to give to charity. It is obviously a world wide problem that is going to take a lot of effort and pressure on governments to make changes for the better. I guess the first step is not letting these people be forgotten like you have done in your post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t realise Melbourne was having troubles too, from all the way over here it seems like such a beautiful place to live, we don’t think about the troubles. That this is a world wide problem is just shocking – isn’t this what those big meetings between governments and businesses are supposed to sort out?

      Ironically, unemployment here isn’t high, but it is very skewed towards the young, who don’t always have the support or knowledge necessary to survive.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. Unemployment here is also a problem for the young and people over 50 find it harder to get a job. The gap between rich and poor is also getting wider and home ownership is out of most young people’s reach. But there are also movements towards more sustainable living, recycling and repairing things rather than conspicuous consumption so it isn’t all bad.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m glad there’s some good things happening. Also on the positive side, as automation pushes us all out of work, they’ll need to figure a plan to deal with mass global unemployment, hopefully one that makes life better 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ugh, you’re absolutely right about the Christmas/Holiday season. It’s forefront then, but the need is year round. There’s actually a commercial running on YouTube about this very thing. One of the things they do in the “good old” US of A is talk about how well the Dow Jones/stock market is doing, as if talking about how much more money billionaires have means a thing for how much poverty is increasing. Then there’s the embarrassing statistic that my country has the highest poverty rate of the developed world. Just because a city/country is rich it doesn’t mean all of its citizens are even making it by.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly! Well said. Over here we only get glimpses of the real problems in the US, but it’s always shocking to see. Have you read a book called the Spirit Level? It shows brilliantly how having this enormous gap between rich and poor, makes everyone (including the rich) more miserable and unhealthy. We all need a new solution.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it must be really tough, my heart goes out to you. I find what’s happening in the UK depressing, but it’s a slow, deliberate process, typical British politeness in the face of awfulness. But with the US it’s more frightening because it seems so out of control and over-the-top. There does seem to be a very vocal opposition to Trump though, I keep hoping that it will lead to change.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think the opposition is in the majority, but it’s still terrifying. There’s something a wise friend of mine said years ago even before all of this mess. It had to do with how when change is inevitable and how the old status quo will fight the hardest against it. This is that in its death throes, and they are violent and they will hurt a great deal of the population, but it will die. The change that aligns with our generation is inevitable, and those who stand in the way of anti-racism, anti-sexism, LGBT rights, and anti-bigotry are going to be left on the wrong side of history.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Living in California I have seen none of those headlines, but I believe it. My partner was in London for school a few years ago and I visited a few times — it’s damn expensive. There’s a homelessness problem where I live too, and I guess it’s a little more visible here because the weather is usually pretty mild, barring rain and flash floods. I’m currently unemployed and the only reason I have housing is because I’m lucky enough to have parents who are both willing and able to support me. It’s scarily easy to end up there, you know? 😔

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, London is crazy expensive! And every year the prices go up and up. I’m sorry you’re unemployed at the moment. I’m glad you’ve got your parents to help you out, but it’s never easy having to rely on someone else. I hope it means you can concentrate more on your writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re right, these statistics are so worrying – I always feel for the poor homeless people on the streets, especially in the particularly cold snaps we are experiencing at the moment. I try to help in the only way I know how – I bulk bought warm hats, gloves, socks and scarfs and always have a pair in my bag in case I see someone in need!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s very kind and smart thing to do, 🙂 and yes, it’s heartbreaking seeing so many more people on the streets at the moment, especially since this has been a long cold winter.

      Like

    1. That’s a good question. There are charities that are focused on helping with homelessness (Crisis, The Big Issue) but I think the most important thing we can do is be aware and spread the information we learn. Because most people in the UK don’t know what is happening and so politicians feel no need to solve the problems and instead make them worse.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The government have caused this directly (at least in part) by changing rules to housing benefit and imposing sanctions on other benefits. When they brought in the Housing Benefit cap, they were warned that it would lead to an increase in homelessness.
        I wrote about it way back, here: https://inquisitiveflo.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/the-real-changes-to-housing-benefit/

        So yes, I think they could reverse that decision and at least stop homelessness from increasing.

        The recession is more complex to solve, but the fact that London contains so many rich people who have experienced any kind of dip in fortunes, suggests that the current austerity measures are only targeting the poor, and aren’t the necessity that that they’ve been painted as.

        I’m interested to know, what do you think? How would you change the situation?

        Like

      2. Ah I see!

        Very true, I think it’s such a big thing and only getting worse as you say. I’m not sure one new change of rules will change it properly but lots of little things may make a difference.

        People sharing this info and raising awareness will always help. But things like serving food and helping homeless people realise what ‘free’ events are near them that could help to educate and meet other people will start making an impact.

        All of this is only possible when people realise what’s going on so thanks again for your post. I learnt a lot from it

        Liked by 1 person

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