This is our land

“Despite official denials, Prof Alston said he had heard accounts of people choosing between heating their homes or eating, children turning up to school with empty stomachs, increased homelessness and food bank use, and ‘story after story’ of people who had considered or attempted suicide.” – The UN Special Rapporteur gives his final verdict (BBC).

“Guilt to your employer and guilt to your child. It’s a constant cycle of guilt that happens when you’re trying to do something. Then if you haven’t found a job that’s suitable for hours, you feel guilt because you’re not working and everyone thinks you’re a scrounger. You can’t really win.” (The Guardian)

“It was shocking to hear that there are nursing staff in our region that are having to use foodbanks! It was heartbreaking to hear if the personal experience of a cancer patient who has been denied ESA support and PIP and the he can’t cope with going to a court tribunal.” – Sheffield Stop and Scrap Universal Credit run regular stalls to campaign and connect with people caught up in poverty

This is fantasyland

Universal Credit is fine and the people critisising it are spreading myths, according to a wrap around Government advert on the Metro. However… “it only takes into account the people who actually do benefit, and to be honest I’m yet to meet anyone on it who is better off on it. Why would a government department need to advertise unless they realised it’s that bad?” – many people find the advert completely misleading.

“Please take as many Metro Newspapers with DWP Universal Credit advertorials and reuse them or put them in recycling bins, take pics if you want and put the action on social media with the hashtag #BinMetroDWPlies” – DPAC Sheffield encourages you to protest it

Money is weird

“it seems that Britain’s richest are determined to cling onto their wealth, power and privilege despite inequality being at a dangerously high level, which is damaging all of us” (The Equality Trust).”The big picture, says the IFS, is the UK is becoming more like the US, with a concentration of wealth at the top and pressure on working families lower down the pay scale.” – the Equality Trust and IFS describe the impact of wealth inequality in the UK. Perhaps we need to change the way people get money for the jobs they do – Rutger Bregman argues that binmen add more value to society than bankers (BBC), and groups like UBI Lab Sheffield argue for testing the idea that every citizen should be valued through a basic income (CityMetric). People get funny about money though, and it has to be said that…

Money is Weird

Friday 24th May, 7.30pm. Regather 57-59 Club Garden Road
When it comes to money, Laurence Peacock (BA English Lit, 2008) definitely knows what he’s talking about. OK, fine, he really doesn’t. But he’s tried his best to find out… What is money? Where does it come from? And will you give him £7 to talk about it for 50 minutes? No? What if he throws in some jokes and promises to keep the graphs to a minimum? Alright, fine! £6. Geez…

Learning to act “not poor”

“It took me a long time, shamefully long, to challenge, even in my own friends, those negative assumptions about poor people. Truthfully, it took so long because I was frightened – I didn’t want to jeopardise my place in this comfortable world. Even when I did start to speak up, the conversations were often fraught with difficulty – of course, they liked me; I wasn’t like those people. But I was. I am. And I should have owned that a lot sooner than I did.” – the author Kerry Hudson on being a person from poverty silencing herself to avoid discrimination
Sheffield NEEDS A Pay Rise!

Conference on Low Pay and Precarious Work in Sheffield
9:30am – 1:30pm Friday 15th June
The Circle, 33 Rockingham Lane, Sheffield S1 4FW
A presentation of academic research from Middlesex and Staffordshire Universities in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University. Is the issue of low pay, insecure work and exploitative labour practices in Sheffield more widespread than other UK cities? What about the impact of Universal Credit? With Sheffield TUC and Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise.
Lunch provided. Please reserve spaces onEventbrite
The Spider’s Web – Britain’s Second Empire
9 June, 6.30pm (7.00 start). Dina, Sheffield
As part of Fair Tax Fortnight, a free screening of The Spider’s Web, a documentary investigation into the world of Britain’s secrecy jurisdictions and the City of London. There will be a a Q&A afterwards with a Fair Tax Mark representative.
Time for a real universal benefit?
“Sanctions generally delivered poor outcomes, including debt, poverty and reliance on charities such as food banks, the study found. Often imposed for trivial and seemingly cruel reasons, they frequently triggered high levels of stress, anxiety and depression.” – the Guardian summarises yet another critical report on sanctions
“to be truly universal, Universal Credit must provide enough financial support for people to protect them from destitution, and that will mean increasing benefit levels across the board, particularly for families and disabled people” – the Trussell Trust reports on Universal Credit
Other tax and benefit systems are available…
Wed 6 June | 6:30-8:30pm | Quaker Meeting House | Free
A workshop exploring proposals for a Sheffield pilot of a basic income scheme, as part of the Festival of Debate.

Better Broke than Broken?

A national day of action calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped has been called for Wednesday 18th April. There will be a demo at City Hall from 12 midday with a range of speakers. See DPAC Sheffield for more details
April the 18th is also the launch of the marvellous Festival of Debate, chock full of excellent talks: from Universal Basic Income to the politics of begging, from reinventing society to advice on where to invest your billions tax free.
P_ve_ty – the biggest preventable cause of death
“4.1 million children now live in families earning less than £16,380 a year – or 60 per cent of the median UK income. More than two thirds of those children are in working families.” – Children and parents in Oldham talk about poverty
Speaking out – three women talk about their lives on the minimum wage as part of the campaign for a living wage at McDonalds
In case there’s any doubt who will be hit by current Government policy, it’s not even handed and won’t protect those in need. Analysis from the Equality and Human Rights Commission sets out how those in poverty, and particularly single parents, people who are disabled, and women will lose out heavily from changes to tax and benefits…
These changes may be killing people… “In the first seven weeks of 2018, over 10,000 (12.4%) more people died in England and Wales than was usual for the time of year. No official explanation from government health officials for this sharp rise in mortality has been forthcoming.”
Better broke than broken
A teacher looks at those who are careless with wealth and concludes “I’d rather be broke like me than be broken and like you.”

Universal Credit – National Day Of Action

Disabled People Against Cuts are hosting a protest this Thursday (1st March) from 12 to 1pm in Barkers Pool against the rollout of Universal Credit. Please come along if you can to show your support.
Universal Credit is being rolled out to all claimants in Sheffield from July. The numerous problems with Universal Credit have been well documented. Unless ways are found to reduce the impact, already stretched food banks and support services across Sheffield will have to pick up the pieces.
Universal Credit – National Day Of Action. Sheffield demo
12pm to 1pm, Thursday 1st March, Barkers Pool
Cuts to Disability benefit, cuts to self employed tax credits and sanctions for returning monthly reports late, mandatory “Labour work regimes” meaning if you work part time you’ll be punished for not searching for more hours by being sanctioned. There’s so much more wrong with Universal Credit than the initial waiting period…

What to do with Universal Credit?
Are you a government minister and are uncertain how to improve Universal Credit? Thankfully, there are a few pointers:
Simplify the system and ensure people don’t lose out (The Guardian)
Remove waiting times for benefits and improve support available (Citizens Advice Bureau)
No restriction on the child element, raise the working allowance, change letters to be more gentle and kind, more personal communication, better working with landlords (JRF and CMU on Housing Rights NI)

Fight Inequality

As the world’s elites meet in January at a grand Swiss resort mountain, grassroots activists across the world will speak up from mountains of a different sort – the garbage mountains and open pit mines millions call home – to fight inequality for dignity for all. From the 19th to 26th of January the rich and powerful will be meeting in Davos. As this has so often been a meeting of empty words and gestures, the Fight Inequality Alliance is organising a global protest for change. There are a range of activities, culminating in a day of action on Thursday 25th January.
The wealthy continue to gain… “The share of the top 1% has been on an upward path ever since [the financial crisis], passing the 2000 level in 2013 and achieving new peaks every year thereafter,” the Credit Suisse global wealth report said. The bank said “global wealth inequality has certainly been high and rising in the post-crisis period” (The Guardian).
As those in poverty continue to suffer “Some 15 million people live and work within sprawling municipal rubbish tips around the globe, combing through trash every day for items of the slightest value to sell for a pittance. Their communities mirror those found anywhere else in the world – neighbours become friends, and there are shops and schools and places to go to unwind after a hard day’s work – but the difference is the inescapable, oppressive backdrop of filth, danger and disease.” (The Independent)
It’s time for change… “We believe it is possible to have a society where everyone matters. Where nobody is rich or powerful enough to be immune from the rules. Powerful elites and corporations can no longer be allowed to rig the system in their favour. To achieve this we will loudly challenge the concentration of power in the hands of an elite few, and to demand people-driven solutions from the World Bank and IMF that will really #fightinequality.” (Fight Inequality Alliance)
From 19th to the 26th January, you can play a crucial part in one or more of the following ways (please tag in @equalitytrust and @FightInequalit1 in anything you post on twitter and please use the #FightInequality hashtag):
  1. Take a picture holding a sign with the Fight Inequality Alliance logo (click here for the logo) and post to social media
  2. Make a 30-60 second video about what inequality means to you and post it to social media
  3. Write on inequality – a short blog, poem, story, or sentence
  4. Follow and share as many of the #FightInequality social media posts as possible
  5. Send/link anything you create to and we’ll spread the word

All I want for Christmas…

…is money? “people with lots of money don’t spend it. They just sit on it, like Smaug in his cave. The more money you have, the less of it you spend every year. If you have $10,000, you might spend it this year. If you have $10 million, you’re not gonna. If you have $1,000, you’re at least somewhat likely to spend it this month.” (Evonomics)
…is a home? “We need organisations like ACORN, because it’s time we got off the sofa. No more sofa politics – its time not be ashamed, I used to be ashamed…but this is the 21st century, it’s time renting was brought in line” (Youtube)
…is a job? “From striking British Airways Mixed Fleet, to the Picturehouse cinema workers and teaching assistants in Durham, the most high profile battles taking place at the moment involve precarious workers that previously had little or no involvement in trade-unions, but have become radicalised after months of struggle.” (Open Democracy)
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meeting
7pm to 9pm, Wednesday 6th December, Quaker Meeting House, St James St
Playing the inequality game, discussing Basic Income, and plans for the new year. All welcome. Donations for tea and biscuits. Mince pies free.
Re-Imagining Brexit Britain
6.30pm – 8.30pm, Thursday 14th December The Unity Centre, St Leonard’s Road, Rotherham, S65 1PD
The vote to leave the European Union in June 2016 touched upon some of big themes about the future of the Britain as a nation state. Issues such as the backlash to globalization, inequality, the growing divide between cities and rural areas, identity, and blaming of migrants in the UK. This grassroots perspective aims to build ‘Communities of Solidarity’ who can through discussions, active campaigns and programs to build leadership begin to challenge the language and debates around Brexit ahead of 2019. Organised by The Monitoring Group, see Eventbrite for more details and tickets.
…is food?
“The S2 Food Bank is a network of community and faith organisations who have come together to provide food parcels to those in need of food who live in the Sheffield S2 area.”
“As a new social enterprise, we are always looking for a bit of extra cash to help us grow. Any funds donated will be used to help us intercept more food and feed more people.” (Real Junk Food Sheffield)
“All of the food we use at Jubilee Food Bank is donated in some way, shape or form. This is the easiest, most stress-free way to get involved as you can do so at your own time and convenience.”

Educating the Workers

“My parents had a strong sense that the educational system hadn’t been fair to them and they had missed out. I learned as a small child I had to work at least twice as hard as the middle class children to achieve the same result. When I did show ambition – to go to LSE to be a political researcher – I was told it wasn’t appropriate.” – Professor Diane Reay on how the education system still trains working class children for obedience and low expectations… (The Guardian)
“When Jean arrives at a house she swipes her phone to say she has arrived, and she swipes again when she leaves. She is paid for the time that is shown on the roster, rather than how long she is actually providing care. The phone tracks her movements throughout the day” – and technology ensures that obedience continues… (The Guardian)
“A great irony of British life is that lower-class people are often regarded, by their affluent superiors, as being a little coarse and unsophisticated, rough around the edges – when the true vulgarity on display is the apathy of many of those who regard themselves as educated and insightful; those who blindly believe, from the comfort of their economically gated communities, that this untenable status quo, built on sand, won’t soon collapse in on itself” – until people, one way or another, have had enough… (The Guardian)
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meeting
7pm to 9pm, Wednesday 6th December, Quaker Meeting House, St James St
Playing the inequality game, discussing Basic Income, and plans for the new year. All welcome. Donations for tea and biscuits. Mince pies free.
Zero-Waste Market
10am to 5pm, Sunday 26th November, Trafalgar Warehouse, 120 Trafalgar Street, S1 4JT
Want to learn more about living sustainably? Join us for a fun-filled day of talks, stalls, music and activities!
Sheffield Soup Lucky #13
7pm to 9:30pm, Wednesday 29th November, St Mary’s Church, Bramall Lane
Four pitches are made for local projects to do good stuff in Sheffield.
Minimum £5 donation on the door. Soup supplied by Silversmiths Restaurant. All money on the door goes to the winning pitch.
A Game of (In)Equality
“next time someone invites you to join a game of Monopoly, here’s a thought. As you set out piles for the Chance and Community Chest cards, establish a third pile for Land-Value Tax, to which every property owner must contribute each time they charge rent to a fellow player. How high should that land tax be? And how should the resulting tax receipts be distributed? Such questions will no doubt lead to fiery debate around the Monopoly board – but then that is exactly what Magie had always hoped for.” (BBC)

Giving people the space they need

“No working-class kid, however self-confident, is ever going to be made the editor of the Evening Standard without any journalistic experience, in the way that George Osborne was. What he has is a complicated nexus, a network of power and relationships that means you can’t really fail” – Laura Barton and others on gender, class and confidence, and the impact of an unequal society (The Guardian)
“Our policy proposals are designed solely to improve the quality of life in the UK by reducing economic and social inequality, as per our charitable objectives. As a politically neutral charity, we urge all political parties to adopt these policies.” – You can read the Equality Trust’s proposals for policies towards a more egalitarian society.
In the meantime, one thing that would help is to exempt care leavers from paying Council Tax. A campaign from the Children’s Society, this important change will give young people valuable time to learn how to manage their finances without the worry of falling into council tax debt. Please sign and send if you can.
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meeting
7pm to 9pm, Wednesday 8th November, Quaker Meeting House, St James St
Discussing the rollout of Universal Credit, the inequality game, and projects for the coming year. All welcome. Free. Donations for tea and biscuits.
‘Large’ families, poverty and welfare reform conference
10am to 4pm, Monday 13th November, Banqueting Suite, Bradford City Hall
This conference will bring together policy makers, practitioners, voluntary sector representatives and academics with an interest in better understanding the experiences and consequences of poverty and welfare reform for large families. Organised by Bradford District Anti-poverty Coordination Group and The Children’s Society.
Rise Like Lions
Thu 16 Nov 2016, from 6.45pm, Trades and Labour Club, 200 Duke St. S2 3GA
Banner Theatre’s performance is a political kaleidoscope of working class struggles, told with humour and music. It stages the successful strikes of teaching support staff in Derby and Durham, the campaign against cuts to school budgets, interlaced with the stories of those who lead the lively anti-fracking campaigns that have sprung up around the UK.
Doors and bar open 6.45pm, start time: 7.30pm. Ticket price: £8 waged / £4 concessions. To reserve tickets please email See alt-Sheff for more info
Voices from the Margins
10am to 4pm, Saturday 18th November, St Mary’s Church, Bramall Lane
Inspiring stories from churches, projects and people with lived experience
Hear how your support of Church Action on Poverty has an impact on the root causes of poverty. Roundtable conversations and discussions – share your own experiences and ideas.

After Brexit

“Offering tax loopholes or financial laxity brings in, at best, exactly the wrong kind of investment – flighty, profit-shifting, wealth-extracting nonsense that hardly touches the sides – not the wealth-creating stuff Britain needs, rooted in its economy with local jobs and supply chains.” – why becoming a post-Brexit tax haven is a really bad idea…(The Guardian)
“To make any significant progress in distributing wealth in the UK more fairly we will need both pre-distributive and re-distributive measures that are radical and far reaching in scale” – on the other hand, we could become a more equal society… (The Equality Trust)
“Pay people proper wages, give them decent working conditions and housing and they will do the work. You simply can’t pay for overpriced rural housing out of a wage packet that’s kept artificially low because the middlemen pocket most of the sales price.” – which might help grow more food in our isolation. (Open Democracy)
Meeting date change
Apologies but we have had to change the date for the next Equality Group meeting. Please note that the date is now Wednesday 8th November. Usual time and place – 7pm at Quaker Meeting House. Looking forward to talking equality games, Universal Basic Income, and the coming Universal Credit.

Universal Credit Discredited

“Croydon council in south London, which piloted the universal credit full service, renewed its calls for a pause in the rollout. It said it would spend £3m this year helping thousands of tenants in arrears to avoid eviction, and said the 50% increase in support costs was unsustainable.” – Councils say it’s going to be a disaster… (The Guardian)
“Tens of thousands of very vulnerable people have their lifeline switched off with a click. Although we are told to provide vulnerable claimants with more support, perhaps by reminding them that they should be doing something, normally we have very little to go by as we sit behind a computer screen” – those putting the system in place have serious concerns… (The Independent)
“I was told to apply for Universal Credit and make my appointment down the job centre in July and I did not have my first payment until August 9.” – and those being put on the new system face debt and hunger…
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meeting
7pm to 9pm, PLEASE NOTE DATE TBC, Quaker Meeting House, St James St
Discussing the rollout of Universal Credit, the inequality game, and projects for the coming year. All welcome. Free. Donations for tea and biscuits.
The New Poverty
7:30pm, Tuesday 24th October, Creative Lounge, Workstation
Today 13 million people live in poverty in the UK – one of the richest countries in the world. Investigative journalist Stephen Armstrong tells the story of an unreported Britain and what we can do to stop the destruction of the welfare state. Tickets £6/£5 (conc) from the Off The Shelf site
Voices from the Margins
10am to 4pm, Saturday 18th November, St Mary’s Church, Bramall Lane
Inspiring stories from churches, projects and people with lived experience. Hear how Church Action on Poverty has an impact on the root causes of poverty. Roundtable conversations and discussions – share your own experiences and ideas.
Professors and Lecturers on the Welfare State
Professor Henrietta Moore, setting out the proposal for Universal Basic Services, said: “Without radical new ideas that challenge the status quo, we face a future where the changing shape of our society and labour market leaves more and more people struggling simply to achieve the basics – let alone having the resources and mental energy to allow themselves and their families to flourish.” (The Independent)
Whither the Welfare State? Laurie Taylor talks to Chris Renwick, Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of York and author of a new book examining the origins and purpose of the ‘cradle to grave’ welfare provision introduced under a Labour government in 1948 as part of this edition of Thinking Aloud on Radio 4. (BBC iPlayer)
In Britain today, one in four children are growing up in poverty. Experts say these figures are predicted to rise by nearly one million in the next five years. In this intimate documentary, rapper Professor Green sets out to uncover what life is like for young people living on the breadline today. (BBC iPlayer)