Life in the machine

“There are too many people at work who are treated like cogs in a machine rather than being human beings, and there are too many people who don’t see a route from their current job to progress and earn more and do better.” – the Taylor report is in, but will it change anything…?
 
There’s a lot to sort out… “research by Cambridge and Oxford sociologists indicates that 4.6 million people are on flexible contracts, meaning they have minimal guaranteed hours that can be subject to last minute changes and reductions, often having a negative impact on their home lives and mental health.” (The Independent)
 
And the effects might be terminal… “social factors such as education, employment and working conditions and poverty all affected life expectancy by influencing lifestyles. As austerity was placing pressures on these, they may in turn be influencing life expectancy.” (BBC)
 
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Out and about
 
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meeting
7pm to 9pm, Wednesday 6th September, Quaker Meeting House, St James St
Discussing the Question Time card project, the inequality game, and projects for the coming year. All welcome. Free. Donations for tea and biscuits.
 
The Real Junk Food folks continue with their excellent work – one of their Pay As You Feel cafes and the Sharehouse Market continues over summer. They also have a new school learning initiative.
 
If you have some time to spare and would like to do something practical to create a better society, volunteering is an excellent start!
 
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Ways to fix the machine…</div>

 
Work with the people affected… “among the families we work with, we repeatedly find that parental confidence is on the floor. And yes, this is probably related to financial stress within a family. The Foundation Years Trust cannot provide a cure for financial hardship. However, we do find that once parents realise how much they already know and already do to support their child’s early development, their self-perceived ability to parent improves.” (Open Democracy)
 
Support the people affected… “if one thing sticks with you from reading this, then let it be to buy an extra bag of porridge oats, some long-life milk or a few tins of soup every now and again and donate to your local food bank, which you can do at most supermarkets. Many foodbanks, including the one I volunteer at, rely completely on donations from people like you and me.” (The Motherload blog)
 
Create an equal society (no-one will object, more or less)… “Our equality condition shows that people would accept the elimination of hierarchies,” write Zhou and his colleagues. “It is only when winners become losers and losers become winners that people object.” (Ars Technica)

Falling upon closed ears

“Today has seen coverage in various media reports of yet another study on food banks and food bank use – there’s little new here, and little that those involved haven’t been saying to Government since at least 2012 – but somehow it falls upon closed ears. Over the past few weeks our shelves at Pxi-Parson Cross Initiative Projects have been getting more and more depleted, and have required more and more topping up. We’ve spent nearly another £100 this week alone on food in addition to that donated directly. We are nearing a crisis point – what happens then I genuinely do not know.” – comment from Nick at PXI on the latest investigation into food bank use
 
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Forthcoming
 
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meeting
7pm to 9pm, Wednesday 5th June, Quaker Meeting House, St James St
Discussing the Question Time card project and other actions around inequality. All welcome. Free. Donations for tea and biscuits.
 
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As the NHS enters its 70th year, what now?
From 6:30pm, Monday 3 July, at Central United Reform Church
On the 70th anniversary of the NHS, a post-election special preceded by birthday cake! With Sheffield Save our NHS.
 
Sheffield Utopia (workshop #2)
6:30pm to 8:30pm, Tuesday 11th July, Showroom Cinema
We will be developing our discussions of how utopian thinking might be useful in our personal and political lives today. (If you couldn’t make the first event, don’t worry, you’ll be welcomed at this one!). This is utopian re-framing on a very small scale. This is going to be a process, and the process has to start somewhere. Hosted by Max Munday. Please see event page for more details.
 
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Poverty, insecurity, and the need for organisation
 
Did you know that the poorest 6.5 million people in the UK live on just £7.20p a day, after tax? That money has to cover everything, including housing costs
 
“If 30 percent of people have experienced poverty incomes in the last 4 years, many people will know someone in their workplace who has found themselves in financial difficulty relatively recently.” – insecurity in poverty and out
 
Excellent Radio 4 programme uncovering zero-hours exploitation and self-employed starvation wages in the UK, uncluding an eye-opening expose of the clothesmaking revival in Leicester, and how Unions could push back

A Manifesto for a Fairer Society

“The UK has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world, and evidence shows that this harms our physical and mental health, hinders our education, damages our economy, restricts social mobility, reduces levels of trust and civic participation, and weakens the social ties that bind us.”
 
Read the rest of the manifesto and follow up the campaign on the Equality Trust site
 
p.s. you only have until the 22nd May to register to vote!
 
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A fairer society starts here…
 
The Tax Dodgers Tour of Fargate
1pm, Saturday 20th May, meet at the Cathedral forecourt, free
 
Want to find out how to dodge tax like the professionals? Come on down to the Dodge & Co Tax Tour on Fargate this Saturday from 1pm – gathering on the Cathedral forecourt.
 
 
“Garners laughter and despair in equal measure”
“Reminds me of Sheffield Uncut”
“Very eye opening. Lots of jokes”
 
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Festival of Debate Question Time
Exhibition at Theatre Delicatessen to 20th June
 
Festival of Debate Question Time is a postcard and online project taking place as part of the Festival of Debate. The project aims to gather answers to four questions from across the city, as well as at Festival of Debate events. You can fill out cards at Theatre Delicatessen or go to our Facebook page and post a response – written, drawn, videoed, or audio!…
 
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Festival of Debate: Universal Basic Income: The Sheffield Model
Thursday, 1 June 7pm to 9pm, Quaker Meeting House, 10 St James’ St, Sheffield.
 
A Universal Basic Income raises questions about the value of the work we do and what motivates people to work. A proposal has been drafted that sets out options for a Sheffield Basic Income and ways that we can get there. The meeting will take this proposal forward. With Ryan Powell (University of Sheffield), Simon Duffy (Centre for Welfare Reform), Richard Crisp (Sheffield Hallam University).
 
The event is free, donations welcome. To reserve a place, please go to tickets for good.
 
 
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You want more?

Making Sheffield a better place

Our ‘Question Time’ postcard and online project aims to gather answers from a range of people across Sheffield. We have an exhibition space at the Theatre Delicatessen on the Moor for answers along with our Facebook page. If you fancy getting creative, or have ideas for good places where people could answer them, or would like to help out – it would be really appreciated. Just come along to our meet this Wednesday or get in touch.
 
We are also holding a meeting on a ‘Sheffield Basic Income’ in association with the Centre for Welfare Reform on June 1st. A draft discussion document for a Sheffield Basic Income and pilot scheme will be published by a working group soon. It will then open out to everyone to contribute and carry on the discussion. We’re looking ahead to making the meeting a success, and if you can offer help, or fancy coming, then get in touch!
 
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Universal Credit vs Universal Basic Income
 
“In areas where the full universal credit rollout has taken place, food bank referral rates were running at more than double the national average.” – a sign that things aren’t going to plan, unless the Government really wants to starve people… (The Guardian)
 
* Shouldn’t everyone receive a stake in society’s wealth?
* Could we create a fairer world by granting a guaranteed income to all?
* What would this mean for our health, wealth and happiness?
Universal Basic Income is a marvellous idea in theory, and there’s good books on it, but for now, here’s an excellent video explaining why we will soon really need it (YouTube) from former U.S. presidential advisor Robert Reich.
 
“It’s a rare opportunity to make some real change,” he told the Star. “There has been so much talk, so much written. A little bit of study here, a little bit of study there. A lot of theory. We’re going to have an opportunity to do a rock-solid pilot that is either going to prove or disprove it.” – Canada explores the Basic Income – something we could do in Sheffield?
 
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Forthcoming
 
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meet
Wednesday 3rd May 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ St, S1 2EW
Planning for the Festival of Debate Question Time project and a meeting on the Basic Income. Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group. All welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
 
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What Can I Do to Make My City A Better Place?
Tuesday 9th May, 6:30-8PM, ROCO, Glossop Road, S10 2HW
Small acts can make a significant difference. But is it really possible for citizens to directly help make their city a better place? Festival of Debate in association with University of Sheffield
(see Tickets for Good)
 
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Tax Dodgers Guide to Fargate
Saturday 13th & 20th May 1-2PM Fargate
The Tax Dodger’s Guide to Fargate is back with new tips on how to dodge tax like the big boys. Join Dodge & Co on a walking tour of Sheffield’s high street. No ticket needed – just meet on Cathedral forecourt at 1pm. @DodgeAndCo
 
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Gender and Poverty
Thursday 18th May 7-9PM Quaker Meeting House
Panel discussion with Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party and guest speakers, looking at women’s poverty in Sheffield and the UK. Is there gender bias in the way traditional economic thinking addresses poverty? In association with the Women’s Equality Party, pay what you can.
 
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Paying the Rent

“That the Sun King Louis XIV was able to exploit millions was purely because he had the biggest army in Europe. It’s no different for the modern rentier. He’s got the law, politicians and journalists squarely in his court.” – excellent article on the extraction of wealth from those who do valuable work to those who do not (The Guardian)
 
Children’s Society finds some children in poverty having to move house 9 times in 9yrs, rat-infested homes. Why do we accept this for some kids? This is what inequality looks like (The Mirror)
 
That’s ok though, because standards are being slipped… “Hundreds of tiny studio flats, many smaller than a budget hotel room, are to be squeezed into an eleven-storey block in north London as its developer takes advantage of the government’s relaxation of planning regulations.” (The Guardian)
 
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Forthcoming
 
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meet
Wednesday 5th April 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ St, S1 2EW
Planning for the Festival of Debate postcard project, a meeting on the Basic Income, maybe a game – plus the usual chat around inequality. Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group. All welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
 
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Why Sheffield Needs a Radical Bookshop
Thursday 20th April, 7pm, Theatre Deli, 17 The Moor S1 4PF
If you’re interested in feminism, anarchism, Marx, anti-racist struggles or LGBT rights, join Jepp’s Books, Sheffield’s new radical book emporium, for an evening of music, poetry, ranting and drinks. Jepp’s Books will be based in Theatre Deli until June and is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 4pm.
 
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Not paying the rent…
 
“While tax havens account for 26 percent of the total pro fits made by the top 20 EU banks, these countries account for only 12 percent of the banks’ total turnover and 7 percent of their employees, signalling a clear discrepancy between the pro fits made by banks in tax havens and the level of real economic activity that they undertake in those countries.” – Oxfam does some excellent digging under new transparency rules and finds that banks are using tax havens to avoid billions in taxation. Not exactly surprising, but if you want your prejudices confirmed

Thousands to one

value
 
“The average FTSE chief executive earns 386 times more than a worker on the national living wage, according to an analysis published by the Equality Trust as it steps up its campaign for new government rules to expose pay gaps.” (The Guardian)
 
“we’re calling on Government to introduce mandatory reporting for large and medium businesses on the pay gap between their highest and average paid employee. Only then can we create a sense of trust and common purpose essential to build an economy and society that works for all.” (Equality Trust)
 
What can you do about this? You can sign a petition on making executive pay transparent (Equality Trust). You can even go along to AGMs and hold them to account (ShareAction.org).
 
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Forthcoming
 
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meet
Wednesday 5th April 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ St, S1 2EW
Planning for the Festival of Debate postcard project, a meeting on the Basic Income, maybe a game – plus the usual chat around inequality. Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group. All welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
 
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Protest Against Housing Benefit Cuts For 18-21 Year Olds
On Saturday the 1st of April, there will be a protest against the scrapping of housing benefit for young people. Independently organised, the demonstration will be in Parliament Square, London.
 
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Food!
 
Steeple Corner Café, Victoria Centre, 37 Stafford Road, Norfolk Park, S2 2SE
The Real Junk Food Project hosts cafés offering meals on a basis of “Pay what you feel”. Open five days a week.
 
Eyre Street cafe (opposite Plug), 121 Eyre St. S1 4QW
Foodhall cafe offers food that would have been thrown away, surplus donated by retailers, on a “Pay-as-you-feel” basis. It is run by volunteers and encourages community engagement.

The State of Sheffield

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The State of Sheffield 2017 report has been launched by the Sheffield City Partnership Board. It underlines the strength of the city to cope with hard times, but also the gulf between the lives of Sheffield citizens.
 
“The objectives will be to maximise talent, identify obstacles to fairness and justice, and ensure we build a prosperous city that benefits the whole of the citizenry.” – David Blunkett aiming high in the State of Sheffield report
 
“This year’s State of Sheffield report, launched on Tuesday, highlighted the growing ‘social and economic injustices’ in the city. It said the number of children living in poverty … was up from 22.7 per cent the year before, and the report suggested the figure was only getting worse.” – Sheffield Star notes the challenge ahead
 
“The big question is how do we stop it? Think part of the problem is that Council still thinks Top down instead of Bottom up. Dispensing from on high without involving the people you are dispensing it to only serves to heighten their sense of dis-empowerment. Oxfam has done some great work in areas of high deprivation in Wales and Glasgow. It started with self assertion classes and later led to small businesses starting up. Lets bring some light and colour into areas too with whatever funding we can grab from Culture and Arts. Apprenticeship schemes, IT education. Whatever the Community wants to feel alive again in these black times.” – Joy B on the need for ground-up control as well as grand solutions.
 
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Forthcoming
 
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meet
Wednesday 1st March, 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ St, S1 2EW
 
As part of the forthcoming Festival of Debate, we’re looking forward to help conversations flow between different parts of the city. Come along to our next meeting or get in touch to find our more. Planning for the Festival of Debate postcard project and meeting on the Basic Income – plus the usual chat around inequality. Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group. All welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
 
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National Demonstration for the NHS
Saturday 4th March, 12pm Tavistock Square, London
 
One of the strongest mechanisms acting towards equality is services available to all. Burdened with marketisation, privatisation, and cuts to social care, the NHS is under grave threat. Details on the demo and how to go from Sheffield is below. We urge all those who can to support the national Health Campaigns Together demonstration in London on 4rd March. There will be a rally outside Virgin Care before a march to parliament. If you need transport, coach tickets from Sheffield are available.
 
For more on the demonstration, see www.ournhs.info and www.sheffieldsaveournhs.co.uk.
 
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A Universal Basic Income
 
There are more and more people arguing that a Basic Income could work (Citizen’s Income and Compass Online)
 
It’s being trialled in more places (Futurism.com Infographic)
 
But how would it work in Sheffield? We’re looking to stimulate debate around the welfare state and form a Sheffield version of the Basic Income, with a view to pushing for a pilot project in the city. We are forming a small group to push this forward, firstly with a public meeting and workshop as part of the Festival of Debate in May/June. Get in touch, or come along to the next meeting, if you are interested.

A meeting for a better future?

This April / May is the Festival of Debate 2017 (http://www.festivalofdebate.com/), a marvellous Sheffield-wide festival of talks and workshops . It would be great for Sheffield Equality Group to host a meeting as part of the festival, but we need your help.
 
The meetings below are just ideas but we need to pick one and make it work: which would you be interested in? which would you help make happen? who should speak / present?
 
Meeting A – The impact of a divided Sheffield: Sheffield is a divided city, with areas on one side amongst the wealthiest in the nation and areas on the other side amongst the most deprived. This meeting would explore the impact of that division upon all the people of Sheffield, from house prices to health.
 
Meeting B – Crowdsourcing a better Sheffield: It’s easier than ever for people to put together their money and make a difference. This meeting would present ideas on how this could be done in Sheffield to tackle income inequalities, and invite the audience to generate another.
 
Meeting C – Basic Income for Sheffield? The Basic Income is an idea to create economic justice by giving every person an equal income, on top of which they can earn more. Trials overseas have been successful, but there are concerns many other policies would be needed to make it work. This meeting would explore if it work here, and how?
 
 
So – three meetings – but we can probably only run one. If you have feedback or would like to help, email SheffieldEquality@Gmail.com. We need to decide by the end of this month. It doesn’t happen without you!

Behind the statistics

More than 4,000 people a night have been sleeping rough on England’s streets, a 16% increase on last year … Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis, said: “Behind these statistics are thousands of desperate people, sleeping in doorways, bin shelters, stations and parks – anywhere they can find to stay safe and escape the elements.” (BBC)
 
“It seems to me that the politicians in London are so far from the working fella that they don’t know how much a shop at Asda is. They don’t know how much it costs to live. They think people have the money they need, but they don’t.” – low pay, cuts, and the struggle to get by in Barnsley (Buzzfeed)
 
“The building owners are treating human beings like pigeons. I woke up on Sunday morning with a right bee in my bonnet and had to do something.” – a family in Manchester covers anti-homeless spikes with cushions
 
One of the main causes of poverty and homelessness is high housing and rental costs. One of the ways to tackle that is through public pressure. The #RentersRising campaign co-ordinated by Acorn Sheffield is looking to make a real difference to the conditions many face in the city
 
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Forthcoming
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meet
Wednesday 1st February, 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ St, S1 2EW
Plans for the year ahead – links ups with stuff like Festival of Debate and the Sheff4Ten campaign – and any bright ideas for tackling income inequality! Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group. All welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
 
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Snowballs!
The marvellous Hans Rosling on inequality going down for the world, but up for countries, with snowballs…

A Shared Society

“If Theresa May wants to build a Shared Society where households aren’t left behind then she needs to get serious about tackling inequality. A good first step would be to reverse cuts in Universal Credit and Employment Support allowance as well as abandoning the benefits freeze at the earliest opportunity.” – The Equality Trust comment on the ‘Shared Society’
 
“The Sharehouse Market in Burngreave opened its doors on Christmas Eve, and a steady stream of customers has been snapping up the products. The market is part of the Real Junk Food Project which saves good products from going to landfill. It’s limited to two bags per customer, and shoppers pay what they feel is an appropriate price for their groceries.”  – the Sheffield Star on an excellent local initiative
 
Theresa May has been calling for a Shared Society – but what does that mean? A story of a young girl born in a time of austerity illustrates how a shared society should mean supporting those most in need and stopping cuts to essential services…
 
 
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Help Us Help
 
There’s a lot of excellent stuff around helping homeless people in Sheffield at the moment, much of it linked up with a new initiative called Help Us Help. There are a lot of organisations making a big difference to those on the harshest end of income inequality, and any time or resources you can share would make a difference too – see http://www.helpushelp.uk/
 
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Forthcoming
 
Sheffield Equality Group monthly meet
Wednesday 1st February, 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ St, S1 2EW
Plans for the year ahead – links ups with stuff like Festival of Debate and the Sheff4Ten campaign – and any bright ideas for tackling income inequality! Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group. All welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
 
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Postcapitalism Reading Group
Tue 17 Jan 2017, 7.30pm, The Bath Hotel, 66 Victoria St. S3 7QL
An informal group, now reading “Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work” by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams
 
Current Affairs – a WEA course
Thu 19 Jan 2017, 10.30am-12.30pm, Central United Reformed Church, 60 Norfolk St. S1 2JB
Week two of a discussion course looking at social, environmental, political and ethical issues, UK and world-wide. Topics to be agreed with the class. Runs for 11 weeks from 12th January, last meeting 6th April
 
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Sh… Sh… Share?
 
Ah look, it was Fat Cat Wednesday some time ago – the day when most FTSE 100 CEOs earned as much as most of their staff would do in an entire year
 
The Equality Trust was involved in a debate on whether they really are worth all those millions. As the Adam Smith institute states, they are literally superhuman and worth 100 times more than anyone else
 
Elsewhere on the BBC, Laurie Taylor discusses research on the impact of the top 1% of the 1% of the 1% upon our cities and how they have started to dominate. Excellent stuff from Thinking Allowed