A hole at the bottom of the ladder

“this government has decided to open up that hole at the bottom of the ladder so that those people on the bottom rung can now be knocked off into the poverty that the Welfare State was designed to avoid.”
“claimants rights should be strengthened by a contract that specifies what needs to be in place before they can successfully look for work: housing, food, transport, IT, support etc and the first step addressing these issues with no sanctions until it is proved to be in place.”
“We ended up in a 12ft square room in Slough’s red-light district – all five of us. Water ran down the walls, we had a cupboard in which a loo, mini basin and a mouldy shower were all we had for personal hygiene.”
I Daniel Blake
Sheffield Equality Group meeting
Sheffield Showroom, meet 6pm for 6:15pm screening, Wednesday 2nd November. Meet for discussion afterwards in the Showroom Bar, all welcome!
Also screening at:
She concluded that the film “is patronising and simplistic, an hour and 40 minutes of misery porn for smug Londoners”. And that’s when I worried she was right. And that’s when I wanted to prove her wrong. … How can I change that? How can I try to help people facing hardship in my own pitifully small way? Is there anything “smug Londoners” can do? (Lynn Enright – The Pool)
Having seen I, Daniel Blake twice, I have both times been left a shivering wreck by this sequence, awash with tears, aghast with anger, overwhelmed by the sheer force of its all-but-silent scream.” (Mark Kermode – The Guardian)
What is Quantitative Easing anyway?
Monday 31st October, 7.30pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, 10 St James St. S1 2EW
What is Quantitative Easing anyway? The Bank of England has spent an enormous amount of money – £375 billion – on Quantitative Easing (QE), and is going to add £70 billion more. Positive Money is campaigning against this, and even the Prime Minister has complained about its “bad side effects”.  How is QE supposed to work, what’s wrong with it, and could it be replaced with something else? All welcome.
Postcapitalism Reading Group
Tuesday 1st November, 7.30pm, The Bath Hotel, 66 Victoria St. S3 7QL
A group which welcomes new members interested in reading political books. The discussion is from a variety of left-wing/anti-capitalist viewpoints. Now starting a new book: “Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work” by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams [2015]. This meeting, in the small side room in the Bath Hotel, will be a discussion of Chapter 1.
Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise – Open Steering Group
Tuesday 8th November 7 – 9pm, Central United Reformed Church, Norfolk Street
Following the extraordinary success of our public launch meeting on Friday 14th October with John McDonnell MP, with over 250 people in attendance, the hard work must start! You are cordially invited to attend our inaugural Steering Committee meeting.

Reassessing the assessors

“The 600 workers were yelled at ‘every day’ by clients, he said, with ‘people crying down the phone to you that they’re down to their last bag of wipes, have no food in the fridge to feed their kids'” – Concentrix have another seven months of tax credit cuts to deliver… (BBC)
“Ask most politicians, and they would assert that children and disabled people are two categories of citizens Britain cares about. In reality, families such as Rhiannon and her dad are not only being neglected by government policy but practically pushed over the edge.” Life as a child carer in an age of austerity (The Guardian)
“From April 2017, payments will fall to £73 for new claimants in the ‘work-related activity’ category as ministers argue that too few people in the category are moving into work.” – reassessments for the chronically ill stop, but the system ploughs on (BBC)
I am not a client, a customer, nor a service user. I am not a shirker, a scrounger, a better nor a thief. I am not a national insurance number, nor a blip on a screen. I paid my dues, never a penny short, and proud to do so. I don't tug the forelock but look my neighbour in the eye. I don't accept or seek charity. My name is Daniel Blake. I am a man, not a dog. As such, I demand my rights. I demand you treat me with respect. I, Daniel Blake, am a citizen, nothing more, nothing less. Thank you.
Opening on 21st October, including at the Sheffield Showroom. (The Showroom)
Are billionaires worth it? On rent-seeking, merit and luck.
Wednesday 5th October, 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ Street, S1 2EW.
Discussing the arguments that the rich benefit because of their talent, informed by a new study of how the super-rich get to be rich. This research finds that nearly two-thirds of the wealth of the richest people in the world comes from “cronyism, inheritance, and monopoly”. But is the other one-third deserved? Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group, all welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
See this article for more information on the research
Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise!
Friday 14th October, 7pm-9pm, Central United Reformed Church, Norfolk Street, Sheffield
Sheffield Trade Union Council is launching a campaign for a living wage for everyone, and decent work for everywhere, in Sheffield. Bringing the trade union movement to the lowest paid, those on casual or zero hours contracts, and organising people throughout the city, as part of a campaign making the case for trade unionism to many un-unionised workers. Organisers and activists are invited to come along to share their success stories, bringing people together for a general campaign for better pay, conditions and trade union organisation! Speakers are from several unions, and the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP. Go to EventBrite to book a free place
“It’s The Economy Stupid” – A Day of Economic Thought & Discussion

Sunday 16th October 2016, 12-5.30pm Philadelphian WMC, 2-4 Martin St. Walkley S6 3DW
A day school discussing economic questions such as: What is Neo-Liberalism? Is there such a thing as Corbynomics? Free Trade – Freedom, or race to the bottom? Everything you wanted to know about economics, but were frightened to ask – panel discussion.Tickets: £5, to book email iwceducation@yahoo.co.uk or pay on the day. Organised by the Independent Working Class Education Network
Letters to a millionaire
“Every billionaire’s wealth today depends on having access to a large population that’s linked through a globalized economy … This growth happens independently from any one individual’s effort and talent, so we can’t say that billionaires deserve the profits that go hand in hand with economic growth.” In summary, they really aren’t worth it… (evonomics.com)
…not that the message seems to be getting through;”total bonus payouts in the year to the end of March rose 4.4% to £44.3bn, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures – with the biggest cash payments still going to the financial services sector.” (The Guardian)

The cost of inequality

“Poverty wastes people’s potential, depriving our society of the skills and talents of those who have valuable contributions to make. This drags down the productivity of our economy, hinders economic growth, and reduces tax revenue.” The Joseph Rowntree Foundation sets out an economic case for increasing income equality (BBC)…
Meanwhile, many of those at the top are only interested in increasing their own wealth… “This year, a succession of chief executives have taken home eye-watering pay packets worth many millions despite the companies they head performing poorly” (Daily Telegraph)
“The simple truth is that a country as unequal as ours is not just imperfect, it is practically ungovernable. How do you develop coherent policies for people so separated by their economic circumstances that they may as well be living on different planets? Extreme inequality is not the basis for a cohesive, happy, healthy society, and it is why politicians from all sides are rightly acknowledging it as a problem in dire need of solutions.” (The Equality Trust)
Did someone say solutions?
Despite warnings to the contrary, “employers have responded to the new National Living Wage (NLW) by raising prices or reducing profits rather than cutting jobs, according to a survey from the Resolution Foundation.” (BBC)
“Increasing wealth requires that a large (and growing) part of the world’s population is indebted. When one population reaches debt saturation point – they cannot or will not take on any more – those who want to create financial wealth move on to another, less indebted population. Rising debt for many, rising wealth for a few … If we are to create a more equal world, and reduce the risk of financial meltdown, we need to cure ourselves not only of our love of debt, but of our love of wealth.” (Open Democracy)
Equality in the Pub!
Wednesday 3rd August, from 7pm, The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown St, Sheffield, S1 2BS
We have our regular summer meet-up in the pub. We’re at the Rutland Arms again for some beer, chat about making the world a better place, and (possibly) a bit of playing of the best equality game this side of the IMF. All welcome.

Generations past and present

Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown
Chinese Proverb
“A new McKinsey Global Institute report, Poorer than their parents? Flat or falling incomes in advanced economies, finds that between 2005 and 2014, real incomes in those same advanced economies were flat or fell for 65 to 70 percent of households, or more than 540 million people (exhibit). And while government transfers and lower tax rates mitigated some of the impact, up to a quarter of all households still saw disposable income stall or fall in that decade.” – McKinsey assess the impact of income inequality
“She visibly squirmed when he asked her to ‘stop flirting with him’, but she felt powerless. The overweight, balding 40-year-old was her temporary manager; if she started filing complaints, she was unlikely to be given a valuable 12-hour shift again. We agency staff were continually reminded how lucky we were to be working there.” – how precarious employment leaves a generation powerless (The Guardian)
“states and societies are underpinned by a social contract between the generations – collectively supporting each of us through the stages of our lives, and crucially doing so fairly. But this contract looks at risk of fraying … Young people have experienced the biggest pay squeeze in the aftermath of the financial crisis, seen their dreams of home ownership drift out of sight and witnessed a welfare state in retreat.” – The Resolution Foundation on intergenerational fairness
Equality in the Pub!
Wednesday 3rd August, The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown St, Sheffield, S1 2BS
We have our regular summer meet-up in the pub. We’re at the Rutland Arms again for some beer, chat about making the world a better place, and a bit of playing of the best equality game this side of the IMF. All welcome.
Write About Time: A cross-generational creative workshop with Helen Mort
Sunday 31st July 2016, 11am – 5pm Theatre Delicatessen, 17 The Moor
We have a limited number of places left on a free one day intergenerational writing workshop, which will bring Sheffielders of all ages together to explore the themes of time and sustainability through new creative writing. With Sheffield poet Helen Mort. Part of the Sheffield intersection project (www.sheffield.ac.uk/intersection). Advance booking is essential. Please contact Kristina Diprose by email k.diprose@sheffield.ac.uk or telephone 07736 480924 to book a place.
A New Politics for Health – Moving Forward from the Ottawa Charter
Friday September 2nd, 9.00 for 9.30 -12.30pm Pemberton Room, Regent Court Sheffield, S1 4DA
Thirty years ago, the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion generated worldwide interest in a new public health movement. This was based on the promotion of healthy public policies, healthy environments, inclusive public services, community action and individual skills. Thirty years later we better understand how politics and public policy affect health but we’re still battling for health equity.
We’re inviting people working in Sheffield and the wider region to share their ideas at an event about good practice and innovative ideas in our region. Book your place for the free Sheffield event here. Travel subsidies are available for people who are unwaged – please contact k.powell@sheffield.ac.uk
This event will contribute to the development of the Birmingham Health Charter

Stories from the margins

“He was working nights, all hours. But they stopped his housing benefit,” Hughes says. “He’s lost his home. We gave him a coat in the end. I’ve never seen a man more broken.”
I speak to Angela again over a week after she’s started work and she’s noticeably worried. Within days of taking the job, she tells me her carer’s allowance and income support were stopped. At the same time, the family’s housing benefit and council tax support have been suspended (now she’s working, the council need to re-assess their income).
“Society doesn’t make it easy,” he says. “They’re stopping this; they’re stopping that. It’s hard for people now.” The food bank, he tells me, is a symbol: “I can survive.”
A Nation Divided
“On Tuesday I was in Northampton’s market square, and finding leave voters was a cinch. One or two, just to make this clear, were plain racist, but the majority were not: they talked about immigration, but in the context of jobs, housing and all the rest. An hour later I was on a London tube train sprinkled with successful-looking professionals, a few of whom had ‘Stronger in’ stickers on their Herschel rucksacks and laptop bags.” – Jonathon Harris writes in the Guardian on the social divide between leavers and remainers http://bit.ly/28XcDsT
Income inequality, health, and voices from the margins

Wednesday 6th July, 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ Street, S1 2EW.
Politics is in turmoil and everyday life has been affected for many. That a majority voted leave partly reflects the inequalities in wealth, housing and opportunity that causes pain and resentment in many communities. The current turmoil makes clear the need to have a wider discussion about what we value in our society.
We’ll inevitably cover the EU referendum at our next meeting (7 to 9pm, Wednesday 6th July, Quaker Meeting House), but our work to raise the issue of income inequality continues. We’ll be talking around increasing the focus on the health impacts of income inequality, with potential events later in the year. We’ll also be discussing ideas around raising the voices of those most impacted and most in need of support – some of their stories are below. If you’re interested, you are most welcome to come along.
Discussing the impact of income inequality with regard to health, and ways to raise the voices of those most affected by income inequality. Some discussion on the EU referendum inevitable! Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group, all welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
Loads of festivals…
…see details for those and more at the excellent Alt Sheff
INTERSECTION is a research project about intergenerational justice, consumption and sustainability. We are interested in people’s opinions on the things you buy and use, your views on the environment and on fairness between generations. If you are interested in finding out more and are 16 years or over, please visit the site: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/intersection/takepart

Giving makes the world go round

Everyone feels like they are worth at least what they earn, and “workers with more academic qualifications and more experience – both likely to correlate with higher pay – are less likely to be satisfied with any bonus they receive” (BBC)…
Perhaps the problem is that once you’ve covered your basic needs, spending money doesn’t make you happy, though giving it away does… (The Guardian)
So if you, or a friend, has more money than happiness – why not encourage them to engage in a bit of “pro-social spending” (that’s economics speak for giving to good causes)… for example, you can help out the S2 Foodbank
Sheffield Equality Group meeting
Wednesday 1st June, 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ Street, S1 2EW.
Discussing the impact of income inequality, and talking about a potential new initiative for tackling inequality within Sheffield. But this month mainly playing (and developing) games! Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group, all welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
Sheffield Doc/Fest
Friday 10th to Wednesday 15th June – Cinemas across Sheffield and outdoor screens on Howard Street and Tudor Square
The annual festival of the art and business of documentary making. Workshops, screenings, pitching opportunities, discussion panels and more. This year it features 160 films on themes including Instigators & Agitators, Women in Docs, Queer Screen, and Behind the Beats.
End Hunger UK
Thursday, 30 June 2016 from 1:30pm to 4pm, Sheffield Jesus Centre – 93 Broomspring Lane, Broomhall, S10 2FB
Do you share a vision of a Britain in which everyone has access to good food and no one need go to bed hungry? Following on from the previous ‘Right to Good Food’ event in November, come to find out more about plans for a major national ‘End Hunger UK’ campaign, being jointly planned by an emerging alliance of national organisations including Church Action on Poverty, Trussell Trust, Oxfam, and the Child Poverty Acton Group.
http://bit.ly/1Z9Twf3 (EventBrite booking)

I, Daniel Blake

“The present system is one of conscious cruelty. It bears down on those least able to bear it. The bureaucratic inefficiency is vindictive and hunger is being used as a weapon. People are being forced to look for work that doesn’t exist.” – Ken Loach has won the Palm Dor at Canne for his film on the UK benefit system, “I, Daniel Blake”.
…but then the system is really, really, stupid
…you can find out more and join the UNITE community campaign
Sheffield Equality Group meeting
Wednesday 1st June, 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ Street, S1 2EW.
Discussing the impact of income inequality, and talking about a potential new initiative for tackling inequality within Sheffield. But mainly playing (and developing) games! Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group, all welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
Picket of M&S on Fargate in support of the Pennine Foods strike
Wednesday 25th May, 5pm-6pm, Marks and Spencer, Sheffield Fargate
Workers at one of M&S’s major suppliers Pennine Food are getting a raw deal. Billionaire Ranjit Singh is taking thousands of pounds off the workers at Pennine Food, Some workers are set to loose up to £6000 a year. Please join this picket of M&S to protest at the policy of their supplier.
Peace in the Park
Saturday 11th June, 12 midday to 8pm, Ponderosa Park, Sheffield
Peace in the Park intends to make a stand for peace in 2016, to encourage a better, more equal world and to demonstrate the power of communities.
Would you like to play a game? Wednesday 1st June at the Quaker Meeting House
Citizens Advertising Takeover Service

Wouldn’t it be great not to worry about the holiday we can’t afford, the car we don’t need, or the body we don’t have? Imagine a world where public spaces made you feel pawsitive. A kickstarter campaign has gained funding to fill a tube-station with, erm, pictures of cats.

Picking sides in a classless society

“Eventually I learned that most people do have to pick a side, even if they do it unconsciously. I didn’t decide pragmatically to become middle-class in order to access social esteem and higher wages. It happened that way because I happened to stay on at school. There is a sense in which you buy, or are sold, a one-way ticket. You can go back, but never again on the same terms.” – Lynsey Hanley on her experience of social mobility http://bit.ly/1QftBMe (The Guardian).
Her excellent book, Respectable, was also book of the week on Radio 4 (iPlayer)
“Now ‘I have made it’, I am not supposed to react angrily to it, I am supposed to know my place, and be grateful for getting out. However, I am angry and so are other working-class people when we have to deal with and hear these simplistic and stigmatising views of our lives. I have written about how working class life is misunderstood, and reduced to simplistic one-dimensional narratives from both the prurient poverty porn, but also the middle class do-gooders. We are not expected to attempt to defend our choices, become angry, or resist.” – Lisa McKensie on the need to ‘make it’ (The Guardian)
Wednesday 18th May, 7pm-9pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ Street, S1 2EW.
Discussing the impact of income inequality and the campaigns trying to tackle it. This event will explore how income inequality impacts upon society and human relationships to create the issues covered in the The Divide Documentary, and the featured campaigns to tackle income inequality. Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group, all welcome. Free, donations for tea and biscuits.
Tuesday 17th May, 6.30–9.00pm Quaker Meeting House, St. James’ Street, S1 2EW.
How do we make the leap? Come and hear from a panel of insightful and provocative speakers about the connections between equity, economy and climate change – and join our debate. Speakers include Shahida Siddique (CEO of Faithstar), Sarah-Jayne Clifton (Jubilee Debt Campaign), and Philip Pearson (a trade unionist campaigning for Just Transition). Hosted by Sheffield Climate Alliance.
What is wrong with money, and how can we fix it?
Monday 23 May, 7.30pm, Quaker Meeting House, St. James St. S1 2EW
This public talk brings together speakers from three different Sheffield groups, all campaigning in different ways for economic justice. Peter Verity (Sheffield Positive Money group), Louis Read of the “Sheffield Pound”, and Rob Shearing (Sheffield Money) will explain their ideas and actions around monetary reform, local currency, and financial inclusion. Hosted by Sheffield Positive Money. Free entry, but donations requested (suggested £3) to cover costs.
Are we the fairest city of them all?
“Led by the city council, several large employers have introduced a higher living wage based on calculations by the Living Wage Foundation, and the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce has also encouraged small and medium-sized organisations to do so. Another recommendation, on fair access to credit, resulted in the creation of Sheffield Money, to compete with the unscrupulous and usurious payday lenders. More recently, a fair employer charter was introduced, designed to ensure fair conditions of work as well as pay.” – the impact of the Sheffield Fairness Commission and the Our Fair City campaign covered by The Conversation.

A sanction for those in need…

so she said “I’m going to initial it this time, but next time, put a bit more information in,” and then she just went “is this about this teaching from home thing,” and I had flu last Wednesday and I just did not have the energy to say, “Well, I’m waiting for this poxy boiler to be done and the place has to be sorted out and decorated and it’s all being replaced,” and I just didn’t have the energy to say….
Well, they’re sending off the hardship loan now. I’ve got to go back Thursday to get some food vouchers. I’m going to the hospital and they are all going to hear about this.
– Kate Belgrave records experiences of benefit sanctions
Paul was sanctioned in the first instance after his job centre advisor felt he had not completed his log book correctly.His second sanction was handed out to him as a result of being 10 minutes late to a meeting at the job centre, something he said was the result of a bus delay.
The third and final sanction, that resulted in the three-year cap on his benefits, came about after Paul was made to wait for an hour in the job centre to meet an advisor.
He complained about this delay, which staff at the centre felt was aggressive, and his unemployment benefits were capped until 2018.
– The Dundee Courier reports on a three year sanction forcing Paul to destitution
1,252,000 people, including 312,000 children, were destitute at some point in 2015
People who had experienced destitution said that they felt ‘demeaned, ‘degraded’ and ‘humiliated’ by having to get family, friends or charities to provide basics like food and toiletries. Destitute parents often went without things themselves so that they could provide more for their children. Many felt that destitution had a negative impact on their relationships with their children and with other family and friends, leading to social isolation. Destitution took a toll on many people’s mental health, and some reported physical health problems.
In 2015, destitute people reported problems with getting behind on bills (57%), serious debt (33%), benefit delays (40%) or sanctions (30%)

…to sanction those in greed

The story of BHS’s bankruptcy is one of theft and asset-stripping on a massive scale. Green took £580m+ out then sold the company for £1. The next owner, twice bankrupt Dominic Chappell, has taken millions more. Green underfunded the pension scheme – while paying his wife £400 million in BHS dividends, all channeled through a tax haven. Now the ship is sinking, while Green takes delivery of his new £100 million superyacht. Please sign the petition on 38 Degrees
Wednesday 18th May 7pm-9pm, Sheffield Quaker Meeting House
Discussing the impact of income inequality and the campaigns trying to tackle it. Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group, all welcome.
Why We Need Economic Justice for Climate Justice…
How do we make the leap? Come and hear from provocative speakers, including Sarah-Jayne Clifton from Jubilee Debt Campaign, about the connections between equity, economy and climate change – and join our debate about making the big changes needed. In association with Sheffield Climate Alliance.

The Peckham Experiment

Between 1926 and 1950 the Peckham Experiment was a pioneering medical initiative that stimulated a revolution in the ideas of community health. A community health centre was opened where residents could organise sporting, social and cultural activities. It had the aim of promoting the health of individuals, families, and the community together.
On Wednesday 6th April, 7pm-9pm at Sheffield Quaker Meeting House, there will be a talk by former GP Jack Czauderna – member of the Pioneer Health Foundation – on the Peckham Experiment, followed by discussion. Hosted by Sheffield Equality Group. All welcome.
For more information on the Peckham Experiment, see The Pioneer Health Foundation – “A recent meeting of those whose lives have been influenced by Peckham showed that its legacy is alive and that the belief in human potential, humane systems and human scale development has a powerful resonance today.”
Home from Home
“The number of people sleeping rough in England on any one night has doubled since 2010 and increased by 30% in the last year, with an estimated 3,569 people now sleeping on the streets across England, according to new government figures.” – Guardian report on rise in homelessness
“In the bins you can hide so nobody can see you. It’s kind of warm, nobody knows you are there,” George explains on the streets of Bristol. He has been homeless since he lost his engineering job before Christmas, leaving him unable to pay the rent. (BBC)
In this special edition of Exploitation, Exploitation, Exploitation, presenters Christie and Will get their hands dirty as they take would-be tenants Gilly and Steve on a search for their dream home – or at least, an apartment where they don’t suspect a murder has taken place (Guardian)