SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Over 2 million kids in the UK are deprived of basic needs and are not included in official statistics, a new report has found. It says that current methods of calculating child poverty are too fixed on incomes.
Nearly 2.3 million children living “materially deprived lives” in the UK are not included in the government’s headline measurement of child poverty, the report by the think tank Policy Exchange estimates. According to official statistics for 2012 there were 3.6 million children living in poverty in the UK.
The study underlines that current government policy does not take into account factors such as the standard of education received by a child, whether he/she has been in the care system, the quality of housing a family lives in or if a child’s parents have a criminal conviction.
Other areas of a child’s life which the report thinks should be should be considered are if the child themselves is a parent and whether the family are experiencing an unsustainable level of debt, the report says.
Policy Exchange argues that in the past too much attention has been focused on material poverty, especially in relation to the average incomes of parents.
Its findings are likely to be viewed favorably by the work and pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith, who has long argued that the scope on how child poverty is approached needs to be broadened.
“It is not just about money. Despite billions of pounds being paid out in tax credits in the past decade, the focus on income alone has not transformed people’s lives,” said Mr Duncan Smith, responding to the report, as cited by Sky News.
In real terms there has been significant extra money spent by the government in a bid to alleviate child poverty.
Since 1998/9 support for the poorest households in the UK has amounted to an average £4,000 ($6,321) a year increase. Between 2003/4 and 2010 the government spent an extra £170 ($268) billion trying to reduce child poverty. As a result Child Tax Credit (a benefit available to any parent regardless of whether they are working or not) rose by 63%, but Working Tax Credit (available to people on low incomes) rose by only 28%.
The report concludes that non-work contingent benefits rose disproportionately over work contingent ones and this has had a negative effect on child poverty.
“The extra cash is focused on tax credits, benefits which are not intrinsic to work and therefore will not tackle the root cause of child poverty, the household is relying on handouts,” Nick Faith, Director of communication at Policy Exchange, told RT.
Policy Exchange believes that serial unemployment in families is one of the main reasons behind child poverty and advises significant welfare reform to encourage more people with families back to work and reduce their dependence on benefits.
“Tackling worklessness is one of the most effective ways of reducing child poverty,” said Faith.
Ruth Woodgate is a mother of two who has to support her family on £209 ($330) a week and lives way below the poverty line.
“I think it’s a silly, silly mistake to make because it[the government] is not dealing with the issues. It’s just throwing money at the situation and that’s not always what is needs. I don’t need handouts, I need a job, people with alcohol and drug dependency issues don’t need money, they need help to get off it,” Ms Woodgate told Sky News.
The government is currently in consultation and is changing the criteria on how child poverty is measured.
The new measure when it is introduced will focus not just on family incomes but also on factors such as the quality of housing or the level of education a child receives and will likely increase the number of children in poverty.
“It [the new measure] would allow the government to focus policy solutions on improving outcomes both now and in the future for deprived children rather than simply masking the problem with state handouts that do nothing to get to the root of the poverty problem,” Matthew Oakley, head of economics and social policy at Policy Exchange, told the Guardian.
There have been some improvements in reducing the number of children living in poverty. Today 17.5% of all children live in households below the relative income poverty threshold, compared to over 25% in 1999.
But despite the progress the UK is still 7.5 percentage points away from meeting its 2020 target.
Part of the problem lies in the wider social problem that UK society has become less, not more socially mobile, iover the last 30 years.Indeed, social inequality is deemed higher than at any time in the post-war period, based on a 2010 report, An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK, which then Prime Minster Gordon Brown called “sobering”.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The British government’s squeeze on benefits is to force a further 100,000 children from working families into poverty, ministers have admitted for the first time.
According to official figures, a total of 200,000 children will be pushed into poverty as a result of British Chancellor George Osborne’s plan to limit annual increases in working-age benefits to 1 percent from April.
Moreover, Liberal Democrat pensions minister Steve Webb disclosed that 50 percent of those children come from families where at least one parent works.
The new figures seem to undermine the Chancellor’s claims that his cap on benefits is designed to target Britain's jobless "shirkers".
"The Government wants to run away from the problem and ignore the fact that half the children pushed into poverty as a result of the strivers' tax have parents who are working hard while this Government makes life even more difficult for them,” said shadow employment minister, Stephen Timms.
"Children should not pay the price of this Government's economic failure,” he added.
The cap on benefit handouts was approved by British MPs on January 8, despite a move by some Labour and Liberal Democrats to block –www.shfaqna.com/English
The new Archbishop of Canterbury told a congregation that he thought Britain had moved on from the decade of the Great Depression, when unemployment in Britain reached 3.4 million, yet churches are organising food distribution centres as people cannot feed themselves.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The new Archbishop of Canterbury said that the outlook for Britain is bleak whether the country experiences a triple dip recession or not. He told a congregation that he thought Britain had moved on from the decade of the Great Depression, when unemployment in Britain reached 3.4 million, yet churches are organising food distribution centres as people cannot feed themselves.
“It is a huge challenge. Whether we go into a triple-dip or not, whatever does happen, it's going to go on being pretty dark economically. Children are going without sufficient food which I found particularly shocking and distressing. This was something I had thought would have been eradicated by now. We are seeing things we thought had disappeared in the Thirties. Not on remotely the same scale but traces here and there,” said Archbishop Welby. The Archbishop referred to the food distribution centres set up all over Britain to help struggling families.
His comments are likely to be embarrassing for the government. The intervention shows that the former oil executive, who also sits in the House of Lords, may be as outspoken as his predecessor. As for his role and of his Church regarding the challenges ahead, he said, “It’s about finding a way forward for these massive challenges. The church at a national level has to be outward-looking and a body that is engaging, not looking inwards and consumed by its own problems. I am optimistic that we can make progress. Change is always happening, and my natural instinct of moaning about it does no good. The church may be still but the world around us moves. Culture and expectations of morality change, economics brings destruction or renewal, often both."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Large numbers of poverty stricken people across Britain will be forced to take charity food handouts or go hungry this winter and beyond. The poverty situation is at a level that the British Government has been forced to provide food vouchers for the most desperate. The food aid for poor has been described by campaigners as going back to levels of poverty associated with Dickensian times than Britain in the 21st century.
According to the Trussell Trust, a British charity that runs more than 70 food banks, the number of people needing food handouts has increased dramatically by 50 per cent since 2009. Those dependent on emergency food boxes, which contain a three-day ration of essentials including tinned meat, pasta, tea, milk and sugar, has increased from 25,000 two years ago to 60,000, of whom some 20,000 will be children. The trust said that, on current trends, this would swell to 700 food banks feeding 500,000 people by 2015.
Figures released last week showed that 3.7 million children live in poverty in Britain with a record 2.1 million working families now below the breadline. The situation will get worse in coming months as food prices rise, VAT increases to 20 per cent, and job losses due to public sector cuts mount. It has just been announced by the UK government that, Job centres across the country to give food vouchers to increasing numbers of poor people.
Director of the Trussell Trust said "It is a scandal that hundreds of thousands of Britons every year hit crisis and are forced to go hungry. These are not homeless people on the street. These are people struggling on low incomes. This is a largely hidden problem, and there is still a taboo about people getting this type of help." He added "The welfare system is creaking and far less able to cope than it was 10 years ago. There are people who cannot put food on the table for themselves or their families; they are faced with impossible choices between heating, keeping a roof over their heads and eating."
Charity food banks rely on donations and people are referred to them by health visitors or social workers, and get vouchers to exchange for food. An emergency food box for a family of four is worth around £28. Acting director of UK Poverty for Oxfam said "Over the past 10 years the price of food has risen by 50 per cent. We hear stories every day of families who turn to soup kitchens for something to eat. There are children with scurvy in Islington [inside London]; that's a disease that should only exist in 18th century stories."
Source: The independent
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) --
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — When I meet 36 year old Bettina White outside her house in Mound Bayou, Mississippi she's reluctant to let me inside her family home.
This is the Mississippi Delta, the poorest region in the United States, and Bettina is ashamed to show me how she and her six children live.
Eventually she opens her door and gives me a glimpse of what life is like for many families in the delta.
Her children sleep on worn-out, filthy mattresses on the floor, there is one barely functioning bathroom and the kitchen is rudimentary at best.
"I want my kids to grow up and leave this place, make something of themselves," she says.
Her 12-year-old son Randolph already knows that he wants to leave this small town but right now he's more upset that he doesn't have enough money to buy his mother a birthday present.
'Politicians to blame'
"I have not seen the progress that I would like to see, there's no question about that," Johnnie Vick, the Principal of Randolph's school in Mound Bayou, says.
Vick has been working in the Mississippi Delta for the past 20 years and he blames the plight of the regions continuing poverty on the inaction of north America's politicians.
"Regardless of who gets into office I have not seen anything transpire that has made any dramatic changes to the Mississippi Delta."
Vick goes on to tell me that he doesn't believe the delta is "important" enough for politicians to bother with but his argument goes to the heart of an observation that is gaining traction.
The plight of those in poverty has barely been mentioned on the campaign trails of either President Obama or Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, and that's significant if you consider the latest figures.
According to the US Census Bureau, almost one in six people in the US lives in poverty. That equates to around 46 million people, the most since census records began in 1959.
Living on the streets
In real terms, that means boys like Randolph have less of a chance in life and people like 77-year-old Mary McGrory, who I meet living in a van on the streets of Miami, face an even bleaker future.
She lost her house three years ago. "I couldn't afford to pay the taxes and I couldn't afford to rent anywhere," she tells me as she shows me a handful of black and white pictures of better days.
Mary, like too many in her generation, survives on charity and social welfare payments that aren't enough to provide her with a safe, secure place to live.
Taking a glimpse into the lives of those affected by poverty is important but ignoring them could be political folly.
According to a recent Gallup poll, half of Americans in poverty are politically independent and its independent voters that could hold the key to this election, especially in those all-important battle ground states.
But there could be a more pragmatic reason that the poor are being ignored in this election. Traditionally voter turnout amongst north America's low income voters is low, so low you'd think they didn't exist.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The poverty report released Wednesday by the US Census Bureau is another shattering refutation of the Obama Administration’s claims to be overseeing an economic “recovery” and working to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.
The report revealed that the ranks of those classified by the government as poor remained at record highs in 2011, while the gap between rich and poor widened further. Some 46.2 million people remained below the official poverty line in 2011, the highest number in more than half a century. The 15.0 percent poverty rate, essentially unchanged from 2010, was the highest since 1983.
The impact of poverty is particularly devastating for the young. One in five American children was poor in 2011. The poverty rate of young adults age 25-34 living with their parents, based on their own income alone, was 43.7 percent.
All of these figures grossly underestimate the real level of poverty, since the government’s poverty threshold, set at an annual income of $23,021 for a family of four, is absurdly low.
The Census data showed that median household income, adjusted for inflation, fell by 1.5 percent from the previous year. The figure was 8.1 percent lower than in 2007 and 8.9 percent lower than its peak in 1999. The income of the typical US family in 2011 fell for the fourth straight year and sank to levels last seen in 1995.
A major factor in the further fall in household income was a decline in wages. Average weekly wages for non-supervisory workers fell 0.3 percent after adjusting for inflation. The impact of the nationwide campaign of wage-cutting was reflected most clearly in a 17.3 percent jump in the number of workers in the lowest income group holding down full-time jobs.
The National Employment Law Project recently reported that 58 percent of new jobs during the Great Recession were low-wage, paying between $7.69 and $13.83.
The wage-cutting drive was initiated by the Obama administration, which imposed an across-the-board 50 percent cut in the wages of newly hired workers as part of its 2009 bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.
The growth of income inequality to record levels in 2011, the second year of the so-called recovery, underscores the real character of the supposed rebound. The Gini coefficient, which measures the level of social inequality in a country, grew at the fastest rate on records dating back to 1993.
The aggregate share of income declined for the middle and fourth quintiles of US households. It increased 1.6 percent for the highest quintile, and within that quintile, the share of aggregate income for the top 5 percent increased 4.9 percent. The top 1 percent of earners saw a 6 percent rise in income.
The second and third quintile of Americans now account for only 23.8 percent of the nation’s income, the lowest since the Johnson administration in the 1960s.
The picture presented by the report as of the end of last year, more than three years since the Wall Street crash and three full years after the coming to power of the Obama administration, was one of increasing social distress for the masses of people and expanding wealth for those at the very top. Nevertheless, the Obama administration seized on the fact that the poverty rate remained unchanged from 2010 to hail the report as a vindication of its policies.
Aside from the callous indifference to the plight of the working class reflected in such statements, they do contain an element of truth. The social disaster reflected in the findings of the Census report is not simply the result of impersonal economic forces, but very much the outcome of the policies of the Obama administration, whose entire focus from day one has been to protect and increase the wealth of the US corporate elite at the expense of the majority of the population.
Even as he expanded the bailout of Wall Street begun under Bush, Obama rejected out of hand any government programs to create jobs—such as public works projects—or any serious measures to provide relief to the unemployed, those facing foreclosure or the shutoff of utilities, or the growing ranks of the poor and malnourished.
On the contrary, he oversaw the destruction of nearly 700,000 government jobs and brutal cuts in social services.
He allowed hundreds of thousands of long-term unemployed to exhaust their jobless benefits. According to one estimate, a decline of $36 billion in unemployment benefits in 2011 added 0.3 percentage points to the poverty rate.
In 2012, Obama and both parties in Congress escalated their attack on jobless pay—in the midst of the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression—slashing extended benefits from a maximum of 99 weeks to a maximum of 66 weeks. There is every indication that the federal extended unemployment benefit program will be allowed to expire at the end of this year, regardless of which party wins the November election.
This will be part of an intensification of austerity measures, intended to impose the full cost of the crisis of the capitalist system on the working class.
Meanwhile, trillions more in public funds will be pumped into the financial markets to prop up the banks and hedge funds and bolster the stock market and corporate profits. This is the significance of the announcement Thursday by the Federal Reserve of a new round of dollar-printing to supply Wall Street and corporate American with virtually free money.
The Census report underscores the failure not just of one administration or one party, but the capitalist system that is served by both big business parties. The contest between Obama and Romney, between the Democrats and Republicans, offers no alternative to the working class.
Ending the cycle of mass unemployment, wage-cutting, poverty and social inequality requires a struggle to break the stranglehold of the financial elite over society and replace the capitalist system, which subordinates social needs to private profit, with socialism, which utilizes the wealth created by the working class for the common good.
The working class must build its own political movement, based on a socialist program, to fight for a workers’ government. This is the program being advanced in the elections by the Socialist Equality Party and its presidential and vice presidential candidates, Jerry White and Phyllis Scherrer.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — New official data show that the US government has failed to reduce the level of poverty in the country amid weak economic growth.
The US Census Bureau said in an annual report on Wednesday that 46.2 million Americans are still living below the poverty line.
The overall poverty rate stood at 15 percent in 2011, statistically unchanged from the 15.1 percent in the previous year.
According to the report, median US income declined 1.5 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.
Last year, the poverty threshold for a household of two adults and two children was $22,811.
The report also said the gap between rich and poor increased last year with joblessness persistently high.
Bruce Meyer, an economist at the University of Chicago, said it was disappointing that poverty levels did not improve.
Meyer described it as a sign of lingering problems in the labor market even with recent declines in unemployment.
"The drop in the unemployment rate has been due in significant part to workers leaving the labor force, because they are discouraged, back in school, taking care of family or other reasons," he said.
The poverty level is based on a government calculation that includes only income before tax deductions.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — “The aim is not only to mirror the complexity of the crisis, but also to seek methods of solving it.” These words were said by Mahmoud El-Khafif, the Economic Affairs Officer to the Palestinian People's Unit of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in a press conference in Cairo on Tuesday discussing the organisation’s 2012 report on the developments in the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
The report warned that long-term prospects for economic development in the OPT have worsened, essentially because of the “Israeli” blockade which has taken place since the “Israeli” military strikes against Gaza in 2009.
Long-term prospects for economic development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have worsened, despite the fact that the report noted a 9.9 per cent increase in growth levels in 2012. Yet, El-Khafif stated that these numbers might be a bit “tricky”, explaining that the figures are impacted by donations from other states.
Food insecurity affects two of every three Palestinians in the OPT, but is most severe in Gaza. Also alarming is the poverty rate in East Jerusalem, estimated at 78 per cent, higher than the rates in the West Bank and Gaza. Such facts are accompanied by a decline in real wages and labour productivity and high unemployment rates which persisted at 26 per cent. Dilemmas of fiscal austerity, agricultural decline, and drop in donor support are problematic as well.
The real cause is directly related to occupation, and much less to the Palestinian Authority's (PA) economic policy, the report contends.
The report mentioned that the number of mobility barriers to Palestinian people and goods in the West Bank increased from 500 in 2010 to 523 in 2011. Moreover, demolitions of Palestinian homes and infrastructure increased in 2011, and the expansion of “Israeli” settlements, particularly in the areas surrounding East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, worsened the existing physical fragmentation between various Palestinian “Bantustans,” or disconnected enclaves.
“The occupation has almost eliminated all domestic and external marketing and investment opportunities”, El-Khafif accused the “Israeli” authorities. He revealed that public and private investment is restricted in 63 per cent of the West Bank land known as Area C, while Gaza remains under economic siege.
Notably, the report brought special attention to fishing and agriculture. The agricultural sector’s contribution to Palestinian GDP shrank from 12 per cent in 1995 to 5.5 per cent in 2011, the report indicates. Only 35 per cent of the irrigable land in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is actually irrigated, which costs the economy 110,000 jobs per year and 10 per cent of GDP. Furthermore, the construction of the “Israeli” separation barrier leaves 10 per cent of West Bank land trapped in the seam zone between the separation barrier and the 1967 borders. As a result, thousands of Palestinian farmers find it hard to access and cultivate their own land in the zone because it is difficult to obtain “Israeli” permits for them and for their workers to cross the barrier.
As a result of the “Israeli” ban on imported, high-quality fertilisers, agricultural productivity has declined by 33 per cent, the report says. The result is that agricultural activities have become less viable, and many Palestinian farmers have lost their source of livelihood. In addition, some 2.5 million fruit trees have been uprooted since 1967.
With fishing around Gaza restricted beyond 3 nautical miles from the coast, as compared with the internationally recognised limit of 20 miles, the Palestinian fishing industry has collapsed almost completely, the report says. The number of fishermen has declined by 66 per cent since 2000.
Other difficulties are caused by “Israeli” over-extraction of water, beyond the share determined by the 1993 Oslo Accords. The water taken is used inside “Israeli” borders and settlements and denies the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian farmers the right to construct wells to meet the growing demand of the Palestinian population for water. Excess “Israeli” extraction of water occurs even when the source of this water is almost entirely within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the report finds.
Even though Palestinian agriculture is operating at one quarter of its potential, the sector is resilient and capable of achieving a quick and sustainable recovery. But the study says the donor community and the Palestinian Authority have neglected the agricultural sector. It recommends taking corrective measures to compensate for the impact of the occupation. An agricultural development bank should be established to share risk, provide credit and insurance, and support marketing and post-harvest services, as well as funding and guaranteeing investment in agricultural and water infrastructure.
“Everyone is calling on the PA to adopt strict austerity measures in order to fulfil the socioeconomic demands of the population, but no one asked the “Israelis” to lessen the harshness of their siege,” El-Khafif told Ahram Online.
He added that any further attempts of imposing tougher austerities on the Palestinian people might result in a “societal outburst”, which is occurring in the West Bank currently.
The PA encountered recently a week of angry demonstrations, with thousands taking to the streets to protest the soaring cost of living, rising petrol prices and unemployment, and many demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
On Sunday, some 60 trucks and lorries blocked roads in the centre of Ramallah for more than an hour in protest at rising petrol prices, an AFP correspondent said.
Further north, around 200 people gathered in Nablus calling for Fayyad's resignation, shouting slogans like: "The (“Israeli”) invasion didn't leave us hungry, but Fayyad has!" an AFP correspondent said.
In scenes reminiscent of the Arab Spring protests which swept the Middle East last year, protesters have taken to the streets in their thousands to demand lower prices, with many demanding Fayyad's government tear up the Paris Protocol.
As a result, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has formally asked “Israel” for talks on changing the Paris Protocol governing economic ties between the two sides, so far without a response.
The Paris Protocol was a framework set up in 1994 which laid out the terms for the economic relations between “Israel” and the PA in four areas: trade relations, fiscal issues, monetary arrangements and labour.
Despite the growing protests, analysts say the government has very little room for manoeuvre, largely as a result of its commitments under the Protocol.
“As a member of the team who contributed to this report, I expect that this report might push the Palestinian request for UN membership forwards when it is presented to the General Assembly,” said El-Khafif.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Muslim organizations in Kenya have joined their efforts to feed the poor and needy during the fasting month of Ramadan, seeing the holy month as an opportunity for spiritual training, revitalization and charity
“It would be needless to say that without the help, support, cooperation and assistance from the well wishers and supporters of the Association, the mammoth success that the Muslim Association Mombasa has achieved would not have been possible,” Mosque Chairman Shaahid Sheikh, the Imam of Kwale district mosque told Cross Week on Friday, August 3.
“I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the support from friends of the Association from far and near and thank them for their generous contributions.
“May Allah (SWT) reward them for their kindness, bless them all, Insha Allah! Ameen!”
Seeing Ramadan as a month of sacrifice and giving, the Muslim Association Mombasa led the efforts to provide food rations to hundreds of residents of Moyeni in Kwale district.
The efforts were made under the supervision of Village Chairman Hamisi Kadzungo, Mosque Chairman Idd Mwansare and Islamic Scholar Ustad Mohamed Matata.
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.
During Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.
The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.
The Muslim Association is Mombasa also distributed food rations for the Muslim prisoners.
“Muslims on the outside forget about those on the inside, but they are still part our community,” Shaahid Sheikh said.
The new feeding drive for Muslim prisoners followed the request of Kenya Prisons Service in Kwale and Ustad Mohamed Matata, the head of Islamic studies at the prison.
It followed a meeting with Emmanuel O. Abilla, Chief Officer II, Maalim Ramadhan Juma, Imam of the Prison Mosque, along with the religious scholar Ustad Matata.
“It’s not that difficult, we would simply send them money, books or even post card that says, “I am thinking of you!” concluded Chairman Elect Shaahid Sheikh.
Providing the needs of prisoners, the move was praised as helping the spiritual nourishing of Muslims in prisons.
“I have personally seen them changing,” Ustad Matata.
“It is obvious that most Muslim prisoners have a desire to change themselves and improve their life style once they are out of prison.
“They want to be better Muslims and contributing citizens. Perhaps Ramadhan is the month where the process of self control, takes its deepest roots in the mind of a Muslim prisoner.”
There are nearly ten million Muslims in Kenya, which has a population of 36 million.
Muslims make up nearly 98 percent of the communities of the North Eastern Province.—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: On Islam