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Close to Home : UK poverty and the economic downturn

October 29, 2010

The UK is in recession, and things stand to get much worse for the fifth of the population already living in poverty, and for the millions more whose livelihoods will become more vulnerable as a result. The UK government has recognised its responsibility to help people through the recession, but needs to do more to help the poorest, and to provide security for all. As importantly, policy makers need to take the opportunity that the recession provides to rethink many of the policies of the past decades. This paper sets out a pro-poor policy response to the recession that lays down the foundations for a more equitable, sustainable society. It argues that government action should be based upon a long-term vision of moving to a society based on sustainability, with good quality jobs that allow people to have a more secure livelihood, but also backed up by a welfare state safety net which neither traps people nor leaves them living in poverty.

Getting Women into Local Strategic Partnerships: Knowing your community, improving public services

October 29, 2010

Women in the UK are poorer than men: women working part-time earn nearly 40 per cent less than men, while the incomes of female pensioners are 40 per cent lower than those of male pensioners. Research commissioned by Oxfam in 2007 revealed that on Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPS), increasingly responsible for much decision-making on local issues, women are underrepresented and that, where they are represented, women are not able to participate effectively. The research also found that gender is insufficiently embedded in the monitoring, target setting, strategic planning, and service delivery of LSPs. This paper, based on two pilot projects conducted by Oxfam with LSPs in Sunderland and Thurrock in 2008-9, looks at how local authorities can increase the representation and participation of women in LSPs, and how women and men's different needs with regard to services such as transport, housing and employment, can be made be more visible in Local Area Agreements. The evidence from the pilot projects clearly shows that LSPs can, and must, take concrete steps to involve women more effectively in local decision-making to improve their economic and social well-being - and the paper makes a series of recommendations to those involved in LSPs as to how to do this.

Turning the Tide: How best to protect workers employed by gangmasters, five years after Morecambe Bay

October 29, 2010

On 5 February 2004, 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned in rising tides in Morecambe Bay because of the negligence of their gangmaster. This paper evaluates the current protection afforded to workers in the industries regulated by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). It highlights that a significant number of unlicensed gangmasters continue to exist, and exploitation of workers is still reported. The GLA's efforts to reduce exploitation are fundamentally thwarted by workers' fear of blowing the whistle, particularly during a recession. The paper also reveals that those employed by gangmasters to work in the construction, hospitality and social care sectors are particularly vulnerable because these sectors are outside the remit of the GLA and poorly enforced. These vulnerable workers routinely face underpayment of wages, debt bondage, excessive hours, spurious deductions, and dangerous and unsafe working conditions. Both Oxfam's three-year Migrant Workers' Project (PDF) in England and its continuing work with the Roma community in Scotland (PDF), showed Oxfam that gangmaster exploitation was rising in a range of sectors - not just agriculture and food processing. In 2008, Oxfam commissioned the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) at Hull University to conduct an independent evaluation of the protection available to workers employed through gangmasters or labour providers.