Tag Archives: positive

Are there any good news stories to come out of the CSR?

George Osborne with his Bullingdon club friends - we are all in this together!

I am an optimist! Thus, in times of gloom I would like to take a few minuets to explore what, if anything, positive might be milked out of Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) yesterday.

Firstly, in the words of the great master Yoda, the future is indeed cloudy, hard to tell what it holds.  Although I strongly suspect this won’t happen; just imagine that this economic plan worked! Just imagine if it defied the FT, Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stieglitz and the greatest economist of our age John Maynard Keynes and actually bought this country out of “the danger zone”. Our structural deficit will be eliminated within 5 years, and the theory goes, we could then re-focus our expenditure on things that we thought mattered (like schools and hospitals).  This is of course all based on the big IF Osborne is smarter than Stieglitz, the FT and Keynes!

So what about the short-term?  Is there any one in society that will benefit, or avoid feeling the pinch, of these wide-spread cuts? Well, if you habitually like going to Museums your in luck! We can still go into State owned museums for free. A priority? Churchill thought so.

If you are currently at school then your schools funding is protected…assuming you live in England.  In fact, momentarily trying to be fair, the schools budget will actually rise in real terms! This combined with the Pupil Premium, might go someway to reducing inequalities in our schools (assuming a child never leaves schools gates and has to experience the real world).  Equally, this assumes you are under 16, as the EMA has been destroyed leaving thousands of poorer students unable to fund their FE.

If you require social care, there is a possibility that you might benefit from an extra 2 billion put aside; also it is worth noting that the NHS has been ring fenced.  Hurrah. 

Now for the real winner, the International Aid budget is expected to grow to 11.6bn (from 7.7) over four years to meet UN aid commitments.  Could this be the one truly commendable aspects of the spending review?

This blog has been painful to write.  It is clear that there are some good points of this spending review (like the core point of tackling our structural deficit), but to have the audacity to claim it was a progressive piece of policy is laughable.  The Institute of Fiscal Studies took literally seconds to point out it was regressive as it will have the greatest effect on those on the lower end of income.

Thus, this leaves us, caring normal individuals, with no choice but to become part of the big society.  If the State won’t have the capacity to look after people then I guess we have to.  Either that or we can sit back and pretend people’s lives are not falling to pieces behind closed doors.  Which do you think will happen?

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Filed under Economics, Politics

Can a a belief in the individual tackle homelessness?

Soil and soul

At Christmas, I blogged about homelessness in Brussels.  It was a reflection on some people I came across in the early hours of the morning when the temperatures were dropping well below -10 degrees and they were lying exposed on the street.  I finished that blog with a question; what can we do for these people when handing out soup and clothes seems such a “token” response and does not challenge the underlying problems.  Through two separate incidents in my life recently, I think I have stumbled across at least a partial answer.  The first was reading the book “soil and soul” the second was through applying for a job with a charity called “Emmaus“.

Soil and Soul opens it’s introduction with the musing’s of the poet Hugh MacDiarmid., “There must be more to life, than for human beings to owe dignity”.  This “more”, McIntosh (the author of Soil and Soul) claims is the capacity to see a person’s potential for blossoming: to see what they could become and maybe still can be; not just the limitations of what they presently are.  MacDiarmid goes on to say “And I am concerned with the blossom”.

For me, this introduction was hugely significant.  People (myself included) spend a lot of time and energy troubling themselves with the negative state of the present, and not enough, with the positive potential of the future.  This is partially because it is a lot easier to be critical of what is here in front of you now.  It takes boldness to predict (especially positively) what lies ahead of you.  It is therefore a challenge for anyone to engage in McIntosh’s vision of seeing the “blossom” in people. It is a challenge though, that I strongly suspect is of great reward when engaged with.

It was curious therefore that days after reading this, I stumbled across an organisation that I used to be involved with that had drifted from my radar of late.  The charity Emmaus offers homeless individuals “a home, work and the chance to rebuild their lives in a supportive environment”.  The Emmaus community offers individuals accommodation, food, clothing and a small weekly allowance.  In return they must stick to the rules of the community such as not bringing drugs or alcohol on site.  The residents work full-time collecting, renovating and re-selling furniture.  At the same time, a series of training takes place to re-skill the residents.

The aspect of Emmaus that overlaps so strongly with Soil and Soul (as well as the emphasis on community), is the issue of turning the negative perception of the homeless on its head.  Now, a homeless individual is commonly seen as a drain on society.  Emmaus looks to turn this perception around by not only letting these individuals help themselves but to also help others along the way. Any surplus income for the communities goes into funds to help set up other communities.  Equally, residents are encouraged to help out at other volunteer projects such as clearing playgrounds, offering lifts to those immobile and cooking lunches for pensioners.  This aspect of Emmaus looks for the potential not only in the individuals but also in the ripple effect that these people can have on a community.

Emmaus at the moment does not offer a “solution” per se for homelessness in the UK.  It offers a model that has been extremely successful in tackling homelessness.  Equally, it offers a working example of a positive mindset that encourages all of us to look at the potential every individual holds with them.  As I said at the beginning, this isn’t easy, but it’s well worth giving a go!

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Filed under Homelessness, Human rights