A North-East think-tank is calling on parliamentary candidates to support a series of pledges to tackle the region’s homelessness crisis.
Research by the North East Homelessness Think Tank (NEHTT) has shown that many more people are at risk of homelessness today than at the time of the last general election in 2010, and that the numbers of people falling victim to homelessness are rising.
These trends are particularly worrying because of recent changes to housing and welfare policies and potential plans for further cuts to public spending.
NEHTT, of which Northumbria University is a founding member, is asking candidates to sign up to its charter to support specific action by the next Government.
NEHTT is a regional group comprising academics, researchers and policy officers.
Key partners include Northumbria University, Youth Homeless North East, Homeless Link, Shelter, Barnardo’s, Northern Housing Consortium, Changing Lives, IPPR North, Oasis Aquila Housing and the NE Regional Homelessness Group, as well as independent specialists.
The pledges are:
*Appropriate housing with adequate support services will be provided for vulnerable people making access to sufficient social housing a priority.
*Housing benefit will be retained for under 25s
*It will be compulsory to find settled accommodation for offenders leaving prison or who are homeless within the community.
*All houses in multiple occupation and B&Bs which cater for homeless people will be inspected and must provide good quality facilities.
The statutory definition of homelessness will be improved by ensuring that all forms of homelessness – rough sleeping, those in temporary accommodation and ‘sofa surfers’ – are officially recorded.
“The pledges are based on the knowledge we have, from a wide range of research evidence, about what would make a real difference to address the key issues encountered by many homeless people, and in particular about homelessness amongst single people and under-25s.”
So far, signatories include four Labour candidates and six Green candidates. Further support has also come from two Labour front bench MPs, and two Conservative candidates.
Source – Northern Echo, 10 Apr 2015
The true scale of homelessness in the North East is much higher than official figures show, a report by a leading think tank argues today.
Official figures identify only a fraction of homeless households, according to IPPR North.
But others are forced to live in temporary accommodation including privately-run hostels which might lack heating, proper sanitation or security – and where tenants risk being abused or exploited by landlords, or even forced to carry out unpaid work to avoid being evicted.
The report is based partly on an earlier study by the North East Regional Homelessness Group which involves 12 local authorities in the region as well as community groups.
Official figures show that 44 households were officially accepted as homeless by Newcastle City Council over three months. This means the council accepted it was under a legal duty to provide them with accommodation.
In County Durham the figure was 62 households, in Northumberland it was 48, in Gateshead it was 39, in Sunderland it was 25, in North Tyneside it was 42 and in South Tyneside it was also 42.
But many people who have no permanent home are excluded from the figures because they are not classed as being in “priority need”. Typically, this will mean that they are 18 or older and do not have children.
They may be pushed into bed and breakfast accommodation or shared accommodation living with strangers.
The true scale of the problem is unknown. A report produced by the North East Homelessness Think Tank highlights the fact that local authorities are not expected to maintain figures for people in this situation, or track what happens to them.
But IPPR North argues that official figures “only identify a fraction” of households in temporary accommodation.
The report warns:
“Research undertaken in the North East region of England has detailed unacceptable standards in various aspects of premises management, including poor security and poor buildings maintenance, shower and toilet facilities being out of order for long periods of time, poor heating, and repeated incidents of drug-related violence on the premises.
“The research also identified widespread abusive management practice, including tenants having their cash cards and benefits books confiscated by proprietors, being forced to share rooms with strangers, being locked out of the premises for long periods, and being charged for services which were not provided.”
Research by the North East Regional Homelessness Group also found examples of people being required to carry out unpaid work for landlords under threat of eviction, sexual abuse and exploitation of vulnerable residents and people being locked out of their accommodation from early morning until late evening.
Housing consultant Sheila Spencer, one of the North East Homelessness Think Tank’s researchers, said:
“Generally speaking the very worst accommodation is occupied by people who have no choice but to be there.
“And some of it is absolutely appalling. You would be horrified by what goes on in some places.”
But the people affected often receive very little help, she said.
“There is a complete lack of support to help people get out of that situation, or to show them how to get drug or alcohol services.”
The North East Homelessness Think Tank was trying to persuade the Government and local authorities to collect more data about single homeless people, she said.
“We need to know how many are living in the worst situations.”
Bill Davies, IPPR North Research Fellow, said:
“There is very little good statistical data for the hidden homeless. Limited research has been conducted on them and their precarious lives go largely unrecorded by research organisations or public authorities.
“As a hidden population, their numbers are difficult to estimate but the scale of the problem is likely to be substantial.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Dec 2014
A widening pay gap between the region and the rest of the country has emerged, alongside a pay fall for the nation as a whole this year.
According to the Northern think tank, IPPR North, real wages have fallen in the past few years in the North-East and North Yorkshire, where workers are generally earning less than the national average.
Between 2009 and 2013 real annual wages have fallen three per cent in the North-East (£740) and five per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber (£1,249.)
Over the same period, the cost of living has risen sharply across the nation.
Social research charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) say the cost of goods and services has gone up 28 per cent since 2008.
Luke Raikes, a researcher with IPPR North said:
“Low pay is a severe and growing problem for both the North East and for Yorkshire and the Humber, as it is for the country as a whole.”
“Workers in the area earn less per hour: nationally the average wage is £13.13, but in North East it’s £12.14, and in Yorkshire and the Humber it’s £12.”
The news has come during Living Wage week, where it was revealed one in every four workers is earning less than the living wage in the region, which now stands at £7.85 an hour.
In the North-East, the average hourly pay in Middlesbrough was the lowest, at £11.05 per hour and the highest was in Stockton-on-Tees, where it worked out at £13.29 per hour.
It comes as a report show a national pay fall. Wages have been “dragged down” this year because of changing trends in the workforce, including younger and less experienced employees, according to a new study.
The Resolution Foundation think tank said a downward shift in the mix of occupations towards lower-paying jobs has prevented 2014 from being the year of the pay rise.
But some of this was due to increase employment; changes which led to reduced earnings growth include fewer managerial jobs, rising youth employment and increasing numbers of people starting a job.
> Or, as a comment to the original article pointed out :
It also appears to be due to a cultural change in companies pushing their luck with employees. They know there are less skilled jobs available allowing them to cut wages, implement pay freezes and cut benefits such as pensions. This is definitely the case with my employer. I cant see this changing in a hurry. My employers regularly state if you don’t like it, you know where the door is! Inflation continues, my wage increase doesn’t.
Source – Northern Echo, 08 Nov 2014
Blame the teachers time again –
Schools failing to prepare North East pupils for career in automotive sector
– declares the headline in the Newcastle Journal, and continues:
Schools are failing to encourage children to consider a career in manufacturing – and the economy of the North East may suffer as a result, a major new study has found.
Pupils in Sunderland are not being given the advice they need to make an informed choice about their future career, said think tank IPPR North, with girls in particular failing to consider careers in science, engineering or technology.
Researchers from IPPR North worked with two schools in the city to examine the attitudes of pupils towards a career in manufacturing, and particularly in the automotive sector.
As part of the study, they arranged for pupils to visit Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, and asked them whether this had changed their attitudes towards manufacturing.
The think tank warned: “Employment avenues for young people are not being closed off so much as never being opened. A systemic lack of interaction between schools and businesses is restricting the career options of young people in Britain.”
The failure to interest girls in science, technology, engineering or maths – the so-called STEM subjects – was robbing the sector of potential future employees, said the report.
> With such high levels of local unemployment ? Pull the other one ! There is probably going to always be be more people than there are jobs, so hardly a lack of potential employees. Many of them will already have the necessery skills, and if they haven’t they could learn them… if the employers were willing to invest in a little training, of course. But that would probably bite into short-term profits.
It warned: “The lack of interest in post-GCSE STEM subjects and vocational education among girls is a cause for concern given that skills shortages in these sectors are looming.”
IPPR focused on the automotive sector because of its importance to the economy of the North East – and it said there is “evidence to suggest the automotive sector would continue to grow in the coming years”, making it even more significant. Around 1.5 million cars and commercial vehicles and three million engines are produced annually in the UK, and 70% of vehicles manufactured here are exported.
> Hmmm… and its not so long ago that call centres were being touted as the big new thing. Which they may have been momentarily, but as soon as the companies found they could transfer the work to low-wage (and thus higher profit) economies overseas, you didn’t see them for dust. Anyone want to bet the automotive sector wouldn’t do the same if it was deemed profitable ?
Nissan’s plant in Washington is Europe’s most productive car manufacturing site, responsible for one in three of all cars produced in the UK.
> It’s also generally understood locally (but unprovable) that Nissan don’t employ anyone over the age of 30. Not much hope for the older unemployed there.
However, the think tank warned that manufacturers were concerned about the lack of available skilled labour in the UK, which could limit future investment in the country.
> People aren’t born with the skills for a particular industry fully formed. What’s wrong with the companies involved training workers to the required level ? They always used to.
It also pointed out that “pay tends to be significantly higher for graduate engineers than for most other graduates”, but young people considering their future career were not aware of this.
> But not everyone can be a graduate engineer, nor is that the only job in manufacturing. Perhaps kids realise this. Or perhaps they just think there’s more to life than selling their souls to an industry that may up sticks and move abroad if they think it in their interests.
The study warned: “Given the importance of both good careers advice and business-school interaction in shaping the choices that young people make, it is essential that Government, schools and businesses take action to plug future skills gaps and change the perceptions of those who might potentially be attracted towards careers in the automotive industry, and in engineering more widely.”
> School are like government training schemes – you might get a nice certificate, but it does not prepare you for the world of work. But why blame the schools, it’s not their role to provide factory fodder, surely ?
Once again we seem to be rushing to put all the eggs in one basket – mining, shipbuilding, call centres, automotive … in a year or two the same claims will be made again about the next transient industry, and all the unemployed automotive workers will be told they dont have the right skills and so must retrain…and so on ad infinitum.
According to the Newcastle Journal (04 Oct 2013), “the Conservatives have said their mission for the North will see them elected in Newcastle – but only within 20 years.”
Well, there’s nothing like optimism, I suppose. It could happen, though probably only after a few changes to the electoral system, such as removing the vote from the unemployed (far-fetched ? Maybe – but its an idea that’s been floated on right-wing blogs, and the Eton mafia do seem partial to anything that helps keep the poor poor).
Certainly Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman seems to think its a vision to believe in. Speaking at an event organized by think tank IPPR North, he claimed that “I had the joy of being what the call the candidate’s friend in the South Shields by-election – not a place you would think of as naturally ours. But on the doorstep, when you explain what we stand for, people say yes, I like those policies, when you tell them you want welfare capped or immigration down they like that and say that’s what they’d vote for.”
One can only wonder which parts of South Shields he did his doorstepping in. Certainly not the bits where the many people reliant on welfare live !
He continued – “But when you say, oh and I’m from the Conservatives, they punch you in the face and say ‘cap that, you bastard !’”
Sorry – wishful thinking there…
He continued – “But when you say, oh and I’m from the Conservatives, they say no, I could never vote for them. That’s the job ahead of us. That shows we need to be saying more about what we are doing, because the voter likes it.”
Sadly, some voters do like it, though inevitably not those actually being poked by the sharp end of the Tory stick. I’ve certainly come across plenty of (mainly) senior citizens who proclaim ‘I’ve voted Labour all my life,’ while espousing views somewhere to the right of the late, unlamented Thatcher.
They did alright in the relatively good times and with the support of the welfare state, but they’re damned sure no-one else is going to. Sadly for Opperman, they’re probably more likely to vote UKIP.
One thing I can’t quite get my head around – Opperman is on the one hand a supporter of the Living Wage, yet on the other hand appears to be supporting the Tory line that unemployment is the fault of the unemployed and they must be made to suffer.
Anyone existing on the basic Jobseekers Allowance of 71.70 a week, might like to consider the fact that Mr Opperman is a barrister who, not counting his MP salary and related perks, undertakes private work at rates of pay between 100.00 and 250.00 pounds per hour.
(source – http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24962/guy_opperman/hexham)
Now that’s what I call a living wage !