Starving British children are looking for food in rubbish bins [#quickhit: link]

British children are sifting through bins left outside houses in search of scraps of food because they are starving, it has been revealed.

But Tories and their supporters in rich London won’t have to look at them – because they are in Labour-held Stoke-on-Trent.

The Stoke Sentinel reported that “Youngsters have been searching through bins in the Hollings Street and Brocksford Street area of Fenton before eating any leftovers.”

It said, “Dozens of hungry families are referred to Fenton’s food bank for help every week.”

What’s really sad about this story is that some of the people interviewed seemed to think the problem was with the mess left behind by these children – youngsters who are, remember, so hungry that they are rooting through rubbish for stale leftovers.

One said: “It’s horrible to see… Some days on the school run we have had to actually cross over the road because there’s so much rubbish on the pavement because of this. Luckily I keep my bins to one side so we haven’t been too badly affected.”

On Vox Political.

Jesus H.

“Class distinctions do not die; they merely learn new ways of expressing themselves.” This is as true now as it was 25 years ago, and 25 years before that. “Each decade,” he continued, “we shiftily declare we have buried class; each decade the coffin stays empty.” Compare this with “We’re all middle class now” except we’re not; or “Playing by the rules” which are made by, and change at the whims of, the most privileged; or “We’re all in this together” unless you’re a scrounger.

From Richard Hoggart’s introduction to introduction to George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier.

On The Guardian.

A lack of mothers in the cabinet is bad for everyone – not just lefty feminists

In the tumultuous few days after Maria Miller had delivered her grudging apology to the House of Commons and before she realised she had no option but to resign as culture secretary, a number of people opined that Cameron was hanging on to her “because she was a woman”. Nonsense. He may have been hanging on to her because he was a man who was painfully aware that he did not have many women in his cabinet. But that’s quite a different point, in an important way.

“Because she is a woman” implies that it’s easy for women to get on in politics, simply by virtue of their gender. Such an idea is backed up neither by the entire history of parliamentary politics in Britain, which has been shaped by men, for men, nor by the current gender balance in the Commons, which stands at nearly four to one (in favour of men, in case you were wondering). Under these historical and contemporary circumstances, women can only succeed in parliamentary politics if men agree that it is important for them to be allowed to. Saying that Cameron supported Miller “because she was a woman” is a destructive way of acknowledging that Cameron realises that this is the case.

On The Guardian.

The working classes don’t want to be ‘hard-working families’

Do any of us really identify ourselves as members of “hard-working families”? As a rhetorical label used by Labour politicians, it is not winning votes, as critics have pointed out. In a country where 70% of us still identify as working class, most people would agree with Len McCluskey that “ordinary, working class” is a better description of the majority of voters.

“Hard-working families” implies we’re only entitled to citizenship (or, as the Tories would have it, the odd game of bingo) if we can prove we’re working our fingers to the bone. But no one can work all the time: if you’re a pensioner, a single parent, sick, or there is no work to be had, then you’re in trouble. And most of us know this, because we’re related to them. Sit my extended family around a table and you’d have white- and blue-collar workers, the sick, the old, people in council housing, and families with two cars and a nice house but large debts to pay for them. This is replicated all over Britain. There is no static “underclass” and neither is there a robust middle class: instead, there are a lot of people who have to work for a living and, because of that fact, choose to identify as working class.

There’s another reason why the appeal to “hard-working families” is an empty abstraction. Most people don’t see hard work as a virtue. They identify as working class because they have to work, not because they want to. Two recurring conversations within my family and among the people I spoke to for my book The People are what they’d do if they won the lottery, and how they can afford to spend less time at work and more with those they love. This is a sensible attitude. Hard work causes stress, poor health and early death. And hard work has never solved poverty. We work longer hours now than we’ve done for 50 years, yet the gap between the rich and poor has never been wider.

On the Guardian.

Britain is going backwards on violence against women

On the Guardian:


Women who have been abused, who have lived in a refuge, often have to leave with nothing,” says the charity’s chief executive Naomi Ridley. They are already demoralised and lack self-esteem; their abusive partner may tell them they will have no financial security if they leave. Women who have children particularly fear walking out and ending up in a home with no amenities. On average, it takes seven attempts for a woman to leave an abusive relationship, and financial worry is one reason it can be so difficult. But, through the support scheme, Ridley’s charity can give women independence. One woman with two children fled an abusive relationship and, after getting in touch, was given bedding, a cooker and a fridge so that she could provide meals for her family.

Next year, this £347m local welfare assistance fund will be scrapped. If councils wish to maintain these services, it will have to come out of their core grants – but given the continuing cuts to local authorities, the money will simply not be there. And if you think it is just the left in uproar, think again – even many of the government’s own supporters are appalled. The Conservative head of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell, has said that the fund provides “crucial support to people facing personal crises in their lives, from help paying the rent to putting food on the table”, describing the move as “extremely disappointing”. Conservative-run West Sussex county council calls it a “cut too far”. But the government is counting on the victims being too silent – or ignored – for anybody to notice.

The scale of domestic violence in this country is frightening. The national charity Women’s Aid estimates that 1.2 million women experienced it last year, and that one in four women will suffer it in their lifetime. Up to two women are killed by a current or ex-partner each week, and though most incidents are not reported, police receive a domestic violence-related phone call every 30 seconds. Violence against women is a pandemic, and needs to be treated as such. But the impending scrapping of the local welfare assistance fund comes on top of other attacks on women facing domestic violence. [Rest.]

“Under the ideology of austerity women are facing what is termed by the Fawcett society

Under the ideology of austerity women are facing what is termed by the Fawcett society as ‘Triple Jeopardy’. That is: cuts to vital frontline services, job cuts in the public sector where two-thirds of jobs are held by women and benefit cuts. Under the current government maternity and paternity pay, which of course is largely taken by women, will be frozen from 2015 for five years which means a huge cut in real terms.1 The gender pay gap, already 19.6% among all workers or £5000 a year on average, increased this year for the first time in five years. Additionally 62% of legal aid recipients are women and forthcoming cuts mean that 361,200 women will lose access to legal aid. Violence against Women services which include centres for the victims of sexual and domestic abuse were cut 31% between 2010 and 2012.4 The effect of these cuts are particularly pronounced where race intersects with gender. A report by academics at the University of Warwick estimates that unemployment amongst Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women has risen in Coventry by 74.4% compared to 30.5% among white women between 2009 and 2013. To anybody who believes these “savings” to be a necessity I would point out that George Osbourne still manages to find enough money in the budget to grant a £3 billion annual tax break to the oil and gas industry.

Austerity is a Feminist Issue (belle-jar)

2013 is supposed to have been an amazing year for feminism. The increasing coverage of feminist concerns in mainstream media and the activism of campaigns like Everyday Sexism, No More Page 3 and the furore around getting Jane Austen onto £10 notes has been a welcome reminder both of how much support the feminist movement enjoys and of how much more work there is to do. Yet so many of the campaigns and controversies debated this year relating to feminism have been obsessed with image, representation and appearance. Transfixed by its own reflection, the media and many feminists within it seem to believe that Page 3 and Miley Cyrus’ twerking represent the most pressing obstacles to equality for women.

Although the objectification of women in visual culture is worth fighting against, what these images show is merely a mirror of women’s unequal position within our society. Women do not occupy many positions of power, women are under-represented in parliament, and women are paid less than men for the same jobs. Undervalued economically, side-lined politically and belittled socially it is little wonder that many men can’t see what harm there is in having a semi-naked near-teen in a national newspaper. Society’s not giving the message women are good for much else.

Part of the complacency that seems to characterise feminist apathy towards campaigning on political and economic issues seems to be grounded in one of the most pernicious myths of neoliberalism, namely that society is always progressing and improving. This fallacious belief that the gender pay gap will close itself, that women will gradually be more and more represented in positions of power and that, as we become more tolerant and open, domestic and sexual violence will fade away is incredibly dangerous. Austerity, and here I mean the ideology of permanent austerity that David Cameron pontificated about from his gold throne poses the greatest threat to feminism of our generation. With £41 billion of cuts to public services and welfare planned in spite of growing GDP, it is clear now more than ever that austerity and the permanent reduction of the state is a political belief and not the necessity Cameron originally claimed. [Rest.]

No wonder women MPs are leaving the Tory benches

Ed Miliband certainly won prime minister’s questions today by focusing on the Tories’ ‘women problem’. It is the political equivalent of kicking the Tories in the crotch – much worse for men than for women.

David Cameron tried his old trick of reeling off statistics to refute the accusation, but he couldn’t escape the reality that was before him. As Miliband pointed out ‘a picture tells 1,000 words.’ And this time it did: the government front bench was stuffed with serried rows of suits with not a single woman to be seen.

‘I guess they didn’t let women into the Bullingdon Club,’ said Miliband with glee. And he had his own statistic – ‘In his cabinet there are as many men who went to Eton and Westminster as there are women.’

Women were remarkably absent on all the Tory benches today. One in 10 Tory women MPs are standing down at the next election – and as there are only 48 of them that’s quite a lot. Many of the others are fed up, so fed up indeed that the Tory whips couldn’t even rustle up one of them to speak and it was left to Jessica Lee, elected for Erewash in 2010 and who is standing down for personal reasons, to put a question to Cameron on apprenticeships. [Rest.]

No wonder women MPs are leaving the Tory benches

Older women rally to save the NHS in the northwest

On the feministtimes:

“The NHS is one of the best things about this country and this government is going to ruin it,” says Sue Richardson, one of a growing number of women who have become active in campaigns to oppose the privatisation of the NHS. In her 60s and a publisher of local history pamphlets, she reflects the new intake into one of the most vibrant political campaign in this country, Keep Our National Health Service Public (KONP).

KONP was started in 2005 by Jacky Davis, radiologist, and John Lister of Health Emergency together with other health professionals to oppose the Labour government’s introduction of the private sector into the NHS. The umbrella organisation has over the last year galvanised opposition to the coalition government’s Health and Social Care Act 2013 which, Davis says: “has aggressively pushed privatisation and dismemberment of the service.”

Richardson lives in a village outside Bolton in Greater Manchester and decided to join KONP when her local hospital A&E was threatened with closure: “Both my late mother-in-law and husband were treated there and I was really suspicious about the bad publicity that came out about the hospital just before they announced the closure of the A&E.” Over the last year she has petitioned, attended meetings and demonstrations and become an active member of her local group. [Rest.]

MPs who voted for bedroom tax claim up to £25,000/ year accommodation

Here, imagine that (guardian):

It turns out that the same MPs who voted for the bedroom tax quite like claiming up to £25,000 a year for their accommodation expenses. Hypocrisy? In politics? Knock me down with a feather.

Scrutiny of data provided by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority shows that 177 Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have amassed claims of up to £25,000 each for accommodation – a staggering £3.2m between them in 2012-13. [Rest.]

“Porn is only damaging when it’s not Murdoch’s porn…

Caroline on the money (pun intended) as always (weekwoman):

But Cameron, what about the corroded childhood of the girl who walked down the corridor at school while boys rated her and her friends out of 10, while holding up page 3? What about the corroded childhood of young girls who grow up in a world where clothed men do things and naked women are things? What about the corroded life of the woman who was raped while a man told her she was beautiful and should be on page 3? What about them Cameron? Don’t they matter?

Put briefly, no they don’t. It doesn’t matter that young girls grow up in a world where the most widely circulated newspaper advocates a racist conception of beauty. It doesn’t matter that young girls grow up in a world where the “get your tits out” chanting starts as young as eleven – and who knows, maybe younger. It doesn’t matter that young girls grow up in a world where on the day Jessica Ennis won a sodding gold medal for her country, the largest image of a woman in The Sun was of a woman with her boobs out, pictured for the gratification of men, with a snarky little box next to her mocking her ability to think for herself.

None of this matters, because Rupert Murdoch says it doesn’t matter. And what Rupert Murdoch says goes in this so-called democracy.

- Caroline Criado-Perez, weekwoman

Dpt. Business, Innovation and Skills blew its budget, and now the entire higher education sector will have to pay

Wonderful to wake up to this on a Saturday morning when you have a full weekend of higher-education related work ahead of you.

If this wasn’t so potentially catastrophic, it would be hilarious, right? No? Anyone? Of course, no one saw this coming (the deficit that could accrue from student loans). No, everyone in the business that thought that idea was golden. (Do I need the #sarcasm hashtag there? Probably not.)

From commentisfree:

No one is going to be happy with the news coming out of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Not students, not private higher education providers, not researchers, not the thinktanks, and certainly not the Russell group of 24 elite UK universities, which have previously been inured from the more deleterious effects of the higher education reforms introduced by the coalition government.

The news that the department has spectacularly mismanaged its budget affects everyone in the sector. BIS must locate emergency savings of £570m in 2014-15 – the next financial year – and £860m the year after (from an operational budget of £13bn). Research, funding for undergraduate study and student support budgets are expected to take most of the hit in the second year to make up for the fact that ministers allowed undergraduate recruitment at private providers and established universities to run out of control – meaning government expenditure on student loans has been far higher than expected.

On Monday, we learned that the department had written to more than 20 private providers begging them to halt current recruitment to lower level higher education qualifications. Universities and colleges are also implicated after numbers controls were relaxed for the most recent undergraduate application cycle. With enrolments buoyant the knock-on funding impact will now be felt in the current recruitment cycle and beyond. The Higher Education Funding Council for England – responsible for funding established universities – should now anticipate a further £50m cut in 2014-15.

The planned abolition of the National Studentship Programme is to be brought forward a year in order to save £75m – pending the approval of the deputy prime minister, as this programme was one of the policies that carried him and most of his MPs into the 2010 vote for higher tuition feesalongside the Conservatives). [Rest: commentisfree]

Households with lone breadwinner are biggest group living in poverty in UK

Oh, the tories. What have you done.

Households with a lone breadwinner, traditionally consisting of a working man and a stay-at-home mother, are the biggest group living in povertyin Britain – according to new research.

The work, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, shows that a third of the 1.3 million families with children living in poverty are “single breadwinner couple families”. There are half that number of two-earner families living in poverty.

While the traditional model of families has long been in decline as many more women have moved into the workforce, they represent a key electoral constituency with around a quarter of couples with children having only one earner in 2012, equivalent to around 1.6 million families.

The JRF’s work shows that the risk of poverty is much higher for children in couple families where only one parent works. In 2011/12, around 20% of children living in sole-earner couple families in Britain fell below the poverty line – compared with 4% where both parents worked full-time.

The foundation argues for a mix of measures to support parents who want to share work and childcare, rather than pursue the traditional single breadwinner model – centred around increasing parental leave, making childcare affordable and not sharply reducing benefits if the non-working partner gets a job. [Rest.]


How to make recidivism and costs rise? Privatise probation

This is yet another example of the haemorrhaging of public money into private hands, and the first step in opposing it is to notice – resolutely notice – that it is happening.

- Zoe Williams, commentisfree

First they launched a consultation for the outsourcing of probation services. That happened in January and finished in February. This is commonly agreed to be not really long enough to solicit the views of the experts in the field – but if you have already determined not to listen to them then it is plenty long enough.

The word “consultation” has that deadening thud of the political euphemism. The probation service is doing a good job, or – to give it its technical name – a “good to exceptional” one; the most recent figures showed reoffending down by 5%. The National Offender Management Service rated every single one of the nation’s 35 probation services to be either good or exceptional.

The government proposes to tear up all that expertise and track record, and hand the contracts over to companies such as Serco, G4S and A4e. The two largest names in this corporate cohort are currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. Whatever the outcome of the inquiry, as far as the massive waste of money that is the tagging fiasco goes, nobody is bandying about words like “good” or “exceptional”.


Today in stating the bleeding obvious: the government risks making university education the preserve of a rich elite

Yes, absolutely no one saw this coming. At no point did anyone ever say that it was clearly the intention of the tories to make higher education the preserve of the elite again. No one.

The former Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins recently told Cherwell, the Oxford university newspaper, that if she were an admissions tutor for the university she wouldn’t “want a Tyrone in her tutor group” when she could have a “Cecil”. In a brilliant retort, a young student called Tyrone wrote an open letter to her pointing out that while he was the only Tyrone in Oxford, there were no “Cecils” at all.

Of course the wider point is still true – despite years of progress, there are still too few pupils from comprehensive state schools and low income backgrounds that get into our top universities. Labour made efforts to address this in government – the proportion of 18 year olds from the bottom socio-economic groups going to university increased during our time in office. Although more still needed to be done, the gap was narrowing. This government risks making it wider.

Link: NewStatesman.

On Cameron’s plans to ban rape porn

Below is some worthwhile commentary on Cameron’s proposal on banning rape porn (excerpts are posted and there is more on all of the links). Headlines: the proposals are naive, potentially very cynical, and largely unworkable.

Don’t ban ‘rape porn’ – introduce more porn with negotiation and boundary-setting (independent).

As a feminist, I am against rape, against abuse of children, and wholeheartedly in favour of grinding the culture which allows these things to happen into dust. That’s why I’m against David Cameron’s latest proposals for increased filtering of the internet, blocking search terms and banning porn depicting simulated rape.

Taken as a whole, the plans are technologically unworkable and politically dubious; with content blocking possibly leading to decreased access to support for survivors of abuse while allowing the state a frightening level of control over internet freedom. An integral feature to nostalgia, along with Spangles and white dog poo, is the cultural memory of the Porn Fairy, the mythical beast who leaves jazz mags lying around for any young lad to peruse: blocking content would do little to stop children from looking at porn.

However, little of this broader critique of Cameron’s proposals covers my reservations about banning “rape porn”. The general rationale of a ban is rooted in social psychology from the early 1960s: Albert Bandura’s the iconic “Bobo Doll” experiments, where children watched an adult act aggressively towards a doll, and then, when offered the opportunity to play with the doll, they repeated the behaviour they had seen modelled. Therefore, it follows, if someone watches violent behaviour in porn, they will act in a more violent manner sexually. However, actual evidence of cultural harm caused by rape porn is very weak. [Rest.]

Why I support criminalising pornographic depictions of rape (closetheloophole):

I’m writing this in response  to the confusion and misinformation  circulating about the campaign from Rape Crisis South London, supported by the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Law Professors from Durham University including Professor Clare McGlynn and Professor Erika Rackley, Rape Crisis (England and Wales) Women’s Aid and many other individuals and organisations to amend existing Extreme Pornography legislation in England and Wales to include images of rape.

To begin I want to say thank you to everyone who has expressed their support and to the women and men who were unsure about the campaign and contacted either myself or other campaign supporters for more information, one of whom suggested I write this public response. I’m doing so not in the hope of getting everyone on board, I understand and oddly support dissent within feminisms (I think as long as its respectful, it makes us interesting), but rather to make clear what the campaign is and is not about. I also want to locate myself within what I am about to say. These are my thoughts and my words and may not be representative of Rape Crisis South London or our campaign supporters. [Rest.]

Porn is only damaging when it’s not Murdoch’s porn (weekwoman):

Today our esteemed PM, the right honourable David Cameron, announced that from henceforth, ISPs will have to block all online pornography – and consumers will have to take practical steps to exercise their inalienable right to watch other people fuck, by “opting-in”. And up and down the land, the feminists they cheered, yea, they anointed Cameron with balm and placed a crown of roses upon his shiny, red face. For Cameron had revealed himself as a champion of women, and protector of the innocence of children.

Except, not so much.

You see, beyond the fact that far wiser heads than I have expressed grave doubts about the efficacy of the plans, Cameron is only concerned about “corroding childhood” when it suits him – or to be precise, when it doesn’t bother Rupert Murdoch. [Rest.]

Three concerns about Cameron’s porn plans (ontoberlin).

The announcement today that the government is to take action on a number of issues surrounding pornography have, predictably, caused an enormous backlash. The news that internet providers will block UK households from accessing pornography (introducing an “opt-in” system), that possessing pornography that depicts rape will become a criminal offence in England and Wales (as is currently the case for that depicting bestiality, necrophilia, and life-threatening injury), and that search engines will return no results for certain terms associated with pornography depicting the abuse of children, has prompted more discussion about censorship, free speech, and morality.

I started my life as a feminist speaking out against porn. Very quickly, I found out that people don’t like it when you do that. I know a lot more now than I did then, and those debates might pan out differently. It’s actually something I don’t write about much now, because it often prompts so much anger from both sides of the debate and that’s more than I can be bothered to get involved in. What I’ve seen today, however, is a lot of really great discussion and engagement between people holding a variety of opinions – and that’s quite heartening. That’s not to say that I haven’t found some of the backlash against the government’s plans unpleasant and some opinions from both sides dismissive of the concerns of all involved. But considering that my last blog post was actually quite down on the state of internet feminism, it could have been worse.

Many people have highlighted many valid concerns about today’s announcement. I want to write about three of mine. [Rest.]

Yes, porn can be vile and degrading but an authoritarian crackdown won’t work (CommentisFree).

“What did you do in the war, Mummy?” my children ask me. I assume they are referring to the great feminist “sex wars of the 80s”. What else could they mean?

Well, in the great kerfuffle that we had at the time, one in which hardly any mainstream media were interested and that certainly involved no male politicians, I was on the side of sex, of pornography and of freedom.

Having passed through radical feminism, an always necessary phase, I still revere the work of Andrea Dworkin: “Pornography incarnates male supremacy. It is in the DNA of male dominance.” We had been fully against the objectification of women and the passivity of the “porn stars”, and in those days you could still see pubic hair and unsiliconed breasts. It didn’t do much for me so I started watching gay porn as it was the only place I could see the male body sexualised.

All this of course was pre-internet, but there was a division between what were called “sex-positive” and “sex-negative” feminists. Both these terms are pretty dumb. No one was against sex per se but certainly against the commodification and trading of the bodies of women and children. Pornography was and still is seen as the legitimised pathway to all abuse, incest and rape, an obvious symptom of a culture that hates women. [Rest.]

It’s page three, not online porn, that is the real threat to young women’s health and happiness (newstatesman).

David Cameron is confused about pornography. The coalition government has just moved to impose mandatory filtering on the distribution of online smut, putting measures in place to ban certain search terms and impose an “opt-in” filter on explicit content. When challenged, however, about page three of the Sun – the topless softcore wank-matter that’s still distributed daily in Britain’s most-read newspaper – the Prime Minister was loath to support a ban. “On this one,” he argued, “I think it’s probably better to leave it to the consumer rather than regulate.”

This may or may not have anything to do with Cameron’s career-defining hesitancy to challenge Rupert Murdoch under any circumstances. Yet the fact remains that, according to the Conservatives, boobs on the internet are “toxic” for children, but soft porn all over the paper, where little boys and girls can easily find it and see their parents reading it, is just fine.

Page three has never just been about page three. Rather, it is a litmus test for whether or not one supports the objectification of young women as part of the cultural discourse – and what you think should be done about it. For some campaigners, page three is a symbol of everything wrong with our “sexualised” society; others are prepared to go to rather extreme lengths to defend an institution they claim is “traditional”, which means “archaic and sexist”, and “just a bit of fun”, which means “fun for men at women’s expense”.

I am not of the school of feminism which believes that the answer to the ubiquity of sexist imagery is to slap bans on everything we don’t like. I do not support David Cameron’s porn ban. I believe that it is extremely difficult to achieve radical ends by conservative means, and that censorship is invariably conservative. I also believe that giving this government, or any government, the power to monitor and control how we use the internet is a very risky proposition – because we’ve already seen, in the past few months, how such powers can be abused. I do, however, support the campaign against topless models on page three, and there are specific reasons why. [Rest.]

And, related to my previous post on twitter abuse and how it is addressed, here is an example of what happens when internet crack-downs go wrong (it’s a different context but there are lessons to be learned): Tumblr cracks down on porn – and censors the #gay, #lesbian and #bisexual tags (newstatesman):

While Cameron announces that he’ll be forcing all of Britain to make slightly awkward phone calls to their ISPs in order to be allowed to see all of the internet, Tumblr is providing a salient demonstration of some of the problems that can come with attempting to block porn.

The company, which was bought by Yahoo! in May this year, has announced a crack-down on explicit material being hosted on its service. The changes, which come despite Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s promise to “let Tumblr be Tumblr“, affect the search functionality on the site.

Initially, it looked like the site had made “adult” blogs (full-blown porn, compared to the lesser “NSFW” category, which denotes soft-porn) all but invisible. Blogs which are flagged as NSFW will no longer appear in search for logged-out users or users on mobile devices who don’t follow that blog. On logged-in computers, they will show up to users who aren’t browsing in safe mode, which is enabled by default for new accounts. Blogs flagged as “adult”, however, were completely removed from internal search and external.

That would have meant that the only way to find an adult Tumblr was to actually know the URL of it, or have it reblogged onto your dashboard. That’s a major change, not only because Tumblr has a lot of porn sites which use it for hosting, but also because the site has the sort of “alternative” userbase which sees sharing explicit images as just another way to express themselves. As a result, a lot of personal pages end up with NSFW or adult flags. Those pages remain censored by Tumblr, and users will just have to change their behaviour or deal with it. [Rest.]

What does the Spending Review mean for women?

Chancellor George Osborne this week announced government spending plans for 2015-16. Plans included:

- A 10 per cent cut to the Department for Communities and Local Government budget; this means councils – already struggling with reduced budgets – will likely cut more of their services. Those that are not ‘ring fenced’ will be worse affected – this includes Sure Start Children’s Centres and support services for victims of sexual and domestic violence;

- A further 144 000 public sector job losses – women make up the bulk of the public sector workforce so are disproportionately affected by cuts to this sector; more job losses will likely increase the already 25 year high in women’s unemployment;

- A new ‘cap’ on welfare spending – this will necessarily hit women harder as welfare payments typically make up around fifth – so 20 per cent – of average women’s incomes, as opposed to a tenth of men’s;

- New investment in infrastructure projects – while this is welcome, we are concerned the government is focussing largely on those industries where men dominate the workforce; more must be done to support women into these fields. Our research has shown that of the ‘new’ jobs created in the private sector in recent years, 2 in 3 of them have gone to men – despite the record number of women out of work.

More on the Fawcett Society.

Half a million Britons using food banks

Never here, they said. On commentisfree:

Let no one say we didn’t see it coming. Half a million people are now accustomed to using food banks, and according to a report by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty, the UK is now facing “destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale”. Whether this news will achieve the impact it deserves is currently unclear: it doesn’t quite feel like it, which only underlines how inured the media seems to have become to rising poverty, and how easily the government seems to be getting off the hook. Yet the facts are obvious enough: “Food aid” is something firmly built into our national life, the supposed safety net of social security is getting more threadbare by the month – and the question demands to be asked, not for reasons of melodrama, but hard political fact: what kind of country is Britain becoming?

According the Trussell Trust, the UK’s single biggest organiser of food banks, in 2011-12, the number of people who received at least three days’ emergency food was around 130,000. Their own informational material says that in 2012-13, “food banks fed 346,992 people nationwide”, and of those who received help, “126,889 were children”. Now comes this latest report, and the skyrocketing numbers speak for themselves – as does the mess of factors behind them, and the responsibility of the coalition for pushing up the demand – no, need – for food banks so drastically. While we’re here, it may also be worth cutting through the kind of officialspeak used to deal with such things: even the term “food bank” occasionally seems designed to obscure what’s actually afoot, which is simple enough. So, let’s not mess about: a skyrocketing number of people simply cannot afford to eat, and they have been put in that predicament thanks to deliberate government policy. [Rest.]

UK: Cameron’s reshuffle will be a reshuffle for women. Pensions minister attacks Labour plans for women’s pension plan.

Good links, as always, from the UK Women and Politics Specialist Group.


Child poverty costs UK £29 billion a year (research)


The high levels of child poverty in the UK are currently costing the country at least £29 billion a year – or £1,098 per household – according to new research released today by Donald Hirsch of Loughborough University (updating his 2008 study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation).

The estimate includes the costs of policy interventions required in childhood to correct for the effects of poverty, as well as the longer term losses to the economy which result from poor children’s reduced productivity, lower educational attainment and poorer physical and mental health.

The research, conducted by Donald Hirsch, Director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, estimates the current cost of child poverty to be £29 billion a year. The drivers of the costs are:

  • £15 billion spent on services to deal with consequences of child poverty (e.g. social services, criminal justice, extra educational support)
  • £3½ billion lost in tax receipts from people earning less as a result of leaving school with low skills, which is linked to having grown up in poverty
  • £2 billion spent on benefits for people spending more time out of work as a result of having grown up in poverty
  • £8½ billion lost to individuals in net earnings (after paying tax)

The research also shows that if child poverty rises by a quarter from its current level, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies has recently projected may happen by 2020 as a direct result of the government tax and benefit decisions, the cost to the country would increase to at least £35 billion every year. [Rest.]