Poverty, Inequality and Social Justice

The issues involved in poverty, inequality and social justice are many and varied, from basic access to education and healthcare, to the financial crisis and resulting austerity, and now COVID-19. Addressing Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities and Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, our list both presents research on these topics and tackles emerging problems. A key series in the area is the SSSP Agendas for Social Justice.

This focus has always been at the heart of our publishing with the view to making the research in this area as visible and accessible as possible in order to maximise its potential impact.

Bristol University Press and Policy Press are signed up to the UN SDG Publishers Compact. In Poverty, inequality and social justice, we aim to address the following goals: 

Poverty, Inequality and Social Justice

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Background:

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa and across the globe posed special challenges and implications for low-income families with children. In this study we explored the experiences of primary caregivers of children receiving a South African social assistance programme, the Child Support Grant (CSG), during lockdown in Cape Town, South Africa, and sought to understand whether and to what extent the underlying logic of cash transfers such as the CSG speaks to the pitfalls of the social protection paradigm and the potential for moving closer to a transformative social policy approach.

Methods:

We conducted 26 telephonic qualitative interviews with primary caregivers of recipients of South Africa’s CSG that were part of a longitudinal cohort study assessing the impact of the CSG on child nutritional status and food security.

Results:

Even though primary caregivers of the CSG and their children and households were already living in precarity before the pandemic, COVID-19, and particularly the hard lockdown, worsened their social, economic and living conditions, especially as regards hunger and food insecurity.

Conclusion:

Low-income women bore the brunt of the pandemic in their roles as mothers, providers and homemakers. The pandemic has highlighted the inadequacies of the social protection paradigm that underlies the design of cash transfers such as the CSG, which has a narrowed focus on chronic poverty and vulnerability. It has also highlighted opportunities to shift to a transformative social policy framework that incorporates production, redistribution, social cohesion, adequacy and protection.

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The Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) model is currently being employed in Uganda for deepening financial inclusion and poverty reduction. Despite its focus on women’s empowerment, concerns have arisen of an under-representation of women on VSLA leadership committees. Human rights-based, economic, and social justice arguments support active participation of women on VSLA leadership committees. The study sought to identify, explicate and characterise the barriers and facilitators to women in VSLA leadership. An exploratory study design using qualitative methods was selected to address the research objectives. Forty-nine focus group discussions were undertaken, featuring both VSLA members and non-members. VSLAs for inclusion in the study were randomly selected from within four regions of Uganda, stratified by: mature (>2 years old) versus new (<2 years old). The study exposed a diverse array of barriers and facilitators to women in VSLA leadership positions, revealing the influence of individual, material, institutional and social factors, in addition to social norms and gender characteristics, on women in VSLA leadership. The findings revealed that the design of interventions to achieve fair representation of women in leadership positions should be informed by an understanding of the different types, relative strengths, support for/against, and intersectionality of the factors impacting women in VSLA leadership.

Open access
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This commentary discusses the ways in which the welfare system has responded to the financial and housing needs of Ukrainian citizens coming to the UK since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. The focus is on two key areas of policy: social security and housing. The article considers the revised eligibility criteria for welfare benefits and two policies which can provide accommodation: the Ukraine Family Scheme, which allows applicants to join family members in the UK, and the Ukrainian Sponsorship Scheme (known as ‘Homes for Ukraine’) which allows Ukrainian nationals to come to the UK if they have a sponsor who can provide accommodation for at least six months. It provides a comparison of the provision for Ukrainian refugees and the standard asylum system in the UK.

This article concludes that although the UK government quickly introduced emergency provisions for newly arrived Ukrainians which go beyond the scope of support for many other groups moving to the UK, significant areas of concern are evident, with risks that these will increase in future months and years. These concerns centre on discrepancies between the two policies which provide accommodation, risk of exploitation, homelessness caused by the breakdown in provision, and complexity in the welfare benefit system.

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COVID-19 and Regional Inequalities in Health and Wealth

EPDF and EPUB available Open Access under CC-BY-NC-ND licence.

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic affected all parts of the country, it did not do so equally. Northern England was hit the hardest, exposing more than ever the extent of regional inequalities in health and wealth.

Using original data analysis from a wide range of sources, this book demonstrates how COVID-19 has impacted the country unequally in terms of mortality, mental health and the economy.

The book provides a striking empirical overview of the impact of the pandemic on regional inequalities and explores why the North fared worse.

It sets out what needs to be learnt from the pandemic to prevent regional inequality growing and to reduce inequalities in health and wealth in the future.

Open access

The study analyses the household food security situation in Libokemkem woreda of the Amhara region in Ethiopia using 285 randomly selected sample households. The Household Calorie Acquisition (HCA) is used to measure the diet quantity aspect of food insecurity, and 225 kg/year/AE is used as a food security threshold. The Household Diet Diversity Score (HHDDS) is used to measure the diet quality aspect of food insecurity, and consuming four food groups is used as a food security line. Approximately 83 per cent of the total households achieved minimum food security status in terms of diet quantity, and 64 per cent were food secure in terms of diet quality. Determinants of food security in terms of diet quantity and quality were analysed using Tobit and logit regression models, respectively. Sex, family size, farm size, number of oxen, expenditure on agricultural technology, agroecology zone and distance from market centre are statistically significant determinants of food security in terms of diet quantity. On the other hand, sex, education status, off-farming activities, livestock ownership and agroecology zone are statistically significant determinants of food security in terms of diet quality or diversity. The study suggested the urgency of human capital development, increasing the production and productivity of major cereal crops, and promoting labour-intensive rural employment opportunities to break the vicious circle of poverty and food insecurity. It also suggested the promotion of soil and water conservation, livestock rearing and the use of organic fertiliser in highland areas, while mechanised farming for major crops such as rice, onion, chickpea, tomato and garlic is recommended for midland areas.

Open access

This work adopts different approaches to analyse situations of poverty and extreme poverty in Spain during the last decade, considering different monetary thresholds, measures of severe material deprivation and the combination of both. The determining factors of these situations and the patterns that act as a link between extreme poverty and homelessness are also examined. The results of the study show that for the most restrictive thresholds of 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the median equivalised disposable income the smallest variations during the series are observed, confirming that situations of such deep poverty are not influenced by the cycle since they do not respond to economic stimuli. The determinants of extreme poverty suggest that public policies should be target towards high-risk groups, such as single person households, households with children, younger individuals, individuals with a low educational attainment, and of foreign nationality. Finally, an interesting result is that the profile of individuals in situations of consistent poverty have the greatest similarities to the group of people experiencing homelessness.

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The benefit cap and the two-child limit were both introduced with the aim of promoting fairness. However, women are disproportionately affected by both of these polices. This article presents new empirical evidence that demonstrates the gendered impacts of the benefit cap and the two-child limit on mothers. It shows that the benefit cap and the two-child limit ignore the gendered reasons for women’s disproportionate subjection to the policies, devalue unpaid care, fail to recognise gendered barriers to paid work and ultimately, harm women in a wide range of ways, particularly by further entrenching them in poverty.

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‘Destitution’ has re-entered the lexicon of UK social policy in the 2010s, highlighted by the rapid growth of food banks and rough sleeping in a context of controversial welfare reforms and austerity policies, yet theoretical literature on this remains limited. Specialist surveys have been developed to measure and profile these phenomena, but these remain separate from the mainstream statistical approach to poverty, which relies heavily on large-scale household surveys. Evidence from recent work in this area, including qualitative evidence, is very suggestive of risk and driving factors, but it is difficult to weigh the relative importance of different factors or to predict the effects of policy measures. A composite survey approach is developed, linking a specialised survey targeting households at risk of destitution with a major national household panel dataset, to enable predictive models to be fitted to data including significant representation of hard-to-reach and non-household populations. Models predicting destitution and food bank usage are developed and compared, highlighting the roles of key factors. Vignettes are used to show how the risks vary dramatically between households in different situations. The potential role of such models in micro-simulation or prediction of impacts of different scenarios is discussed.

Open access