Isn’t It Time We Made Homes Fit For Human Habitation? By Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland

The second reading of Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill is on January 19th 2018.

We can hardly believe that, in the 6th richest country in the world, in 2018 it is necessary for such a bill to be raised.  

It is astonishing that such a protection is not already in existence for tenants. Tenants have no avenue for redress or means of compelling landlords to make repairs or even secure the safety of the property.

The Bill would empower tenants by giving them the right to take their landlord to court if they fail to take action to resolve a problem.

There are currently around one million rented homes with hazards that pose a serious risk to health and safety. This affects over 2.5 million people.

You might think that this lapse in the law is an oversight that just needs to be rectified. But you would be mistaken.

A version of the Bill was first introduced by Karen Buck in 2015 and was ‘talked out’. A version of the Bill was also proposed as an amendment to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and was voted down by the government. Including the 87 Tory MPs who are landlords.  Their argument was that such legislation would burden upon landlords and discourage people from renting out homes.

How did we get in the situation we are in today, one might ask.

Many years of under funding and de regulation of the housing market we could argue.

What could be a greater burden for any person than trying to live in a ‘home’ unfit for human habitation, you might wonder.

Data from the English Housing Survey 2017 found that Almost a third (29 per cent) of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet the national Decent Homes Standard; meaning they either contain safety hazards or do not have acceptable kitchen and bathroom facilities or adequate heating

Poor housing impacts on children by making them 25% more at risk of ill health or disability, including raised risk of meningitis or asthma and a greater chance of mental health issues.

They are also more likely to miss school through illness.  Almost one million privately rented homes are deemed to be in a state of “substantial disrepair”, while 442,000 have damp in one of more rooms.

Poor housing also places a greater burden on other services and affects society as a whole, not just children.

Substantially more working age adults living in bad housing report fair, bad or very bad general health (26%) than those living in good housing (17%), with adults in bad housing 26% more likely to report low mental health compared with those living in good housing.

Those living in bad housing are almost twice as likely to have their sleep disturbed by respiratory problems at least once a month.

The association between living in bad housing and health problems is particularly acute among those above retirement age; with Pensioners in bad housing a third more likely to have fair, bad or very bad health compared with those in good housing (58% vs 38%).

Almost a fifth (19%) suffer from low mental health compared with 11% in good housing.

Almost twice as many pensioners living in bad housing suffer from wheezing in the absence of a cold, compared with those in good housing.

Not only is this unacceptable and immoral in this day and age but it also undoubtedly places more burden on the cash strapped NHS, including mental health services and schools that are already under so much pressure.

So what can we do about this?

We welcome the second reading of the bill and hope that this can proceed to the next stage. MPs will have a vote on this issue and we the people can apply pressure on our local MPs to vote the right way.

You can find who your local MP is and and how to contact them by clicking on the link below.

http://www.ukpolitical.info/YouandyourMP.htm

The above is taken from Natcen’s 2013 report on People in bad housing.

The Tories And Their Idea Of The ‘Big Society’ By Sarinder Joshua Duroch

The ‘Big Society’ speech was introduced in Liverpool in 2010 sadly, the outcome of the deception still echoes nationwide in 2017.

On the 19th July 2010, David Cameron made a speech in working class and historically socialist Liverpool outlining the benefits of the ‘Big Society’.

Many Liverpudlians can’t forget the devastation of the early eighties where the employment prospects and class divide under Thatcher elevated to heights never seen before. There were riots in Toxteth and the far right were running riot in the town with skinheads using violence as the main instrument of hate implementation.

The Police who were already carrying out the government’s desires by beating up strikers did nothing to create harmony between communities, there was little in the way of police community relations; let’s face it Thatcher wanted to punish northern communities for being pro unions, the police were always a sound resource to use to implement the agenda on the street.

That suited Thatcher very well indeed, she fooled everyone with the idea of buying their council homes and taking on mortgages, I am sure she spoke to herself in Downing Street in total joy by saying, ‘Oh well, once they have mortgages I will see how much they will strike then!’

The people of Liverpool must have really wondered what on Earth David Cameron was doing in their city, he wasn’t taking the biscuit; he was taking the packet on this occasion. Surely in Liverpool there was more chance of hell freezing over than the public applauding him and thanking him for his visit.  

David Cameron spoke about social action, public service reform and community empowerment. He encouraged people to come forward with ideas so that he could provide them with the tools to take their communities to the next step of ownership and ensure that the government wasn’t top down and allowed greater autonomy to the people.

It all sounded all so innovative on paper, but there were hidden agendas, he really wanted people to do all the work and at the same time looking to save money and not spending the government’s money.

He intended to finance all of this with dormant bank accounts and money that had been left by those who may have died or just totally forgotten about it.

Whatever it was, as long as it didn’t cost the Tories a penny.

This was clearly a political and financial move on the hand crafted Tory chessboard, the austerity and cuts to public services was always on the minds of the Tories and to mask the problem like the Venetian elite attending a high society ball all wearing masks to hide their antics.

He clearly wanted to evade the real problems and leave society to clean up the mess that was made in the eighties by Thatcher. We must accept that the horrendous tearing up of the social fabric by Thatcher and the Tories would take more than a generation or two to repair.

He spoke about voluntarism, philanthropy and social action; charming coming from a Tory in an economically hard hit socialist city such as Liverpool.

What has the legacy of the ‘Big Society left us with and what can the people of Liverpool take from this speech and the subsequent years of Tory rule?

Foodbanks have increased and so has homelessness, in the UK year on year homelessness has risen dramatically, in England 2010 there were 1768 people sleeping rough and by 2016 the figures reached 4134 (134%) increase. Westminster remains the local authority with the most homeless people at 260.

If we look at the impact of three northern cities one can see that over a six-year period homelessness grew rapidly in Manchester, in 2010 the city had 7 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 78. (1014%) increase. Liverpool, where David Cameron made his ‘Big Society’ speech had growing sleeping rough figures, in 2010 there were 3 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 21 (600%) increase. In Britain’s second city, Birmingham, in 2010 there were 9 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 55 (511%) increase.

The perceived affluent home counties haven’t come out of this appearing in good health. If we take the town of Gravesham and the city of Canterbury, both located in Kent we will see the contrast in the negative ascend of homeless figures.

In 2010 the borough of Gravesham had 1 person sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 12 people (1100%) increase. The city of Canterbury, a well-known town for tourists and academia, in 2010 there were 3 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 50 (1567%) increase. In Croydon, south London, there has been a large increase in rough sleepers. In 2010 there were 4 rough sleepers and in 2016 there were 68 (1600%) increase. Finally, in Brighton & Hove in 2010 there were 14 rough sleepers and in 2016 there were 144 (928%) increase.

One can only imagine in a negative sense what the socio-economic costs of danger to health this causes during the winter months. In 2005 the National Audit Office reached the conclusion that homelessness costs £1 billion, this covered the expense of paying for accommodation, providing grants and welfare administration.

The impact of the cost relating to mental health is also a major factor, each homeless person can cost £4298 for NHS services. Mental health costs £2099 per person, criminal justice can cost up to £11991; it’s evident the socio-economic costs are immense. The costs of temporary accommodation in London during 2014/2015 reached £663 million.

What exactly did the then Prime Minister expect from the people of the nation, his conclusion to this failed exercise and idea was aired during a speech in 2017 at the launch of the Fore Trust where he admitted that legitimate criticisms could be made of the ‘Big Society’ agenda.

Trussell Trust Foodbanks in England, providing help with emergency supplies of food for three days, has risen from 40,898 people in 2009/2010 receiving help to a staggering 1,182,954 in 2016/2017 (2792%) increase.

This is what the Tory ‘Big Society’ has achieved since that famous speech back in 2010. The North West has the highest number of people in receipt of help from Foodbanks, a total of 174,489 to April 2017; that figure will only increase. In London the figure is 111,101.  

This shows the scale of the problem in both the north and south of England. Scotland has provided over 145,000 food parcels in 2016/17.

We must admit that if not for the charitable nature of the British people, there would certainly be deaths relating to this crisis.

Again, it is obvious that the government are happy for the public to donate because they are saving money and then they have the countenance to congratulate the people of the nation for being so considerate. This must be met with a fulmination at the ballot box at the next election.

David Cameron has now left for a new post looking at promoting transport links to promote trade with China, the fund he oversees is worth £750 million. However, the UK and China initiative is worth over £1 billion.

There we have it, a nation that is left with a society where children are hungry and cannot afford breakfast.

Children and their parents don’t know where to turn during school holidays to get food, and we have the legacy of the Tory ‘Big Society’ in tatters.

500,000 children go to school hungry every morning and can’t concentrate on their studies or engage in physical activities at school.

We have bright and able children ready to perform for the economy when they are older, yet we are left with a part broken society because there is a disadvantaged population within our towns and cities that cannot function due to hunger.

We are meant to be the world’s sixth largest economy and we have 8 million people living in food poverty according to the UN and in addition we have 870,000 children going to bed hungry in this nation.

There is one thing for sure, people who are hungry know when they are being fed lies and false promises that is perceived to be filling nutrition to their hungry eyes. Once digested it has no impact, just like the false promises of the cohesive ‘Big Society,’ In George Orwell’s words, ‘In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.’ Has the revolution begun for a fairer society in the context of education, employment, health and reducing the massive gap between the increasing haves and have nots in our society?

Given the last general election results it looks as if it has and is gaining momentum in many parts of the UK. The public have seen the deceit and are telling the truth in a revolutionary manner; the votes for Labour at the last election is evidence of that.

Sarinder Joshua Duroch

Labour & Momentum member.

The Rough Sleeping Homeless- A Growing Problem by Eddie Luigi

At this time of year Christians everywhere are reminded that Mary and Joseph found themselves homeless, in Bethlehem, through no fault of their own, but because a physically distant government passed a law to determine how much tax they could collect, in order to keep their privileged citizens in the luxury that they had become accustomed to.

Two thousand and seventeen years later, in English towns and cities, you don’t need to walk far to be reminded that, just like Mary and Joseph, there are now many people who find themselves homeless through no fault of their own, because an emotionally distant government passes laws to determine how much tax they could collect in order to keep their privileged citizens in the luxury they have become accustomed to.

The idea of taxes is a redistribution of wealth. That redistribution of wealth should be for the benefit of the many wealth producers and not solely for the benefit of the privileged few.

I think that a good Christmas present for the homeless would be for the government to put as much effort into their house building policies as they put into their rhetoric about how much they have done, whilst failing to mention how much they have not done that they promised to do.

There are currently 4,000 people sleeping rough and over 300,000 people classed as homeless in England, according to the charity Shelter.

The figure for the rough sleepers has increased by 134% since the Tories came to power in 2010.

Isn’t it time Theresa May and her government owned up to this figure instead of trying to lie about it?

Happiness: A Basic Human Right? Not According To The Tories By Eddie Luigi 

By Eddie Luigi 


Let me make this clear from the start. Generally I am happy and content. 

I view happiness as a three legged stool, with happiness as the seat and the three legs of home, health and an honest wage for an honest job.
Any of you who have studied psychology will be aware of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. 

Which in a nutshell means until you have achieved the basic needs you cannot go on to achieve any of the more humanistic needs. 



The basic needs at the bottom of the hierarchy are food, water, warmth, rest security and safety. Without these essentials it is impossible to proceed up the hierarchy and achieve happiness and fulfil ones potential.


It’s like a game of ‘snakes and ladders’ sometimes you’re going up and sometimes you go down and have to start the climb again.

So, my view is that, until you have the basics of home, health and an honest wage, you can’t even begin to think about happiness. Then if one of those three legs of the stool is missing, happiness comes tumbling down.

But since the tories came to power in 2010, millions of people in England are struggling to gain the basic needs. Hard to believe but the figures do not lie:

4,134 sleeping rough ( up 134% since tories got in 2010) in England.
Almost 1.2 million needed emergency three day food parcels.

250,000 as registered homeless in England.

Around 4 million private renting in England. Most of these will have yearly or month to month contracts, with no basic security. 

That is a lot of people that can’t reach a happy state, or fulfil their potential.

Many self help books advise you to simplify and find happiness in the little everyday things.
This does not seem good advice if you have no home and your day is taken up by wondering where you can sleep safely tonight. 

Nor does it help if your physical or mental health means that your day is taken up wondering if you can be cured, or taken up trying to overcome the splinter in your mind that feeds the self doubts about your looks, your weight, your usefulness or your worth. 

That advice must surely be ignored if after you honest day’s work your ‘honest’ day’s wage, topped up by social welfare, is still not enough to meet your budgetary needs for housing, feeding and clothing your family.

I fear that in our current political situation not everyone will have the three stool legs necessary to think about happiness.




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Why We Should Be Worried  About The Rise Of Gambling Addiction By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

Last week I attended an event with Matt Zarb-Cousin, he is known for his previous role as Jeremy Corbyn’s Spokesperson, but is a long term campaigner for the organisation Fairer Gambling (http://fairergambling.org/about-the-campaign/). Since listening to him I’ve been looking at the awful impact gambling now has on our communities.
I grew up with relatives who would bet on the horse racing every Saturday and for them gambling was a harmless pleasure, akin to collecting stamps or going fishing.  

Whilst gambling remains harmless for some, for others it is a desperate source of misery. 

More than 2 million people in the UK are now either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction, according to the industry regulator, the Gambling Commission. They also estimated that the number of British over-16s deemed to be problem gamblers had grown by a third in three years, suggesting that about 430,000 people suffer from a serious habit.

Gambling advertising is now everywhere.

Nine premier league football teams now carry bookmakers names on their shirts. During half time, TV advert breaks are now filled with aggressive adverts flashing up the odds on who the next scorer will be and urging them to log on and place a bet. They are now such a staple part of half time advertising of football games, and have normalised gambling so much that many children think the sole purpose of the break in play is to allow audiences an opportunity to place a bet.
Fixed Odd Betting Machines are a major problem, allowing gamblers to spend £100 every 20 seconds. Indeed the bookies, once primarily concerned with horse racing and football bets, currently make 60% of their income from the machines. 

Currently shops are allowed to have up to 4 machines and this is one of the main reasons for the high street becoming full of betting shops: to allow the company to get more machines in. 

As many traditional shops have departed the high street, the number of bookies and arcades has risen.

I feel these machines are an undeniable source of misery: 43% of people who use the machines are ‘problem gamblers.’ Unlike bingo or a night at the dogs there is no social interaction, in fact I visited a bookies before writing this piece, at noon on Saturday and found people so absorbed in the machine they did not respond to any stimulation like noise. It was a sad sight.  
The machines inflict further troubles to the towns they occupy. One third of the machines are smashed every year, meaning the call outs to betting shops by Police are far above the average to other high street shops. Most have only one member of staff, on a low wage, in store at any one time, so their impact on the total economy is minimal.  

The mental health repercussions of problematic gambling are immense. 

The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 80% of addicted gamblers think about killing themselves and one in five make an attempt to take their own lives. As a result, gambling addiction costs the UK up to £1.6 billion a year in mental health, police and welfare system services.

A study published in the Journal Addiction last year found that all gambling increases the participants likelihood of engaging in violence. The gambling industry contribute £10 million per annum of their £13 billion profit towards gambling treatment.  

The social effect of addictive gambling does great damage to the family unit and to the disposable income the family should enjoy.

Poorer people are targeted more by gambling companies: there are twice as many machines/bookies in poorer boroughs and gambling companies are even harvesting data to deliberately target low-income gamblers and people who have given up.

Inevitably calls to set limits on gambling we be met by calls of nanny-statism. But I would like to point to parallels with the smoking ban, which has seen marked improvements in public health since it was introduced in 2007. There are already strict laws on the times junk food and alcohol can be advertised on television. I think the same restrictions should be placed on the advertising of gambling. 

Why not ban fixed odd betting machines altogether? We ban drugs, driving without a seatbelt and cycling without a helmet in order to protect individuals from their own bad judgement, why would this be any different? 

It is not as if the machines provide any positive socialisation or community benefits.
Of course problem gambling has always existed, but the rise in it and the implications it has for those affected and the costs to the state of the health problems it generates surely mean government action should be taken.  
If  you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and would like more information please visit:

https://www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk/

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When You See A Homeless Person, What Do You See? By Eddie Luigi

By Eddie Luigi 



Let me make it clear from the outset, I have never been homeless. I have on occasion slept on the street at night, but was able to go home after I sobered up. I am not an alcoholic, although I have drunk alcohol to excess on many an occasion. I am not a drug addict, but growing up in the 60s I have experimented with a few recreational substances. 

I did not have the best of childhoods, but then again there were childhoods that were worse than mine, and that is not the point of this blog.

Homelessness for me is like China, I’ve never been there but I know it exists. So, what gives me the right to talk about homelessness. The right of a human being to feel compassion, empathy and distress at the suffering of a fellow human being, that is what gives me the right.


Every night I have known where my bed was, in an adjoining room in my home. Which brings me neatly to a definition of what is a home.

A home is where you reside, it is your address, it gives you a place in society, it is your shelter, it is where you can keep warm in the winter, where you can keep cool in the summer, it is where you keep you possessions, it is where your friends and family go to visit you, it is where you can invite people for a social occasion, it is where you can be private, it is where you feel comfortable, it is where you can relax, it is where you feel safe.

You may have noticed that in the above definition the word ‘you’ and ‘your’ crop up a lot. That is because your home defines you.


There are many reasons why people become homeless. 

Some are fleeing from war zones, some are fleeing from domestic war zones, some are homeless following a relationship breakdown, some because their families can no longer tolerate their anti social behaviour, some because they spent their rent money to feed their habit. 
Whatever the reason, once you become homeless you lose all those things that mean ‘home’.

On leaving school no one chooses homeless drug addict as a career option.


So when you pass that person bundled up in a sleeping bag in a shop doorway, do you see a homeless alcoholic drug addict? Or do you see a broken human being that needs some sort of help? 

There, but for the grace of what ever deity you believe in, go you or I.

Eddie Luigi has experience of the Care system and has worked for the Citizens Advice Bureau; assisting many people at crisis point.


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Grenfell : Neglect, Shock and the Idea Some Lives Are Worth More Than Others By Grehan

By Kelly Grehan 

It is now 100 days since the Grenfell fire.

In the days following the tragedy the emotion that overwhelmed me was anger that this had happened, and that although maybe the fire was not preventable, the loss of life was compounded by decisions taken in the name of austerity, deregulation, outsourcing and a general disregard for the economically poorer members of the community.  
As London Mayor Sadiq Khan said at the time “There is a feeling from the community that they’ve been treated badly because some of them are poor, some of them may come from deprived backgrounds, some of them may be asylum-seekers and refugees.”
As is now well known Grenfell Action Group warned the council and the estate management company of multiple fire hazards within the building including failing alarms, a lack of sprinklers and of faulty electrical wiring causing frequent power surges and small fires. They warned that the wholly cosmetic refurbishment of the building was a serious fire risk. 

Rather than heed these warnings the council responded with legal action against the group. 

For several decades now a denouncement of regulation has taken place. Phrases like ‘health and safety gone mad’ and ‘red tape’ are common. Free market think-tanks, such as the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Centre for Policy Studies and property developers lobby government against regulation.
In recent years it has become apparent that poorer people are no longer welcome in the Capital.

For example the demolition of social housing estates, such as the Heygate estate in Southwark, has made way for luxury flats with many bought by super-rich investors. Plots are often sold abroad in Asia or the Middle East prior to domestic sales.

The £83.7 million of cuts in Kensington since 2010 have disproportionately impacted servicers relied upon by poorer people. 

This includes closure of nurseries, of homelessness prevention schemes, of local A&E departments and in a move that says it all to me, there is an attempt to sell a public Library to a nearby fee-paying Prep School.

I can only conclude that the safety, health and quality of life of those in rented accommodation is seen as a secondary concern to profit. 

Last year, an amendment to the Housing Act tabled by Labour to introduce a legal requirement for landlords to ensure their homes are fit and safe for human habitation was voted down by Tory MPs including 71 who were themselves private landlords.



So the catastrophe that has occurred in Kensington causing, death, destruction, injury, trauma and displacement should not be dismissed as an accident. 

It is the culmination of policy and neglect aimed at those whose lives are regarded as less valuable. 

This is seen as unbelievable by those unfamiliar with being on the receiving end of policies designed to ‘punish’ those who are not high earners or wealth accumulators. But the circumstances and outcome of Grenfall are repeated throughout the world in places where neoliberalism rules. 

One such example is Hurricane Katrina which occurred, causing mass flooding in New Orleans in August 2005. It is easy to see it as a natural disaster, but that is to ignore the neglect in maintenance of the flood defences which should have protected the city from what was actually a tropical storm by the time it reached New Orleans. Despite previous repeated warnings the Army Corp of Engineers allowed the defences to fall into disrepair. 

This happened in the context of a neglect of infrastructure throughout America as neoliberal policies gained control. But is also relevant that the homes left the most vulnerable by the failure to fix the levees were those occupied by economically poor black people.  

After the storm it took five days to get water and food to people sheltering in the Superdome. In common with Grenfell people did what they could to help each other but, again in common with Grenfell the state failed. 

Divisions formed along class and racial lines. Healthy people of means were able to leave the city – others – vulnerable by nature of being unable to leave – stayed. 

As people began looting to survive, news outlets used the opportunity to paint the black residents as dangerous. A war zone atmosphere emerged as vigilantes and private security guards ‘’controlled’’ the streets. Survivors of Grenfell now speak of being let down by the council, living in transit in crowded hotel rooms, some without hot water.  

My concern in Kensington now is what happens next: Milton Friedman once said ‘Only a crisis-actual or perceived- produces real change.’ 

In New Orleans , with residents dispersed across the country and schools and homes in ruins; Friedman described this as an ‘opportunity’. Public housing, including that which was undamaged was demolished and replaced with housing far out of the price reach of those who had previously lived there. 

Mike Pence (now Us Vice president) chaired a meeting 14 days post disaster to look at ‘Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina.’ New Orleans quickly became the place with the most privately run schools.  



There must be real concern that Grenfell residents and those living in surrounding blocks are able to remain in the area in suitable accommodation. 

Any suggestion that people should be grateful for what they are offered should not be tolerated. 

Counselling and therapy services need to be offered as standard to anyone in the area impacted by what has occurred. Let us not forget many witnessed horrendous scenes and have lost friends.  
History, though leads to concerns that enquiries and cover ups can go on for decades. There is something about this situation which feels like Hillsborough to me, a feeling that the fight for justice here will not be easy and that nothing will change without a real fight.  

Indeed lessons could have been learnt after the Lakanal Tower block Fire in Southwark in 2009 which killed 6. 

Recommendations followed in 2013 but were never implemented, including one to fit sprinkler systems in all tower blocks. 

Lessons about outsourcing, which leads to responsibility and ultimately blame being diluted must be examined. But more than anything I hope we see a change in this attitude that some lives are worth more than others and that profit is worth endangering life for.

Everyone needs to stand up for this for us to have any hope of change.
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