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Post Pandemic Britain – Poverty & Empowerment

Coronavirus has altered every part of our society, but for those on small incomes its impact is severe. Since the outbreak, many have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut.

Millions who were already struggling to remain afloat have been drawn deeper under. Others have been driven into poverty. Two million people applied for universal credit in the six weeks to 12 April – approximately five times greater than the same time last year1.

Lacking money to pay for good home, fresh meal and drink, warm clothes is the most conspicuous way poverty damages health but there are many more indirect ways mental status is undermined2. In 2016, the Mental Health Foundation presented a report3, which stressed that poverty reduces “mental bandwidth”, the capacity of brain to perform routine functions, the result of which is that poorer people make poorer health decisions.

According to Wisner et al4, poverty and inequality drive vulnerability, but even the vulnerable have some powers to grapple with setbacks. Strengthening these capacities, so long as they address needs and disaster risk in the long-term, and not only the short-term, can empower people to recover from setbacks. By enhancing resilience, families and community can also do well in the face of disasters, breaking the rhythm of disasters creating and being driven by poverty. Strengthening livelihoods and building resilience is thus crucial to cutting both disaster risk and hardship.

This issue of inequalities being raised is also being examined through an increasing pressure on Britain’s food banks, as more people losing their earnings have had to rely on them, while donations have slowed as people stockpile items to see them through the pandemic5.

Strengthening livelihoods is about developing human, social, political, physical, economic and natural assets6.

Assets perform two key functions:

  • Build capacity through better access to sources, (e.g. education contributing to a better paid work) and
  • Reduce vulnerability by acting as the buffer between communities and hazards and new traumas and stresses

After pandemic, according to Helen Barnard of Joseph Rowntree Foundation1 the local governments have a key role to perform in remedying digital exclusion, social housing and good work opportunities.

The government has recognised the strategic role of councils in supporting the most vulnerable during the crisis. Although it is far from enough to undo years of funding cutbacks that have bitten hardest in poorer localities, the £3.2bn so far promised to councils is a very welcome step forward7.

The funding will mean councils can go on to maintain essential services and support to those who need it most. This consists of getting rough sleepers off the street, supporting new shielding programmes for highly vulnerable populations and support for the heroic public health personnel and fire and rescue services. The funding will also mean councils can provide vital services including adult social care and children’s services.

The District Councils have a significant role to perform in developing the psychosocial demands of disadvantaged people in the community not simply in the short but long term. They should:

  • Offer a protected area for families to share their concerns of their situations, which can help release the stigma around talking about financial battles.
  • Weekly empowerment programmefor parents, which allows key life and learning skills. This influences their families in constructive ways. This needs to concentrate on:
    • Healthy relationships
    • Skills to promote mental health
    • Health and wellbeing
    • Positive psychology
    • Solution focus approaches
    • Links between behaviours and emotions
    • The introduction to a wellbeing diet and the five ways to wellbeing

The District Councils will have to work with social services and target using a successful model9.

  • Disaffected families and involving them
  • Encouraging volunteers or personnel employed by the council to win over aggressive and hostile families

What will the volunteers or personnel have to do?

  • Develop an empathic culture
  • Use a solution-focussed approach, therefore transferring the obligation of ownership of triggered emotions back to parents and families
  • Addressing parents experience of trauma in their own childhood or living in complex life situations

Outcomes of Weekly empowerment programme

The council will audit and endorse the conclusions in the following categories:

Successes:

  • Once the news spreads on how the programme has helped parent’s lives, participation of the vulnerable families will improve
  • Parents will perceive that their viewpoints and concerns matter and it is feasible to make a success of their lives
  • Parent separation will reduce
  • Relationships within families will improve
  • Parents will come back to studies and getting posts for the first time in years
  • Parents will gain a definite idea of the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and will acquire techniques to address these and seek help
  • Parents will take responsibility for their child’s behaviour and demonstrate interest in their learning
  • A reduction in pupil behavioural issues
  • Improved pupil attendance
  • Positive parent engagement and families seeing the importance in education
  • A shift in how people talk to each other and a persistent use of positive reflective language

What is needed to set up and maintain Empowerment Programme

  • Dedicated place to meet (i.e. community hall, church hall)
  • Staff and volunteers with a positive attitude towards society
  • A crèche to facilitate young parents to leave children whilst attending the programme in the community hall or the church hall
  • An ongoing assistance from the Food Bank and charities to maintain the lives of this vulnerable group of the society
  • Career guidance and opportunities offered
  • A PROTECTED BUDGET

References

  1. https://www.lgcplus.com/services/community-cohesion/helen-barnard-what-councils-must-do-to-tackle-poverty-after-pandemic-11-05-2020/
  2. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/ending-poverty-and-improving-mental-health
  3. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/poverty-and-mental-health
  4. Wisner, B., Blaikie, P., Cannon, T. and Davis, I. 2004. At risk: natural hazards, people’s vulnerability and disasters. London: Routledge.
  5. Sanderson D. 2012. Livelihood protection and support for disaster. In: Wisner, B., Gaillard, J. and Kelman, I. (eds.) Handbook of hazards and disaster risk reduction. Abingdon: Routledge, 2012, pp.697-710.
  6. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/covid-19-food-poverty-rising-in-uk/
  7. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-pledges-extra-16-billion-for-councils
  8. https://my.optimus-education.com/parental-empowerment-better-wellbeing-case-study
  9. https://my.optimus-education.com/parental-empowerment-better-wellbeing-case-study

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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