Meadows Advice Group AGM 2019

“The ‘normal’ work of delivering advice in The Meadows and elsewhere is still being driven by the joint forces of poverty and the ongoing changes to people’s benefits and by repeat demands on clients by the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs.
“Universal Credit began to affect people in Nottingham in a major way in October We are not yet seeing the longer term problems as most people are just starting on it. The immediate problem is being without income for several weeks or taking out an advance payment which then reduces the amount of Universal Credit received for up to 12 months. As we expected many people are struggling with dealing with everything online. The Department for Work and Pensions are already struggling to cope with replies to online queries taking weeks to be dealt with and the advice given to us is to use the phone!
“We identified a problem in The Meadows with the amount of help given to people with their rent, who have a private landlord. The amount has been frozen for several years and rents have risen considerably. This means even the poorest families having to pay towards their rent. This was identified first as a Citywide problem and was taken up by Advice Nottingham and then as a nationwide issue which was raised by Lilian Greenwood MP in the House of Commons
“Our fuel debt project continues to provide extra support for people struggling to pay for gas and electricity and, increasingly, water charges as well.
‘This year we helped 624 people, raised a total of £922978 in additional benefits for them and managed £177182 in debts for them.’

Special AGM at Meadows Advice Group celebrates 40 years.
Although the names of those involved at the outset are known, none could be found to be invited, although Paddy Tipping sent a message and former local City Councillor Di Clausen attended.

Abolishing Universal Credit

Channel 4 news worked too hard on doubting Labour’s commitment to abolish Universal Credit, because their definition of Universal Credit is that it means 6 previous payments are rolled into 1, and that Labour won’t get rid of that.(Of course, there are other payments not included, so “Universal” was never right.)
Margaret Greenwood countered that Labour will deal with the most damaging parts of the new system first – the five week gap to the first payment and the 2 child limit.
I’d also point out the appeals system, with places for appointments reduced and moved away from where claimants live.
https://www.channel4.com/news/corbyn-announces-plans-to-scrap-cruel-and-inhumane-universal-credit

Children in the care of Nottinghamshire Councils

A report published by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, with a lot to take in. “The primary purpose of this investigation was to examine the institutional responses to such allegations of Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, and other organisations such as Nottinghamshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, and to consider the adequacy of steps taken to protect children from abuse.

David Mellen has issued a statement on the report.

I know how in 1994/5, Notts. County Council showed vigour and resolve in reviewing the death of a child in Ashfield District.
The report on abuse is long and I will be interested to see what the report fully says. For now, the City Council’s Leader response is presented.

East Midlands Today
Coverage on East Midlands News (BBC tv) is worth looking up, especially for survivors saying that they now feel they have been listened to. Interviewed on the programme, David Mellen explained clearly that we are apologising for what happened and I’ve re-published his apology made on *our* behalf.
There are 161 pages in the report, with quite a section on Beechwood.  
May well say more when I’ve properly read it.

Funeral of a 59 year old man

Attended a funeral of a 59 year old man.
The second of a family of six from Netherfield.
Was a fan of Lou Reed and the Sex Pistols. 
Things went wrong for him and he spent 25 years living on the streets of 6 of our big English cities, before coming back to Nottingham.
He’s helped by Framework and the Friary, and Nottingham City Homes are able to offer him a flat in one of their former warden-aided complexes in The Meadows.
He makes friends with the neighbours, frequently hailed people and joined them for a chat, and often handed out lollipops as a gesture of friendship. He found contentment.  
He died on City Council Election Day from lung cancer and complications.
Some days later, a sister is found and informed of his death.
See the floral tribute.  

Much more to be known I’m sure.
Plenty to reflect on.

Nottingham Post against mis-representation of Nottingham

A few weeks back, Der Spiegal came to Nottingham to report on the poverty in our country – the UK with the sixth biggest in the world – and they found the homeless, the starving, the food banks (including one in The Meadows).  
I was asked to give the German magazine an hour a few weeks back and I know focussing on the poverty is why they came.  
The article has been published and the photos are bleak. And they were a tad naughty when they wanted a photo of me – could I stand next to this painted plywood works box in the Square? (No – next to the left lion, please.)

But the N Post have taken exception to the bleakness and first rounded up a “pleased to be proud of Nottingham” response – a bit out of kilter with perhaps other N Post pieces (we should be more ambitious etc.).; and then that the feature “deliberately makes our city look bleak“.
Perhaps we can be critical of ourselves but the Germans (who by the way, keep showing us the way on industry, the environment and green energy) can’t be.  
Or perhaps the N Post journalists are feeling a bit betrayed – it was them who asked me to meet Der Spiegal. 

One friend wrote to me saying “It looked ok to me and only incidental reference to Nottingham. They were highlighting the inequity of our benefits system, sanctioning and the role of food banks. It just happened to be in Nottingham.”
Other advice I’m getting is that the situation of the individual featured is exceptional amongst the people who seek help.
And the contention that “there’s no getting away from the extent of deprivation in Nottingham” is debatable.
TO BE FINISHED

Daily Mirror campaign in Nottingham

A day after Der Spiegel tell of poverty in Nottingham, and of food banks, the Daily Mirror tell their story of poverty in Nottingham, and of groups’ attempts to help people on their finances.
Michael Sheen was on the visit and I was there when he met the Aspley group “Women for Women’s sake”.

“City is a lesson in how to tackle hardship”

The visit was part of the Daily Mirror’s “Fair Credit For All” campaign.