News & Views

In this section you will find:

Blog on Parents’ voices and experiences of School Exclusions, by Keisha Emanuel, Research and Learning Officer, 4in10: London’s Child Poverty Network

A new report: Race Poverty and School Exclusions in London. From 4in10, Just for Kids Law and the Children’s Rights Alliance. Published 15.10.20

Letter of solidarity from local and national organisations, and campaigners for October 17, International Day for the eradication of poverty

A Blog from the CEO of The Buttle Trust on Child Poverty in London.

Three Blogs from young women about their lives living on low income through Covid.

Links to a new report from the Young Women’s Trust.

Two Blogs from Barnet Citizen Advice Bureau regarding Fair Redundancy or Unfair Dismissal and Redundancy and Discrimination, with links to other places for employment help.


Race Poverty and School Exclusions in London.

Full report:

Executive Summary:

4 in every 10: London’s Child Poverty Crisis. A Blog from the CEO of the Buttle Trust.

Currently, 4 in 10 children in London live in poverty. That’s nearly half of our capital city’s children. While, according to new research published by the End Child Poverty coalition, child poverty has risen most sharply in parts of the Midlands and Northern towns and cities in the past four years, the greatest concentrations of children living in poverty are still in London and London boroughs dominate the list of local authorities where child poverty is highest. In fact, figures show the top ten local authorities in the list are all in London. Tower Hamlets is at the top of that list with 55% of children living there in poverty. As rents and housing costs continue to rise all over the country, families are finding that once their housing costs are paid, they do not have enough money to meet the needs of their children and are increasingly turning to organisations such as food banks. This is truest in London where housing costs are particularly high.

This London Challenge Poverty Week, we want to join others in shining a light on these growing inequalities that are pushing more and more families into poverty every day and understand what can be done to narrow the gap.  

At Buttle UK we see first-hand the consequences for thousands of children and young people of living in poverty. Our Chances for Children grants offer up to £2,000 per family for children or young people who have been affected by crisis. We can fund items and activities to help improve their social and emotional wellbeing and increase their capacity to engage in education and learning. Although we work across the whole of the UK, unsurprisingly, our greatest regional spend is in London, which is currently 14% of grants awarded.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, we have seen the need rise significantly. Families who were already vulnerable and living on low incomes, are now facing cuts to their earnings or losing their jobs altogether. Children and young people have been forced to spend more hours in homes that lack the basic essentials and comforts most of us take for granted, isolated, and with very little to distract them from their troubles. Many do not have access to computers or Wi-Fi and with schooling going online, means they will fall further behind their peers with their education. Alongside a lack of digital access, research from our recent ‘State of Child Poverty 2020 Report’ showed that, since the beginning of the pandemic, food poverty and parental mental health are also having an increasing impact on children’s education. At Buttle UK we have established the COVID-19 Direct Emergency Response for Children and Young People Fund in partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund and others, which will deliver £2 million in National Lottery grants to support vulnerable children and young people and up to £5m in total by 31st March 2021. But this will only go so far.

Something more dramatic must be done to try and reverse the damage done to these children’s futures. As part of the End Child Poverty Coalition, we’re calling on the Prime Minister to admit to the true extent of child poverty in our country and put children and young people in poverty across the UK at the heart of plans for the recovery. However, we must all play a part in building an economy and city that works for all and ensures everyone has a decent standard of living. Everyone, from national/local government and the Mayor, to employers and local communities, has a role to play.

The experiences of parents trying to bring up children on low incomes in the capital is explored in the podcast by Lambeth based children’s charity, St Michael’s Fellowship – https://anchor.fm/stmfellow/episodes/Parenting-and-Poverty-ekqhas

For more information about Buttle UK’s COVID-19 Direct Emergency Response for Children and Young People Fund click here.

Read blogs from three young women about their lives ‘Living on the Edge’.

Thanks to the Young women’s Trust

Christina

Christina self-portrait

Depression has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It was something I could manage myself up until I graduated university. I was very aware that I was just one of a big cohort of newly ‘qualified’ people competing for employment. I was stepping off the education conveyor belt and joining the rat race—it really does feel like a race. 

Coronavirus and my silver lining

Coping with Mental Health Problems

That summer I experienced hysteria for the first time and it terrified me, at any moment, hysterical crying and panic attacks could strike. It was my mum who told me to go see my GP and thus my journey with antidepressants began. I managed to find an internship that led to a job and I thought I was on the right track.

However, I struggle to cope with the office environment and the 9 to 5, from the beginning of my career I was constantly overworking myself and was scared of failing. I noticed a cycle of working a job for a year, getting so miserable that I spent every weekend having an existential crisis, and not sleeping Sunday nights. So I’d leave and try a new job, thinking maybe this time it’ll be different.

On my way to recovery

February 2020 is when I began my therapy journey and I’m so mad that it took so many years to get there: I literally had to get to breaking point and no longer be able to work before I got the help I needed. My experience is that antidepressants are a short-term solution, they don’t deal with the underlying problems.

During my therapy journey I’ve learnt so much and I’ve worked really hard on changing some of my core beliefs about myself and what I ‘have to’ or ‘should do’ with my life. It’s been freeing and the coronavirus pandemic gave me the time and space to do this guilt free. All of a sudden I’m not behind in the rat race because it was on hold, postponed until further notice. I am grateful that I have been allowed to stop and take stock. I am however frustrated that it took a global crisis to make life more manageable for someone like me.

My experiences demonstrate how hostile the work environment is to someone with mental health challenges: the hours are too long, the attitude is too ableist, sexist and racist to be comfortable and the rewards aren’t good enough—a lot of my generation will never own their own home and never retire. What are we working towards other than the grave? 

I hope this coronavirus teaches us to be a more compassionate country with equal resources and opportunities for all regardless of race, gender, health, sexuality and age.

Christina

Christina has a passion for sketching and her self-portrait is above; a representation of being overwhelmed by depression and anxiety. You can find more of her work here: @basicsketchbetch, https://www.instagram.com/basicsketchbetch/

Terri

I am 29, I have just been made redundant due to the coronavirus, and I have been forced to move back to my family home where I am sleeping in a bunk bed. Fair to say that my life is not going as I had expected it.

Money Worries

This is in fact my third stint of unemployment, I find myself to be at the receiving end of a every economic downturn, and it has hit hard. This time I was made redundant due to a halt in operations as a result of covid-19.

Money has been one of my biggest worries during this time. I have a loan that I don’t know if I will be able to pay back due to being out of work, my plans to move out (dreams of having one’s own room) have had to be put on hold, and I no longer have any savings.

Due to the conditions of my contract and industry, I am not eligible for redundancy pay. I have spent months slowly clawing back money held by companies for services that were cancelled due to the virus, and the stress and worry this process causes has been intense. I am stuck in a living situation that is toxic as I am without my own space. All of this is mentally challenging. 

Lack of support 

I have found that despite having a long work history and a great education, it has been very hard to find new employment. With my industry destroyed, I find myself starting all over again.  

Job Centre’s do not seem to offer much support for getting people back into highly skilled work. From my previous experiences of unemployment, the help offered assisted me into low paid roles and I was even forced to work for free during my last stint of unemployment.

The schemes that do exist to get people into high skilled roles, tend to be geared at those who are below 25, are low paid and necessitate that applicants have not obtained a degree. Which obviously means I cannot apply.

This lack of support for degree holders who might need to change career path, means that we have a generation of over skilled and underpaid graduates who are trapped in employment that doesn’t play to their strengths.

Beyond graduates we have a system that doesn’t offer a second chance to those who were late to the career ladder. How do mothers offer their children a better life if they are trapped by their years spent out of employment? How do those with caring responsibilities move into a career when they can’t afford to take a pay cut and start again? 

I would like to see the government invest in adult internships and traineeships for those with and without formal qualifications. These should be paid at least the living wage and ideally should be in sectors that allow people to develop careers in the industry.

As more and more people lose their jobs, the time for the government to act is now! 

Tayah

The pandemic hit and so did my depression. 

In the early stages of March both my mother and daughter fell ill with the coronavirus, which then led to my entire household contracting the virus. My mother was taken away in an ambulance at 2am with breathing difficulties and an unfortunate breach of confidentiality, meant that we were not only dealing with sickness and self-isolation but we were now the talk of the town. 

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, I already had caring responsibilities and with the world now on hold my turmoil had just begun. 

Work

Even though I was under strict instructions to self-isolate by NHS 111 I was still called into work. Tearfully explaining my current circumstances and that I had been told not to leave my house, I was told by my manager that “this pandemic is new to us all, everyone around the world is suffering right now, not just you”.

Devastated and feeling so misunderstood I called my GP. 

Mental health

With everything now being conducted over the phone, I found the courage to go against what I’m used to doing and I called the GP. I reached out for help, telling the GP everything that I was suffering from. Ticking her boxes and eager to get onto the next call, within 5 minutes I was prescribed anti-depressants and a sick note for 6 weeks off of work, however I was still feeling like I wasn’t being properly listened to. 

Finances 

As a single mother with other caring responsibilities and limited childcare options, a part-time job is my only work option. With a sick note from the GP, my employer would provide me with sick pay – or so I thought. I was now told that I don’t work enough hours for my job to cover the sick pay in its entirety and I will only receive sick pay for the first week. I would then have to apply for benefits. 

I contacted the overworked benefits system and waited on a phone call for two hours. I was then made to apply for benefits which I had to wait several weeks to receive. 

My savings for my first car, is how I made ends meet. 

Hopes for the future

I know I am not alone in the challenges that I have faced during the coronavirus crisis although I have been made to feel that way by those who are supposed to help people like me. I hope that my experiences are listened to and significant changes are made to ensure the correct help and support are provided to those who so desperately need it. 

It’s just as important to mend our broken systems as it is to end the Coronavirus. 



Barnet Citizens Advice Bureau have shared two employment and redundancy blog posts.

  • Unfair dismissals disguised as redundancy

For the past few months, demand for advice on redundancy issues has soared. On a local level, redundancy has become the top employment issue that our clients seek advice on, compared to 5th place before lockdown.

6 most common employment issues our advisors assist with in Barnet

Dates:  01.01.2020- 25.03.2020                                                                                  01.07.2020-25.09.2020 

There is concern that the current climate may allow certain employers to mask unfair dismissals as redundancies. The difference is important, because unfair dismissals could potentially allow certain employees to claim an award in an Employment Tribunal.

A redundancy may in fact be an unfair dismissal if an employee was dismissed for the wrong reason, or if the right procedure was not followed. However, this will depend on their employment status and how long they were employed with that particular employer.

Client testimony 1

Ms C felt that she had been unfairly selected for redundancy as a result of a dispute with her manager, rather than on the basis of any fair criteria. She has now shared her feedback on the advice she received:

‘I knew that I was treated badly and I called Citizens Advice to see if my judgement was correct. The fact that the adviser said that I was absolutely correct gave me the confidence to seek the opinion of an employment law solicitor and there he said I have a very strong case.

I myself rang for advice because I was quite confident that I was not treated correctly and I have a keen interest for law, I then encouraged my fellow colleagues to call their citizens advice and speak to one of the advisers as I think they are a tremendous help.’

If you think you have been unfairly dismissed

Employees who have been working for their employer for 2 years or more can take their case of unfair dismissal to the employment tribunals. Whilst employees who have worked for less than 2 years cannot do this, they can still make a claim for discrimination[1] if they have a strong case. Please see our website to check other things you are entitled to, regardless of how long you have been employed for.

More information:

If you need specific advice please contact one of our advisers:  
https://barnetcab.org.uk/contact-us/                                     0300 456 8365

The Equality Advisory and Support Service also offers free information and advice on issues relating to equality and discrimination:
https://www.equalityadvisoryservice.com/app/help       0808 800 0082

ACAS offers free information and advice on problems relating to the workplace and employment more generally:
https://www.acas.org.uk/contact                                             0300 123 1100

Support us

Since the closure of the Barnet Law Service in 2014, Citizens Advice Barnet is one of the only sources of free legal advice in Barnet and relies on donations from local residents. If you’d like to support us, visit https://barnetcab.org.uk/support-us-2/

  • Redundancy and discrimination

All employees should be protected by equality law, regardless of how long they have been employed. This means that if an employer’s reasons for dismissal or the process used were discriminatory, employees may be able to make a discrimination claim.

What is discrimination?

Under the Equality Act 2010, direct discrimination is defined as treating a person less favourably as a result of a protected characteristic: age, disability, sex, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. However, there are some exceptions, and having one of these characteristics does not automatically make a dismissal discriminatory.

Indirect discrimination

The Equality Act also covers indirect discrimination, which is when a certain practice or policy affects people with a protected characteristic in a less favourable way, even if it may not appear overtly discriminatory.

In the context of redundancies, using certain selection criteria might have a disproportionate impact on a particular group of people.  Similarly, only offering alternative jobs with long hours or difficult locations could be unfair to people with disabilities or caring responsibilities. Not keeping employees updated about new roles has also been a problem that our local office has seen negatively affect women on maternity leave, as well as those on furlough.

Statistics from Barnet (1st January to mid-July 2020) show that 64% of clients asking for advice about redundancy were female, most commonly 35-39 years old. This suggests that redundancy procedures may be indirectly discriminating against women, who are more likely to work part time and have breaks in their employment. Women in their late thirties are also more likely to have young children, often making them more at risk of redundancy.

Discrimination against disabled people

Other forms of discrimination that our clients have been facing include discrimination arising from disability and failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Client C felt that she was unfairly selected for redundancy because of a health condition that forces her to work part time and take frequent toilet breaks when on duty. She feels that her employer failed to make reasonable adjustments by making her work alone, and giving her a low score on their ‘flexibility’ selection criteria. Speaking to our advisers gave her an understanding of the high level of evidence required for a discrimination claim, and she is now drawing up detailed accounts of her interactions with managers and previous highly scored performance reviews.

More information

In certain limited circumstances, there is still some legal aid available for discrimination cases.

Please see our website to check other things you are entitled to if you have been made redundant.

If you need specific advice please contact one of our advisers:  
https://barnetcab.org.uk/contact-us/                                     0300 456 8365

Free information and advice on discrimination issues:

https://www.equalityadvisoryservice.com/app/help       0808 800 0082


https://www.acas.org.uk/contact                                             0300 123 1100

Support us

Citizens Advice Barnet is one of the only sources of free legal advice in Barnet and relies on donations from local residents. If you’d like to support us, visit https://barnetcab.org.uk/support-us-2/