Tag Archives: Austerity

Austerity, benefits process, cuts and poverty impact on mental health and psychological wellbeing

Psychologists march from BPS Leicester to BPS London to raise awareness of impact of benefit system (process, cuts, sanctions and poverty), food poverty (in and out of work) homelessness (rough sleeping, sofa surfing, poor inadequate housing and risk of homelessness) (Guardian article)

The psychologists walking 100 miles to fight austerity’s impact on mental health

Walk the Talk website

Austerity, Poverty, (Un,Under-) Employment, Inequality, Physical and mental health, and Psychological Well-being

A big determinant of absolute poverty is the cost of essentials and cost of living based on things that are unavoidable such as housing, food and shelter and legalistic bills such as Council tax and maintenance security costs such as house insurance. If running a car  legalistic as well as necessary insurance cover. If buying a house with a mortgage insurance requirement as part of the mortgage agreement plus to cover for risks to property in all aspects. Alternatives to buying a home or running a car are not free. Renting can be just as expensive as buying, in fact for anyone becoming redundant after paying a mortgage for years, renting can be a lot more expensive than a mortgage would be. But renting is also often the only means of getting housing when the large amount required to secure a mortgage and maintaining it is not possible on extremely low incomes, no incomes and poor job security. Not running a car cuts the insurance and maintenance aspects, but public transport is expensive, especially so on low and no incomes can be impossible to travel very far and restricts geographical mobility.


Most of the so-called ‘new’ jobs have been in London and the south East, although the quality, job security and pay rates of new jobs are not usually referred to, but again of all new jobs, the best paid and most secure may also be in London and the South-East, with the majority of newer jobs outside these areas tending to be in the most insecure lowest pay sectors. Also there can be great disparities within cities, with enclaves of poverty amongst great wealth, often showing some of the greatest divisions of wealth, also with dangers of property prices in areas with more better paid work pushing out lower paid workers who cannot afford to buy or rent property on low incomes. This means there is a poverty problem outside London and the South-east, which is masked by a skewing of economic statistics because of the London and South-east bubble, but also within the same otherwise more affluent regions an increase in poverty amongst the lowest paid, often insecure and unemployed, the poorest.

Since 2010, according to the Adonis Report, 80% of all new jobs have been London and another 10% in 9 other cities, leaving just 10% in the rest of UK spread unevenly:

Guardian article: Lord Adonis review backs devolution as key to ‘balanced economic recovery’

Cost of Essentials and Cost of Living in UK are discussed in the following article on the Living Standards Gap published by JRF:

“Party leaders must close the living standards gap facing the worst-off families”

Vox Political – ” The minimum income is 2-5-times what people get on benefits but still they are labelled scroungers”

According to Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), Minimum income standard (MIS) many of the UK poorest will never have the opportunity to be able to achieve even this what is after all meant to be a minimum standard of living:

Guardian: Many British people will never afford an acceptable minimum living standard

Back in 2012 it was found in a report that the average person required £30 per day to cover the cost of bills, as food is one component amongst many essentials.

As the cost of essentials has continued to rise rapidly since then even that data is already out of date and therefore the cost of living is even higher. What the following article points out is it i snot the spending of the poor that counts most when determining an absolute minimum requirement as often the poorest people go without essentials such as food and heating in order to pay bills. This can be mothers skipping meals to ensure children are fed and even then not necessarily able to give them what they most need. Also single people are often under-represented in that benefits for single people are the lowest, although no child costs, but also no child benefits. Single parents too are under-represented as in couples even if one is low paid often one partner brings in some income and cost of living, such as mortgage, rent, heating, utilities, insurance is shared between two adults and any children, but for single people or single parents with children this is not an option. Also being single is often not the choice of the individual, either they have not managed for many reasons, including not being able to afford to socialise through being poor or just two compatible people just not meeting, or to becoming a couple or they have been but have ended up separating or getting divorced, with UK having one of the highest divorce rates in the world, so being single is just as common as being in a relationship.

The next article highlights something that is lacking in many reports, that of data lag, but also when reports are written with the purpose of propaganda dates can be deliberately selected so as to alter the results. As most of the worst cuts in benefits occurred after the data collection of many published reports, this means the situation is already far worse than is indicated in many even recent reports.

All told, essentials make up a very large proportion of the use of income and benefits are often inadequate to maintain even the basic cost of living requirements. This is where austerity and poverty is very under-represented and appreciated in terms of it now becoming absolute poverty in the developed world.


Many comparisons are often expressed for the purposes of excusing or belittling the problems of the poor in developed countries by making comparisons with the absolute poverty of living on, for example, £1 a day in the Third world, which is dire, and should not be in the first place. But this simplistic comparison also lacks taking account of the very high cost of living in many developed countries.

UK is one of the most expensive countries in the world to live, just to cover these essential non-negotiable costs. Because of this it would not be possible for anyone to pitch up a tent, along with UK climate and land regulations, Council tax, water rates, plus service such as sanitation and if trying to get to work in urban environments, transport, where to put one suit for interviews etc. and cost of produce in shops, to live on £1 a day. The essential costs now require above benefit levels for non-disabled and the additional sums for disabled are required for additional cost of being disabled, with many having to use these to pay for essentials and with cuts in disability befits also to endure absolute poverty, with even fewer ways out due to limits of disabilities and discrimination by employers.

Many have no choice but to resort to benefits as a safety net because of insufficient numbers of jobs that pay adequate wages to support the cost of living for essentials and then have to endure living with a shortfall of income to meet basic needs, many having to resort to debt or go without essentials, which in effect means many more in the developed world moving from relative to absolute poverty.

In any country there are added problem where there is relative poverty, as inequality in itself causes psychological and social problems, with social division. In developed countries there is sufficient wealth within the macroeconomic system pertaining to each country.  Np one should have forced to be in absolute poverty in rich countries and inequality can be minimised, with everyone having as reasonable as possible lifestyle, and especially equality of opportunities in education and employment as well as all aspects of society. There should not be anyone in absolute poverty, economically there is no reason for it, unless the economics are those of deliberate division and inequality.

World Bank report finds GDP growth in unequal countries, when deconstructed into top and bottom quartiles, that as inequality rises, poor wealth declining whereas wealth of rich increasing:

Ideally underdeveloped countries too should also be able to eliminate or at least minimise absolute poverty too, as the UN and UNICEF have often stated in their mandates for a more equal world and the poverty of the Third world is related to exploitation of the richer developed countries, so also a need for a more equal world too.

Helen Keller > Quotes > Quotable Quote:

“The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all … The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands – the ownership and control of their livelihoods – are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.”



Psychological and Physical Effects of Relative and Absolute Poverty and Austerity

Effects of poverty and austerity are wide-ranging and noticeably affect the lives of the poor, physically and mentally, with many alarming comparisons available as well as many not often sufficiently accepted in the media and by governments that are working on different agenda, where the poor are given low priority or in unequal countries are a priority in that  they are used a spawns in enabling the rich to get richer, by exploitation or discarded, cast aside.

In psychological terms all these stresses of the poor are manifest by  relative deprivation that adds to immense psychophysical and biological, and even neurobiological consequences of relative and  absolute poverty.

Ongoing blog item shall be added to as appropriate

Race to the Bottom: In and out of work poverty in reality both getting worse in UK and in many countries

One aspect of the current economic transference of the labour market is increasing in-work poverty, mixing unemployment and underemployment, more as part of a continuum of employment, with part-time, zero hour, and low paid remuneration, based on increasing of inequality. There is a widening as well as record wealth divide in many countries around the world. Some economics workers refer to the Gini coefficient and index, but this itself can be misleading, especially as it inadequately represents the scale of absolute poverty at the bottom and misses off the difference between poor and very poor, which can be the difference between being hard up and affording to live. Destitution, hunger and often is with respect to particularly disadvantaged groups or sectors within society, so that the reality for groups driven into poverty can be far worse than the very general Gini index can accommodate.

The following article also mentions availability of data, like unemployment statistics can be very misleading, or even if in the same direction, can underestimate the real situation and related circumstances for those suffering poverty. Limitations and even worse biased selection of samples of the population used in data collection, with resultant statistical error and questionable validity mean absolute poverty at the bottom is often far worse than statistics based on official available figures:

‘Difficulties calculating inequality and the gini coefficient’

‘In-work poverty’ soars by 59%

Useful reports on In-work poverty by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, discussing the various elements that contribute to falling incomes for the poorest in work:

‘Zero-hours contracts are just one part of the UK’s in-work poverty problem’

Not enough jobs, not enough hours, not enough pay: shocking rise of in-work poverty in Wales revealed in new JRF report

Search of ‘in-work poverty’ from Joseph Rowntree Foundation site provides some interesting demographics and details of reality behind the statistics:

In-work poverty article search

“Child poverty is increasingly a problem in working families”

It is a typical graphical representation from official sources illustrating rising UK in-work poverty statistic (2001/02 compared with 2011/12). It is useful as it highlights a problem of in-work poverty mushrooming in UK, but it is also  problematic to compare 2001 to 2011, as standard of living rose especially so for the poorest, but has rapidly fallen since 2010 and continued to fall since 2011. It also has to be borne in mind that the division is very general rich and poor, whilst in reality there are divisions of poor, with many shades of poor, with the poorest without means or with family able to supplement inadequate means, having the greatest fall in the standard of living in UK.

This statistic has been featured in many recent articles and newspaper reports on in-work poverty in UK relating to the latest in-work poverty situation. However, I have felt every time I read this information on in-work poverty increasing that it is often unintentional, but sometimes intentional affect, by comparing the two of making people think that out-of-work poverty is falling, whereas in-work poverty rising, but in reality both are rising, just in-work poverty is mushrooming. Often headlines state in-work poverty is now a bigger problem than out-of-work poverty. It is actually an unnecessary association, but it is a factor of comparing two variables, namely in and out of work poverty as a percentage of total poverty.

It was important to emphasise that this is something though that is often missed from illustrating the rise of in-work poverty and not a criticism of this graphical representation. In-work poverty is indeed a very real problem in itself, with many more going to work, but still not having a living wage and even benefits increasing due to inadequate income. However benefits have been cut per individual, so although the benefits bill in terms of government expenditure can rise and needs to with real inflation, as opposed to the inadequate official inflation figures is rising even more for the poor, due to the much higher weighting of essentials in the cost of living.

So for those having to rely on benefits, it is a very real cut and those not in work unless they have any other sources of support, such as family and not everyone has family or family that can provide financial support are left even more impoverished. But the way that the comparison appears is a factor in the way that statistics work, or rather are used. A lot depends on presentation of variables and associations, interactions, often with different types of error. There are many good books on statistics used in psychology and economics that explain these various aspects of using and presenting statistics (see recommended reading references note below for some books I like).

The case in point is that it would be interesting to examine further, by including in the graph, on the same scale, increasing poverty both in and out of work, but also still illustrating the massive increase of in-work poverty. This would help to illustrate both problems at the same time. That is, in and out of work poverty are both increasing in the UK. This is also quite possibly the case in many countries around the world that are currently praising themselves on falling official unemployment figures, bearing in mind many countries such as UK also use manipulate statistics to try to show unemployment as much lower than it actually is.

OECD forecasts, based on recent trends, inequality rising and GDP growth slowing in spite of population growth increasing:

Disguised unemployment, making official figures appear not anywhere near as bad as they really are still exists just its not featured in official figures, along with an enormous growth of underemployment, much lower job security and falling incomes of lower to middle incomes in many countries, but especially those following ‘Austerity’ policies such as UK. So Prof. Stiglitz in a lecture on the reality of US along with most of developed world, especially North Atlantic bordering countries, but with macroeconomic linkages throughout the world, still being in a Great Depression (24:00 in video) UK is even worse, but all are in a Great Depression.

The North Atlantic malaise: failures in economic policy

“not just a lost decade, but unless anything is done we could be talking about a lost quarter century..”


Joseph Rowntree Foundation website

Recommended reading references for books on statistics:

My favourite books on statistics, especially relevant for psychology, include one of my recent set books Andy Field, ‘Discovering Statistics Using IBM SPSS Statistics’ (4th Ed) (2013) Published by Sage and available as a book or on Kindle. Also the heavy weight book Barbara G. Tabachnick and Linda S. Fidell ‘Using Multivariate Statistics’ (2013) Published by Pearson.