Ending a financial year, planning for change.

I was still at the start this week as ‘cost of living crisis’ reporting dominated the news. Trying to join dots of why the conflict would have an impact on fuel costs, why politicians weren’t taking the same price cap approach as France and what support was available for us ahead of a 50+% fuel price increase.

The week opened with a report from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). CPAG was launched by a small group of social workers and sociologists who have become aware of the problem of family poverty in the course of their work and have met together periodically to see what action might be taken to alleviate it back in the 1960s. CPAG launched by coordinating a letter that would be sent to the Prime Minister on the 22nd December 1965:

Dear Prime Minister,

There is evidence that at least half a million children in this country are in homes where there is hardship due to poverty. They do not belong to a single type of family. Some have fathers who are disabled, suffering from lengthy illnesses or out of work for long periods. Some are the dependent children of women who have lost their husbands through death or desertion. The majority are members of families where the father’s earnings are low and there are several children to support.

The existence of poverty in this country today tends to be overlooked and, indeed, denied. Poverty affects the health and welfare of growing children. It creates long-term social problems. We are sure you are already convinced of the need to support the family and care for the dependent child; but we wish to draw your attention to the special problem of family poverty and to urge that action be taken by Her Majesty’s Government to alleviate it at the earliest possible moment.

The Child Poverty Action Group has prepared a memorandum on the matter and has suggested two ways in which assistance might be given to the children of poor families. It seems likely that neither of these proposals would constitute a large additional burden on the Exchequer, but the detailed figures on which calculations of cost may be made are not generally available. The signatories of this letter would probably not all agree on the precise details of a scheme for reform: we are agreed, however, that action should be taken to achieve a radical improvement in the standard of living of families in poverty and we wish to bring this memorandum to your attention. We ask that the present arrangements for family allowances and the allowances for children be reconsidered and revised, and that bigger direct allowances be paid in respect of children in the poorest families.

We earnestly beg you to see that steps are taken at the earliest possible moment to help these families.

Yours sincerely,

There were over 40 co-signatories most of whom belonging to university bodies.

I saw various research reports on Monday (28th March) from charities established to fight poverty – each detailing how much pressure ‘service users’ and services will be under over the coming months ahead of the cost of living crisis. I remained still as I wanted action based research. I knew on Wednesday (30th March) the End Fuel Poverty Coalition were meeting and that is when we would really start understanding and fighting the issue through action based research.

On Tuesday (29th March) I focused on the Reference Book that I have been creating to accompany our ‘Using the Law to Support your Community’. The approach is that these workshops will be delivered within community bases and a reference book will be available at the community base. This has been this weeks focus as I aim to have it ready for May.

On Wednesday the 30th March we held our ‘Knife Crime’ lunch time session in partnership with Streetlaw.
18 people attended the online session. I contacted of people in the community who did not know about the work of South West London Law Centres to encourage attendence and was pleased to see 18 attend. One attendee asked if we would consider having inspirational speakers as part of a round table discussion on knife crime. This would not be something to do with Streetlaw but community campaigners have suggested a similar thing and this attendee has now been connected to those planning conversations with the law centre also.

After the knife crime session there was an online talk by Sheila McKechnie Foundation to launch its new resource ‘It’s all about power’. There were some great people speaking about their experiences and how connecting with collective power really helped them. It reaffirmed in my mind that a law centres approach to being part of the community is having that community be part of the law centre and how lucky we were that so many people were choosing to be part of us.

After the talk I was looking forward to attending the End Fuel Poverty Coaltion. Are you a member? If you are not and seem to end fuel poverty – you should become a member: End Fuel Poverty Coalition – For energy efficient homes, decent incomes and low cost fuel for low income households.
As a result of this meeting we started forming demands to central Government to enable local authorities to do more to end fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency / bring forward the Great Homes Upgrade and drafting a motion for councillors to pass ahead of the local election to tackle fuel poverty.
There is a lot of worth in action based meetings.

On Thursday and Friday I was focusing on the reference book and promoting our workshops. I was also between our Croydon Law Centre office and Croydon Library as John who runs the Click Clock Gallery in Croydon Library cafe space was coordinating a spring fair on Saturday the 2nd April. We were proud to have our information laid out in this wonderful community venue.