Archive for the ‘Homelessness’ Category

Here are some interesting articles and blog posts found over the past seven days relating to social issues in Wales and the UK.

Racism

Following on from the last post about racism in Wales,  I want to flag up an interesting article which appeared in the Independent last Sunday.  The article, Race in Britain 2012, highlights the huge disparities that still exist between the ways white people and ethnic minorities are treated in the UK. In particular it was found that white people  compared to black people were: half as likely to grow up in poverty, three times as likely to go to a leading university, one fifth as likely to go to jail and likely to be paid 20% more for equal work. At the same time, black people compared to white people were: twice as likely to die by the age of one, three times as likely to be excluded from school, four times as likely to be murdered and three times as likely to be poor in old age. To read the article in full, click here.

Squatting and the homeless

A post last month by Imogen Barrer for the blog Wales Now discusses changes to  the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which would criminalise squatting in a residential property in England and Wales. The post highlights the potential for such a law to have adverse effects on homeless people in Wales, as squatting and homelessness are intrinsically linked. To read Imogen’s post, click here.

Child poverty

Figures were released yesterday about the current levels of child poverty in the UK. An article by campaigner Anne Longfield looks into what these figures mean and calls for the redoubling of efforts to combat child poverty. To read Anne’s article in full, click here and look out for a post on Count Me In Cymru coming soon about the extent of child poverty in Wales.

 

 

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I have a friend called Josh.

Josh joined the army aged 17. Every so often I worry about him. Not just because he’ll go out and fight for our country and put his life in danger. But also because of what might happen when he comes back to the UK. Back to ‘normality’.

On Sunday many of  us will have attended armistice services all over the UK to remember those who have been killed in action. But what about those who lived? All too often war veterans can slip through the net and be forgotten by society.

At the moment there are estimated to be 250,000 war veterans living in Wales.  Many ex-service men and women will struggle to adjust back into civilian life when they are discharged from the armed forces. A joint study done in 2002 by Shelter and the MOD indicated that 25% of the 20,000 people leaving the armed forces each year experience homelessness at some point in their lives. A study done by NAPO in 2008 showed that 8.5% of the prison population in England and Wales had armed services record. Another NAPO study in 2009 showed that 12,000 former armed services personnel were under supervision of the Probation Service in England and Wales; either on community services or on parole. Since the Falklands war – in which 255 soldiers died –  a further 264 veterans had also committed suicide by 2009.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) plays a big part in these statistics. The MOD estimates that 4% of soldiers will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. However, American sources find this figure to be much higher, more like 20 or 30%. As Fraser Nelson shrewdly pointed out “Either Americans are five times as vulnerable, or Britain has some way to go in assessing the scale of the problem.”

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

It means we’re not taking enough care of our soldiers.

Ken Hames, former SAS major and founder of the Forces Self Build Scheme, said in a Big Issue Cymru article last week: “…the separation between the forces and society – that gulf – is as great as it’s ever been. They are deployed constantly, so the military’s chance to interact with society the way it once did is small. Soldiers aren’t coming back to cohesive communities, aren’t coming back to places where employment is reliable.”

Ex-soldier Clive Hawkins spoke about his experiences after leaving the army of coping with PTSD.

Welsh Charity Healing the Wounds are raising money to build a residential treatment facility for PTSD sufferers in Wales; the only UK nation which doesn’t have such a facility. To find out more about PTSD visit: http://www.combatstress.org.uk/

Homelessness in Wales is a problem.

Statistics released in June show it is a growing problem. From January to March 2011, compared to the same quarter last year; the number of Welsh households accepted as homeless rose to 1,655 ( a 13% increase) and the number of households in temporary accommodation grew to 2,640 ( a rise of  6%).  In Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Newport, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, Wrexham, Gwynedd and Anglesey the proportion of people accepted as homeless was above the Welsh average.

These statistics do not include those classed as intentionally homeless (homeless by their own act or omission), so the actual number of homeless people will be far higher. Clearly there is a need to tackle the problem of homelessness head on; sooner, rather than later.

Count Me In Cymru interviewed Keri Harris, Chairman of social inclusion charity Street Football Wales, to learn about how they help homeless people get back on their feet.

How does Street Football Wales help those who are socially excluded?

“In a nutshell Street Football Wales is all about creating opportunity for people of all different backgrounds and playing football in a safe and fun environment; changing lives for the better. For example; for those who are homeless, they can really interact with the other players and feel included. And for those with substance misuse issues, it gives them one day they know they have to stay clean. As a result that sends the message; if they can stay clean for one day, why not two days, why not a week? ”

Chairman Keri Haris and coach Paul Scarfi with Welsh dragons team, courtesy of Street Football Wales

How did Street Football Wales start?

“In 2003 I was working for Big Issue Cymru. Our director came back from a conference and asked me to start up a football team. I wasn’t really keen on football, I’ve always been more interested in rugby to be honest!

The first homeless world cup was going to be held in Austria in 2003. We took a team over , not really knowing what to expect and it was a life changing experience, not just for the players but for myself too. Seeing the positive impact it could have on people was incredible.

 We came back wanting to continue it but there was nothing we could really join. The team wanted to stay together but with the various organisations we looked into joining people being judgemental towards us and clearly it just wasn’t going to work. We needed a project on its own for people who are socially excluded. That’s how it was set up in 2004 as an eight team project.”

In action, image courtesy of Street Football Wales

Is it common to see people turn their lives around while playing for Street Football Wales?

“There’s been many many success stories. To name a few; Chris Stockwell is now living independently, he’s working and he even wants to help volunteer to coach with Street Football Wales. Terry Fitzpatrick is someone who’s seen he can really achieve whatever he wants. He’s now in university in Carmarthen, and has passed the first year of his social work course with flying colours. A lot of the boys from the group we took out to the Milan Homeless World Cup in 2009 have now become fathers and are in stable relationships and it’s fantastic to see them get back on their feet.”

Street Football Wales is just one of the many charities in Wales which seeks to help homeless people, but with homelessness on the rise the government must play its part. On October 24th the Welsh Government announced a review into homelessness legislation following research completed in May (downloadable here). Criticisms emerging from the research included:

  • Resources are often wasted
  • Homelessness legislation should address more than just housing
  • Earlier intervention is needed
  • Young and vulnerable people should be exempt from the intentionality test
  • More guidance is needed

The review will be launched led by Dr Peter Mackie, lecturer in Housing at Cardiff University.

Keep your coins I want change Banksy image, courtesy of Michael Pickard at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pickard/6363045/