The Lone Parent Trap

When Jen Smith’s employer went bust she lost control of a life she had spent 20 years building. It took only a few years for life to unravel. In three years Jen got just four interviews and no job. Soon she had to remortgage the one-bedroom flat she shares with her daughter.

Why so quiet…

It has been a while since I’ve blogged anything, mainly because I’ve been working to eat and pay the rent, but for more exciting reasons too. I’ve been writing up a different kind of article with my friend, the talented photographer Christina Theisen. Our joint effort looking at environmental projects in London will published by Lonely Coot very soon…right now it’s being edited. I’ve also been working on a long-form article for the Dominion of New York on the disproportionate use of stop and search on black people living in London. In light of the Guardian’s recent coverage of police…

Is this what gentrification looks like?

I’m not really an opinion blogger; instead I prefer to tell stories based on my reporting and research. However, every now and then, I do like to let off steam. So below are a few of my scattered reflections on the riots in London this summer, which I reported on for the Washington Post here, here and here, and for the New Internationalist here, and Legal Action magazine here. And if you want some meaningful polemic, go read what Gary Younge says about rioting http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/14/young-british-rioters-political-actions And Camila Batmanghelidjh here http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/camila-batmanghelidjh-caring-costs-ndash-but-so-do-riots-2333991.html *** I hate the word gentrification. It carries such unpleasant…

A better life? The European Union’s other problem

Reading through my notes and transcribing the interviews from my trip earlier this year, I was struck again and again at the bleakness of life for many undocumented migrants in Europe. It pains me that in debates on immigration, the reality and sheer misery of life for the poorest migrants is never discussed. I am a journalist, not an activist. While I hold certain values dear, I write to inform, rather than persuade. But I would like people to read my work on migration to Europe, and for the facts I have uncovered to inform their thinking on immigration. This…

What price justice?

Legal aid scores highly on the coalition government’s list of public services surplus to requirement, and is therefore ripe for cutting. This week politicians debate the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which includes proposals to reduce the £2bn spent on legal aid each year by £350m. One way the government plans to achieve this is by reducing the number of people eligible for legal aid – currently around 36% of the population (down from 80% when the scheme began in 1949). A second plan will remove from the scope of civil legal aid particular social problems where…

Children: the deserving poor?

‘If there’s anything extra to buy such as a pair of boots for one of the children … me and the children goes without dinner.’ So says a working class woman from York interviewed for Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree’s painstaking study of poverty in late nineteenth century Britain. When conducting his research between 1898 and 1901, Rowntree was alarmed at what he found: This suffering may be all but voiceless, and we may long remain ignorant of its extent and severity, but when once we realise it we see that social questions of profound importance await solution. Yet, over a century…