This week our Social Impact Briefing covers the UK protests and destruction of Edward Colston’s statue, World Oceans Day and the Minister for Homelessness’s novel idea to get homeless people off the street.
| Little protests everywhere
This weekend saw Black Lives Matter protests around the world, from Bristol to Brazil. In spite of the global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people turned up (largely peacefully, largely masked) to show solidarity for George Floyd, black communities, and other oppressed peoples.
In Bristol, protestors tore down a statue of the 17th century slave-trader Edward Colston and threw it into the nearby harbour. The statue has been contentious for years and in 2018 a decision was taken – but not followed through – to address his slavery connection on the plaque.
Debate now rages as to whether this was an act of vandalism or the right thing to do. Whilst Priti Patel denounced the toppling as “utterly disgraceful”, Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees said he felt “no sense of loss”, and even Piers Morgan has come out in favour of the protestors, which says a lot about how much of a non-debate this really is.The justification for the statue has always been Colston’s philanthropic giving to the city of Bristol, but given that his wealth was a direct consequence of the suffering and servitude of black slaves, few can argue the case for it remaining.
Britain has a long and sordid history of slavery, although it doesn’t often make it into the classroom (more on that later this week). Many are now calling for an end to all statues of individuals with directs links to slavery, and a greater educational focus on black history in the UK. South African coloniser Cecil Rhodes’ statue in Oxford has also been targeted by activists– you can sign a petition to bring down his statue here.
| The action isn’t just taking place onshore
For this year’s World Oceans Day (Monday 8 June), campaign groups such as Campaign for Nature are calling on governments worldwide to protect at least 30% of the planet’s ocean by 2030. Scientists believe we need half of the planet to remain in its natural state to prevent the extinction of one million species, stay below 1.5C, and safeguard our own species, so 30% is just the first step. You can add your voice by signing Campaign for Nature’s petition here.
Worryingly, it’s estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Given that over half of plastic is less dense than water, by then it will probably be easier to spot Evian bottles than whales. You can do your bit to prevent this by reducing your single-use plastic consumption – from choosing loose fruit & veg at the supermarket to swapping your bottled shampoo for ‘naked’ varieties. However small the change, at least it’s something.
| Minister wants homeless to go home
No, this isn’t satire. This is the Minister for Housing and Homelessness Luke Hall’s recommendation in a recent letter to councils seen by Inside Housing, in which he advised them “to encourage people, where appropriate and possible, to return to friends and family”.
This follows an embarrassing debacle regarding government figures for those housed during the crisis, when officials couldn’t confirm whether the number was 5,400 or 14,600. Recent figures from Shelter suggest the total number of homeless people in the UK is over 280,000, or one in every 200.
Now that lockdown is easing, rough sleepers previously housed in hotels, B&Bs and hostels under the government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme are being asked to leave and return to life on the streets. To combat this reemergence of homelessness, The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has pledged funding that will only continue to support 6,000 of the 14,600 housed as part of the scheme to stay in accommodation.
The government wants councils to seek as many move-on options as possible, giving just a few weeks to find alternative accommodation for those housed during lockdown. Of the solutions presented by the Homelessness Minister, eyebrows were raised at his suggestion to send them to families and friends, exposing a deep lack of understanding about the fact that rough sleepers often experience breakdowns in personal relationships which drives them to the streets in the first place. As waves of post-lockdown redundancies loom, it seems likely the homelessness crisis in the UK is only set to deepen.
| And now for some social impact news that hasn’t hit the headlines yet
The Conservative party has today released a survey, targeted at their voters, on the upcoming Immigration Bill. Proudly stating that the government is ending free movement, the survey asks questions including ‘Do you support us extending visas for current frontline NHS workers?’ After weeks of pro-NHS worker rhetoric from Matt Hancock, it appears on first glance that morality is being swapped for electability when it comes to the rights of migrant workers. Have your say, whether you’re a Conservative voter or not, here.
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