Showing posts with label charity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label charity. Show all posts

Friday, January 16, 2015

Having to beg for a morsel

A record number of adults and children relied upon food banks in Scotland in December, according to new figures obtained by the BBC. Nearly 10,500 people visited the Trussell Trust's 48 food banks for the first time in the charity's history.

The data also reveals a third of users cited low income - and not welfare benefit delays - for their predicament. 3,005 people (28%) said they used a Scottish food bank due to low income in December, closely followed by 2,527 (24%) because of a benefit delay, and 1,555 (15%) due to a benefit change. The Clyde, Avon and Nethan food bank reported that 77% of people given a food package in December cited low income as the main contributing factor. Many users visiting the food banks at Airdrie and Lochaber also blamed low incomes (50% and 48% respectively.)

The figure is a 13% increase from the 9,263 people who used a Trussell Trust food bank in December 2013. In December 2014, 10,489 people visiting Scottish food banks were given a three day supply of nutritionally balanced food by the charity - a third of them children. The charity underlined that the final figure for December visits is likely to be even higher as food bank staff continue to input data into their system.

Ewan Gurr, the charity's network manager for Scotland, said he was concerned that many low income families were forced to face hunger in the run-up to Christmas due to financial difficulties. He said: "Every day we are hearing working people describe the devastating reality of sustaining their families with static incomes and unstable employment against consistently rising costs of essentials like food and rent. In the most harrowing accounts, we hear from the families choosing whether to prioritise heating their homes or feeding their families and parents losing weight because they overlook their own health and wellbeing to feed their children."

The Trust, which partners with churches and communities, currently operates more than 1,200 food distribution centres across the UK. The Trust's figures also reveal Dundee had the highest number of adults (3,750) using food banks in the last year, while south east Glasgow had the highest number of children (1,975).

A government document published last month suggested low income families may face increasing financial difficulties in the future. According to the report, approximately 820,000 people were living in relative poverty in 2013 - an increase of 110,000 from the previous year. This increase in relative poverty - where someone lives in a household that receives less than 60% of the UK average income - was attributed to a continued fall in incomes. The report concluded: "Low wage growth (particularly for those in less skilled employment), changes in the labour market, and tightening of eligibility and conditionality under welfare reform have resulted in lower median income."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Banking on charity? Don't !

Charities lost a protracted battle against the banks.

The trustees savings banks which operated prior to 1986 had a tradition of charitable giving. When TSB Group plc was floated in that year there were established several charitable foundations. The Deed of Covenant dated 10 September 1986 by which TSB Group plc ("the Company") bound and obliged itself at quarterly terms to pay to the reclaimer the greater of "(a) the amount equal to one quarter of one third of 0.1946 per cent of the pre-tax profits (after deducting pre-tax losses) ... or (b) the sum of £9,730".

Following the banking crisis of 2009 and the takeover of Halifax Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group tried to change the terms of its relationship with the foundation. It wanted to half its donation and put its own staff on the foundation’s board. The following high-profile dispute resulted in the bank and foundation formally breaking their links, which will come into effect after nine years notice.

The foundation should have received £3,543,433 but the bank interpreted the small-print of accountacy rules to mean they were required to only pay £38,920 and has had this upheld by the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Class Education

Despite some of Scotland’s most exclusive fee-paying secondary schools charging more than £30,000 for a year’s tuition, 80 per cent of their annual rates bills are being paid for by ­councils – because they are classed as charities. The classification of private schools as charities, not businesses, means the public purse foots almost all of each independent school’s annual non-domestic rates bill – even although they are already exempt from income and corporation tax. As a result, Scotland’s most prestigious private schools enjoy massive tax relief despite charging colossal annual fees while state schools struggle. In Glasgow and Edinburgh, the state schools’ non-domestic rates bill in 2011 was £23.6million, paid for by each council.

Edinburgh’s George Watson’s College, was spared £330,119 of charges.

Fettes charges £27,150 a year for senior school boarders. Its bill for non-domestic rates last year was £209,139, but an 80% discount meant the school had £167,311 taken off. By contrast, Wester Hailes Education Centre  which had 40.5% of its pupils registered for free school meals last year attracted an NDR bill last year of £261,873. The charge was paid in full by the local authority, six times as much NDR as Fettes.

Brian Boyd, emeritus professor of education at the University of Strathclyde, said: "The idea that Fettes can pay proportionately less in rates than a comprehensive school in Drumchapel is repugnant." He says that “Charitable status has been shown to be little more than a smokescreen for subsidies"

Glasgow’s ­Hutchesons’ Grammar charge up to £9459 for a year’s education. In the past three years the school’s rates bill totalled around £924,923. As a charity, the trust who run the school have had £739,934 of that paid by the taxpayer. Deemed a charity because 2.2 per cent of children at Hutchesons’ Grammar pay no fees.

Glasgow City Council figures show the charge for state schools was £13.8m in 2011. More than 95% was paid. Over the past three years, the total bill for Edinburgh's 16 private schools was £6.32m, but around £5.1m was knocked off.

Glenalmond College, a Perthshire boarding school had £126,747 chopped off its rates bill last year, Gordonstoun was liable for £148,086 last year, but got a reduction of £118,468. This charity charges up to £31,839 a year for its services.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The rag trade - or rags to riches for some

Shelter Scotland says it is "deeply disappointed and saddened" by a sharp increase in the number of shoplifting incidents at its charity shops.

The charity – which runs 36 shops across Scotland - currently experiences more than a dozen theft-related incidents a week. Research released earlier this month reported a 20 percent increase in shoplifting in charity shops over the past two years, up from an estimated £4.25 million to £5.1 million in 2011. In comparison, there was a 14 percent increase in shoplifting rates across the high street.

The charity is asking for police to take firmer action against thieves. Graeme Brown Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We’re deeply disappointed and saddened that our shops are increasingly being targeted by shoplifters but we will not stand for it any longer...To anyone out there who has or is considering stealing from our shops, be assured that we will report you to the police. Shoplifting is a criminal offence and one which we, nor the police, will take lightly.”

Is it not an indictment of austere times and capitalism that folk are so desperate as to steal from charity stores. Charity shops are seeing sales boom as more poverty-stricken families turn to second-hand stores to make ends meet. The disposable weekly income of the average family has fallen by 6.5 per cent in a year. So with millions struggling to pay bills, one in every two families are trawling thrift stores for good quality hand-me-downs.

Charity shops are big business. They currently make £200 million for UK charities every year.

Prices paid for second-hand clothes in the UK have tripled in the past five years, sparking a battle between charities, companies and councils for the nation’s cast-offs. Some charities are benefiting from the price increase. “Donated textiles in the UK marketplace are now seen to be a highly valuable commodity,” noted the latest annual report of the Salvation Army Trading Company, a subsidiary of the Christian charity that collects and sells donated clothing. Its revenues have tripled in the past five years to £23.7m. Charities with shops usually sell their leftover clothes to rag dealers, while others often team up with companies to collect donations from doorstep or textile banks. “Charities think we are minting money and it is not true. They increase the prices and we have to accept it,” said Tosh Vyas, who collects clothes from UK charity shops and sorts them in Poland to reduce costs. In 2002 he paid charities 3p a kilo; now he pays 70p a kilo.

 The British Heart Foundation (BHF) - which has 700 shops across UK high streets - reports a record breaking year with profits up by £5million to £31million. According to their research, 44% of adults are now regularly shopping in charity stores compared to a year ago and one in three say its all they can afford. Supersize charity shops are opening up to cope with the rising demand for second-hand goods. Out of 43 new stores opened across the UK last year by Sue Ryder, seven were supersize. It opened a 2,965sq ft store in King’s Lynn which took more than £2,100 on its first day of trading.

Save the Children, has teamed up with the retail guru Mary Portas to diversify and give their stores more of a boutique makeover.

Earlier this year, Oxfam also reported boom time with sales up 5% across clothing, books, music and homewares. Oxfam’s 700 shops and online store announced annual takings of £85.9million in 2011, an increase of 6 per cent on the previous year.

Nowadays  all the charity shops there are competing with themselves. The most popular cause supported was charities looking for a cure (59 per cent), followed by those that focus on children (44 per cent), animals (37 per cent) or local community issues (38 per cent).

Now the conventional chain stores are groing more involved. Marks & Spencer wants customers to hand over an old or unwanted garment whenever they buy a new one, to encourage a phenomenon it has dubbed "shwopping". It wants to kick-start a "buy one, give one" culture which could allow unwanted items to be resold, reused or recycled by its charity partner Oxfam. Similar schemes have already been seen on the high street, with retailer TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK urging people to "Give up Clothes for Good". The unintended consequence is that the shops of smaller, less well known charities receive fewer donations as a result.

B&W Studio advertising agency has created branding and marketing materials for a new national campaign that is due to appear in some 7000 UK charity shops including Marie Curie Cancer Care,The British Red Cross and The British Heart Foundation. Created for the Charity Retail Association, the “Choose Charity Shops” brand encourages people to donate directly to charity stores and will appear on window posters, in-store point of sale and direct mail rather than commercial recycling companies - see below.- Specialist shops and online entrepreneurs are exchanging cash for bin bags of old clothes, which are then exported to eastern Europe and Africa, where British high street labels command great cachet. Cash4Clothes, which has 31 shops and plans to open another 50 this year, pays £5 for a full bin bag of clothes. “When you donate clothes, do you want them to line wealthy businessmen’s pockets?” said the charity Scope.

The 2nd Hand Millionaire

The Daily Mirror reported that "Secondhand clothes left in recycling banks are being sold for a profit in up-market ­“vintage” shops. Items donated by people who believe they are helping the poor and needy end up in trendy ­boutiques as councils try to claw back millions of pounds they have lost due to ­Government cuts. They are handing over to private ­companies the clothes banks which they previously let charities ­use free of charge. Firms hand a cut of the profit they make from recycling to the local authorities."
Hertfordshire and Northumberland councils have struck deals with recycling giants Nathans Wastesavers and Cookstown ­Recycling to run banks (16 London councils are considering putting out to tender a contract to operate textile banks on all their sites). Nathans are selling much of what they collect from clothes banks to shops in Scotland. The firm’s most recent accounts show that in 2009 and 2010 they sold clothes worth £430,000 to WM Armstrong, a chain of three up-market secondhand clothes shops in Edinburgh. They sell them on to middle-class students and young professionals at prices much higher than those charged by charity shops. The stores ­had dresses  priced at £20-£30 and handbags were on sale for £20. Leather jackets were selling for around £50, with worn-out and ripped Barbour jackets tagged at £35-£55. The most expensive item on sale ­appeared to be a Black Watch tartan kilt at £120.  Brendan O’Brien, a ­director of both Nathans and Armstrongs, is the brains behind the scheme. He lives in a large £3million mansion in one of Edinburgh’s most exclusive areas.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hungry and Homeless in Scotland

According to the Office for National Statistics, food prices have risen by almost 5% in 12 months, but incomes have not kept pace. Anne Houston, chief executive of the charity Children 1st, warns that the number of people relying on handouts will rise as the economic situation worsens. She said: "One in five children in Scotland lives in poverty, which is unacceptable. As the cost of living rises, there is a real risk that more families could find themselves living in poverty."

The Trussell Trust, which runs the UK's only network of food banks, is helping to feed 6000 people in Scotland, and 129,000 people across the UK as a whole. Last year the Trussell Trust fed 2400 people in Dundee, 3362 in the Highlands and 375 people at its centre in Glasgow, which opened in December.

John Dickie, from the Children's Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: "This is an indictment of government policy and shouldn't be seen as an alternative to the kind of national action we need to prevent children and families living in poverty."


A decent home is the top priority for Scots, according to a recent poll. But with thousands of people making homeless applications and waiting on council lists for a permanent home, it is an ambition which is far out of reach for many. Demand for housing is predicted to increase over the next two decades, with a rising population and more people living alone or in small households. Changes to housing benefits being introduced by the UK Government could lead to increased arrears and evictions, as thousands of already struggling Scots are pushed deeper into poverty. The economic crisis has brought a tide of rising unemployment, government cutbacks and soaring costs of living, leaving many families struggling to hang on to their home. One recent survey found one in seven people in Scotland are now relying on credit cards and overdrafts to pay their mortgage or rent. An investigation by Shelter Scotland found 26 out of 30 letting agents charged upfront fees for reference checks, credit checks and "general administration", which ranged from £16.80 to £180. Graeme Brown, Shelter Scotland's director, said such issues were creating a "toxic brew" for the housing market.

There are 160,000 people on council waiting lists, over 40,000 people assessed as homeless, and about 10,000 households in temporary accommodation across Scotland just now. Since the onset of the financial crisis, around 26,000 jobs directly linked to the home-building industry in Scotland have been lost. The number of new homes built has fallen from around 26,000 in 2007 to just over 11,000 in 2010. 23,000 privately-owned unoccupied homes across Scotland which have been lying abandoned for six months or more.

"We do a lot of family support work and kids say they want somewhere safe and secure to live – not just in terms of a house but the neighbourhood," Shelter said. "They want somewhere permanent, somewhere they can call home. It is not a bad aspiration to have."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tough Times Ahead

Charities have warned that more Scots will be forced into poverty by soaring prices after the Governor of the Bank of England said inflation could reach 5% by the end of the year. Mervyn King said Britain faces a long slow recovery from its financial woes. Families and pensioners will be among the worst hit as fuel, food and clothing costs soar should the prediction by Mervyn King come true. With consumer spending being squeezed and wages failing to keep pace with the rising cost of living, charities believe many families and pensioners will be the worst hit.

The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland claimed many children could suffer as parents struggle to make ends meet. “If prices continue to rise, we’re going to see a significant increase in child poverty and this is going to have an impact on factors such as children’s health and education outcomes. Families are really struggling as living costs are rising rapidly and incomes aren’t moving to match them. Lots of families are worried about the future, they’re struggling to make ends meet and that’s going to lead to a lot of debt”.

Charity Age Scotland said that more older people could be facing poverty if bills continue to rise. Doug Anthoney, of Age Scotland, said: “If inflation reaches that point, it will have a significant impact on older people, many of whom are really struggling to pay for energy and food. “This is coming on the back of massive increases in fuel costs and it could well mean that more older people are found to be living in poverty.”

Peter Kelly, director of The Poverty Alliance, claimed that the poor would be the worst affected. “Not surprisingly higher rates of inflation will hit some of our poorest families hardest. The increases in fuel costs will make life increasingly tough for these families. When we add to this the fact that the costs of many other basic goods and services are rising, then it is clear our economic and social policies are not protecting those most in need."

A survey conducted by information management firm Nielsen showed that almost one-third of householders claim that they have no spare cash due to rising prices and the Consumer Confidence Survey also showed that 65% of shoppers are switching to cheaper grocery brands in a bid to save money.

Friday, February 04, 2011

feeding the poor

Mary's Meals, a Scots-based and Argyll-based charity, provides school meals in 16 of the world's poorest countries is now feeding half a million children.

Founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, said "There are still one billion children living in poverty, so our work is not done yet."

Sad to say that the work will never be done.

The necessity and prevalence of charity in a world capable of producing a sufficiency of food, clothing and shelter to easily satisfy the needs of all, is an obvious indication that something, somehow, somewhere, is rotten to the core. The socialist claims that it is capitalism. Capitalism automatically produces poverty which in its turn perpetuates charity. Eliminate the cause, and you eradicate the disease. Rather than deal simply and directly by providing ready access to storehouses of goods, as would occur in a sensible world, there are those who prefer instead to deliver the great mass of wealth to the privileged minority and present tear-drenched appeals for charity for the impoverished majority.

Charity! Sweet charity! Upheld as evidence of the innate goodness of man. Providing an outlet for the energies of people who feel that something ought to be done and who might otherwise find time to think about doing things really helpful. Indecent, unwholesome charity! Preying on the natural willingness of ordinary people to help one another, even to the extent of depriving their own of needed things. Charity! Symbol of a society that neither intends nor desires to end the conditions that ensure its existence.

One day the means for producing and distributing the needs of life will become the common property of all the people and will be operated for no purpose other than to provide abundance to all the members of society. On that day a socialist society will be established, bringing an end finally to exploitation, along with all the other abominations of capitalism, including charity.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sugaring the pill ?

The vice-president of a diabetes charity has been called on to sever ties with the group because he also acts as a lobbyist for a drugs giant. Sir Michael Hirst is both a figurehead for Diabetes UK and an adviser to Denmark-based Novo Nordisk, a firm that is planning to withdraw a vital form of insulin from the UK.Novo Nordisk plans to remove Mixtard 30 as a treatment, which some diabetics have used for more than 10 years. Doctors believe the move could cause problems for sufferers and the NHS.

Hirst, a one-time Tory MP, is a former chair of Diabetes UK and now acts as the charity's vice-president. At the same time, he is chair of Edinburgh-based Pagoda PR, which represents Novo Nordisk.Hirst is “retained to act for a number of health-related clients, including Roche Diagnostics and Novo Nordisk”. Services include public affairs advice and parliamentary lobbying.

Tristan Stewart-Robertson, a writer and type-1 diabetic, said: “The withdrawal of this form of insulin highlights the problem of having only two companies worldwide that produce insulin. With only two firms controlling the patent, you really need a patients’ rights group that is 100% on the diabetics’ side."

When Novo Nordisk withdrew another insulin treatment, Actrapid in 2005 Hirst said: “...product rationalisation is a common fact of life.”

Friday, December 05, 2008

capitalist wages

A Government-owned business set up to help alleviate poverty in the developing world paid its chief executive almost £1 million last year, a report has revealed. CDC Group's Richard Laing received £970,000 , more than double a threshold set by its owner, the Department for International Development (DFID). CDC is a fund management company which invests in private businesses in emerging markets, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asian , in support of DFID's goal of nurturing the growth of the private sector economy in developing countries.
The National Audit Office found that there was "no systematic evidence on the extent to which CDC investment adds to overall investment in poor countries". DFID was "not well-equipped to consider the benefits of its investment" compared to other aid approaches. It also noted that CDC this year had £1.4 billion deposited in cash in the UK, compared to £1.2 billion invested in businesses overseas.
The chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Edward Leigh, said: "It is ridiculous that the chief executive of a Government-owned body aimed at reducing poverty can earn £970,000 in a single year."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Charity doesn't begin at home

Staff at Shelter Scotland went on strike yesterday for the first time in the homeless charity's history in protest over pay and conditions. Offices around the country were closed as more than 100 workers and their supporters gathered at a rally in Glasgow to voice their opposition to new employment contracts.

The union Unite said that a proposed extension of staff hours would see employees working an extra three weeks a year without pay.Workers are also opposed to plans to downgrade 40 posts across Shelter's UK services, including four at Shelter Scotland, and to make up to five staff redundant. Unite said the walkout, following the breakdown of earlier talks, would be repeated on Monday unless management was prepared to negotiate a new offer. The prospect of a resolution looked unlikely, however, as Shelter's UK head warned that if the current offer was refused, up to 200 of its 850 staff UK-wide could lose their jobs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Charity begins at home

An urgent appeal for food for families and individuals in need has been made by a Highland charity. Blythswood Care, known for transporting relief aid to Eastern Europe, said there has been an increased demand in the Highlands over the winter months.

It warned that it had already helped 340 people this year and that stocks were running low. The Highland Food Bank gives a three-day supply of foodstuffs to households in financial crises.

Co-ordinator Lorna Dempster said that the Highland Food Bank helped more than 1,700 people in 2007 - an increase of 70% over the previous year, when 1,000 clients were helped

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Capitalist Charity

Clive Cowdery, chairman of Resolution , announced yesterday that he planned to sell some or all of his holding and would transfer around £20 million to a new charity The Resolution Trust. The trust will ensure continued funding for the work of Cowdery's financial education project The Resolution Foundation .

The £5 billion sale to Pearl of the group he founded netted him a personal £150 million . Cowdery's stake grew in value by some £25 million in the few weeks between him announcing a merger with Friends Provident, with Resolution shares at 616p, and selling to rival Hugh Osmond of Pearl for 720p, thanks partly to sparking a bidding war between Pearl and Standard Life. So he can well afford to be generous with his philanthropic gestures . And what , pray we ask , is this charitable institution he is financing .

The Resolution Foundation is an independent research and policy organisation formed in September 2005 to study "how people on low to moderate incomes fair in the mixed welfare economy" with a particular interest in promoting increased social mobility. The foundation's first project was the forerunner of the government's review chaired by Aegon UK chief executive Otto Thoresen into the creation of a national advice service dispensing "generic" financial guidance. It commissioned a study from McKinsey and Deloitte, whose proposed model "led to extensive lobbying on the benefits to individuals and the nation", the foundation said. It is now embarking on a new project, "to promote a fair and efficient supply of elderly care, with a focus on people on low to moderate incomes".

Forgive my ignorance , but doesn't all that just add up to a fancy way of saying it does market research and offer financial advice for investment funds ? Tax-free , of course .

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Xmas Presents

Ethical gifts are billed as the perfect antidote to the conspicuous consumerism of the festive season. Whether buying a goat for a family in Africa, or the materials to build a toilet, we are told that these simple items can make a big difference to people in developing countries.
Such presents have been growing in popularity and last year Oxfam sold £3.9 million worth of ethical gifts . The charity has this year launched a celebrity-led campaign to encourage more of us to send useful gifts - which may include items such as dung, condoms or even a can of worms - to help communities in the developing world.

However UK-based education charity Worldwrite says that far from being welcome, these gifts are often seen as "demeaning and patronising". Worldwrite also argues that far from encouraging development, buying someone a goat or a hoe for Christmas only conspires to keep recipients at the same subsistence levels year after year. "People in the developing world are like us - they know the sorts of things we have and they want them too " . They felt some projects epitomised "low horizons" and irritated locals who say they are offered "peanuts" with endless "accountability" and "target" forms to fill out.

Worldwrite's views are echoed by Ghanaian De Roy Kwesi Andrew, a teacher and translator, who says: "Our people and government have become merely the passive, obedient pupils to be preached to."

As a local teacher in Ghana , Godbless Ashie , puts it : "Africans have big brains, big aspirations and want to live in liberty."

We at Socialist Courier say the best Xmas present for everybody would be for all of us to put an end to capitalism and for us all to achieve socialism and put an end to exploitation and pauperism .

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bank Fraud

Elsewhere and if committed by others this would be classed as fraud and the perpetrators would be hounded but with such influence and clout with the State the banking industry can do no wrong under the eyes of the Law , it seems .

Britain's high street banks have raised billions of pounds in funds through complex financial deals that use supposedly charitable trusts which are not donating a penny to good causes . Trusts are set up during an elaborate process known as securitisation, which has increasingly replaced the traditional mortgage model in which banks made loans to home buyers and held on to the loans until they were paid off.
Over the last seven years, banks have been pooling many of their loans and turning them into mortgage-backed securities which can then be sold to large investors.
The banks have been doing this through trusts which they can control without owning, isolating financial risks, and keeping their liabilities off their balance sheets in a way that makes them appear more profitable. By giving the trusts a charitable status, they can be operated indefinitely. The trusts are not obliged to make any payments unless they are eventually wound up, and even then the amount any charity might receive would be only a small fraction of the sums raised.

Of the 12 institutions investigated by the Guardian, all admitted that their current series of "charitable" trusts had given nothing to charity.

Halifax names the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) as a beneficiary, and has since raised funds on the back of almost £50bn of home loans. The Halifax admitted that this trust had not paid a penny to the NSPCC, however, and the charity said it knew nothing about the arrangement.

Northern Rock had raised £71bn through a Jersey-registered trust called Granite, which issued a prospectus that told potential investors: "Any profits ... will be paid for the benefit of the Down's Syndrome North East Association (UK) and for other charitable purposes."
Down's Syndrome North East, a small charity run by volunteers from a semi-detached house on the outskirts of Newcastle, was told nothing about this and did not receive any money.

Standard Life's trust, named Lothian, says it operates "for the benefit of charities involved in the domestic and international wellbeing of children". Standard Life would not identify these charities, but acknowledged that it had not paid them any money.

The Alliance and Leicester, for example, said it was one of the last UK banks to enter the mortgage securitisation market, and protested it had merely copied its competitors. "When entering the market, we took legal advice and followed a well-established structure already in use by very many other UK banks," a spokeswoman said. What an excuse but that's capitalism -- no scruples at all in the hunt for profits and always ready to join others with their snouts in the trough .

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fitba' Madness

Patriotism - It is all hype .

It is Scotland against Italy for a place in Euro 2008 .

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service said all of its appliances would be flying Saltire and Lion Rampant flags on Friday and Saturday to show support for the team .

The Big Match will be worth £8 million (£1m more than the £7m the Edinburgh economy was boosted by Barcelona's pre-season match with Hearts this summer) to the Glasgow economy, economists have predicted.

The Tartan Army is also expected to gamble a record £10 million ( The previous record of £5m was held by Scotland's Euro 2000 play-off game with England at Hampden in 1999. )

Meanwhile, rock group Runrig, who are to perform three songs during half-time at Hampden, have officially launched their Loch Lomond single in aid of Children in Need.

Yup , Scotland still goes cap in hand for charities to alleviate poverty and for the rest of us it is not going to be much different from the Roman Empire and its bread and circuses .

And Italy arrives in Glasgow from a day of mourning for a dead football fan shot dead by police , spurring a comment from Sergio Campana, president of the Italian players' association.

"I think football should stop for a year in order to reflect on the evils that exist."

But perhaps for some readers of Socialist Courier , this might all be too much .

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Young people would be better off travelling the world than taking part in "spurious" overseas gap-year aid projects said Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).

" Young people want to make a difference but they would be better off travelling and experiencing different cultures, rather than wasting time on projects that have no impact and can leave a big hole in their wallet." - Judith Brodie , Director of VSO

"voluntourism" often cost students thousands of pounds and did nothing to help developing countries. The gap-year industry catered for the needs of participants rather than those they claimed to help . VSO said projects offered to students taking a year off were often badly planned and could have a negative impact on participants and the communities they worked with.

"...we are increasingly concerned about the number of badly planned and supported schemes that are spurious - ultimately benefiting no one apart from the travel companies that organise them," said Judith Brodie.

In June, VSO warned "consumer-driven volunteer tourism" was jeopardising the charity's development work in countries most in need. People were increasingly approaching the organisation about volunteering "as if it was a holiday" .
And last year VSO said gap-year programmes risked becoming "outdated and colonial" by focusing on how UK youngsters could help poor communities, rather than what they could learn from them.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Old and out of the way

Just how society treats our elderly is becoming cruelly more and more apparent . We had this report , a 108 year old woman having to wait a year and half for a hearing aid to improve the quality of her short remaining life and now we read about this care home evicting an 103 year old woman because she is requiring too much care , or so they say , in a squabble over how much she has to pay for the nursing care . Abbeymoor's owner, Mark Sutters, told the Nottingham Evening Post that the home could not continue to "subsidise" Mrs Collins's care.

Local authority and care services minister Ivan Lewis said " I am deeply concerned at the attempt by the home owner to use Mrs Collins as a pawn in a funding dispute. Whatever the difficulties, such treatment of a 103-year-old cannot be tolerated in a modern care system which has dignity and respect for older people at its heart."

Esme Collins was told to leave after 10 years at Abbeymoor nursing home in Worksop, because its owners refused to back down in a dispute over funding her care.

Age Concern has campaigned for the closing of a legal loophole that left the pensioner without the protection of human rights legislation.
"Forcing an older person to leave their care home can have a devastating impact on their physical and emotional health. We urge the government to act quickly to give the protection of the Human Rights Act to people living in private care homes to help prevent such situations."

Socialist Courier fully sympathises with such sentiments but to be perfectly blunt , it is just one very small example of the heartless nature of a society where everything has a price , even life and everything is valued in prices , even people . Events such as this will not stop until capitalism is superceded by a truly caring , sharing society such as Socialism

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Red Crosses for Johnson and Johnson

Capitalism cares little for society other than as a milk-cow for profits and further profits . Socialists are rarely shocked by the depths of decency that capitalists will go to accrue profits .

Johnson and Johnson is suing the American Red Cross, alleging the charity has misused the famous red cross symbol for commercial purposes. The lawsuit asks for sales of disputed products - also including medical gloves, nail clippers, combs and toothbrushes - to be stopped and unsold items to be handed over to Johnson and Johnson . The firm is also seeking damages equivalent to the value of such goods sold in supermarkets such as Wal-Mart .

Johnson and Johnson claim a deal with the charity's founder in 1895 gave it the "exclusive use" of the symbol as a trademark for drug, chemical and surgical products. It said American Red Cross had violated this agreement by licensing the symbol to other firms to sell certain goods. The lawsuit argues that the firm reached an agreement with the charity's founder Clara Barton about the commercial use of the symbol for certain products. It maintains that the charter did not give the charity the right to engage in commercial activities which would conflict with a private company.

The American Red Cross described the lawsuit as "obscene" , adding that it believed the firm's actions were financially motivated.
It said many of the products at issue were health and safety kits and that profits from their sale had been used to support disaster-relief campaigns.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Charity and Philanthropy

The cash-for-honours affair and Tom Hunter's philanthropy merely prove the rich call the shots in an unequal society, says Joan Smith in the Independent

Peter Mandelson remarked nine years ago that Labour ministers were "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich"

During Blair's premiership the wealth of Britain's top 1,000 quadrupled.

The Scottish self-made retail billionaire Sir Tom Hunter, promised to give away at least £1bn to good causes before he dies. Hunter has joined an elite club of people who have made so much money that they are able to give away sums that most of us cannot even visualise ...Hunter is usually mentioned in the same breath as the hedge fund investor Chris Hohn, who has promised £230m to a children's charity run by his wife, and the financial trader Peter Cruddas, who is giving £100m to good causes which include The Prince's Trust and Great Ormond Street children's hospital.

Such donations are usually regarded as non-political, a harmless exercise in what's called "soft" power;...Yet a moment's consideration is enough to demonstrate the lack of democratic oversight at most private foundations, and while wealthy people may choose to support causes of which we all approve,.. they may just as easily make decisions which appear capricious or downright perverse. Some wealthy evangelical businessmen withhold money from organisations that support gay and women's rights...Despite the generosity of men such as Hunter, there is a widespread sense that there is something wrong with a society in which growing numbers of wealthy people are able to use their money to fund pet causes – or keep it for themselves... the fact remains that for every billionaire who decides to do something to combat Aids or malaria, there is another who prefers to buy yachts, wives or football clubs.

...there is compelling evidence not just that we are entering a new age of oligarchy, reminiscent of the US in the 19th century, but that it is corroding public trust in the political process. The names of the men who literally built America – Carnegie, Frick, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller – are familiar to this day; in a striking parallel with contemporary Britain, some of these tycoons had a highly developed sense of social responsibility and gave most of their money away. The Scottish-American steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who was originally from Dunfermline, gave away the equivalent of $4.3bn in his lifetime... There could hardly be a greater contrast than the railroad pioneer Cornelius Vanderbilt, who has been described as the second wealthiest person in American history, with a fortune estimated at the time of his death in 1877 at more than $100m (a staggering $143bn in today's money)... His son William got the bulk of his fortune, with next to nothing going to good causes.

The moral is that wealthy men are no more likely to be generous than poor ones; even such contemporary philanthropists as the Irish rock band U2, whose lead singer Bono never misses an opportunity to lecture political leaders about increasing aid to Africa, were revealed last year to have moved their financial affairs to the Netherlands in order to halve their tax bill. Private philanthropy is unreliable, in other words, and our increasing reliance on wealthy entrepreneurs to fund everything from clean water in the developing world to British political parties is a symptom of profound malaise.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Food Aid Fails

From Time magazine , how the feel good factor in charity does very little to ameliorate famine .

Food aid feels good. Last year United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) coordinated emergency food aid for 73 million people worldwide, with the U.S. contributing 60% of that total.

"There's no question that food aid saves millions of lives,"


"...we're concerned that it's being asked to do too much, too inefficiently, and that by over-relying on food aid we ignore other solutions that could be more effective."

A January report by the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) put the question bluntly: Can food aid do more harm than good?

One-third of food-aid budgets never reaches the intended recipients and is instead swallowed up by costs in donor countries, according to the OECD. Only 15% of donated food is sourced locally . When food finally arrives — often too late to feed those most vulnerable — the influx of foreign products wreak havoc on the local market, depressing prices just when farmers need income to feed themselves.
Almost all U.S. food aid, by law, must be grown and processed at home. U.S. agribusiness, which receives subsidies for growing such crops, and the U.S. shipping industry profit from the arrangement. In April, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a scathing report on how America underachieves in its attempts to feed the world, noting that the amount of U.S. food aid actually reaching beneficiaries has declined by 43% over the last five years because of escalating transport and administrative costs.

Even though plentiful grains may be harvested just over the mountain from famine-stricken areas the first instinct of most governments is still to send bags of grain rather than pursuing longer-term solutions like building roads linking local farming communities with drought-suffering regions. Ethiopia, for example, is one of the largest corn growers in Africa, but poor transportation networks prevent most farmers from selling their crops outside their villages.

"It's all well and good for the American public to feel good about their corn feeding starving people," says Edward Clay, senior research associate with the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank. "But do American taxpayers realize that their money is being used to fund a hugely inefficient enterprise?"