What is a just transition and what might it mean for Bristol?

Author: Dr Ed Atkins


Climate breakdown poses an urgent and existential threat to our planet and future generations. The need for effective and just responses to this crisis cannot be overstated. Transitioning to low-carbon alternatives is crucial, but it is equally important to ensure that these alternatives are not only as good but preferably better than the fossil fuel-based systems they aim to replace.

Addressing inequalities

Cities play a significant role in shaping the environmental and social landscape. However, urban areas are often marked by inequality, which can exacerbate climate and environmental injustice. Unequal access to resources and opportunities within cities disproportionately affects marginalised communities, leading to unequal distribution of environmental “goods” and burdens.

Stokes Croft

Credit Oliver Zhou via unsplash

Lower-income neighbourhoods often bear the brunt of environmental pollution, with limited access to green spaces, clean air, and clean water. Inadequate infrastructure, such as public transportation or cycling lanes, further reinforces disparities. Addressing these inequalities within cities is crucial for achieving a just transition and ensuring that climate action benefits all members of society.

A call for a just transition emphasises the importance of low-carbon alternatives being as good as, if not better than, the carbon-intensive sources they aim to replace. It recognises that a just transition encompasses more than just decarbonisation. Instead, climate action takes into consideration the immediate concerns of individuals who worry about the cost of living and their ability to make ends meet.

Interconnection of climate action, social justice and worker’s rights

The origins of the just transition concept can be traced back to trade unions’ efforts to reconcile workers’ rights and job protections with environmental and climate considerations. It gained traction through the work of Tony Mazzocchi, who popularised the idea within the US Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers International Union. The objective was to foster alliances between environmental groups and organised labour, challenging the notion that environmental protection comes at the expense of jobs.

Group of people sat round table listening to a speaker at just transition gathering

Credit ShamPhat Photography

A just transition framework recognises the interconnectedness of climate action, social justice, and workers’ rights. These connections are increasingly recognised. The term has been incorporated into the vocabulary of international organisations such as the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Environmental Programme, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Effectively translating the concept of a just transition into practice necessitates government intervention and proactive measures. History provides examples of comprehensive policies implemented by governments to support workers and communities undergoing significant changes. From policies to protect workers in the wake of declining fossil fuel economies in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany to the introduction of the USA GI Bill to support veterans returning from World War Two.

Helping communities and people thrive

Neglecting the importance of a just transition can hinder progress and allow inequalities to persist. This is linked to how a just transition is no longer just about worker protection but about helping communities and people thrive.

Easton Community Garden photographed at the Get Growing Garden Trail 2023, © Yasmin Centeno

© Yasmin Centeno

Bristol, like many cities, faces a range of specific inequalities that a just transition can address. From socio-economic disparities to racial injustices, these challenges must be confronted head-on to ensure a fair and inclusive transition. By investing in green jobs, renewable energy infrastructure, and sustainable businesses, Bristol can simultaneously reduce its carbon footprint and create employment opportunities that benefit all segments of society.

There are five key dimensions of justice associated with a just transition.

  1. Distributive justice focuses on ensuring a fair distribution of costs and benefits related to climate action and breakdown.
  2. Procedural justice highlights the importance of inclusive decision-making processes, allowing diverse voices to be heard and respected.
  3. Justice as recognition emphasises acknowledging and valuing different identities, experiences, and aspirations, avoiding misrecognition and stigmatization.
  4. Restorative justice seeks to rectify past harms and exclusions by implementing policies that improve the lives of marginalised communities.
  5. Cosmopolitan justice broadens the perspective to global contexts, considering historical responsibility, global pollution, and intergenerational fairness.

Achieving a just transition requires not only effective policies but also active participation and influence from communities. It should address the equitable distribution of costs and benefits, inclusivity in decision-making, recognition of diverse perspectives, restoration of past injustices, and global responsibilities.

A collective endeavour

A just transition can reverberate throughout Bristol’s social fabric, touching every aspect of life.  This means that achieving it is not solely the responsibility of politicians or corporations; it is a collective endeavour that demands participation from every sector of society. From activists to frontline key workers, Bristolians must come together to not only call for climate action but for policies that make the city better.

By weaving justice into the fabric of the city, Bristol can catalyse a powerful movement for change. When facing climate breakdown, this is not only an opportunity but an imperative.


Ed Atkins is a Senior Lecturer working on energy transitions and energy justice at the University of Bristol. His research broadly explores how place-based approaches might allow for more equitable climate action. In this blog he gives some background to the term ‘just transition’ and explores what it might mean for Bristol. Ed has recently published a book entitled A Just Energy Transition: Getting Decarbonisation Right in a Time of Crisis.

This blog post is republished from Bristol Green Capital with permission from Ed Atkins. Read the original article

BPI’s Housing, ‘Home’ and Poverty Event

On the 18th May 2023, the Bristol Poverty Institute (BPI) delivered a thought-provoking event on Housing, ‘Home’ and Poverty bringing together representatives from different sectors and backgrounds to explore the intersections between poverty and elements of housing, the concept of home, and other related issues. The event featured expert speakers, breakout sessions, and facilitated breakout discussions on a range of poverty-related themes. You can access resources from the event, including slides from the speakers’ presentations and the videos featuring Christopher Burns on the BPI website.

The event kicked off with a scene-setting introduction from the Manager and Director of the BPI, Dr Lauren Winch and Professor David Gordon. Following an introduction to the Bristol Poverty Institute itself from Lauren, David provided an overview of research that explores the intersection between housing and poverty, highlighting that half of all children in social and private rented accommodation. Hitting close to home, David outlined how deprivation in Bristol led to a higher COVID-19 mortality rate.

Slide showing that housing costs are a major cause of poverty in the UK Photograph of David Gordon giving a presentation

We then heard from Christopher Burns, who had kindly sent the BPI a short video introducing his lived experience around housing and poverty. The BPI would once again like to take this opportunity to thank Christopher for his valuable and poignant contributions, as well as thanking the Addressing Poverty with Lived Experience (APLE) Collective for putting us in touch with Christopher. Christopher also featured in the second video shown at the event from Inside Housing’s ‘Give Poverty a Voice’ campaign, which echoed many people’s concerns surrounding rising energy prices and fuel poverty where he described how he uses his art through APLE to share his experiences, his perspectives, and his feelings, and how it is a form of escapism for him.

Still from video of Christopher Burns talking about his experience of housing, disability and poverty


The event then moved onto our speaker presentations. First, we heard from Dr Beth Stone, Lecturer in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, who gave an engaging presentation on Homelessness and Disability in the UK. Beth’s presentation was solution-oriented, explaining the core issues in the relationship between homelessness and disability, examining the barriers to effective support and relief, and highlighting the practical steps to address the challenges.

Presentation slide featuring some practical steps to address ongoing challenges

The BPI were then delighted to welcome Dr Darren Baxter, Principal Policy Adviser (Housing and Land) at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Darren’s illuminating presentation on Making a home in a broken housing market offered invaluable insights into how we can achieve equitable housing for all, emphasising how inequalities in wealth are exacerbating an already dire situation. Darren discussed his opinions on the route to equitable housing, which involved a better managed private rented sector, diversify home ownership, and support low-income renters.

Photograph of Darren Baxter giving a presentation

Following a refreshment break, filled with engaged discussion (and excellent cookies!) the attendees reconvened in the main room where BPI Manager Lauren provided an overview of the upcoming breakout sessions. We then divided into five groups exploring different themes related to the overarching topic of Housing, ‘Home’ and Poverty.

Slide listing breakout group rooms and themes

During the breakout sessions, participants addressed thought-provoking questions to delve deeper into housing and poverty-related issues such as financial resilience, social inclusion, and policy engagement. These included exploring the intersection of housing and ‘home’ with specific topics, identifying challenges, discussing potential research questions, and considering the role of the BPI in supporting these initiatives. The general discussion covered the responsibility of universities in addressing rising housing costs and the essential elements a comprehensive UK housing and home policy should include.

Photographs of breakout group discussions

The breakout discussions were animated and engaging, and there was a real buzz in the main room when we came back together for a debrief and sharing of key messages from the breakout groups. The event was then brought to a close with a fantastic presentation from the University of Bristol’s Professor Alex Marsh, who provided an engaging summary of the event embedded within his own reflections on the topic and key issues.

Screenshot of slide containing summary of key themes.

Attendees then continued the conversation at networking drinks, exploring the topics of the day, and identifying potential spaces for collaboration and routes to impact. The Housing, ‘Home,’ and Poverty event brought together passionate individuals to discuss pressing issues and explore collaborative solutions. The insights and recommendations shared during the talks, breakout sessions, and plenary discussions provide a foundation for future action. We are really looking forward to carrying these discussions forward and working towards creating a fairer and more inclusive society, where housing and a home are accessible to all.

   Photograph of event attendees mingling

Many Turkish people in Europe are worse off than those who stayed at home

Author: Dr Şebnem Eroğlu-Hawksworth 

Many people migrate to another country to earn a decent income and to attain a better standard of living. But my recent research shows that across all destinations and generations studied, many migrants from Turkey to European countries are financially worse off than those who stayed at home.

Even if there are some non-monetary benefits of staying in the destination country, such as living in a more orderly environment, this raises fundamental questions. Primarily, why are 79% of the first-generation men who contributed to the growth of Europe by taking on some of the dirtiest, riskiest manual jobs – like working in asbestos processing and sewage canals – still living in income poverty? There is a strong indication that the European labour markets and welfare states are failing migrants and their descendants.

In my recent book, Poverty and International Migration (2022), I examined the poverty status of three generations of migrants from Turkey to multiple European countries, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. I compared them with the ‘returnees’ who moved back to Turkey and the ‘stayers’ who have never left the country.

The study covers the period from the early 1960s to the time of their interview (2010-2012), and draws on a sample of 5,980 adults within 1,992 families. The sample was composed of living male ancestors (those who went first were typically men), their children and grandchildren.

A Turkish guest worker working in a factory in Loosduinen, the Netherlands in 1971 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

For my research, the poverty line was set at 60% of the median disposable household income (adjusted for household size) for every country studied. Those who fall below the country threshold are defined as the income poor.

Data for this research is drawn from the 2000 Families Survey, which I conducted with academics based in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. The survey generated what is believed to be the world’s largest database on labour migration to Europe through locating the male ancestors who moved to Europe from five high migration regions in Turkey during the guest-worker years of 1960-1974 and their counterparts who did not migrate at the time.

It charts the family members who were living in various European countries up to the fourth generation, and those that stayed behind in Turkey. The period corresponds to a time when labourers from Turkey were invited through bi-lateral agreements between states to contribute to the building of western and northern Europe.

The results presented in my book show that four-fifths (79%) of the first-generation men who came to Europe as guest-workers and ended up settling there lived below an income poverty line, compared with a third (33%) of those that had stayed in the home country. By the third generation, around half (49%) of those living in Europe were still poor, compared with just over a quarter (27%) of those who remained behind.

Migrants from three family generations residing in countries renowned for the generosity of their welfare states were among the most impoverished. Some of the highest poverty rates were observed in Belgium, Sweden and Denmark.

For example, across all three generations of migrants settled in Sweden, 60% were in income poverty despite an employment rate of 61%. This was the highest level of employment observed for migrants in all the countries studied. Migrants in Sweden were also, on average, more educated than those living in other European destinations.

My findings also reveal that while more than a third (37%) of ‘stayers’ from the third generation went on to complete higher education. This applied to less than a quarter (23%) of the third generation migrants spread across European countries.

Returnees did well

Having a university education turned out not to improve the latter’s chances of escaping poverty as much as it did for the family members who had not left home. The ‘returnees’ to Turkey were, on the other hand, found to fare much better than those living in Europe and on a par with, if not better than, the ‘stayers’.

Less than a quarter of first- and third-generation returnees (23% and 24% respectively) experienced income poverty and 43% from the third generation attained a higher education qualification. The money they earned abroad along with their educational qualifications seemed to buy them more economic advantage in Turkey than in the destination country.

The results of the research should not be taken to mean that international migration is economically a bad decision as we still do not know how impoverished these people were prior to migration. First-generation migrants are anecdotally known to be poorer at the time of migration than those who decided not to migrate during guest-worker years, and are likely to have made some economic gains from their move. The returnees’ improved situation does lend support to this.

Nor should the findings lead to the suggestion that if migrants do not earn enough in their new home country, they should go back. Early findings from another piece of research I am currently undertaking suggests that while income poverty considerably reduces migrants’ life satisfaction, there are added non-monetary benefits of migration to a new destination. The exact nature of these benefits remains unknown but it is likely to do, for example, with living in a better organised environment that makes everyday life easier.

However, we still left with the question of why migrants are being left in such poverty. Coupled with the findings from another recent study demonstrating that more than half of Europeans do not welcome non-EU migrants from economically poorer countries, evidence starts to suggest an undercurrent of systemic racism may be acting as a cause.

If migrants were welcome, one would expect destination countries with far more developed welfare states than Turkey to put in place measures to protect guest workers against the risk of poverty in old age, or prevent their children and grandchildren from falling so far behind their counterparts in Turkey in accessing higher education.

They would not let them settle for lower returns on their educational qualifications in more regulated labour markets. It’s also unlikely we would have observed some of the highest poverty rates in countries with generous welfare states such as Sweden – top ranked for its anti-discrimination legislation, based on equality of opportunity.

Overall, the picture for ‘unwanted’ migrants appears to be rather bleak. Unless major systemic changes are made, substantial improvement to their prospects are unlikely.

Dr Şebnem Eroğlu-Hawksworth is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Bristol. Her research focuses on poverty and household livelihoods, and on the economic behaviour, success and integration of migrants. Her recent book, Poverty and International Migration: A Multi-Site and Intergenerational Perspective (2022) is published by Policy Press.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. The article was also published on the Migration Mobilities Bristol blog.

Old Friends, New School: A UoB student’s experience of teaching in India

This BPI blog post was written by Sebastian Constable, a final year BSc Economics Student at the University of Bristol. In this post Sebastian shares his experience teaching at a school in rural West Bengal, India before he started his course at Bristol. He writes about the school system in India, including the role some schools actively play in accommodating children living below the poverty line.


In 2019 I spent six months teaching at St. Xavier’s English School in Chalsa, Rural West Bengal. When my girlfriend and I returned to St. Xavier’s for a month long visit in 2022, I realised how much has changed since my previous visit. The school’s growing intake has forced the youngest three years (Nursery, Lower Kindergarten, and Upper Kindergarten) off-site, into the school hostel, where the Principal’s family, some staff, and eighteen students currently live, and where we also called home during our stay.

Every day this summer we were woken up by the shouts of raucous 4-year-olds, serenading us with their morning nursery rhymes. The door of our bedroom led straight onto the corridor where nursery was held, forcing us to manoeuvre through a sea of toddlers and their bags as we journeyed to breakfast.

Children learning at St. Xavier’s English School, West Bengal
A lesson taking place in the corridor of the school hostel, St. Xavier’s English School, West Bengal, India.

We would spend our days at the school, either doing arts and crafts with the students in preparation for the fundraiser or teaching English: recapping the different tenses, how to form questions, and writing thrilling horror stories!

Outside of class, the children constantly wanted to be read to or taken to the ground to play football, so we had a lot of fun messing around too. The Principal’s bantering personality, matched with his eagerness to learn, hadn’t changed one bit. He would be constantly asking the definition of complex words, or making fun of our silly ways. Teacher friends cooked us delicious meals, and took us to meet their families in the mountains, while former students returned to visit us and catch up over tea.

The school’s commitment to education is reflected in its values. For example, upon returning we found out that one of our most promising former students, Swati (aged 13), had been forced to leave the school due to her mother’s death and instead worked in a tea garden for the equivalent of £7.20 per week. We arranged to visit her with the Principal, who spoke to her father and agreed to allow her to move back into the school hostel and resume her studies for free.

The diverse school, hosting Adivasis, Bengalis, Hindis, and Nepalis, with students breaking from their English medium education into their respective vernacular classes, was set up independently by the Principal.

In this part of India, free state schools have between 80-100 students in one class, without the option to learn in English – all classes are taught in Hindi. The children explain how those at the front can learn, while the others can’t hear, begin to talk, and are forgotten about. Moreover, to maintain control over so many students, silent study, copying work from the board and learning it by rote, is enforced with corporal punishment. Hence, visionary independent schools, which bring opportunities to children who otherwise would have no meaningful chance of progressing their education, contain enormous value. Overcoming such a lack of active student engagement, vivacious debate, and creative exploration is fundamental to St. Xavier’s vision, where everything possible is being done to keep class sizes small.

Group photo of class six, St. Xavier’s English School, West Bengal
Class VI, St. Xavier’s English School

The school fees are between 400-700 Rupees a month, depending on the age of the student, which roughly equates to between £4-7, and allows the pupils to access high quality teaching, music lessons, karate and other sports sessions, as well as annual programmes, such as Sports and Independence Day celebrations.

In line with Indian Government guidelines, 25 of the school’s 400 students study for free. On top of this, Prem Lepcha, the Principal, provides free education to an additional 50 students and free accommodation to 10 of the 18 hostellers, all of whom, as the Principal explained to us, live below the national poverty line. The other students living in the hostel pay between 2000-4000 Rupees in total per month for their accommodation and education, according to what their parents earn.

As evident in Swati’s case, without this school, and the hostel which allows them to live on-site, many students would face a life of menial work and very low wages. The hostel houses many people who would be otherwise outcast from society: those with divorced parents or vulnerable individuals, with few remaining relatives. Moreover, the school is fairly unique in the fact that it is English Medium which opens many doors for the students’ future prospects.

Recognising that the hostel is becoming an impractical place to learn and an uncomfortable place to live, my girlfriend and I were driven to create an ambitious fundraising project to help improve the situation. The children enthusiastically made bracelets, necklaces, and cards for us to sell in the UK as part of these fundraising efforts.

We have sent the first round of funds to the headteacher, and building work has commenced on a plot of land just behind the existing building. The school is very excited about the project, with the Principal expecting new admissions due to the improvements. All seven of the new classrooms will be 20 x 25 feet, in line with government guidelines. In addition there will be a nursery playroom, and an outdoor playground, ensuring that the students have more space to learn creatively.

Building site at St. Xavier’s English School
Building is under way at St. Xavier’s English School

With my girlfriend receiving a place on a Master’s course with a term taught at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, we are excited to be returning to India in 2024, and are eagerly awaiting a chance to visit all our friends and the new building in Chalsa.

If this initiative is something you would like to support, Sebastian invites you to visit their fundraising page.

As part of Dr Zahra Siddique’s Economics of Developing Countries course at the University of Bristol, Sebastian is carrying out a group project which analyses the labour market implications of vocational education in India.

BPI’s 2022 wrap-up


As we welcome in 2023, the BPI team are reflecting on the challenges, successes and opportunities we have experienced through 2022, and looking ahead to 2023. Join us for a whistle stop tour of a few of the highlights in this blog post!


In January we launched our new BPI research page, where you can search and browse a wide range of poverty-relevant projects, publications and researchers at the University of Bristol. This was one of the final projects delivered by our Communications Officer, Sasha, who left the BPI at the end of January to pursue her career as a Barrister. We wish her all the best in her new career.

Screenshot of webpage

Map of BPI researchers' international collaborations

The BPI Director and Manager also met with the Chief Officer of Bristol Disability Equality Forum, Laura Welti, to discuss opportunities for collaboration, as well as plans for an upcoming event on the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on disabled people.



The Disability, Poverty and COVID-19 webinar had been planned for February; however, due to successive periods of strike action at the University this was postponed several times.

In between the strike periods, the BPI Director, Professor David Gordon, ran an online multi-source inference session for the Deep Statistics: AI and Earth Observations for Sustainable Development programme at the Department of Statistics at Harvard University on behalf of the BPI. We also successfully secured some internal funding for a project on Improving the global measurement of child and family poverty in collaboration with UNICEF. The aim of this initiative is to develop and pilot a short question module which will use the Consensual Approach to produce accurate, precise and comparable measures of multidimensional poverty for children and their families. After piloting the questionnaire, it could be applied in all countries of the world.

Description of the 'conceptual method'



March saw further strike action, impacting on our plans for events. However, despite this it was a really productive month for the BPI. A key highlight was when BPI Board Member Professor Sharon Collard, in collaboration with Professor Agnes Nairn, were awarded £4m from GambleAware for a new Bristol Hub for Gambling Harms Research at the University. This bid built on discussions at a BPI webinar we ran in partnership with GambleAware in 2020 which both Sharon and Agnes presented at, and the BPI was listed as an associated Institute on the bid which included a formal letter of support from the BPI.

We also met with the charity National Energy Action (NEA) to discuss spaces for collaboration on tackling fuel poverty, as well as colleagues in the Centre for Academic Child Health. We are looking forward to progressing these discussions further in 2023, and some funding has recently been awarded to Dr Caitlin Robinson in Geographical Sciences to work with NEA and BPI on the challenges of fuel poverty.

Screenshot of Gambling Harms Hub website



In April we were pleased to relaunch our BPI Internal Research and Collaboration Fund, which is still open for applications until 31 May 2023 or when all available funding has been allocated, whichever is sooner. The funding scheme supports small-scale activities to grow and develop the University of Bristol poverty-research community and its visibility. Activities are likely to include seminars and workshops, and in this relaunch we have opened the scheme up to include virtual activities as well as in-person activities, recognising the fact that ways of working have changed, and the lower environmental impact of virtual engagement.



May was another really busy month for the BPI, with a range of events and high-level meetings. This included, for example, a joint grant development workshop with our colleagues from Migration Mobilities Bristol (MMB) and members of the Research Development team in Professional Services where attendees were provided with tips for applying to the research councils for funding. We also met with members of the University of Cape Town, including their Vice Chancellor and their Director of Global Engagement, to discuss institutional collaborations at the nexus of climate change, health and poverty along with the Directors of our University’s environment and health research Institutes. A further highlight in May was a Data Collection webinar which the BPI organised for UNICEF Headquarters on Child and Family Poverty Measurement.

Screenshot of event flyer



Our focus in June was on our BPI Showcase event at the end of the month, which was our first in-person event since the pandemic. This half-day event brought together friends, colleagues and associates from a range of organisations to showcase, celebrate and explore poverty-relevant research at the University of Bristol and beyond. We explored a range of topics including global poverty, the cost-of-living-crisis, decolonising development, multidimensional poverty, (il)licit livelihoods and drugs policies, and social, digital and cultural lives of minoritized older adults. The event also highlighted research taking place in a wide range of geographical contexts, from local analyses in Bristol to projects in Somali/Somaliland and Bangladesh, a wider project across several African countries, and poverty on a global scale. The delegate pack – including speaker biographies and talk abstracts – is available on the BPI website, along with slide decks from the presentations and pdfs of the posters displayed at the Showcase, and a summary of the day is available on the BPI blog.

BPI Showcase flyer



In July we finally (!) held our webinar on Disability, Poverty and COVID-19, which had been postponed and rescheduled several times due to University strike action. Over 150 people registered for this event including representatives from Pfizer, Bristol City Council and a range of other city and county councils, Deliveroo, various parts of the NHS, Bristol Museums, Citizen’s Advice, Barnardo’s, and the West of England Centre for Inclusive Living, alongside academics from multiple universities. We were delighted to be joined by speakers from a range of organisations and sectors, including some with lived experience of disability.

A further highlight from July was news of the appointment of then-BPI Board Member Professor Esther Dermott to the role of Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law at the University of Bristol. Whilst this was fantastic and well-deserved news, it does unfortunately mean that from 2023 Esther will be stepping down from her role on the BPI Board. We would therefore like to take this opportunity once again to thank her for all of her fantastic contributions to the BPI over the years.



August brought our first international trip since travel opened up again, with the BPI Director and Manager travelling to South Africa to deliver a week-long advanced poverty methods training course at University of Cape Town (UCT). The BPI Director, Professor David Gordon, travelled out earlier in the month to undertake some collaborative work with colleagues at the University of Stellenbosch, before heading to Cape Town to meet up with BPI Manager Dr Lauren Winch as well as Professor Rich Harris from Geographical Sciences for the training course. The hybrid course included sessions on Global Policy Analysis, Spatial Analyses and Universal Poverty Measurement, delivered by a range of world-leading experts. The BPI Manager additionally gave a well-attended session on partnership opportunities as well as meeting with UCT’s Vice Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng to strengthen collaborations between University of Bristol and University of Cape Town staff and students.

Opening slide from Lauren Winch's presentation


Whilst we were in South Africa we also received news of the timely publication of a paper on Inequalities in COVID-19 vulnerability in South Africa which was co-authored by BPI and UCT researchers.

Screenshot of journal title and authors



In September the BPI team were really excited to launch our new monthly newsletter, which shares poverty-relevant news, events, funding opportunities and links to resources. All issues so far are available via the BPI website, and you can subscribe to future issues via this link. Another highlight was a really productive virtual meeting with representatives from Save the Children International around the world to explore spaces for collaboration on climate change and child poverty. We followed up on these discussions at the annual meeting of the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty in December (see below) and are in the process of scheduling a follow-up meeting with members of their Asia-Pacific team early in 2023.

Screenshot of BPI newsletter banner


We were also delighted to hear that BPI Board Member Professor Leon Tikly was one of two University of Bristol academics conferred as a Fellow of Academy of Social Sciences in September.

Screenshot of news story about Fellows of the Academy of Social Science



The 17th of October is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year saw the publication of a policy briefing on Ending Child Poverty: A Policy Agenda to mark the occasion, co-authored by representatives of the BPI alongside some of the world’s leading anti-poverty organisations. Elsewhere, BPI Board Member Dr Tigist Grieve represented the BPI at the South West International Development Network (SWIDN) conference 2022, running a well-attended session on development and poverty. In October we were also really pleased to welcome Professor Yoav Ben-Shlomo as an official member of the BPI Advisory Board, replacing former members Dr Matthew Ellis and Professor Alan Emond as our health representative after they both retired last year. We want to take this opportunity once again to thank them for their fantastic contributions to the BPI over the years, and to thank Yoav for coming on board. We also welcomed a new part-time Administrator, Katherine Fitzpatrick, to the BPI team. Katherine will be working one day per week until July 2023 alongside our existing part-time Administrator Joe Gillett.

Cover image from policy briefing report



In November the BPI Director was invited to give a talk on in-work poverty and low pay at Bristol City Council’s ‘Living Wage Week’. With the ever-changing political landscape and developing cost-of-living crisis this was a challenging presentation to prepare for, as the situation was changing almost daily. The presentation was very well received, however, with some thought-provoking reflections and shocking statistics. We also received fantastic news in November that our applications for two Bristol ‘Next Generation’ Visiting Researcher awards to bring future research leaders from Ghana and Pakistan to work with the BPI Director and engage with the broader BPI and UoB community were successful. These are:

  • Dr Nkechi Owoo, a Health and Demographic Economist at the University of Ghana who will be visiting Bristol for six weeks in Spring 2023 to work with us on the effects of climate change on health outcomes.
  • Dr Tanveer Naveed, a Development Economist at the University of Gujrat who will be visiting Bristol in June 2023 for two weeks to work with us on multidimensional child poverty in Pakistan.

Screenshot of Visiting Researchers news story


November also saw the BPI Director and Professor Paul Bates (Geographical Sciences) give a presentation about who is most vulnerable to climate change in Pakistan to UNICEF and UN Agency staff during COP27, as a pro bono contribution to the massive 2022 flood post disaster needs assessment planning.



As 2022 drew to a close, things remained busy for the BPI team. At the start of the month the BPI Director and Manager travelled to London to join the annual meeting of the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty, where representatives from leading anti-poverty organisations around the world came together to reflect on our work in 2022 and develop our work plan for 2023 and beyond. The Global Coalition to End Child Poverty is a global initiative to raise awareness about children living in poverty across the world and support global and national action to alleviate it. Coalition members work together as part of the Coalition, as well as individually, to achieve a world where all children grow up free from poverty, deprivation and exclusion. In 2020 the Bristol Poverty Institute (BPI) were honoured to accept an invitation to join the Coalition, which is co-chaired by UNICEF and Save the Children with 19 other leading organisations in tackling poverty from around the world.

You can find out more about the Coalition and the meeting on our blog post.

Screenshot of member organisations' logos

Photo of Global Coalition Annual Meeting attendees

Whilst the BPI Director stayed in London after the meeting to continue the discussions, the BPI Manager hopped on a train back to Bristol so she could attend the University of Bristol’s ‘Is a just transition to Net Zero possible & what does it look like’ event the following morning. This was a really engaging event, and building on conversations at the event we are now exploring some collaborative work with Cabot Institute for the Environment and the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research on carbon offsetting and potential benefits for health and wellbeing. We are really excited to see where these conversations take us in 2023!

Finally, we wrapped the year up with our now yearly tradition of helping out at a local foodbank. This year we were able to send 24 members of the University – including both academics and members of Professional Services – to the Northwest Bristol foodbank to help out over three separate days. You can find out more on our blog post.

Collage of photographs from BPI volunteering days

Looking ahead

Phew! 2022 really was a busy year and we hope you have enjoyed sharing some of our highlights with us.

Looking ahead we have several exciting things under development, including an event on Housing, ‘Home’ and Poverty in March, and a collaborative workshop on health and poverty entitled Don’t be Poor: Collaborative approaches to health behaviour change interventions in April. We will also be meeting with representatives from Bristol City Council’s public health and communities team to explore opportunities for collaboration, developing our Research Clusters, exploring opportunities for further training courses, and planning for our next conference, among other activities. To keep up to date with the BPI’s plans you can sign up to our mailing list, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, check out our website, and/or follow us on Twitter. You can also get in touch with the BPI team via bristol-poverty-institute@bristol.ac.uk – we’d love to hear from you!

There’s no denying that we’re living in challenging times, particularly for those in and at risk of falling into poverty. It is our mission to tackle poverty in all its forms everywhere, which we will continue to do with vigour in the coming year and beyond.

Screenshot of BPI's mission statement

BPI foodbank volunteering days 2022

The University of Bristol supports all of its staff to take one day of volunteering leave per year to help make a positive impact in the local community. This December the Bristol Poverty Institute (BPI) brought together teams of staff from across the University to return to volunteer at a local food bank and Social Justice Hub in the run up to Christmas, helping out a good cause and having a really rewarding, enjoyable day with colleagues in the process.

The BPI team are acutely aware of how many people now unfortunately have to rely on food banks, particularly with the escalating cost of living crisis. We wanted these volunteering days to also be an opportunity for members of the BPI community to get to know one another, and to mix with colleagues who have a shared ethos but whose paths may not ordinarily cross. We were delighted to bring together 26 volunteers representing academia, Research and Enterprise Division (RED), and the Research Institutes across three volunteering days in December.

Group photographs

The volunteering days themselves were fantastic; the staff at the food bank were so welcoming, friendly, and helpful, and the work was really rewarding. Unfortunately we didn’t get off to the best start, with the first group’s day being cut short due to a faulty fire alarm; however, the team still really enjoyed the time they had, and are looking forward to make up some of the time in January along with a couple of colleagues who were unable to take part after testing positive for COVID.

The second group had better luck, spending a fulfilling day helping out on one of the ‘Christmas Hamper collection days’. Customers who had pre-booked were coming in to collect store cupboard food items as well as a range of fresh food including fruit and vegetables, bread, and frozen meat (or a vegetarian equivalent), plus toiletries and Christmas presents supplied for their families. In addition, there was a selection of other items which customers were able to collect including clothing and shoes, small electrical items such as kettles and phone chargers, hot water bottles, and plastic ‘Tupperware’ style containers. There was also a café area supplying free tea, coffee, soft drinks and cakes, which was manned by some of our University of Bristol volunteer team that day. Once all of the hampers had been collected and the donation tables and café area cleared away, the team spent the rest of the afternoon helping out with packing up presents and hampers for future collection days.

Collage of photos featuring people and food items

The final group – which I was a member of – began by making up 40 new Christmas hampers to be collected the following Monday. We were focussing on ‘family’ hampers, with a selection of staples along with some festive treats. A key message from the Assistant Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, Hazel, was to fill the hampers in a way that would bring joy when they were opened, with some of the more exciting items at the top and the boxes nicely filled. The contents included some tinned meat, stuffing and gravy for Christmas dinner plus mince pies, Christmas pudding and some custard, along with biscuits, crackers – both the edible type, and the ones which go bang – and some chocolate treats. We also added a box of cereal to each, a jar or bottle of sauce, some toiletries, and some fruit juice or other soft drinks, and each hamper also had a ‘Christmas exotic’ item, which ranged from cosy blankets to small toys to Christmas novelty items. It was really nice to see the effort the foodbank team put in to making people feel respected and valued, and ensuring that they have the best Christmas possible under the circumstances.

Collage of photographs related to making festive hampers

We also made up 50 Christmas bags for Ukrainian refugees, with a smaller selection of the above for each person. After we had packed all the hampers away and returned any remaining stock to the warehouse, we began the afternoon with a variety of small tasks, before heading back into the warehouse for the last couple of hours to sort through donations, check expiry dates and categorise products to help the warehouse teams with their distribution planning and ensuring as little as possible gets wasted.

Photos of volunteers sorting through donations

Photo of foodbank warehouse

At the end of the day, we were given a tour of the foodbank and its facilities by Assistant Manager Hazel Craig. Hazel explained that they offered a range of services and support alongside the provision of food as part of the larger Social Justice Hub supported by the Trussell Trust. This included, for example, Home Bank, through which they are able to provide a range of household goods ranging from microwaves to towels to kitchen utensils and crockery. She explained that these are sourced from a range of different places; for example, they recently received a bulk donation of stove-top kettles from a caravan company. The Social Justice Hub, which includes the foodbank, receives donations from a diverse range of sources, including supermarkets, organisations, and individual donations of both items and money. One of our group asked Hazel which they would prefer, and she explained that both have their advantages and that receiving a combination of both physical items and monetary donations is therefore the ideal situation. This means that the majority of what they need gets delivered to them directly meaning they don’t regularly have to go out and buy and transport the products themselves; however, it also means they have some budget available if they are short of a particular item and need to top-up their supplies. Hazel encouraged the group to consider donating items like custard, rice pudding, UHT milk, toothbrushes/toothpaste, and sanitary products rather than just the usual pasta and baked beans, which they always have large volumes of. She also outlined some of the other services and opportunities available through the Social Justice Hub, including a workshop space for arts and crafts which is used for both training courses and more informal opportunities for people to come along, get creative, develop skills, and tackle social isolation. Finally, Hazel also explained how they run some other courses that can help people improve their quality of life, including courses on budgeting and their ‘Eat Well, Spend Less’ cookery course. It was fantastic and humbling to learn more about the range of services, support and opportunities available, and a stark reminder of the many dimensions of poverty and the different ways in which people are struggling.

List of services offered by Social Justice Hub

Photo of warehouse tour

We all came away with a renewed drive to be more mindful about popping something in the food bank donation boxes every time we go to the supermarket or making a monetary donation when we can, as well as contributing to knowledge and trying to influence policy that may help to reduce the need for food banks in the future. Most supermarkets have donation boxes near the checkout, and many of them include a list of recommended/requested items. You can also find lists on food bank websites of the types of items they most frequently need (see the Trussell Trust website, for example), as well as lists of non-food items such as sanitary products, nappies, laundry detergent and toiletries alongside regular food items. It is shocking to be reminded that the first ever food bank in the UK was only opened in 2000 and numbers remained very low for the first decade before sky rocketing in the 2010s, and there are now reportedly more foodbanks in our country than there are branches of McDonald’s. In recent months their use – and need – has risen sharply and unsustainably in the face of the current cost of living crisis. It shouldn’t have to be this way. So, the BPI and our colleagues will continue to work to tackle poverty in all its forms everywhere, and to try and make a difference to ensure everyone has access to a decent standard of living and quality of life.

It was a lovely thing to join in with – the team at the foodbank are amazing and it was great to meet and talk with some of their clients” – Volunteer.

I had a really great day, and its inspired me to find an ongoing volunteering opportunity in my local area” – Volunteer

In 2023 we’re hoping to do something outdoors in the summertime, and then potentially come back to the foodbank in the run up to the festive season. If you’re a UoB member of staff interested in volunteering next year get in touch with the BPI team via bristol-poverty-institute@bristol.ac.uk to sign up to our mailing list, where we’ll circulate information on any volunteering opportunities as and when they arise.

Annual Meeting of the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty

On Monday the 5th December members of the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty from around the world came together to reflect on our work in 2022 and develop our work plan for 2023 and beyond. The Global Coalition to End Child Poverty is a global initiative to raise awareness about children living in poverty across the world and support global and national action to alleviate it. Coalition members work together as part of the Coalition, as well as individually, to achieve a world where all children grow up free from poverty, deprivation and exclusion. In 2020 the Bristol Poverty Institute (BPI) were honoured to accept an invitation to join the Coalition, which is co-chaired by UNICEF and Save the Children with 19 other leading organisations in tackling poverty from around the world.

Logos from member organisations
Global Coalition to End Child Poverty member organisations

Having joined the Coalition in early 2020 this was therefore the BPI’s first in-person meeting with our partners from the Coalition due to COVID restrictions in previous years, and we were really excited to finally meet face-to-face and have those more nuanced discussions and informal chats over coffee which online meetings don’t really allow. It was a long day of meetings – from 8:30am to 5:30pm – but it genuinely didn’t feel like it, and that’s a real testament to both the organisers for a well-planned programme, and also all of the participants for keeping the discussion engaging and for sharing so much interesting information as well as ideas for future research and advocacy activities. In the room we had representatives from All Together in Dignity (ATD) Fourth World, Chronic Poverty Advisory Network (CPAN), Institute for Development Studies (IDS), Nutrition International, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Social Policy Research Institute (SPRI), Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), Save the Children and UNICEF, as well as the BPI’s own Director (Professor David Gordon) and Manager (Dr Lauren Winch). We were also joined online by colleagues from Coalition members Arigatou International, African Child Policy Forum, ChildFund International, Eurochild, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), and World Vision.

Photo of meeting attendees

We began by taking stock of members’ activities in 2022, with a key highlight being the publication of a report on Ending Child Poverty: A Policy Agenda, co-authored by representatives from several of the Coalition partners including the BPI. This report was launched on 17 October as part of a wider package of Coalition activities on the annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP) led by ATD Fourth World. A range of other resources and information was also shared as part of this activity, including some ‘myth cards’ based on previous work done by the BPI Director and colleagues. Coalition members also reported a range of other fantastic activities over the course of the year, including online training on understanding child poverty from PEP, Save the Children’s regional event on social protection in Africa, and work on a Multidimensional Poverty Measurement index from OPHI.

Image of policy report

The rest of the morning was dedicated to presentations and the discussions they inspired in the room. The presentations were:

  • The state of child poverty, Professor David Gordon (Bristol Poverty Institute)
  • Post-covid world: key child poverty themes, Dr Vidya Diwakar and Dr Keetie Roelen (IDS)

These presentations really got the room talking, particularly some of the statistics and evidence shared on child and youth poverty.

Graph showing changing poverty trends


This naturally led on to discussions about what we as a Coalition can do to address these challenges, and what our focus should be for 2023. We explored a range of areas of synergy and identified several key priority areas, which will be announced in due course via the Coalition’s communication channels. Some key areas of interest are around the intersections of climate change and poverty – which the BPI are already in active discussion with Coalition partner Save the Children about – as well as resilience at different levels, links between crisis and social protection, the barriers to effecting policy change, stunting as a manifestation of poverty in children, the potential impacts of universal child benefits, and the importance of good political economy analysis. We will also be working together for the next IDEP in October 2023, and the BPI team have offered the Coalition a session at their next international conference which is tentatively scheduled for autumn 2023. A co-authored Handbook on Child Poverty is also currently in draft, with contributions from several Coalition partners. There are therefore a range of exciting plans in motion, and we are really looking forward to seeing how these develop and how the BPI can contribute in the coming year.

Photo of meeting participants

Photo of meeting participants

We therefore want to extend our thanks again to UNICEF and Save the Children for co-chairing not only this fantastic annual meeting, but for coordinating the coalition throughout the year. Thanks also to Save the Children’s UK office for hosting us in your lovely meeting room, and to all of the collaborators who made the meeting so engaging and productive, and for their work throughout the year. Hopefully together we can make a difference!

Photo of meeting participants


To find out more about the Global Coalition check out the links below

The economic impact of COVID in the UK depended on where you live

Shutterstock/ 3DJustincase

Julie MacLeavy, Professor of Economic Geography, University of Bristol
David Manley, Professor of Human Geography, University of Bristol
Jamie Evans, Senior Research Associate, University of Bristol; and
Katie Cross, Senior Research Associate, University of Bristol

COVID brought rapid and lasting economic change around the world. But in the UK, the level of impact depended on where you lived when the virus arrived.

Our research shows that the economic difficulties experienced during periods of social restrictions were particularly stark for those in deprived neighbourhoods.

During the first national lockdown, for example, we found that 23% of people in the most deprived parts of the UK were unable to afford day-to-day expenses or to save for the future. Food bank usage was reported at 9%. In the least deprived places, those figures were 6% and 0.5% respectively.

The impact on employment followed a similar pattern, with 10% of workers from the most deprived areas experiencing a job loss in the early months of the pandemic, compared with only 4% in the least deprived areas. Overall, the people who live in the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods fell further behind through the pandemic.

This corresponds with previous data that lays bare how being poor limits a person’s ability to cope with – and recover from – abrupt changes in economic conditions. Mostly, this stems from a lack of capacity to soak up financial shocks (having savings, for example) and from the nature of state welfare provision.

With COVID, the sudden restrictions placed on the labour market, alongside an absence of childcare, placed many in uncharted waters. Among them, single-parent households were much more likely to have experienced job loss or a reduction in working hours.

A report by the independent Women’s Budget Group found that the socio-economic effects of COVID were particularly severe for women with disabilities, women from minority ethnic groups, and women of migrant status. Again, this underlines how the pandemic exposed and amplified existing vulnerabilities.

In terms of emergency support, the temporary universal credit increase (which provided an additional £20 a week to the standard allowance) helped to reduce overall inequality. And the furlough scheme (plus similar support for the self-employed) reached many in potential difficulty – but not all.

Brought in to prevent potential mass unemployment and pay workers a replacement wage, these policies excluded many in the most precarious positions, including an estimated three million on zero-hour contracts, agency workers and the newly self-employed.

But those eligible for employment support were not immune from difficulty. About one-third of the 11.2 million workers furloughed saw their income fall below the official low-pay threshold. A further 6% ended up behind with their bills as a result of large income falls, high expenses and low savings.

Filling the gaps in state support were family, friends and community groups, many of which were set up in direct response to the pandemic. Informal transfers of money from these sources were common for those on the lowest incomes, regardless of where they lived.

Continued risk

This highlights a failure of state support to fully mitigate the effects of COVID restrictions for those facing financial, food and housing insecurity. Despite the government spending over £70 billion on emergency financial assistance, a combination of insufficient payments and problems of access left many reliant on informal forms of support. In addition, there is evidence that the stigma surrounding benefits put a lot of people off applying for help, even when they really needed it.

Our analysis found that working-age adults were more likely to have received financial support from family or friends (8%) than apply for universal credit (4%). We also found that this kind of reliance was more likely among those who had been furloughed than those who had continued working through the pandemic, and even more widespread for those who had lost their job, suggesting that the furlough scheme, while not perfect, was better than mass job losses.

High street without shoppers.
Empty streets in Sheffield, UK, April 2020. (Shutterstock/Kristin Greenwood)

Today, while the worst effects of COVID seem to be behind us, the risks of job losses, business failures and debt defaults remain. In the UK, recession is expected, inflation is high, and energy bills are soaring. Of particular concern are those for whom the pandemic has increased their financial vulnerability. They are not well placed to weather this coming crisis.

Rather than scale back state financial support, the government needs to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable are protected. In doing so, they would guard against the scarring effects of unemployment and debt.

There is also a role for targeted regional investment. The financial impacts of the pandemic were most keenly experienced by those in places with long histories of deeply entrenched disadvantage. Without help, the hardship and insecurity wrought by the pandemic risks becoming ingrained, and with it, the geographical concentration of poverty that our analysis has uncovered.The Conversation

Julie MacLeavy, Professor of Economic Geography, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol
David Manley, Professor of Human Geography, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol
Jamie Evans, Senior Research Associate, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol; and
Katie Cross, Senior Research Associate, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

From research to practice: My outreach experience in Africa

By Cynthia L. Fonta, Final year Doctorate candidate, School for Policy Studies

Volunteering and outreach activities

I volunteered in a research institution in a community in Burkina Faso prior to joining the School for Policy Studies as a postgraduate research student. It was a lonely four hours’ drive to that community from the city. The roads were terribly dusty during the dry season and flooded in the wet seasons. We had to pass several flooded bridges in the wet season – a risky crossing. Just getting there was a nightmare but then, you tend to forget all agitations and worries once you have arrived. It was a natural and untouched environment with clean air and wonderful people. I fell in love with the villagers with their friendly and generous nature.

What struck me the most was how forgotten they were by the development plans and projects. I could see in their eyes the unspoken truth of suffering and poverty. Water was not clean; sanitation was in the bushes and no households who could afford even unimproved pit toilets.  I thought to myself, how can something as basic as this be a luxury? How can there be campaigns to increase Vitamin A uptake, mass deworming programs, hand washing sensitisation campaigns without the most basic key to life, clean water services? These are all good strategies, but in my opinion, they must be integrated with the most important needs of the community.

I suddenly had the urge and motivation to go back to school to enhance my research skills and influence policy. I had no financial means to help, I had no voice to speak and the only way I could have a voice was through research. So, my journey to Bristol began. I met my current supervisor, Professor Gordon, whose work had so much inspired me to understand child poverty and how it was measured. The rest was history. The very idea that I realised my dreams to study policy in health-related research is itself a blessing I never take for granted. My stipends from the University of Bristol studentship helped me adjust to student life and take care of my cost-of living expenses. A small part of it was saved every month because I promised myself to do something someday to help an impoverished community.


I went back home for the summer break to be with my kids while working remotely from home, Yaounde, Cameroon. It was my first time living in that community in Yaounde. Early on, I noticed children walking down the hill with buckets to fetch water. Their ages ranged from as small as four years to adults.  I decided to drill a bore hole for the community with some funds put aside from my stipend. Notice the little boy fetching water into the container for drinking in the photo on the right-hand side above? The water has been tested and it is odourless, colourless, free of chemicals and microbes. I thank the University of Bristol and the Bristol Poverty Institute for granting such an opportunity to make a difference in this small way.

Blog author Cynthia L. Fonta

I also had the opportunity to meet a lovely group of persons with special needs at the Centre des Handicapés (special needs centre) at Etoug-Ebe in Yaounde Cameroon during same period. This meeting took place during a three-day symposium organised by the deputy director of the Centre (centred with the white face cap in the photo below), Mr Douglas Achingale. I was invited by one of the guest speakers.

Members of the Centre des Handicapés, including Deputy Director Mr Douglas Achingale (with white cap)

The participants came from all provinces across the country to discuss their challenges and difficulties of navigating their limitations in such resource poor settings. They were educated about their rights as included in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), followed by a series of entertainment activities.

The director owns an NGO Sports on Wheels Association whose main purpose is to promote sporting activities among people with special needs. They are known throughout the country for organising country wide basketball tournaments, table tennis tournaments, weightlifting and other indoor activities for persons with special needs to uplift their spirits and keep them healthy. It was really impressive.

My research and future interests

My research focuses on child poverty and deprivation in decent living standard (clean water, adequate sanitation, access to health and adequate diet, quality housing, access to education and information) across African states and the implications of poverty on child mental health states. Child poverty is examined in the context of postcolonial economic and administrative dependency structures linked to persistent unequal distribution of poverty and under-development in the continent. African states are categorised into two groups, Anglophone Africa, governed under indirect ruling structures set up by English colonists, and Francophone African states which ruled under centralised or direct ruling polices set up by French colonists. The overall aim of the study is to determine which group produced worse child poverty outcomes and inequality distribution to direct policy priorities. Here, large secondary data from varied sources are harmonized over different survey years to produce robust poverty and inequality estimates.

The School for Policy Studies and my supervisors, Professor David Gordon and Dr Zoi Toumpakari, have guided my epistemic way of thinking to critically theorise, conceptualise and hypothesise innovations and ideas to provide the best evidence for policy. They exposed me to managing large data sets, multidimensional poverty estimations, inequality calculations and multilevel regression analysis. I intend to carry on with these skills by conducting research in vulnerable groups anywhere in the world. I have done some work on elderly wellbeing, currently doing some work on children in poverty and hopefully in the future, work with persons with special needs or maternal wellbeing. I intend to use these skills to shine a light on impoverished and vulnerable groups in the society through community research and implementation activities.

Advice to policy students

My advice to policy students is to follow their passion, be innovative in thinking and remain in constant touch with supervisors who will guide and harness your thoughts, innovations, and productivity. Present your work in conferences and research groups to gain feedback for improvements. Volunteer as much in research institutions or programs because it opens one’s mind to relevant problems and areas on which to focus. Take advantage of every conference or program you attend to grow your research network and request to volunteer in any program that might be of your interest. Your supervisors are your guide to this lonely and challenging path to obtaining a PhD. It gets challenging as the workload increases over the years, but it takes dedication, commitment and focus to keep going, following the directions of your supervisors every step of the way.

Volunteering and outreach institutional contacts

Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Contact- Jean-Noël Poda (podajnl@yahoo.fr)

Centre National de Réhabilitation des Personnes Handicapées, Yaoundé, Cameroon
Contact- Mr Douglas Achingale (havocslord@yahoo.co.uk)

Autism and Homelessness – Increasing autism awareness and improving access and engagement in homelessness services

By Dr Beth Stone

Autism is disproportionately over-represented in homeless populations. However, little is known about how autistic people experience homelessness and how best to support them.

My research examined the factors which increase risk of homelessness for autistic people, autistic people’s experiences of homelessness, and barriers to service engagement. The research found that autistic people are at increased risk of homelessness due to the social and economic disadvantages they face throughout their lives such as low educational attainment, difficulties finding and maintaining employment, and social exclusion. Once homeless, support services were often inaccessible or unsuitable. The impact of autism on day-to-day life was not recognised by housing offices. If participants were found eligible for support they were housed in over-crowded and confrontational hostels which aggravated social anxiety and sensory processing difficulties.

Improving services

Working with two local organisations, Bristol Autism Spectrum Service (BASS) and Golden Key, we created an autism and homelessness working group, with the aim of improving local services for autistic people experiencing homelessness.

I also received an ESRC Impact Acceleration Grant to produce a film based on the lived experience of my research participants.

In July, we hosted an event for local stakeholders from homelessness and health services and Bristol City Council.

The event featured:

  • The launch of the film highlighting the experiences of autistic people who have experienced homelessness in the South West of England, followed by a presentation on how autistic people may experience homelessness more generally and barriers to service use (Dr Beth Stone).
  • Presentation of the Autism and Homelessness Toolkit, aimed at improving access to, and engagement with, homelessness services for autistic people (Dr Alasdair Churchard).
  • Autism awareness training provided by Bristol Autism Spectrum Service (BASS).

Discussion in feedback groups indicated ways in which support services planned to adopt autism friendly ways of working into their everyday practice.

View the film launched at the event here.

Next steps

We are putting together a proposal aimed at improving local service provision for autistic people who are experiencing homelessness.

Feedback from discussion groups at the awareness event has helped to shape our proposal, which we will discuss with autistic people with lived experience of homelessness. We will then use the proposal to advocate for wider changes to policy and support services.

Related publications:

Stone, Beth. 2022. “Homelessness as a Product of Social Exclusion: Reinterpreting Autistic Adults’ Narratives through the Lens of Critical Disability Studies.” Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research 24(1), 181–195. DOI: https://www.sjdr.se/articles/10.16993/sjdr.881/

Stone, B., Cameron, A., Dowling, S. 2022. “The autistic experience of homelessness: Implications from a narrative enquiry”. Autism (1-11), DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613221105091

This blog post is also available on the School for Policy Studies’ blog.