Poverty and Social Justice in a Post-COVID World: BPI Conference 2024 Summary

Author: Dr Lauren Winch, BPI Manager


On the 5th and 6th June 2024 the Bristol Poverty Institute (BPI) were delighted to welcome a diverse audience to our conference on Poverty and Social Justice in a Post-COVID World. This important conference marked the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, which laid the foundations the BPI has built upon since our launch in 2017. We welcomed around 120 attendees from a wide range of sectors and organisations around the world including universities, a local foodbank, Arigatou International, ATD Fourth World, Bristol City Council, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Citizen’s Advice, Disability Rights UK, Innovate UK, and UNICEF. We also featured speakers from 12 different countries across five continents.

Across our two-day programme we brought together a multi-sector audience – including those with lived experience – with varied perspectives, approaches, and knowledge. Together, we explored how the pandemic has impacted on different dimensions of poverty and how we could combine our different expertise, approaches, and perspectives to help improve the lives of those suffering from poverty and address issues of social justice. We delivered a mix of thematic and regionally focussed sessions and a combination of in-person and online engagement opportunities to try to open the door for everyone to be part of the conversation.

On Day 1 (Wednesday 5th June), we convened in-person in Bristol to explore the impacts of the pandemic on different dimensions of poverty within the UK, with thematic sessions on topics such as mental health, structural inequalities, education, employment, and social mobility, as well as dedicated networking spaces. On Day 2 (Thursday 6th June), we brought together a global online audience to take a journey around the world with us exploring the impacts of the pandemic in different regions. We started with an Asia and Oceania-focused session in the morning, moved on to Europe and Africa in the middle of the day and, finally, to the Americas later in the day, following the sun around the world and shedding light on different dimensions of poverty and inequality in the wake of the pandemic.

The COVID pandemic wreaked havoc across the world, disrupting all of our lives. Inevitably, some were worse affected than others and, as with many things, it was often those already marginalised who feel the heaviest impact. New inequalities emerged and existing inequalities were exposed and exacerbated. Many of these have persisted long beyond the peak of the pandemic, even now, when life has settled into a so-called ‘new normal’. Political choices resulted in a pandemic that was experienced unequally, killed unequally and impoverished unequally and this has reduced trust in government and health systems.

Please read on for a whistle-stop tour of our conference! We have also made our conference resources available on our website, so if you want to delve into more detail on the presentations please do check those out. We have presentation slides from both days, as well as full recordings of all of our online sessions on our YouTube page:


Day 1

We were delighted to welcome our in-person attendees to Day 1 of our conference at the Wills Hall Conference Centre in Bristol for a fantastic programme of sessions.

Photo of registration areaConference day one programme

Opening Session

Day 1 of our conference kicked off with an engaging welcome address from the University of Bristol’s Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellor for Arts, Law and Social Sciences Professor Esther Dermott, who was one of the founding members of the Bristol Poverty Institute back in 2017. Setting the scene for our two-day conference, Esther provided an overview of the BPI, its background, and its importance, embedded within reflections on the challenges of poverty in the modern day and how this intersects with various issues including politics, health, and education. She highlighted the value of the BPI’s interdisciplinary, multidimensional approach to poverty, and of the importance of bringing together different sectors and perspectives in events like this one.

The Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean for the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences Professor Esther Dermotts welcoming speech

We were then introduced to the BPI itself by the BPI Manager, Dr Lauren Winch. Lauren introduced the BPI team members, the BPI Advisory Board, and gave an overview of the BPI’s history, it’s key aims, and how the Institute operates. She again reiterated the multidimensional approach to poverty, and the Institute’s ambitions to translate research into evidence-informed policy and practice which improves peoples’ lives in the real world.

Introducing the Bristol Poverty Institute slide screenshot

Lauren then provided a summary of the programme for the day, before introducing the BPI’s Academic Director Professor David Gordon for the opening presentation. David’s presentation was eye-opening, and at times shocking even to an informed audience. He shared statistics on poverty and deprivation changes over time, quoted the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights on the extent of poverty in the UK and the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on human rights violations in the UK, and finally shared evidence on the impacts of COVID on poverty and inequality. Professor Gordon illustrated the impacts of austerity on measures of poverty, wage growth, and spending on public services, and highlighted how poorly the UK had performed compared to other high-income countries in the wake of the pandemic with both high death rates and low-economic growth.

Photo of Professor David Gordon giving his presentation

Professor David Gordon slide screenshot

He concluded with a statement on how pandemics have historically affected the poor the most and exacerbated inequalities, and that COVID was no different – the poor got poorer, and the rich got richer. This, he said, is the state we’re in.

Education, Employment and Escalating Inequalities

Our first thematic session of the day was on ‘Education, Employment and Escalating Inequalities’. This session sought to explore how the pandemic had impacted on trajectories and life chances, including for those in education, in employment, and transitioning between the two. Our speakers explored child poverty, financial inequalities, in-work poverty, and the rise of food banks in schools.

First, we heard from our session chair Professor Sharon Collard, who is the Research Co-Director at the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre and has been a member of the BPI Advisory Board and core team since the very beginning of our Institute. Sharon’s talk introduced the Financial Fairness Tracker and the evidence it had generated on the financial wellbeing of UK households since the pandemic.

Professor Sharon Collard slide screenshot

Sharon highlighted evidence on how the number of households in serious difficulty had risen from 2.8million in 2021 to 4.8million in 2023, with increasing number of households resorting to taking on new debt and using foodbanks. She then outlined how household finances are linked to health and wellbeing, including lung issues linked to cold and damp houses, sleep deprivation due to stress, dental issues due to unaffordable treatment costs, and reduced mental health due to lack of capacity to engage in social activities. She concluded with a quote from Peter Barker on how “we can’t go back to normal”.

Photograph of Professor Sharon Collard presenting

Our next speaker was Mr Alex Collinson from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), who was unfortunately unable to join us in person and therefore gave his presentation online. Alex’s talk looked at the rise of in-work poverty and the main drivers behind this, before moving on to exploring the policies that would help to reverse the rise. He highlighted the negative impacts of insecure work and a broken benefits system, and commented on how work is not currently a route out of poverty, echoing sentiments from a recent BPI seminar on Dismantling ‘Work as a Route out of Poverty’: Exploring experiences of underemployment and active labour market policy. He shared some of the TUC’s analysis on the drivers of in-work poverty, including pay rates, levels of insecure work, and reductions in the real value of standard monthly benefits allowances.

Alex Collinson slide's screenshot


Alex closed his presentation with a plea to policy makers to bring in new legislation that tackles insecure work, addresses the pay crisis with measures including a £15/hour minimum wage, and fixes the broken social security net.

We then heard from Professor Jane Millar, who is the Chair of the Trustees of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Professor Emerita in the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath. Jane was speaking in her capacity as Chair of Trustees at CPAG, and shared findings from CPAG’s 2023 annual report on ending child poverty. Jane set the scene by highlighting that in 2022/23 there were 4.3 million children – around 30% of all children – in the UK living in poor households.

Professor Jane Millar slide's screenshot

Echoing some of Alex’s points, she noted that many children are growing up in poverty despite having at least one working parent, and that child poverty can cast a long shadow on health impacts, education outcomes, and wellbeing and mental health. She also highlighted how policy in recent years has actually increased child poverty in the UK, and how the UK has fallen into the bottom third of European rankings for child poverty rates. In order to reverse this trend, Jane advocated for changes which combat the things which are making it worse, expand measures to prevent or reduce child poverty, and actively build support to achieve a society with no child poverty. Such measures could include abolition of the two-child limit and the benefit cap, making child benefit universal, providing more secure homes, and extending free school meals to all children whose parents are on Universal Credit. She wrapped up with a clear message that ending child poverty should not be a party-political issue; it should be something that unites all parties.

Photograph of Professor Jane Millar presenting

The final speaker in our Education, Employment and Escalating Inequalities session was Dr William Baker, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Bristol. William’s talk focussed on the rise of food banks in schools, highlighting how millions of families across the UK are struggling to put food on the table and large numbers of children are arriving at school too hungry to learn, and how this has led to a shocking situation whereby there are now more food banks in schools than outside of them. In addition, he exposed that one million children in poverty don’t qualify for free school meals because the income threshold is so low – if your income on Universal Credit is above £7400/year, you don’t quality for free school meals.

Doctor Will Baker slide's screenshot

Mirroring comments from earlier presenters, William highlighted how toxic food insecurity can be for children, threatening their psychosocial outcomes, their educational trajectories, and ultimately their life chances. He also noted how parents’ mental health also suffers when they can’t provide adequate food for their children, with compounding impacts. William then went on to introduce his research on food banks in schools – many of which started during the pandemic – and how their prevalence has accelerated rapidly during the cost-of-living crisis. 21% of schools in England now have a foodbank, rising to a third in the most deprived areas. Interestingly, he also noted that it was often the poorest paid within the school systems – such as teaching assistants and receptionists – who were driving forward these initiatives. William’s talk drew to a close with reflections on how charitable food aid was being forced to step in where the welfare state should be supporting people, and how the UK is currently systematically failing to ensure that every citizen has the right to food.

Sharon, our session Chair, then opened up the floor to questions from the audience. The room explored topics including priorities for manifestos in the upcoming election, holding the UK government to account for child poverty and human rights now that we have left the EU, and what could be done to reduce child poverty in the next generation. Key topics which came to the fore were the need for the government to commit to a child poverty strategy, to address the cost-of-living crisis head on, and to reconsider the two-child policy and benefit cap which some of the panellists described as inhumane. In the closing remarks, William took the opportunity to highlight the upcoming Food Justice Fortnight in June and July organised by charity Feeding Bristol, which he is involved with. The BPI are also actively participating in this initiative, co-hosting a joint workshop with Feeding Bristol, the University of Bristol Food Justice Researchers Network, and Cabot Institute for the Environment on Connecting Research and Communities to tackle food justice and inequalities.

Mental Health, Poverty, and the Pandemic

Following a break for refreshments and networking, we re-convened for our second thematic session of the day on Mental Health, Poverty and the Pandemic, exploring intersections between mental and physical health and dimensions of poverty, including food deprivation and the care sector. The session was introduced and chaired by Dr Julie Mytton, who is a Professor of Public Health and leads the Global Health Research theme in the Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing at UWE and is an Honorary Professor at the University of Bristol. Julie also joined the BPI Advisory Board in 2023, bringing valuable expertise on children and young people and health inequalities to the Board following the retirement of previous members Professor Alan Emond and Dr Matthew Ellis.

Our first presenter in this session was Ms Tricia Jessiman, who is a Senior Research Associate in Qualitative Public Health at the University of Bristol. Linking in with some of the discussion before the break, Tricia’s talk explored the viability and impacts of a pilot intervention offering free school meals for all children. Her talk shared evidence from a case study in two London secondary schools, following an introduction where she shared more insights into food insecurity and child hunger and the implications this can have on a child’s growth, development, and mental health. Tricia outlined how child hunger and poverty can have implications for depression, anxiety, bullying, substance abuse, disordered eating, behavioural issues, and other psychosocial impacts with potential lifelong consequences.

Ms Tricia Jessiman slide's screenshot

Tricia’s research questions for this project focussed on whether universal free school meals could be feasible, what the costs would be, and crucially what the implications and impacts were. Data collection included interviews with parents/carers, school staff, and ‘peer partners’ from within the student body. Key findings included that once the system was in place it was easier for school staff to administer than means-tested free meals, that universal provision led to increased meal choice and quality, and that it also helped tackle stigma as well as the anticipated financial benefits for families and nutritional benefits for children. Whilst there are inevitable cost implications, Tricia concluded that the benefits outweighed these and argued that the evidence from this intervention proved that universal free school meals could be delivered successfully in secondary schools; however, more research is needed in different schools and different regions, and with comparisons against other food insecurity interventions.

Up next we heard from Mrs Dinithi Wijedasa, an Associate Professor in Child and Family Welfare at the University of Bristol. Dinithi’s presentation explored the mental health of children and young people in care in England through analysis of longitudinal patterns. Her talk began with some troubling statistics on children and young people in care who now number over 80,000, two-thirds of whom have been taken into care due to severe maltreatment such as abuse or neglect. She explained that these children come from backgrounds of poverty, deprivation and disadvantage, and 40-50% have a diagnosable mental health condition.

Photograph of Dinithi Wijedasa presenting

Dinithi’s talk questioned whether the current system delivers the protective role and duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children which is expected from the State, and explored how children and young peoples’ developmental contexts impacted on their mental health. One particularly worrying statistic was the amount of people experiencing difficulties who either hadn’t asked for mental health support, or had asked for support but didn’t received it, which was 20% in the first wave of the study and 27% in the second.

Mrs Dinithi Wijedasa slide's screenshot

Overall, Dinithi concluded that the studies indicated that children’s whole developmental context influences their mental health, particularly the strength of their relationships with family, friends and other support networks. Her work also highlighted the importance of longitudinal tracking, and the need to address children’s mental health earlier rather than waiting until crisis point.

The final speaker in this session was from Professor Laura Howe who is a statistical epidemiologist at the University of Bristol. Laura’s presentation explored how poverty and adversity can affect physical and mental health over a life course, particularly when experienced in childhood. Laura explained how ‘childhood adversity’ refers to maltreatment as well as broader forms of household disfunction such as substance abuse, domestic violence, parental divorce, bullying, emotional abuse, and parental criminal conviction. This is therefore a broad spectrum of events which can deprive children of a safe home environment.

Photograph of Laura Howe presenting

She went on to explore how poverty, adversity and health can all intersect, but acknowledged that they are not always addressed collectively and that the solutions and approaches to these areas can be different. Laura’s work drew upon data from the ALSPAC cohort, and revealed that childhood adversity reduces socioeconomic chances in life as well as affects numerous aspects of health outcomes including depression, obesity, and substance addiction/abuse. Echoing sentiments repeated earlier in the day, Laura surmised that the pandemic’s socioeconomic effects were hardest felt by people with pre-existing and long-lasting disadvantages.

Following-on from these thought-provoking presentations, the room entered into an engaging discussion of the intersections between mental health and poverty, and the role of the pandemic in these areas. This included, for example, the need for holistic responses at both individual and institutional levels to issues such as food security and effectively supporting children in care, as well as the value of interventions at family level. A key message which kept coming up was the need for early interventions instead of waiting until children and young people reach crisis point; the old adage of ‘prevention is better than cure’ certainly rings true in these circumstances. Other topics which the panel explored included why the study of poverty and adversity are separate, the power relationships in child poverty research, the importance of co-production, and the role of schools as a focal point for not only education but also the social and health needs of pupils. The discussion was lively and could have gone on much longer, but it was time for us to break for lunch and chew over the themes, questions, and revelations of the morning’s presentations as well as a tasty meal in beautiful surroundings.

Lunch photograph

Structural Inequalities and Social Justice

Our session after lunch was an interactive one, designed to combat the post-lunch ‘slump’. We also wanted to give our attendees the opportunity to actively engage in the discussion, to meet some new people, and to hear fresh perspectives from people with different experience and backgrounds. We therefore asked attendees not to sit with their friends and close colleagues for the breakout groups! We think it worked…

Whilst the session was interactive, we wanted to set the scene with a couple of thought-provoking presentations. Our session Chair, Professor David Gordon, introduced our afternoon session on structural inequalities and social justice and explained how the pandemic disproportionally affected different people, groups and communities due to dimensions including gender, ethnicity, disability, and socioeconomic status. The first presentation was from Ann Singleton, a Reader in Migration Policy at the University of Bristol, who was presenting on behalf of Tony Bunyan who was unfortunately unable to attend due to ill health. Tony is the Director Emeritus of Statewatch and the Honorary President of the Institute of Race Relations, and a well-known and highly respected voice on structural inequalities.

Ann and Tony’s presentation was entitled ‘Monitoring the State’ and was centred on the premise that the need for independent monitoring of the actions of the state is an essential cornerstone in the defence of civil liberties, challenging racism, inequalities in health, housing, and multiple dimensions of poverty. One of Ann’s opening statements was that “The most revolutionary thing you can do is to proclaim loudly what is happening”, and it was clear how much this struck a chord with the conference attendees. She went on to provide some background on both Statewatch and the Institute for Race Relations, including the evidence they hold in their archives and its importance. For example, they have decades worth of paper evidence documenting all of the measures implemented by the State. Ann highlighted how this information is vital to inform debate, and to hold the State to account. Her concluding remarks re-emphasised the message that we must address – and challenge – the structures in society in order to make progress.

Ann Singleton presentation photograph

Our second provocation came from Professor Saffron Karlsen, whose work at the University of Bristol focuses on improving understanding the significance of ethnicity in people’s lives, including its impact on social inclusion and its role in driving health and other inequalities. Saffron’s talk focussed on lessons from the pandemic for more inclusive policy-making, and building on Ann’s presentation it also explored the role the state can have in driving the narrative. She has done a lot of work with Black South West Network on how the pandemic disproportionately impacted different communities, particularly where this intersects with ethnicity. Saffron gave an overview of focus group studies with racialised groups in Bristol she had been part of in the wake of the pandemic as the rules and restrictions began to lift. Themes which came to the fore were a lack of representation and inclusion, ‘culture wars’ and the ‘blame game’, and mistrust of the government, its policies, and its respect for racialised groups.

Photograph of Saffron Karlsen presenting

Saffron Karlsen slide's screenshot

These two talks certainly did their job of stimulating thought and discussion in the room, and were an excellent scene-setter for our breakout groups. The remainder of the session was therefore dedicated to exploring our breakout questions:

  1. How did the pandemic affect different groups in different ways? Who do you think gained and who do you think lost?
  2. What should the next government do to get poverty alleviation back on track?

Breakout groups discussion photograph

There was such a buzz in the room that it was a shame to have to draw the breakout groups to a close, but we were keen to hear what the different tables had come up with. The response to question 1, who gained and who lost, was pretty unanimous: the rich won, and the poor, marginalised and/or disabled lost. Other groups who were identified as losing were school-aged children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as people in densely populated areas, key workers on the ‘front line’, women, single parents, racialised communities, teachers, those in precarious employment, people who lived alone, care home residents, people with disabilities and/or chronic health conditions, and of course everyone who suffered with and died from COVID itself. Winners included software companies, ‘cronies’, PPE companies, pharmaceutical companies which developed the vaccines, and people with larger homes and/or gardens, although it was also acknowledged that homeless people and those on Universal Credit did also temporarily benefit from additional government support and that many of us have benefitted from the transition to hybrid working and from an enhanced community spirit with our neighbours.

In terms of what the next government should do to tackle poverty, providing adequate housing was a common theme, as was getting the economy and inflation back on track, ending the two-child limit, uprating benefits in line with inflation, restructuring the tax system and closing loopholes so that the super-wealthy pay their fair share, investing in and commitment to public services in general and the NHS, transport, and education in particular, and reparations for colonialism, slavery, and climate damage. It was clear that all of the groups had had engaging discussions with different perspectives, but these common themes really came to the fore. We can only hope the new government – as yet undecided at the time of writing this post – really get to grips with these challenges, and invests in the right areas to help those most in need.

Breakout group notes photograph

Closing Session (Day 1)

We took a short break after the breakout session, before moving into our final closing session of Day 1 of our conference. Our final speaker was Mr Peter Matejic who is a Chief Analyst at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), and has engaged with BPI many times over the years. We were delighted to welcome him to the floor to share his reflections on the deepening of UK poverty, and what can be done to tackle it. Peter introduced JRF as an independent and politically neutral organisation who simply want to eradicate poverty. He shared the shocking statistic that there are 14.3million people in poverty in the UK and that 6 million of these are in ‘very deep poverty’, with disproportional amounts of people with disabilities and lone parents in poverty. Worryingly, levels of destitution and deep hardship are rising fastest of all; the number of people in destitution has more than doubled since 2016.

Peter Matejic slide's screenshot

Peter Matejic slide's screenshot

After sharing a thought-provoking video with lived experience testimonials, Peter outlined what JRF think is driving destitution. Causal factors include the fact that the basic rate of social security is at its lowest in 30 years, various housing-related challenges including housing benefits lagging behind rent, lack of appropriate regulation and much lower rates of social housing being built, and also an increasing number of people who are sick and/or disabled and therefore unable to work. Peter’s presentation did, however, end on a more positive note: change is possible. Measures such as uplifting Universal Credit, developing a fit-for-purpose housing policy, and improving the statutory sick pay system would all go a long way towards reducing poverty and deprivation, as would tightening and enforcing employee’s rights.

Peter’s talk inspired a series of interesting questions and discussions in the room, with topics including what is required for a decent standard of living, what happens to asylum seekers who drop out of the system, whether there is scope for further devolution in the UK – and whether this would be a good thing – and what are the gender dimensions of poverty and deprivation.

It was then down to the BPI Director, Professor David Gordon, to draw Day 1 of our conference to a close. He thanked all of the speakers, attendees, and BPI team for their contributions to the conference, and encouraged everyone to join us online the following day for our world-tour of the intersections between poverty and COVID-19. We then invited all attendees to join us for a drinks reception, to continue with the engaging discussions and explore new connections and potential opportunities for collaboration with other attendees. The fact that many attendees were still in the room over an hour and half later when the event closed is a real testament to the inspiring talks and presenters and to all of the attendees for being so engaged and involved in the discussion. Therefore, the BPI want to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone who participated in such a fantastic day.

Group photograph at the end of the day

Day 2

The second day of our conference was delivered online to a global audience, with a series of regionally-focussed sessions corresponding with respective time zones. We kicked off with a session focussing on Asia and Oceania first thing in the morning, followed by a late morning session on Europe, a session on Africa after lunch, and finally a session on the Americas in the afternoon/evening UK time. We were joined by speakers from 12 countries from across five continents, as well as a diverse audience of global attendees. Our session summaries are briefer for Day 2 than Day 1, as all of the sessions were recorded and you can therefore watch the full thing at your own leisure if the below piques your interest!

Conference day 2 programme Conference day 2 programme

Asia/Oceania Session

Day 2 kicked off with a session on Asia/Oceania, with speakers joining us from Hong Kong, Japan, Kiribati, and the UK. The BPI team provided a brief scene-setting presentation, giving a bit of background to the Institute, the conference, and our programme of activities. The Asia/Oceania session was chaired by University of Bristol alumni and friend of the BPI Dr Shailen Nandy, who is now a Professor of International Social Policy at the University of Cardiff.

We began with a presentation from Professor Maggie Lau from Lingnan University in Hong Kong. Maggie’s presentation explored the impacts of the pandemic on child poverty and well-being in Hong Kong, applying the consensual deprivation methodology to understand poverty and develop appropriate poverty alleviation policies in Hong Kong. She explained how the consensual method incorporates both household and individual levels of analysis and therefore acknowledges the multidimensional nature of poverty and is a more direct reflection of living standards and quality of life than some other measures. Maggie provided an overview of where and how the consensual method has been applied globally, and her findings from its application in Hong Kong.

Screenshot of slide on the history of poverty analysis in Hong Kong

Our next presentation was from Dr Viliami Konifelenisi Fifita, who is the International Resident Advisor to the Kiribati National Statistics Office at the World Bank and is another University of Bristol alumnus who spent many years working for the Government of Tonga. Like Maggie, Viliami’s presentation focussed on the application of the consensual approach to poverty measurement, this time applying this methodology to Pacific Island countries with specific examples from Tonga. In his presentation, Viliami also outlined some of the other poverty measures which are commonly applied, including the World Bank’s international poverty line ($1.25/day), national poverty lines, and the multidimensional poverty line, as well as different categories of poverty classification.

Doctor Viliami Fifita slide screenshot

The third presenter in our Asia/Oceania session was Professor Aya Abe from Tokyo Metropolitan University in Japan. Aya’s presentation provided an overview of the application of the consensual method in a third country context; she presented an analysis of changes in socially perceived necessities over time in Japan. She highlighted how one of the technical challenges in constructing the material deprivation scale is the identification of socially perceived necessities, which are contextually dependent and can also change over time in response to economic, demographic and political change. Her presentation therefore outlined research studies exploring changes over time in perceived necessities such as having shoes that fit, separate bedrooms for children, and visiting a doctor, and the impact of different factors on this.

Screenshot of Professor Aya Abe's presentation

Professor Aya Abe slide screenshot

Our fourth and final speaker in the Asia/Oceania session was Dr Qiujie Shi, a Lecturer in Quantitative Human Geography at the University of Bristol. Qiujie’s presentation focussed on migrant-local disparities in China’s urban labour market during the zero-COVID era, and how this intersected with multiple vulnerabilities. She outlined the challenges faced by migrant workers in China who have migrated from rural to urban areas for work, where they then encounter unequal access to certain resources due to the ‘Hukou’ system. For example, migrants cannot access certain jobs in the public sector, as well as having limited or no access to some services, benefits, and public funds. Qiujie went on to explore the implications of this for migrant workers, and the way that different vulnerabilities and cultural factors intersected.

Doctor Qiujie Shi slide screenshot

Once we had heard from all of our speakers, we moved into a virtual Q&A chaired by Shailen. We received a range of interesting questions exploring topics including the influence of adaptive preferences on the application of the consensual approach, the impact of the pandemic on peoples’ perceptions and corresponding responses to surveys, and the influence of ‘parental sacrifice’ on differential responses from adults and children. To listen back to the full Q&A, check out the session recording via our website.

Asia and Oceania Session Q&A screenshot

Europe session

Our second session on Day 2 focussed on poverty and the impacts of the pandemic in Europe. For this session, we had speakers dialling in from Australia, Luxembourg and Spain. The Europe session was chaired by our own BPI Director, Professor David Gordon.

The first presentation in this session came from Dr Alba Lanau from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain, who was previously a member of the BPI during her time at the University of Bristol. Alba’s presentation explored intra-household inequality between children and adults in a range of different European countries. This presentation again touched upon the idea of parental sacrifice which had been introduced in the Asia/Oceania session, whereby parents tend to protect and prioritise children’s needs over their own. Alba explained how this unequal distribution of resources within the household is therefore obscured when poverty is only measured at the household level, contributing to conflicting narratives on child poverty. Alba then presented findings from research on 22 European countries, based on a sample of 38,000 households with children. A key finding was that parents – particularly mothers – as well as unemployed people and part-time workers were most likely to go without, whereas the young and old tend to be the most protected and sacrifice the least.

Doctor Alba Lanau slide screenshot

Our next presentation in the Europe session was from Mr Eric Marlier, who is the International Scientific Coordinator at the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER). Eric’s presentation explored how we can break the vicious cycles perpetuating disadvantage across generations, which damages lives, weakens social cohesion, and undermines environmental sustainability. He outlined how living in poverty affects so many aspects of peoples’ lives, including limiting access to healthcare, erosion of aspirations and self-confidence, exposure to stigma and discrimination, and lack of participation in society and culture. Eric explained how difficult it can be to escape poverty and break out of the cycle, but how this can have considerable social and economic advantages for society as a whole as well as the individual. In particular, he advocated for tackling child poverty as a positive investment for society with huge “returns”. He concluded by outlining four key reasons why fighting inequality matters, as outlined in the below slide:

Eric Marlier slide screenshot

Building on Eric’s presentation, we then heard from his colleague at Liser Dr Anne-Catherine Guio who is an economist with expertise in statistics and comparative data analysis. Anne-Catherine expanded on the European Child Guarantee, which had been touched upon in Eric’s presentation, exploring access for children in need in the EU to the key services covered by this guarantee. These are:

  • high-quality early childhood education and care;
  • education and school-based activities;
  • at least one healthy meal each school day;
  • healthcare; and
  • effective access to two services: healthy nutrition and adequate housing.

Anne-Catherine’s presentation outlined a mapping of the situation, which would enable monitoring of adherence to the European Child Guarantee, with a particular focus on children living in low-income households. From her analysis, she concluded that there are many gaps in provision and barriers to access, but that the European Child Guarantee itself was very important and helpful and has led to amazing progress in some countries.

Doctor Anne-Catherine Guio slide screenshot

Our final presentation in this session was from Ms Amy Raub, the Director of Research of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA in the USA, although she was joining us from Australia on the day. Whilst situated within the Europe-focussed session, Amy gave a fascinating presentation outlining intersections between gender, work, care-giving, and the pandemic in 193 countries across the world. In particular, she explored paid leave policies for care-givers, particularly women, and the impacts of this. For example, in 20 Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) there was a demonstrable correlation between paid maternity leave and reduced infant mortality rates. She therefore concluded that the implementation of paid leave policies can have a really positive effect on outcomes, and that mapping disparities between countries can help to advocate for change.

Ms Amy Raub slide screenshot

Following the presentations, we moved into a virtual Q&A chaired by David. We received a range of interesting questions exploring topics including the influence of maternity/paternity leave policies on fertility rates, the challenges of standardising indices, comparative analyses of the impacts of different global pandemics, and the likelihood/challenges/benefits of rolling out the European Child Guarantee to the rest of the world. To listen back to the full Q&A, check out the session recording via our website.

Photographs of Q&A in the Europe session

Africa session

All of a sudden we were already halfway through Day 2! After a lunchbreak (for those in the UK and similar time zones) we reconvened for our Africa-focussed session with speakers from Ghana, South Africa and the UK (although our UK-based speaker, Cynthia, originally from Cameroon, lives in Côte d’Ivoire and previously spent time working in Nigeria and other West African countries).

We were delighted to welcome Professor Leon Tikly to Chair this session. Leon is a Professor of Education and is the UNESCO Chair on Transforming Knowledge and Research for Just and Sustainable Futures at the University of Bristol, and has been an active and valued member of the BPI Advisory Board since the BPI’s earliest days.

Leon then introduced our first speaker in this session, Dr Nkechi Owoo from the University of Ghana. Nkechi is currently working with the World Bank, and recently spent a period of time with us at the BPI as Bristol ‘Next Generation’ Visiting Researcher in 2023 working with the University of Bristol research community on the effects of climate change on health outcomes. Her conference presentation focussed on spatial and regression analyses of climate shocks and household food insecurity in Ghana, outlining how the threats posed by climate change have the potential to disrupt food systems in various ways. Nkechi highlighted how there has been an increasing frequency of natural disasters and climate shocks in Ghana over the last decade in particular, with flooding the most common, and sharing the concerning statistic that almost half of Ghanaians experienced food insecurity in the first half of 2022. Her research explored spatial analysis of the overlaps between experiencing shocks and mild/moderate/severe food insecurity, and what the moderating effects were. Whilst the data suggested that there were other factors influencing food insecurity, even after these had been controlled for there was still a positive correlation between climate shocks and food insecurity in Ghana, and that this relationship was affected by whether households were poor or not.

Screenshot of Nkechi Owoo's presentation

Doctor Nkechi Owoo slide screenshot

Our next speaker was Professor Murray Leibbrandt, who is the Chair in Poverty and Inequality Research at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. Murray has collaborated with the BPI Director (Professor David Gordon) many times over the years, and hosted David and the BPI Manager (Dr Lauren Winch) at UCT in August 2023 when we ran a joint training course on advanced poverty research methods. Murray’s talk explored inequality and poverty in South Africa through the prism of the pandemic, examining the differential impacts of COVID-19 on different people and groups influenced by various factors including their health, socioeconomic status, and living circumstances. This, by extension, impacted on the effectiveness of social and economic policy interventions in response to the pandemic. Murray then went on to present a COVID-19 vulnerability index in the South African context which had been developed in collaboration with partners including the BPI Director, which informed the South African government’s emergency response and helped to buffer the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.

Murray explained how the study indicated that a large proportion of the population was ill-prepared to protect itself against the virus, with disparities across both space and social groups. He also noted how poorer households may have limited capacity to follow WHO recommendations due to their living conditions, including having limited access to clean water and soap, and/or living in large, overcrowded households. He also went on to explore the various impacts of the pandemic in South Africa, including impacts on and intersections with child hunger, mental health, and unemployment, and how the indices developed have helped to better understand the intersecting inequalities.

Professor Murray Leibbrandt slide screenshot

Next up was Dr Cynthia Fonta, a PhD researcher at the University of Bristol who has a diverse background that integrates practical medical work with deep academic research. Cynthia’s presentation was on a cross-comparative analysis of child poverty across Anglophone and Francophone states in sub-Saharan Africa. Cynthia began by outlining how poverty is not only monetary but also relates to severe deprivation of basic needs including access to water, shelter, education and a social life. She outlined how her work focusses on Africa because the development outcomes there have been slow, and it continues to be hard for low-income families to provide the most basic needs that people in other countries take for granted, and she wants to understand why that is. She therefore explored a range of contributing factors, including colonial legacies, neo-liberal policies, cuts in welfare spending, unemployment rates, conflict, corruption, and poor governance and mismanagement. Her analysis drew on a range of data sources from within and between country child poverty assessments, and concluded that policy markers need to commit to ensuring that the most basic services are provided to improve children’s living standards.

Doctor Cynthia Fonta slide screenshot

Leon then wrapped up the session with his own presentation on the Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures (TESF) in Africa project, which he co-produces with colleagues and collaborators from across the continent and beyond. He introduced how the TESF network has funded 67 projects, mostly in Africa, across the three high-level themes:

  • How can education and training assist learners to achieve sustainable development?
  • How can education and training support sustainable cities and communities?
  • How can education contribute to climate action?

The main focus of Leon’s presentation was on sustainable and transdisciplinary partnerships, with a co-creative approach that is equitable and mutually enriching. He emphasised the importance of linking up different knowledge systems and perspectives to better understand complex and intersecting issues such as education, food and water security, and sustainable cities, as well as the importance of empowering the people involved to make a difference and transform processes, policies, structures and practices. As his presentation drew to a close, Leon also acknowledged and recognised how emotional legacies of issues such as apartheid, racism, colonialism and other inequalities can be a barrier to accessing different voices and experiences, and the need for universities to be epistemically humble.

Professor Leon Tikly slide screenshot

Leon then opened the virtual floor up to questions from the online audience. We received a range of interesting questions exploring topics including the challenges and benefits of working directly with communities experiencing poverty on the continent, the influence of specific colonial policies on household-level differences, possible mechanisms for mitigating the effects of climate change in remote areas, and changes in the patterns of inequalities now compared to at the peak of the pandemic. To listen back to the full Q&A, check out the session recording via our website.

Americas session

The final session of the day, and the 2024 BPI conference, explored the poverty dimensions of COVID-19 in the Americas, with speakers in Brazil, Mexico and the USA, with origins in Argentina. This final session was chaired by Dr Camilla Morelli, an anthropologist of childhood and youth at the University of Bristol who recently joined the BPI Advisory Board.

Our first presentation was delivered by Dr Héctor Nájera on behalf of Professor Fernando Cortés, both of whom are based at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). This presentation was pre-recorded, due to Héctor’s travel commitments. The presentation outlined new findings on poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico, which shows that multidimensional poverty increased more than previously thought. Hector explained how the observed changes were due largely to changes in income, and also, to a lesser extent, on changes in material and social deprivation.

Doctor Hector Najera slide screenshot

The second presentation in the Americas session came from Dr Flávia Uchôa from the Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) in Brazil. Flavia’s presentation outlined a project to develop a scientifically valid multidimensional poverty measurement for Brazil using the consensual approach outlined in some of the day’s earlier presentations. Flavia presented the methodology, the study regions and sample sizes, and the development and expansion of the research over time. She outlined the study’s findings, which included a broad consensus among the groups studied regarding socially perceived needs and the groups most vulnerable to deprivation of these needs, such as families with children. She concluded with a summary of next steps for the project, which will include further expansion and analysis, with the ultimate aim of going beyond income to construct a scientifically valid and socially legitimate measure of poverty in Brazil. Unfortunately, due to technical issues much of the presentation was inaudible, and the Chair ultimately decided not to continue. Flavia, has, however, kindly re-recorded her presentation and we have embedded this within the recording of the session.

Doctor Flavia Uchoa slide screenshot

We had better luck with the next presentation from Mr Enrique Delamónica, who is based in UNICEF’s New York offices as the Statistics and Monitoring Senior Adviser for Child Poverty and Gender Equality. His presentation described work that UNICEF had undertaken on ‘nowcasting’ child poverty during COVID, including the assumptions, results and limitations of the study and comparisons with data trends in more recent years. Enrique spoke about methods for assessing the short, medium and long(ish) term effects of COVID in Latin America, including effects on education, health, income distribution, and economic growth. He concluded his presentation with a summary of where they plan to take the study next, including consensus approach questions, exploring some of the embedded assumptions and limitations, and considering including income distribution in the modelling.

Enrique Delamonica slide screenshot

Our final presentation was on giving a voice to children and families living in poverty from Professor Alberto Minujin. Alberto is a Professor at The New School University in the USA and the Founder Executive Director of Equity for Children, a non-profit working to improve living conditions for deprived children. In his presentation, he shared a series of videos sharing lived experience during the pandemic, which can be viewed on the session recording, which demonstrated impacts of local NGOs as well as local networks to support children studying from home.

Screenshot of Alberto Minujin's presentation

Some of Alberto’s key messages were the value of establishing informal, grassroots networks, using technology to shine a light on stories that often aren’t heard particularly from women and children, and the need for community-based social monitoring programmes. Many of his messages chimed with those from earlier in the day, particularly Leon’s presentation in the Africa session. He concluded that we need to begin with giving a voice to people in poverty to inform and shape the resultant policies, which he described as a ‘Top-Down, Bottom-Up Collaboration’.

Professor Alberto Minujin slide screenshot

Our Chair, Camilla, then invited questions for our speakers. Topics of discussion in this final Q&A included the challenges of agreeing on definitions of poverty which allow for multiple different worldviews and models of development, how different communities understand and perceive ‘poverty’ and how this varies between generations, and the ways in which the models discussed can be best applied to influence mechanisms of inclusions and exclusions. To listen back to the full Q&A, check out the session recording via our website. This brought to a close the final session of our two-day conference on poverty and social justice in a post-COVID world.


If you have made it this far, congratulations! You are possibly overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of all of our sessions, but also hopefully intrigued, inspired, and inspirited. It really was a fantastic couple of days, with an incredible range of presentations from speakers around the world and representing such a wide range of sectors. Do check out the resources on our website if you haven’t already, sign up to the BPI newsletter to be kept up to date with our upcoming activities as well as poverty-relevant news and resources, and get in touch with the BPI if you’re interested in working with us!

BPI 2024 Conference main image

Food justice and poverty networking event

On 1st May the Bristol Poverty Institute‘s Food and Nutrition Cluster, local charity Feeding Bristol, and the UoB Food Justice Network came together for a workshop exploring how we can collaborate to tackle issues of food justice and poverty. The event kicked off with short presentations from the three hosts, introducing ourselves and our respective work and ambitions. The Director of Feeding Bristol, Ped Asgarian, along with his colleague Jo then provided an overview of the food support landscape in the city of Bristol, sharing some eye-opening stats on levels of deprivation as well as links between poverty and obesity and the impacts of the cost of living on organisations trying to support people who are struggling. They provided details on a range of food support settings that they work with, including food banks, community fridges and school holiday clubs, highlighting the different ways in which people and communities are supported to obtain food in the city. This interestingly intersects with some recent research from one of the BPI’s members, Dr Will Baker, whose work on the rise of food charity in schools has recently generated media attention.

Photograph of Feeding Bristol presentationScreenshot of presentation slide listing different food support settings

The Feeding Bristol team then went on to outline the challenges that many food support organisations are facing, particularly in terms of funding and resource. This has been driven largely by the rising cost of living, making it more expensive to run the organisations, driving more people to seek help, and also giving everyone less cash in their pockets therefore reducing the amount of charitable donations made. Other contributing factors included the shift away from ‘best before’ dates on some fresh produce in supermarkets, which has meant that food which was previously surplus is no longer available as it remains on the shelves for longer. Even with the best of intentions, it simply isn’t possible to keep some initiatives going. Ped then went on to introduce their Food Equality Strategy and Action Plan, which outlines how they are working with different organisations and embedding and delivering their work on food justice in the city and interacting with national and international work in this space.

Screenshot of slide providing information on Food Equality Strategy and Action Plan

Inspired by the opening presentations, we then moved into breakout groups where we explored shared interests and opportunities for collaboration. The focus of the breakout sessions was to establish ways that UoB researchers can effectively collaborate with Feeding Bristol and the wider community. We explored a range of topics in the different groups, including the importance of food education, the role (and duty) the University has to its students who may be facing food poverty, social aspects of food and how food and culture intersect, and the value of listening to different perspectives on what ‘food justice’ means to different people and communities and what the barriers are.

Photographs of breakout groups

The discussion was really engaging, and could have gone on for much longer, and provided some really great ideas for the focus and format of our next joint event in July coinciding with Feeding Bristol’s annual Food Justice Fortnight. We’re really looking forward to working with our colleagues from the Food Justice Network and Feeding Bristol to develop these plans in the coming weeks. The event has been pencilled in for the afternoon of Thursday 4th July, and we plan to create an open space to share ideas and bring together diverse voices, perspectives and understandings of what ‘food justice’ means and how it can be achieved. Do save the date and keep an eye on the BPI events page for more information in due course, or contact Joe (joe.jezewski@bristol.ac.uk) if you would like to be notified when event registration launches.

UN World Day of Social Justice

The 20th of February 2024 is the 15th UN World Day of Social Justice, a date that seeks to highlight the centrality of social justice as a guiding principle for the actions of States in the construction of fair and cohesive societies at the national, regional, and international levels.

The construction of a “society for all” requires that States, the international community, and all stakeholders – such as academia and civil society – work towards the eradication of poverty and the development of more equitable societies with equal opportunities through the promotion of full employment and decent work, universal access to social welfare, and gender equality, amongst other focus areas/initiatives. Ultimately, it is about pooling efforts towards reducing existing social gaps, promoting integration, and eliminating all forms of structural inequalities. In the words of the former Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon: “The World Day of Social Justice is observed to highlight the power of global solidarity to advance opportunity for all“[1].

For this year’s commemoration, the United Nations has placed emphasis on a challenging global context: the persistence and deepening of injustices such as job insecurity, high levels of inequality, violent conflicts, and ongoing global crises.

For further information, visit: UN Social Justice Day. In addition, visit the International Labour Organisation’s event page and tune in to their live stream.   

"Bristol Poverty Institute commemorates #SocialJusticeDay. Working towards reducing poverty in all its forms everywhere."

The Bristol Poverty Institute (BPI) 

For the past 25 years, the Bristol Poverty Institute (BPI) and Towsend Centre for International Poverty Research has facilitated multi-disciplinary policy focused research into the eradication of poverty and the pursuit of greater social justice. We have collaborated with United Nations and international organisations, governments, NGOs, charities, and the private sector, united by the common goal of SDG1: to reduce poverty in all its forms everywhere and leave no-one behind.

Our work focuses on a wide range of poverty-relevant issues from various disciplinary perspectives, with strengths and convergence around the themes of child health, education, livelihoods and debt, and food and water, among others.

Our aims are: 

  • The production of practical policies and solutions for the alleviation and eventual ending of world poverty. 
  • Greater understanding of both the scientific and subjective measurement of poverty. 
  • Investigation into the causes of poverty. 
  • Analysis of the costs and consequences of poverty for individuals, families, communities, and societies. 
  • Research into theoretical and conceptual issues of definition and perceptions of poverty. 
  • Wide dissemination of the policy implications of research into poverty. 

We are driven by our overarching objective of reducing the extent, scale, and severity of poverty worldwide and advancing social justice in the UK and other countries.

This is why we have joined the United Nations led commemoration this year, as the call for ‘building a society for all’ lies at the heart of our Institute’s work, just as social justice is one of the cross-cutting strategic goals of the University of Bristol.

See more: Bristol Poverty Institute 

BPI’s work

Social justice is deeply ingrained in the ethos of our institute, serving as a guiding principle for the diverse range of activities and initiatives we undertake here at the BPI. In our pursuit of multidisciplinary research and vibrant knowledge exchange platforms, we recognize the true significance of such social-justice-driven research and platforms when they actively contribute to the empowerment and transformation of communities.

While it is impossible to encapsulate all our endeavours in the realm of social justice within this space, we are eager to share some of our most impactful contributions to driving positive change and equity in our society. Some examples of our social justice related work are as follows:  

  • Transforming the definition and measurement of poverty and social exclusion: Our institute has been involved in the development of the ‘consensual method for measuring multidimensional adult and child poverty‘, which measures poverty by assessing direct measures of living standards and identifies deprivation as an enforced lack of socially perceived ‘necessities’. This method is currently used in the UK and in every country in the EU.
  • Improving global efforts to reduce child poverty and deprivation: Our approach to assessing child poverty pioneered the creation of the first scientific assessment of the extent and nature of extreme child poverty in the developing world – including access to adequate shelter, safe drinking water and sanitation, education, information, healthcare, and food. UNICEF launched its Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities in 2008 in 54 countries with over 1.5 billion children where the BPI team supported governments and UNICEF country offices in applying our multi-dimensional approach. Read more on this on our Research Impact page.
    "Child poverty in the developing world publication"
  • Reducing inequalities in educational attainment: Our research, integral to the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances, shaped government strategies from 2010 to 2015, particularly in areas of Social Justice and Child Poverty. It underscored the significance of early childhood education, prompting initiatives to bolster health visitor numbers and expand programs supporting families. Additionally, our findings influenced policies addressing educational disparities among black and minority ethnic learners, resulting in targeted interventions to enhance outcomes.
  • Poverty and health inequalities: The University’s pioneering life-course research has profoundly influenced policy and practice, particularly in addressing health inequalities. By revealing the impact of early-life factors on health conditions like stroke and stomach cancer, and highlighting the association between poverty and childhood injuries, our studies have guided targeted interventions to mitigate these effects.
    Moreover, our work has shifted the narrative on health inequalities, focusing on the complex mechanisms through which poverty affects health outcomes rather than simply attributing them to individual behaviours. With ongoing research in methodologies like epigenetics, we continue to inform global anti-poverty policies, improving the lives of millions worldwide. 

These are just a few examples where our work and research have influenced public policies in areas relating to healthcare, education and childhood poverty; thematic areas that cross-cut the wider thematic areas of poverty and social justice. In addition to these examples, we have many more in areas such as housing and homelessness, access to financial services, and marginalization that we address in our five research clusters. 

For more information, visit: Bristol Poverty Institute – Poverty Research Impact 

"Bristol Poverty Institute's five research clusters; Education and inequalities; Livelihoods and debt; Food and nutrition; Child health and development; and Multidimensional poverty measurment"

  • Support for researchers: As a central part of our work, the BPI is dedicated to fostering a dynamic, inclusive research environment. This commitment is reflected in our provision of a SharePoint site designed to support University of Bristol colleagues collaborating with the Bristol Poverty Institute. This platform offers guidance and resources, including information on BPI’s Research Clusters, internal and external funding opportunities, and links to other useful University resources.
    Our five research clusters aim to unite experts from various disciplines across the University to identify synergies, exchange expertise, and pursue collaborative opportunities: Child Health and Development; Education and Inequalities; Food and Nutrition; Livelihoods and Debt; and Multidimensional Poverty Measurement. For more information, visit: Bristol Poverty Institute – Research Clusters (Link for UoB staff only).

    Aligned with the work of the BPI, members of our board have a prolific background in social justice, linked to each of their areas of expertise.

  • Camila Morelli: “Animating the Future” Project. In collaboration with academics from Peru, indigenous researchers, and professional animators, Camila leads the “Animating the Future” Project. This initiative explores the life trajectories of indigenous migrant youth (from rural to urban areas) in various regions of Peru, aiming to preserve the stories and traditions of Amazonian peoples through participatory methods. Participants are encouraged to share their experiences firsthand through visual expression methods. We found that involving youth actively in documenting traditional cultures through visual methods can be a powerful way to achieve this goal, creating a space where young people who feel unseen can gain a sense of visibility” – C. Morelli. For further information, please visit: Using Animation to Help Young Amazonians Tell Their Story

BPI’s latest social justice related news and activities  

  • Seedcorn Fund. We are pleased to announce our latest internal funding opportunity is now open! This fund is designed to support and catalyse poverty-relevant research at the University of Bristol (UoB), providing a pipeline from our activities to larger funding bids. Interdisciplinarity and social justice will be key aspects of all successful bids and UoB academics will be able to apply for awards between £3000-£6000. We anticipate funding 2-3 projects in the 2023-24 academic year. There will be further funding available in 2024-25, with more information available in due course. For the current round of funding, applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until all funds have been allocated or the final submission deadline, 1 May 2024, has been reached, whichever is sooner. For further information, please visit: Seedcorn Funding Scheme

  • Upcoming BPI Conference 2024. Poverty and Social Justice in a Post-COVID World (5-6 June 2024). The conference will focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on various dimensions of poverty and the challenges societies face in a post-COVID world. The first day, held in person, will address the gaps and challenges in the UK – related to themes such as health, education, employment, livelihoods, debt, and structural inequalities – through interdisciplinary and cross-sector panels. The second day, conducted online, will analyse international post-COVID recovery through regional panels covering Asia and Oceania, Europe and Africa, and the Americas.
    For further information, please visit: BPI Conference 2024 
    "Save the date for the seventh Peter Townsend Memorial Conference: Poverty and social justice in a post-COVID World. To be held June the 5th and 6th 2024"


[1] Ban Ki-Moon, former Secretary-general of United Nations Message on the World Day of Social Justice 2014 on https://news.un.org/en/story/2014/02/462202-world-day-social-justice-un-urges-action-end-poverty-overcome-inequality. (Last seen 13.02.2024).

BPI 2023 wrap-up blog post

As we welcome in 2024, the BPI team are reflecting on the challenges, successes and opportunities we have experienced through 2023, and looking ahead to the coming year and beyond. Join us for a whistle stop tour of a few of the highlights in this blog post! If you want to keep up to date on activities and opportunities across the Institute, do make sure you sign up to our monthly newsletter via this page and/or email the BPI team to sign up to our main mailing list.


In January 2023, the BPI’s main focus was on producing and submitting a bid to the internal Strategic Research Investment Fund (SRIF). With input from the BPI Advisory Board, the BPI Manager Dr Lauren Winch put together a strong bid with a number of work packages, and we were delighted when funding for all work packages was confirmed in March. Funding has been secured for a range of activities up to July 2025, which includes new posts within the team, an exciting new interdisciplinary seedcorn fund, and a BPI conference in 2024.


On 12th February we were delighted to welcome Dr Nkechi S.Owoo to Bristol as a Bristol ‘Next Generation’ Visiting Researcher. Dr Nkechi, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economics at the University of Ghana, spent six weeks working with the BPI Director, Professor David Gordon on the effects of climate change on health outcomes. Nkechi is one of Africa’s foremost young scholars, and her research focuses on spatial econometrics in addition to microeconomic issues in developing countries, including household behaviour, health, poverty and inequality, gender issues, population and demographic economics, as well as environmental sustainability.

Photo of Dr Owoo


Some of our activities in the first part of the year were significantly impacted by strike action across the University sector. This included plans for a cross-sector event on Housing, ‘Home’ and Poverty scheduled for 15th March, which had to be postponed until May. We did, however, deliver a fantastic event in collaboration with the South West International Development Network (SWIDN) to celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th March, chaired and facilitated by BPI Board Member Dr Tigist Grieve. At this collaborative online event entitled ‘From Menarche to Menopause‘ we heard from several expert speakers from the academic and not-for-profit communities about their work and research related to menarche, menstruation, menopause and mental health worldwide. Together the event explored issues affecting women and girls and discussed what we can do as a wider community to tackle these issues. More information is available on the event page.

Event promotion poster

Dr Nkechi Owoo also continued her work with the BPI in March, before returning home to Ghana. This included an engaging hybrid seminar on ‘The Effects of Climate Change on Health Outcomes in Ghana’. A recording of the seminar along with more information is available in the events resources section of our website.

March was a particularly busy month for the BPI Director, Professor David Gordon, who travelled to Sweden after Nkechi’s departure to work on an evaluation of the AgeCap programme in Sweden, and then chaired an all-day meeting for the Academy of Finland the following week.


In April, we teamed up with the University of Bristol’s Health Psychology and Interventions Group (HPIG) for an afternoon of thought-provoking discussion at a cross-sector workshop. Entitled “Don’t Be Poor”: Collaborative approaches to health behaviour change interventions, this workshop was aimed at those wishing to explore the real-world context of health interventions and how we can better bring together our skills and collaborate across disciplines when designing interventions and conducting healthcare research to bring tangible benefits to those most in need. We were really pleased that the event attracted a wide range of attendees from across different sectors, with some really positive takeaways including an enhanced awareness and understanding of dimensions of poverty and vulnerability which can intersect with health behaviours.

The title of this event was inspired by some work undertaken by Professor David Gordon and colleagues over twenty years ago. This was inspired by some ‘top tips’ for better health from the Chief Medical Officer as part of the Government’s published response to the Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health report. These ‘top tips’, whilst valid in themselves, neglected to really address the causes or potential solutions to health inequalities. This therefore prompted a somewhat satirical response from Professor Gordon and his colleagues which highlighted the kinds of policies which would be needed to actually reduce health inequalities in the UK. One of their key ‘tips’ for better health was simply: “Don’t be poor”. It seems these lessons may still need to be learnt.

Screenshot of recommendations from report


May was another really busy month for the BPI, with a range of events and high-level meetings. This included, for example, successfully delivering our half-day multi-sector event on Housing, ‘Home’ and Poverty, feeding into the new GW4 strategy, meeting with members of the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty to outline collaborative work on climate change and child poverty, and convening a meeting for the Directors of all seven of the University of Bristol’s Specialist Research Institutes.

The Housing, ‘Home’ and Poverty event was a real highlight, 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 included presentations, breakout sessions, a powerful testimony on the experience of these issues in conjunction with living with disabilities, and networking opportunities. Presentations from the event can be downloaded from our event resources page, and you can also find out more about the event itself in our blog post.

Screenshot of breakout room themesPhoto collage of breakout groups


In June we welcomed Dr Tanveer Naveed from the University of Gujrat in Pakistan who also came to Bristol via a Bristol ‘Next Generation’ Visiting Researcher award, the same scheme which funded Nkechi’s visit earlier in the year. Tanveer’s research interests and contributions focus on measuring valid and reliable education, assets, health and human development indices, and developing scientifically rigorous measures for multidimensional poverty and child poverty that are applicable in low- and middle-income countries. During his visit, Tanveer collaborated with the Professor David Gordon on multidimensional poverty measurement, particularly in Pakistan.

Photo of Dr Tanveer Naveed

June also saw the publication of a fantastic new book on Decolonizing Education for Sustainable Futures from BPI Advisory Board Member Professor Leon Tikly, along with Bristol academics Dr Artemio Cortez OchoaProfessor Julia Paulson and Warwick’s Professor Yvette Hutchison. This book explores the link between sustainable futures and decolonized education, offering theoretical and practical insights on creating decolonized futures through innovative approaches and reparative justice in education.

Image of book cover


Our visiting researcher from University of Gujrat, Dr Tanveer Naveed, gave two fantastic seminars in July. The first was on The Construction of Household-based Asset Index: Measurement of Economic Disparities in Pakistan by using MICS Micro-data, and the second on The Estimation of Human Development Index at Household Level and Estimation of Human Development Disparities in Pakistan. Resources from both seminars can be found on the BPI website.

Screenshots of opening slides from Tanveer's presentations

We also had some changes in the BPI team in July. We bid farewell to our long-standing Senior Administrator Joe Gillett, who was moving on to undertake some research of his own building on his PhD research. We also said goodbye to Katherine Fitzpatrick, who had come in on a fixed-term contract to help us out with some packages of work. Both will be very missed from the team, but we were delighted to welcome Tracey Jarvis as our new permanent Senior Administrator taking over from Joe. Tracey got up to speed really quickly, and has been a fantastic asset to the team.


August is always a quieter month in terms of events and meetings, as many people take a break over the summer. It was still a busy month for the BPI team, though, developing plans for the upcoming autumn term and launching recruitment for our new BPI Development Associate who will lead on our new Seedcorn Fund in 2024.


September saw a wave of high-profile events for the BPI in collaboration with colleagues including UNICEF and the New School in the USA. Our largest activity was a side event at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Science Summit, hosted at UNICEF’s Head Office in New York on the topic of Advanced Tools for Analysing Poverty, Climate and Environmental Changes. Chaired and co-designed by the BPI Director, Professor David Gordon, this event brought together researchers engaged in novel approaches to develop measures, monitoring, and understanding for both the causes and the consequences of poverty. Despite many decades of progress, hundreds of millions of people still live in extreme poverty. Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic and political turmoil, armed conflicts, and environmental challenges do not only threaten to halt recent improvements but reverse many of the gains in poverty reduction. Whilst numbers in the room were limited, the session attracted hundreds of attendees from all around the world on the live stream.

UNGA Science Summit logo

Following on from this, we were also involved in a parallel event hosted by the New School on Improving Child and Family Poverty Measurement which brought together some of the world’s leading researchers into poverty and deprivation measurement and anti-poverty policies who had travelled to New York for the UNGA Science Summit.

Poster for the Improving Child and Family Poverty Measurement event


October saw the new academic year getting into full swing, and we held a really nice, informal ‘Meet the BPI’ event on campus. The aim of the event was to give both academics and Professional Services colleagues from our University the opportunity to meet the BPI team, find out what we do, learn more about the support and engagement opportunities available through the BPI, and mingle with like-minded colleagues over a cuppa. We had a really good turn out, and it was a great opportunity to catch-up with familiar faces and meet some new ones and identify some potential new synergies and spaces for engagement and collaboration.

The 17th October every year is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP), and each year the  Global Coalition to End Child Poverty – which we are an active member of – plan activities to coincide with this. Last year we published a policy briefing on Ending Child Poverty: A Policy Agenda, and this year we launched a Call to Action for Governments to expand social protection and care systems and promote decent work to address child poverty. This Call to Action was developed jointly by UNICEF, Save the Children, Young Lives, Arigatou and the Bristol Poverty Institute, and was officially launched at a live online event on IDEP itself. Find out more in our news story.

Screenshot of IDEP call to action promotion


November was our busiest month of the year for events, with a packed schedule including a hybrid seminar, a co-hosted conference session, and an interdisciplinary forum. We kicked off the month with our hybrid event exploring Towards Net Zero and Tackling Poverty, where we introduced findings from our Travel Carbon Project which was undertaken by Professor David Gordon and one of his PhD students who is already a qualified medical doctor, Dr Cynthia Fonta. Their aim was to calculate both the costs and years of life which could be saved by carbon offsetting the University’s work-related emissions through funding clean cooking stoves and/or potable water provision in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. They shared their findings and the potential implications with a hybrid audience at this event, alongside an engaging presentation from Dr Sam Williamson, who is doing work on sustainability and cooking in a range of contexts including Nepal, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

Presentation slide summarising the key aims of the Travel Carbon Project (as outlined in the main text)

The following week, we co-hosted a session on The Seen and Unseen Dimensions of Poverty at the fantastic Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) anniversary conference. This well-organised and well-attended event was celebrating 25 years of the PFRC, which applies multi-method approaches with specialisms drawn from social policy, human geography, psychology, and social research to explore the financial issues that affect individuals and households under the leadership of BPI Board Member Professor Sharon Collard.

Screenshot of conference programme and photograph of Professor David Gordon presenting

A final highlight was our interdisciplinary forum on Poverty and Social Justice in a Digital Future, which consisted of two thematic sessions exploring digital inequalities and the impacts of AI on poverty. The aim of this event was to build up internal awareness and offer researchers from different communities to identify synergies, with a view to being better placed to collaborate in response to future funding calls and to situate considerations of poverty and social justice within the mindsets of researchers working in the digital space for these future bids. We actively encouraged participation from researchers who weren’t currently working directly on poverty or poverty-related issues, and from all corners of the University. We had a fantastic panel of speakers from across Arts, Social Sciences, and Engineering, who gave us wide-ranging, engaging talks on new frontiers of colonialism and marginalisation, discrimination and disinformation, participatory research methods, sociodigital futures and social justice, cyber security, and machine learning and AI.

Image of event programme


As 2023 drew to a close, there were lots of exciting things still happening at the BPI. We were delighted to welcome Joe Jezewski to join our team as our new BPI Development Associate, as well as four new academics to our BPI Advisory Board bringing more diversity and expertise to our already strong Advisory Board. Our new Board members are:

In other news, the BPI Director travelled to Thailand to work with the Thai government and UNICEF on poverty measurement for the country. Closer to home, members of the BPI team rolled up their sleeves to bake cakes and cookies to raise money for the North Bristol and South Gloucestershire foodbank, where some of the BPI team and colleagues spent a rewarding day volunteering on 21st December. You can find out more about our experience, including some information about the foodbank and tips for donating, in our blog post.

Photo collage of images relating to BPI volunteering days at a foodbank

Looking ahead

So, it has been another busy year for the BPI, and we’re really excited to have lots of exciting things in the pipeline, including our new interdisciplinary seedcorn fund launching imminently, collaborations with a range of local, national and international partners, and a wide range of events. We’ve got our rescheduled event on gambling, poverty and marginalisation, as well as new events in development including a seminar on underemployment and Universal Credit, a participatory research methods workshop, training on achieving impact for poverty-relevant research, a seminar on socially just future cities, a food justice mingle, to name just some of them! Of course, we will also have our 2024 conference! This will be taking place across two days in June, with a focus on Poverty and Social Justice in a Post-COVID World. The first day will be an in-person event in Bristol with a UK focus, and the second day will be online with an international audience and focus. We’re aiming to have sessions across a wide range of topics including mental health, finance, and education among others, and will try and make sure there are sessions available to people in different time zones around the world. We’ve just recruited a new member of our team to help with planning and delivery of this conference, who will be joining us later this month – more info soon!

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 X/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!

BPI Conference 2024 - save the date image

Bristol Poverty Institute’s Foodbank Volunteering Day 2023

On 21st December a group of Bristol Poverty Institute staff and colleagues from across the University headed to the north of the city to volunteer at the North Bristol and South Gloucestershire foodbank. With the cost-of-living crisis hitting everyone hard, foodbanks are facing a horrible combination of lower donations and higher levels of need, so they are really low on stock of many key items. As part of the volunteering day, we were therefore asked to each bring several bags worth of donations to contribute, and the group (and their friends and family) were more than happy to oblige. Between us, we brought a mountain of bags of store cupboard items, toiletries, and some festive treats. Our donations were further bolstered by generous contributions from members of the University’s Division of Research, Enterprise and Innovation who enthusiastically engaged with the BPI bake sale I organised to raise additional funds for the foodbank.

Photos of baked goods for the bake sale

Thanks to fantastic efforts from our volunteer bakers and kind donations from our colleagues we raised over £200 from the bake sale, enabling me to arrive at the foodbank with a literal car-full, including dozens of tins of pulses, beans and vegetables, 36 packs of rice, 12 litres of UHT milk, 360 stock cubes, herbs and spices, a couple of kilos of coffee, 45 toothbrushes and 15 tubes of toothpaste, boxes full of shower gels and soaps, multiple packs of sanitary products, 12kg of washing powder, and 45 loo rolls, among other things.

Photos of shopping for foodbank

The day itself was busy and quite physically demanding but in a manageable and rewarding way, so definitely helped us to burn off those bake sale cookies and cakes! We arrived and were given a briefing and tour from the foodbank manager Shauna. Shauna told us that they normally help around 1500 people per month, but that they are receiving many more requests than they can manage at the moment. She explained that people receiving help from the foodbank need a referral – from a doctor, school, the job centre, or citizen’s advice, for example – and that they operate a voucher system to ensure that the right people are receiving the support. Their aim is to support people without developing reliance on it, and to try and work with people to find longer-term solutions. Shauna went on to explain that donations this year had been particularly low, although there had been a bit of a boost in the run up to Christmas as people got into the giving spirit. Nonetheless, the foodbank had had to spend over £100,000 on supplies over the past year, using a combination of donated funds along with their emergency savings. Shauna explained that it had been necessary for them to buy so much this year because on average they are giving out twice as many items as they are getting donated, so they need to purchase more themselves to make up the shortfall.

Photos of the foodbank warehouse

We were then split into four teams, and got to work. One team were boxing up all of the donations we’d brought with us, making sure everything was weighed and accounted for. The second were working through crate-upon-crate of donated items checking expiry dates and suitability, and labelling them accordingly. The third group – my group – then took these labelled items and sorted them into crates for different categories, such as tinned fruit, soups, cereals, rice/pasta/noodles, and items for special dietary requirements including vegan, halal, and gluten-free. It was the fourth group’s task to then take these crates to the relevant part of the warehouse, and sort them within the stock piles according to their expiry dates to ensure that the shortest-dated items are distributed first and therefore minimising waste. It took a little while to get to grips with what went where, but pretty quickly we established a good rhythm and the time then flew.

We were all really interested to learn a bit more about what the foodbank can and can’t donate. For example, we were asked to take out anything containing alcohol – even in small quantities, such as canned soup with some red wine on the ingredients list – as even minute amounts undetectable to the palate can trigger cravings and relapse in recovering alcoholics. Similarly, anything with poppy seeds had to be discarded due to the opiates they may contain. We also learned that they don’t give out any sugary drinks, such as fizzy drinks or pre-mixed fruity drinks, due to the weight and the relatively high sugar content. A lot of people receiving help from the foodbanks have to carry their items home on foot or on public transport, so they have to balance the nutritional value of an item with its weight. It was really interesting to learn more about this, and really useful to bear in mind when making donations in the future.

Photos of volunteers undertaking foodbank activities

It was really rewarding to feel like we were making a small difference, but a harsh reminder of the challenges foodbanks and their customers are facing. So, if you’re reading this and can afford to please do consider donating to your local foodbank. They welcome both monetary donations and donated items. There are various ways to donate, including dropping items off directly during the foodbank’s opening hours or alternatively popping a few bits into the donation boxes near the checkouts in most supermarkets. Some foodbanks, including the one we volunteered at, have a list on their website of the items they currently need the most – and the ones they don’t – to help you decide what to give. Please remember not to donate anything containing alcohol or poppy seeds, or anything with a short shelf-life or that needs to be refrigerated. Hopefully one day we’ll live in a country where people don’t need foodbanks to survive, but in the meantime we can hopefully make a bit of difference by supporting them.

A big thank you from the BPI to all of our volunteers, to the foodbank team for having us, and for everyone who contributed to the bake sale!

Photograph of BPI volunteers

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