Abuse in Ambridge

Dr Emma Williamson, Senior Research Fellow in The Centre for Gender and Violence Research, School for Policy Studies, discusses how the recent storyline in The Archers highlights the often silent issue of coercive control and its effect on victims/survivors.

I have to admit that I don’t normally listen to The Archers. And people don’t normally talk to me about the story lines. That all changed when the long running series began a story over 18 months ago which looked at the issue of domestic violence and coercive control. One of the most difficult things that victims/survivors of abuse tell us, and have consistently told us since the first women’s refuges in the 1970’s, is that it is the non-physical abuse they experience which is the most difficult to deal with [Williamson, 2000]. The bruises and other injuries victims suffer from physical abuse are visible. They are evidence to other people but also to oneself. There it is in black and blue. What is more difficult to prove and believe, is that someone who purports to love and care for you would bully, undermine, and manipulate you. The women I spoke too after the fact would either say, ‘how could someone treat me like that?’ or more often than not, ‘how could I let someone treat me like that?’ – still blaming themselves.

As the Archers storyline shows, this type of abuse is characteristic of a pattern of ‘low level’ abusive behaviours rather than the explosive incident people tend to think about when they consider ‘a domestic’. It involves small everyday things which result in people staying away, isolating victims from their family, friends, and networks of support. Recent research from Bristol has documented the massive impact of such abuse on friends and family [Gregory et al, 2016], as well as the evidence we know about the impact on victims [Mullender et al, 2005], their children [Mullender et al, 2002], and perpetrators themselves [Hester et al, 2015]. Doctors, the police, courts, social services, all tend to think of interventions in terms of those single incidents which means that the on-going manipulation of victims goes unnoticed.

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Women in Power: exploring the positive influence of women on boards of directors

Professor Sheila Ellwood, Professor of Financial Reporting at the University of Bristol, outlines her research on the influence of presence and position of women on the boards of directors of NHS Foundation Trusts.

Professor Sheila Ellwood, Professor of Financial Reporting, University of Bristol.

Across the UK and more widely, there are moves to increase the number of women on boards. Some countries have quotas, such as Norway, Spain and Iceland. Some countries require companies to “comply or explain”, as in the UK, Denmark and Sweden. Other measures are less explicit. The rationale is largely to improve female representation and increase board diversity in public and private sector corporate governance.

Along with Javier Garcia-Lacalle, a colleague from the Universidad Zaragoza in Spain, I undertook a study to look at the impact of greater female representation. We examined the influence of women on the boards of directors of NHS Foundation Trusts in England, and the resulting implications.

How does the position of women and high levels of gender diversity on boards of directors affect organisational performance when social performance is paramount?

We found that once a critical mass of women in decision-making positions on boards has been reached, there is little further effect on performance. A high female presence among executive and non-executive directorships does not result in significant differences either in financial goals or service quality. There is no effect on financial performance; positive or detrimental.

Equally, evidence suggests that female presence on boards positively affects corporate social performance[1]. Women are considered more socially oriented than men, resulting in more effective board decision-making, particularly on aspects related to social responsibility.

However, we found that in order for female presence to be effective, women need to be in the most prominent position on boards: Chief Executive or Chair. This is particularly important if boards are to achieve corporate social objectives.

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Hard Evidence: how British do British Muslims feel?

Dr Saffron Karlsen, Senior Lecturer in Social Research, University of Bristol

Dr Saffron Karlsen, Senior Lecturer in Social Research, University of Bristol

The prime minister, David Cameron, has launched a number of measures aimed at improving integration among Muslims – in particular, Muslim women – in the UK. Polls show that around 70% of people don’t think Muslims are well integrated into British society and concern that Muslim people living in Britain do not feel British has long been part of broader discussions around extremism.

So, now seems like a good time to take a closer look at how British Muslims actually feel about their place in society and to explore the link between segregation and extremism in greater depth. Along with Professor James Nazroo, I conducted research into these issues using nationally representative data, collected in 2008/09 from almost 5,000 people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds, as a part of the Home Office Citizenship Survey. We found that these ideas about British Muslims are not backed up by evidence.

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What does it take to get women at the top? Sex Balancing Party Leaderships

Meryl Kenny is Lecturer in Politics (Gender) at the University of Edinburgh

Meryl Kenny, Lecturer in Politics, University of Edinburgh

Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender

Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender, University of Bristol

The new Labour leader, deputy leader, and both candidates standing for Mayor in London and Bristol: all male. And this from a party whose parliamentary benches are more than 43 percent female and, in Bristol, where all its MPs are women. The newspapers and social media, not unexpectedly, were quick to question the party’s commitment to gender equality. Whatever you think of revaluing the education and health brief (and there’s a lot to be said for it), the absence of not one woman from the traditional top offices of state invited criticism. Some of this was no doubt right-wing commentators finding yet another reason to be critical of Labour’s new leader.

But the feminist criticism was more substantive: a longstanding worry that leftist politics often has too little room for gender equality in policy and personnel terms. Against such criticism, the counter argument: given the number of women candidates standing, party members had ample opportunity to vote for a woman. In short, Corbyn was the preferred candidate, his sex notwithstanding.

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Government reaction to the refugee crisis: humanitarian response or political opportunism?

Ann Singleton, Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol and consultant to the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), Berlin

Ann Singleton, Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol and currently on secondment to the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), Berlin

Dr Monish Bhatia, Abertay University

Dr Monish Bhatia, Abertay University

Recently the public and media became aware, through one image across Europe (and the world) of the plight of people fleeing for their lives. Within the UK this image produced an awakening after months and years of warnings about the consequences of policy failures, wars and discrimination against migrants. Evidence of the catastrophic failures of UK and EU migration policies, which are based solely on immigration control, borders and ‘security’, have been disbelieved or treated with scepticism by policy makers, officials and many academics.

Repeated reports of deaths in the Mediterranean were ignored or seen as someone else’s problem, the public having been fed a relentless ‘diet’ of poisonous ‘news‘ and rhetoric about migration in general. Institutional racism and discrimination was further embedded as asylum seekers (including children) in the UK were detained, portrayed as troublesome, instead of being welcomed and offered protection. Furthermore, the consequences of austerity are continuously blamed on migrants.

There is a crisis of democracy, as well as policy and a humanitarian crisis, which has been fuelled by the action and inaction of our government.

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Refugee crisis: Ten practical ways to help

How can we respond to the refugee crisis? Ten practical ways.

Dr Naomi Millner is a lecturer in human geography at the University of Bristol. She is also part of Bristol Hospitality Network - an organisation which helps support and house refugees.

Dr Naomi Millner is a lecturer in human geography at the University of Bristol. She is also part of Bristol Hospitality Network – an organisation which helps support and house refugees.

In the past couple of weeks, an issue that has long been an issue has hit a ‘tipping point’ in terms of public awareness. It’s strange when this happens. Suddenly the language of ‘crisis’ proliferates. Suddenly everyone wants to know what they can do to help. Historically, it’s often been images of suffering children that either provoke such tipping points, or channel them to a wider audience.

Perhaps it is the powerlessness of a baby in the face of indifferent natural or political forces that brings this rise out of us. Or perhaps it makes a far-off struggle suddenly feel very near.

Personally, I find it problematic that, first, we are (almost) only moved to action by such images and second, that the action we are moved to is largely motivated by pity or sympathy. I wish we were as easily moved by the struggle or suffering of any person. Still more, sympathy can unwittingly depoliticise what are extremely political situations. If I feel sorry for you and want to help you, I am largely ignoring the fact that I have, and am, part of creating this situation that you are in. Better to be angry, outraged, repentant, about it.

Perhaps it would be better if, for once in our long history, we actually did nothing. But we still want to act. It’s also true that systems, attitudes and policies need to change, if people seeking liveable lives are to be able to do this within our current world. So what will we do? How can we respond?

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Migrants, Expats and the Freedom to Move

Dr Diego Acosta Arcarazo, Lecturer in European Law, Law School

Dr Diego Acosta Arcarazo, Lecturer in European Law, Law School

Given that only 3.2% of the world’s population live outside their country of birth it is remarkable that migration has become such a topic of public debate. Even in those regions where groups of states have granted their citizens freedom to move, like in the EU, the number of people that actually do so remains at the same 3% of the total population. Contrary to popular belief, most people (around 97%) do not move: migration is an exception rather than the rule.

Common misconceptions

This issue of numbers is fertile ground for misconceptions. Usually, the general population vastly overestimates the figures. For example, in 2013, respondents to a survey in the UK guessed the percentage of migrants living in Britain to be 31% when it was in fact 13%. Despite the fact that moving between states is certainly easier in the modern era, the figures of global migration have remained roughly the same during the last 50 years when taken as a percentage of the world’s entire population. Most people still do not move.

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Feeling British: the need to recognise the ‘Britishness’ of Muslims in Britain

Dr Saffron Karlsen, Senior Lecturer in Social Research, University of Bristol

Dr Saffron Karlsen, Senior Lecturer in Social Research, University of Bristol

There is a perception held widely in society that Muslim people living in Britain do not feel British. Comments by David Cameron and others, for example, describe a need to address the lack of integration and sense of Britishness among Muslims. As well as addressing more general concerns, this focus on integration is seen as a solution to the apparent terrorist threat,  both by avoiding young people becoming radicalized and ensuring that those who are becoming radicalized are not protected by their supposedly geographically- and socially-segregated communities (see The Independent).

However, this attitude has developed without any empirical evidence. I have carried out some empirical work into these issues, using quantitative data from the nationally-representative Home Office Citizenship Survey. This indicates that in fact 90% of Muslims, and Hindus, Sikhs and ethnic minority Christians who live in this country report a strong sense of personal belonging to Britain. Indeed, Muslims (with a variety of ethnicities) were more likely to report feeling British than Caribbean Christians. These findings directly contradict the perceived ‘desires’ of British Muslims to live in segregated communities.

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GE2015: UK Living Standards


Professor David Gordon

Prof. Dave Gordon, Professorial Research Fellow in Social Justice

A copy of the research paper is available at: <http://www.poverty.ac.uk/editorial/uk-living-standards-pse-election-briefing>

The change in UK living standards is one of the key contested issues in the May 2015 General Election.  The Coalition government argues that living standards have increased since it came to power in 2010.  The Labour Party and other opposition parties claim that living standards have fallen.

In March 2015, the Chancellor George Osborne presented evidence in his final Budget that living standards have increased. This evidence is misleading.  Research from a range of reputable academic studies has shown that average income has fallen over the past five years and poverty has increased. Continue reading

GE 2015: Are UK political parties committed to tackling the problem of poverty?

Dr Eldin Fahmy, Senior Lecturer, School for Policy Studies

Dr Eldin Fahmy, Senior Lecturer, School for Policy Studies

The 2008 financial crisis and subsequent austerity measures have seen the most sustained decline in household incomes since the 1930s. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, more than 13 million people were living in poverty in 2014, and the 2012 UK Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey reveals that the extent of deprivation has increased dramatically since the last survey in 1999.  In this context, Eldin Fahmy examines here the main UK political parties’ policy commitments on poverty.


It is impossible here to provide a full assessment of the scope of policy commitments on poverty partly because poverty is a policy arena with implications across a very broad remit of governmental responsibilities including, for example, health, housing, education, labour markets, and migration.  A more comprehensive assessment is provided by the UK Academics Stand against Poverty.  This commentary considers the anti-poverty implications of UK political parties’ commitments in relation to fiscal policy and social security policies before going on to summarise some of the key commonalities (and shortcomings) of existing political discourse on poverty in the UK as reflected in party manifestos.

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