Politicians' abusing the weakest in society
It is almost 30 years since Norman Fowler, then secretary of state for social security, announcing the flagship welfare reform of the Thatcher era, declared that the social security system had "lost its way" and needed to be reformed to tackle "genuine need". "Welfare" has since become a term of abuse, and the long-term unemployed are deemed by politicians left and right to be part of a "something-for-nothing culture". Policies have hardened.

Today the secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, among others, says the receipt of benefits is a lifestyle choice that breeds intergenerational poverty, imposes a burden on the taxpayer and constitutes a national crisis. Politicians know that this kind of language appeals to voters, but the denigration of people in poverty has downsides, as the last few weeks have demonstrated. In setting a cap on welfare expenditure, and with the introduction of employment and support allowance, ministers believed they could weed out fraudulent claims. It does not seem to have happened. Instead, politicians are surprised that recipients of incapacity benefit "actually are quite ill or very disabled". Similarly, Labour's headline message, that the "young jobless must train or be stripped of benefits", could carry equal dangers since it assumes young people want neither to learn nor to work. The reality is very different from the rhetoric. Rather than being shameless, new research reported in my forthcoming book, The Shame of Poverty, indicates that people in poverty feel humiliation on a daily basis.

Adam Smith recognised 250 years ago that anyone would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt and leather shoes. In Britain today, people have to make hard choices in their search for dignity and respectability. One lone father in our study spoke of needing to choose between furniture polish and a haircut. This search for respect in the face of society's refusal to offer it to those in poverty is a soul-sapping frustration not only in Britain but also, our research suggests, in countries as different as India and Norway, China and Uganda, South Korea and Pakistan. Families in poverty everywhere aspire to a better life: they are invariably ashamed that they cannot fulfil those aspirations and live up to society's expectations; that they cannot afford to be better parents, relatives and friends.

In Britain, and elsewhere, parents desperately want to avoid the bullying at school that occurs because their children come from a "poor" family. One lone mother our researchers met took up an offer from her four-year-old son to sell his Nintendo to pay off bills. Like anyone else, a person in poverty wants to be able to stand a round of drinks, to return a financial favour to friends, to give a suitable gift to relatives. The fact that they cannot afford to do so can be gut-wrenching. For one man we met, it was an assault on his masculinity: "I am meant to be the man … to take care of the missus and my kids. And I don't, and I hate feeling like I do with myself because of it." Others interviewed variously described themselves as feeling "rotten", "degraded", "crap", "useless", "worthless", "a failure", even "dirty".

Shame is recognised by psychologists to be the most invidious social emotion. It undermines self-esteem and causes people to retreat socially. Not only do they seek to avoid settings in which they might be shamed, they feel (correctly, the research suggests) that other people despise and avoid them. Sometimes this shame drives people into clinical depression, to substance abuse and even to suicide.

People seek to avoid shame in many ways. They keep up appearances, pretending to others – and sometimes to themselves – that they are not poor. But this can lead people into a charade, concealing problems that should not be avoided. Like Gerald, portrayed in the film The Full Monty, several people in our research pretended they still had jobs, some even to their partners. But they live in constant fear of being found out. These experiences hurt on the inside but are imposed from without. People in poverty are shamed daily by those they meet and in the way they are treated. Their attempts to behave normally and to protect their children and lifestyles are dismissed as profligate waste or as demonstrating their inability to cope. In their repeated dealings with officialdom, they face presumptions of failure and accusations of abuse.

All this happens in other countries as well as in Britain. But the unusually vitriolic language of British politicians, amplified by the media, serves to open a psychological wound that is never allowed to heal. Perhaps politicians feel they can justify their harsh language, believing that blaming and shaming will encourage or "nudge" people into changing their behaviour. But most poverty is caused by economic factors over which individuals have little or no control. And even if behavioural change could cure a person's poverty, the scientific evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that imposing shame is ineffective at encouraging such change. Instead, shame undermines confidence and saps the ability of people to help themselves. Policies that are stigmatising are likely to be equally counterproductive. Our respondents explained why: "At the employment office, they look at you like you're crap." "It's the stigma. It makes you feel like you're scrounging." "It makes you want to give up."

So why do politicians continue to abuse the weakest members in our society? Possibly because, in a society characterised by gross inequalities, it allows the privileged to vote in accordance with their own self-interests, free of guilt. After all, it is good to be told that poverty is not your responsibility but the result of people making the wrong choices and not working hard. Shaming and coercing others is a cheap, populist policy option – and one that doesn't even work. The evidence is that it is likely to make poverty worse.

  • "Feeding The Homeless" Is A Crime In Increasingly More American Cities
    Have you ever given food to a homeless person? Well, if you do it again in the future it might be a criminal act depending on where you live. Right now, there are dozens of major U.S. cities that have already passed laws against feeding the homeless. As you will read about below, in some areas of the country you can actually be fined hundreds of dollars for just trying to give food to a hungry person. I know that sounds absolutely insane, but this is what America is turning into.

    Communities all over the country are attempting to "clean up the streets" by making it virtually illegal to either be homeless or to help those that are homeless. Instead of spending more money on programs to assist the homeless, local governments are bulldozing tent cities and giving homeless people one way bus tickets out of town. We are treating some of the most vulnerable members of our society like human garbage, and it is a national disgrace. What does it say about our country when we can't even give a warm sandwich to a desperately hungry person that is sleeping on the streets? A retired couple down in Florida named Debbie and Chico Jimenez wanted to do something positive for their community during their retirement years, so they started feeding the homeless in Daytona Beach. But recently the police decided to crack down on their feeding program and slapped everyone involved with a $373 fine...

    For the past year, the Jimenezes have set up shop every Wednesday on Manatee Island in Daytona Beach, Fla., where they feed hot dogs, chicken, pasta salad and other BBQ staples to about 100 homeless people, WFTV reported. Handing out meals is just one aspect of the ministry the two founded, Spreading the Word Without Saying a Word, to help people living in poverty. But on Wednesday, the Jimenezes said that without warning, they and four other volunteers were accosted by police, fined and told that they could be thrown in jail if they continue their program, according to NBC News.

    Each of the six was fined $373 and were given 10 days to either pay up or go to court. "We’re going to court," Debbie Jimenez, 52, a former auto parts store manager, told NBC News. "The police don’t like it. But how can we turn our backs on the hungry? We can’t."

    Don't the police down in Daytona Beach have something better to do with their time?

    Sadly, more than 50 major cities have passed laws against feeding the homeless at this point. It appears that "cleaning up the streets" has become a big point of emphasis all over the nation. And what the city of Camden, New Jersey just did is even worse than what happened in Daytona Beach. Camden just bulldozed an entire tent city and dumped all of the belongings of the homeless people living there into the trash...

    Hazmat teams showed up at the camps in the early morning to search for syringes. A drug-sniffing dog followed a police officer around the area. And bulldozers tossed trash and discarded belongings into dumpsters before razing the premises. Over the past few weeks, flyers had warned people in the tent cities that this was going to happen. Yet it still seemed surreal to many of them that their communities were about to be demolished for good.

    But for most of the people that were living in that tent city, there is no place else for them to go. The homeless shelters in the area are at max capacity, and so many of them will end up sleeping in the streets without any shelter at all...

    Aaron Howe, the "mayor" of a tent city that had 12 tents the night before eviction day, said he had called every shelter in town and not a single place had room for him and his girlfriend. "There's no available spots, and the city is saying if we pitch a tent somewhere else they're gonna rip it down," he said. "It's not gonna look good when there's a bunch of homeless on the streets."

    Camden has got to be one of the most mismanaged communities in the entire country. Why is Camden spending time and money bulldozing homeless communities when it has so many other problems? For much more on the nightmare that Camden has become, please see my previous article entitled "Camden, New Jersey: One Of Hundreds Of U.S. Cities That Are Turning Into Rotting, Decaying Hellholes". Other big cities that are a little bit more "progressive" are attempting to get rid of their homeless populations by giving them one way tickets out of town. Some of the major cities that are doing this include San Diego and San Francisco...

    When her Greyhound bus pulled into town 6 months ago, Maria Castillo got off with two bags and dream. "Start over, start a new life," said the 42-year-old. Castillo had been homeless in San Diego when a social worker offered her a one-way bus ticket to Portland. "They said come here because all the opportunities in Portland, Oregon," she said. But Castillo said life isn't much better in her new town. She's still homeless. A Unit 8 investigation found several cities from San Diego to San Francisco are providing one-way bus tickets to the homeless.

    As shocking as everything that you just read is, what one lawmaker out in Hawaii is doing tops it all. In a previous article, I described how a state representative named Tom Brower has actually been using a sledgehammer to destroy shopping carts used by homeless people. Just check out the following short excerpt from an RT article that was published a few months ago... In the past two weeks residents in Hawaii noticed what appeared to be a crazed individual carrying a sledgehammer through the streets of Honolulu, a state lawmaker looking to rid the city of homeless people by targeting their belongings. State Representative Tom Brower (D) is currently dedicated to dealing out his own personal brand of “justice” by seeking out homeless people and destroying their possessions. Brower estimates that he has used the sledgehammer to smash at least 30 shopping carts, rendering them useless by bashing in the front wheels. “I got tired of telling people I’m trying to pass laws. I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets,” he told Hawaii News Now. “I find abandoned junk, specifically shopping carts, and I remove them.”

    Is this how our society is going to treat those that are down on their luck from now on?

    Where is the love?

    Where is the compassion?

    Why can't we seem to be able to take care of these people?

    The federal government sure seems to have plenty of money to waste on other things. For example, it is being reported that workers at an Obamacare processing facility in Missouri are being paid to do nothing but stare at their computers...

    Employees at an ObamaCare processing center in Missouri with a contract worth $1.2 billion are reportedly getting paid to do nothing but sit at their computers. "Their goals are set to process two applications per month and some people are not even able to do that," a whistleblower told KMOV-TV, referring to employees hired to process paper applications for ObamaCare enrollees. The facility in Wentzville is operated by Serco, a company owned by a British firm that was awarded $1.2 billion in part to hire 1,500 workers to handle paper applications for coverage under the law, according to The Washington Post. The whistleblower employee told the station that weeks can pass without data entry workers receiving even a single application to process. Employees reportedly spend their days staring at their computers, according to a KMOX-TV report.

    So we have millions upon millions of dollars to waste on that, but we can't take care of our homeless population? And without a doubt, the need to help the homeless is greater than it ever has been before. Right now, there are 1.2 million public school students in America that are homeless. That number is an all-time record, and it has grown by 72 percent since the start of the last recession. In addition, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity. Even in the midst of this so-called "economic recovery", poverty is absolutely exploding.

    And it is going to get a whole lot worse.

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    Homeless in London treated like vermin with spikes used to deter rough sleeping
    Southwark council are the BASTARD council of Britain

    Metal spikes have sparked anger on Twitter after they were installed in an alcove outside a block of Southwark flats in a move believed to be an attempt to deter homeless people from sleeping there.

    Andrew Horton of Woking, Surrey, took a picture of the studs outside the residential block on Southwark Bridge Road as he walked to work. Speaking to The Telegraph he said he believed they had been installed to prevent rough sleeping.

    "I can't say for certain but it certainly looked like they were placed there to deter homeless people. It's dreadful.” The photograph soon gained wider attention across social media, with many expressing their disgust. Twitter user @CraigMcVegas slammed the spikes as "barbarism", adding: "A society should be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable.” While David Wells compared them to spikes used to prevent pigeons from resting on buildings, tweeting: "the destitute now considered vermin."

    A spokesperson from Southwark Council said it was not responsible for the spikes. Katharine Sacks-Jones, head of policy and campaigns at homelessness charity Crisis, said: "It is a scandal that anyone should sleep on the streets in 21st century Britain. Yet over the last three years rough sleeping has risen steeply across the country and by a massive 75 per cent in London.

    "Behind these numbers are real people struggling with a lack of housing, cuts to benefits and cuts to homelessness services to help them rebuild their lives. "They might have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse. They deserve better than to be moved on to the next doorway along the street. We will never tackle rough sleeping with studs in the pavement. Instead we must deal with the causes."

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    Homeless treated like vermin by a country controlled by tory gangsters VIDEO

    Tory mafia policies responsible for mass homelessness
    Fear of homelessness a powerful tool of the ruling mafia
    While the men are homeless on the streets the women are getting richer through feminist / masonic scams.

    The most serious issue affecting men across the globe IS NOT repeat IS NOT terrorism but homelessness and the ability of the global law society terrorists to help themselves to your assets. Terrorism has been the BIGGEST distraction used by the ruling mafia to divert attention from the most serious threat to men anywhere on this planet, the right to KEEP a roof over their head.

    While the gutter press, controlled by the house thieves, distract our attention from the trillion dollar robbers on to a million different issues, men are being thrown onto the streets almost everywhere across the globe thanks to the total monopoly the ruling bastards have over legal contracts that include property, land and business. The legal mafia, who are writing the contracts, are ensuring they have the excuses to steal everything back that is held within those contracts and the biggest monopoly on the planet by far.

    Men outwith the secret society network are being fleeced to the tune of trillions yet hardly a whisper in the controlled media who must protect the system at all costs. Licencing of the media is a subtle and devious means to ensure they stay within the agenda while giving the illusion that they are doing some sort of groundbreaking investigative journalism. In the UK unless the gutter press are kissing the royal parasites arse daily, along with her merry band of masons who do all her dirty work, that LICENCE will be withdrawn or they bankrupt any rogue newspaper with a massive libel writ that closes them down . That is how we are left with a bunch of psychopaths only to happy to fulfil their obligation of promoting a murderous regime hell bent on stifling dissent with some of the most sinister drugs and psychiatric gulags if ANYONE dares to challenge the system big time.

    We have the biggest bunch of crooks in key positions that are making life impossible for the men targeted by their sinister persecution network with many commiting suicide through the psychological torture they trigger using all sorts of legal and financial threats along with the risk of losing employment for daring to question the evil bastards running the show for their own self enrichment.

    Men globally are presently struggling to hold onto their homes as more and more are dragged into civil courts where human rights are ignored as the judicial mafia help themselves with court orders signed by a solitary freemason judge while their bailiff / cop wolves are at the door only to happy to do the necessary stripping of your estate for and on their behalf and with the threat of jail if you DARE raise your hand to protect your lifes work. Stripping us in the UK of the right to bear arms was a necessary part of how they are getting away with murder ONLY because those stealing with impunity have all the arsenals ready to use if the peasantry rise up. Protecting your estate is the number one priority for any man trying to build up any sort of wealth without these evil bastards getting their hands on it.

  • Full article here
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    Poverty has been rebranded as personal failure
    The government absolves itself of guilt for the crisis its policies have produced by blaming disabled and poor people for their own difficulties

    I was struck looking at The Mirror's now famous crying, hungry child front page, not only by the poignancy of the image, but its contrast to another headline a few days earlier. A smiling woman looked out from The Daily Mail; a holiday snap of a "benefit cheat", the headline a gleeful breakdown of the thousands she had falsely claimed in disability allowance.

    I wonder how bad things must get before a disabled face makes it to the front pages as a symbol, not of the handful of dishonest people, but of the hundreds of thousands who are now malnourished, cold and unable to pay their rent. Disabled people in this country are twice as likely to live in poverty. The reality of having vast extra living costs or being too ill to work is not an excuse for government, but a damning indictment of its failure. The coalition government has compounded disadvantage. Policies such as the bedroom tax and council tax cuts have, almost wilfully, increased inequality. Each policy change imposed on disabled or chronically ill people has been a cut – a slash to support, or punitive, flawed hoops to jump through – dressed up as reform.

    The work capability assessment (WCA), originally brought in by Labour, exemplifies this: 45% of appeals have been successful; people have died after being found "fit for work". The assessments are part of a wider, systemic disease: the Work Programme fails over 93% of the disabled people for whom it is charged to help find work, and the sanction system punishes them, stopping their benefits when they are too ill to get to a job appointment. A Freedom of Information request last month showed six out of 10 people on employment and support allowance who have been hit with a sanction, have a learning disability or mental-health problem. "Support" under this system is practically sadistic. The Labour party, often all too ready to spread popular social-security propaganda, says it is ready to talk alternatives. Last year it charged Sir Bert Massie, a distinguished disability campaigner, to look at ways of breaking the links between disability and poverty and, last week, the party picked out reforming WCA as key.

    It is right to choose that focus. How a society deals with disability and employment, both helping people into work and protecting those unable to work, reflects its moral core – whether it opts for evidence, fairness and support, or the current methods of inaccuracy, targets and abandonment. None of this exists in a vacuum. It is in a system that tells job-seekers to "make an effort"; where the politician responsible for work and disability is disappointed he can't, legally, make it harder for disabled and ill people to get benefits. This is a culture of suspicion and cruelty. It doesn't see health problems or people, but an underclass, feral and lazy. Why would you deserve help if you are barely human? Poverty is different now. It's been rebranded as personal failure. We can hardly forget that as political decisions are absolved and individual choices rebuked. What did you do to get yourself into this state? What are you failing to do to get yourself out of it? The phantom work-shy now includes people too sick to get out of bed in the morning.

    When the healthy are lining the streets for food parcels, what on earth becomes of the rest? The answer isn't on front pages, it is hidden behind closed doors. Poverty and disability isolate individually, yet we are in a disability poverty crisis. That our own government is entrenching it, is something that should make each of us shudder.

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    The food poverty scandal that shames Britain

    Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat over benefit reforms

    600 religious leaders from all denominations combine to condemn 163 per cent increase in food bank use in past year The shocking scale of food poverty in Britain is exposed today by new figures showing record numbers of people are reliant on handouts because of punitive benefits sanctions. More than 900,000 people were given emergency food in the past year, an increase of 163 per cent, according to figures from the Trussell Trust, the biggest food bank charity. The explosion in demand has coincided with an increase in those seeking help following a benefit sanction.

    A coalition of anti-poverty charities, including the Trussell Trust, claims the figures show that the UK is breaching international law by violating the human right to food. Separately, 600 church leaders from all major denominations, including 36 Anglican bishops, are writing to the Government today, calling for urgent action to address hunger among the poor. The letter will say that Lent has been “a time of sorrowful reflection” on the huge rise of those using food banks. It marks the biggest Christian intervention on UK food poverty in modern times.

    In its most hard-hitting report to date, the Trussell Trust said the Government’s use of sanctions was “increasingly harsh” and that half of those referred to food banks in 2013-14 were as a result of benefit delays or changes. Eight out of 10 of their food banks saw more cases relating to benefit sanctions over the past year. Tougher punishments for those on jobseeker’s allowance were introduced by the Coalition last October, raising the minimum sanction from one to four weeks. Benefits can now be stopped for up to three years. In total, 913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks in 2013-14, compared with 346,992 in 2012-13 Static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, under-employment and other problems related to welfare reform also contributed to the increased demand, the charity said.

    The Trussell Trust chairman, Chris Mould, said the figures were “shocking in 21st century Britain”. He added: “Perhaps most worrying of all, this figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty. It doesn’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no food bank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.” The latest Trussell Trust figures show that demand has increased in well-established food banks, refuting Government claims that the opening of new food banks has fuelled demand. Food banks that have been open for three years or more saw an average increase of 51 per cent in the numbers helped in the past year compared with 2012-13. The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, said: “Food banks have become a shameful symbol of David Cameron’s Government’s failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. Ministers must take urgent action to fix the broken system in which benefit delays or changes have led to 50 per cent of all referrals to food banks.”

    More than 20 charities including the Trussell Trust, the Child Poverty Action Group and Church Action on Poverty have signed a statement accusing the UK of violating the basic right to food. “We call on the Government to take immediate action to ensure that the no one in the UK is denied their most basic right to sufficient and adequate food,” their common statement says. A public vigil will be held opposite Parliament at 6pm today by members of the End Hunger Fast campaign. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi at Movement for Reform Judaism, will give the first public support of the Jewish community for it.

    The Bishop of Oxford will be among those presenting a letter from religious leaders protesting against hunger to David Cameron’s constituency office in Witney. Keith Hebden, spokesman for End Hunger Fast and Mansfield parish priest said: “With benefit changes, poverty wages and failing food markets leaving more than 900,000 needing food aid, Britain has become the hungry man of Europe. “The Government ignores this call at its peril. I have never before seen religious leaders so united on an issue and I hope our collective words and prayers reach the ears of politicians who have the power to act.”

    Leaders of the Methodist Church, Baptist Union of Great Britain and United Reformed Church said the figures should spark “shock and anger”. Methodist president the Rev Ruth Gee said: “Hunger should not and need not be a problem in a rich country like the UK – and yet clearly it is.” A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We’re spending £94bn a year on working age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs. “Even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development say there are fewer people struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago, benefit processing times are improving, and even the Trussell Trust’s own research recognises the effect their marketing activity has on the growth of their business. The employment rate is the highest it’s been for five years, and our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.

  • Vile ConDem policy leads to massive rise in food banks (While the right wing gutter press suggest all sorts of flawed and highly inflated financial news)
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    Scandal of Europe's 11,000,000 empty houses despite mass homelessness
    Scandal of Europe's 11m empty homes

    Housing campaigners denounce 'shocking waste' of homes lying empty while millions cry out for shelter

    More than 11m homes lie empty across Europe – enough to house all of the continent's homeless twice over – according to figures collated by the Guardian from across the EU. In Spain more than 3.4m homes lie vacant, in excess of 2m homes are empty in each of France and Italy, 1.8m in Germany and more than 700,000 in the UK. There are also a large numbers of vacant homes in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and several other countries, according to information collated by the Guardian.

    Many of the homes are in vast holiday resorts built in the feverish housing boom in the run up to the 2007-08 financial crisis – and have never been occupied. On top of the 11m empty homes – many of which were bought as investments by people who never intended to live in them – hundreds of thousands of half-built homes have been bulldozed in an attempt to shore up the prices of existing properties. Housing campaigners said the "incredible number" of homes lying empty while millions of poor people were crying out for shelter was a "shocking waste".

    "It's incredible. It's a massive number," said David Ireland, chief executive of the Empty Homes charity, which campaigns for vacant homes to be made available for those who need housing. "It will be shocking to ordinary people. "Homes are built for people to live in, if they're not being lived in then something has gone seriously wrong with the housing market." Ireland said policymakers urgently needed to tackle the issue of wealthy buyers using houses as "investment vehicles" – not homes.

    He said Europe's 11m empty homes might not be in the right places "but there is enough [vacant housing] to meet the problem of homelessness". There are 4.1 million homeless across Europe, according to the European Union.

    Freek Spinnewijn, director of FEANTSA, an umbrella organisation of homelessness bodies across Europe, said it was a scandal that so many homes have been allowed to lie empty. "You would only need half of them to end homelessness," he said. "Governments should do as much as possible to put empty homes on the market. The problem of homelessness is getting worse across the whole of the European Union. The best way to resolve it is to put empty homes on the market." Last month MEPs passed a resolution demanding the European Commission "develop an EU homelessness strategy without any further delay", which was passed 349 votes to 45.

    Gavin Smart, director of policy at the UK Chartered Institute of Housing, said many of the empty homes were likely to have fallen into disrepair or be in deprived regions lacking jobs, but others could be easily brought back to the market. He said a growing problem was rich investors "buying to leave" and hoping to profit from rising property prices. The prices of prime London property – defined as homes that cost more than £1,000 per sq ft – are now 27% above their 2007 peak, according to estate agent Savills. Last month a Guardian investigation revealed that a third of the mansions on the most expensive stretch of London's "Billionaires Row" are empty, including some that have fallen into ruin after standing vacant for a quarter of a century.

    Smart said there was growing evidence of the practice in "rich parts of London, other areas of the country … probably all over Europe". Most of Europe's empty homes are in Spain, which saw the biggest construction boom in the mid-2000s fed largely by Britons and Germans buying homes in the sun. The latest Spanish census, published last year, indicated that more than 3.4m homes – 14% of all properties – were vacant. The number of empty homes has risen by more than 10% in the past decade. The Spanish government estimates that an additional 500,000 part-built homes have been abandoned by construction companies across the country. During the housing boom, which saw prices rise by 44% between 2004-08, Spanish builders knocked up new homes at a rate of more than 800,000 a year.

    In some resorts more than a third of homes are still empty five years after the peak of the financial crisis. The Spanish census suggests that more than 7,000 of the 20,000 homes in Torre-Pacheco, a holiday region between Murcia and the coast are empty. The area has undergone a massive holiday home construction boom with several new golf holiday resorts, including a 2,648-apartment complex called Polaris World, which opened as the crisis struck.

    Madrid Anti-eviction protesters in Madrid confront police as they try to stop the eviction of a disabled neighbour. Photograph: Juan Carlos Lucas/Demotix/Corbis Owners of apartments in the Polaris World resort, which has a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, are struggling to sell homes for half the €200,000 (£163,000) they paid before the crisis. More than 18% of homes in Galicia, on the north-west Spanish coast, and La Rioja, near Pamplona, are vacant. Many of the empty Spanish properties were repossessed by banks after owners defaulted on mortgages.

    María José Aldanas of Spanish housing and homelessness association Provivienda said: "Spain is suffering from high numbers of repossessions and evictions, so we have reached a point where we have too many people without a home and many homes without people." Some city councils in Catalonia have threatened banks with fines of up to €100,000 if homes they repossess remain empty for more than two years. The city council of Terrassa, to the north of Barcelona, has reportedly written to banks holding more than 5,000 homes demanding they take "all possible actions to find tenants" or hand the homes over to the council to use for social housing. In France, the latest official figures from INSEE, the government research bureau, show that 2.4m homes were empty in 2012, up from 2m in 2009.

    Italy will release figures for the number of empty properties in the country's census, published this summer. A survey by the Italian statistics institute estimated there were 2.7m in 2011, and a 2012 report by the Cgil union estimated 2m. unfinished houses Ireland The Waterways, an empty and unsold housing development, is pictured in the village of Keshcarrigan, County Leitrim, Ireland. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters In the UK more than 700,000 homes are empty, according to local authority data collated by the Empty Homes campaign. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, the UK's biggest homelessness charity, said "homes shouldn't stand empty" and the government needed to come up with "bigger, bolder ideas" to tackle the lack of available, affordable homes.

    In Portugal there are 735,000 vacant properties – a 35% increase since 2001 – according to the 2011 census. An estimated 300,000 lie empty in Greece and 400,000 in Ireland. The Irish government has begun demolishing 40 housing estates built during the boom but still empty. It is working out how to deal with a further 1,300 unfinished developments, and Deutsche Bank has warned that it will take 43 years to fill the oversupply of empty homes in Ireland at the current low population growth rate.

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