Winter newsletter

As Spring approaches, here is a round-up of what the I-SPHERE team have been up to over the winter months.


Firstly we must start by sending our best wishes to all the partners that we work with at this difficult time, and acknowledge the huge pressures on frontline services in particular. Thank you for your hard work and we hope that everyone stays safe and well.

Recent research impact

The State of Hunger

In November, The Trussell Trust launched the first annual report of The State of Hunger research, the most extensive research conducted on foodbanks and food poverty in the UK.
The State of Hunger is a three-year research project designed to provide the Trussell Trust, and the wider sector of stakeholders, with the evidence base required to make recommendations on how to address hunger in the UK. A wide range of methodologies are used to provide a better understanding of how many people are affected by hunger, which groups of people are most affected, where, and what drives people to use food banks.

Our research uses evidence from:

  • A review of literature and expert opinion
  • A survey of over 1,100 people who have been referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network across 42 organisations in the network covering the profile, triggers and background to their use of food banks
  • A survey of 306 referral agencies in 13 localities about the drivers and local contexts
  • A survey of 28 food bank managers
  • In-depth interviews with people who have been referred to food banks about their experience and background
  • Statistical modelling of the drivers of food parcel take-up.

State of Hunger year 1 research found that people who have been referred to a food bank:

  • have an average weekly household income after housing costs of just £50
  • cannot afford to buy the absolute essentials that we all need to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean – with 94% facing real destitution
  • are very likely to have health issues – with nearly 75% reporting at least one health issue in the household
  • are more likely to be facing persistent financial difficulties than a short-term crisis
  • often have problems with the benefit system, with over two-thirds reporting issues with the system in the last year

The initial findings reveal clear areas for policymakers to consider. They also underline that there are grounds for serious concern about the situation facing many households on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, not least the serious adverse effects of food insecurity, hunger and destitution on people’s health and wellbeing.
The State of Hunger will continue to highlight emerging evidence and particular themes as it progresses through the coming years.

Sofa Surfing and Rough Sleeping in the UK

In December, Crisis published a report on the extent and realities of sofa surfing informed by I-SPHERE research statistics. The report highlights the human cost of sofa surfing, one of the most common forms of homelessness.
Glen Bramley spoke to the BBC on the numbers of people sleeping rough in Scotland and forms of measurement

Homelessness Monitor Northern Ireland

The Homelessness Monitor for Northern Ireland 2020 was published on 30th January by CRISIS at a moment of change as the Assembly and Executive returned after a three-year hiatus. It is the 3rd report specific to Northern Ireland that I-SPHERE have produced under the Homelessness Monitor series.

Scotland’s Independent Care Review

In February the Independent Care Review, to which Glen Bramley was an advisor, launched its report. The review makes radical and ambitious recommendations to transform the whole approach to ‘Looked’ After Children in Scotland and has been well received.  Glen’s work involved identifying the downstream costs to public services of the often severe and complex needs of adults who experienced the care system and related childhood adversities.

All in For Change

I-SPHERE welcomes Scotland’s All In For Change – the Change Team brings together people working in homelessness services, people with direct experience of homelessness, and experts inform, scrutinise and communicate the transform of homelessness policy and services currently underway in Scotland. Beth Watts is a member of the Change Team whose role is to bring evidence into the Team’s discussions and act as a sounding board. The Team’s work focuses on 4 evidence-informed new directions that will help us end homelessness in Scotland – at home, people first, no wrong door and good vibes. Our team were delighted to contribute to the All in for Change ‘change team’ first meeting in January, facilitated by the homeless network and we will continue to feed into these efforts.

Other media

We continue to inform, engage and challenge the debate on ending homelessness. You can read and listen to Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick’s December interview on ‘Is it feasible to End Homelessness in Scotland?’ featured on BBC news and Radio Scotland

Suzanne Fitzpatrick was quoted in TIME Magazine in response to USA welfare conditionality and interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme, providing information on homelessness statistics and trends and cutting through election rhetoric.

Morag Treanor’s research for Aberlour is a key part of Aberlour’s child poverty campaign ‘ a bad start in life shouldn’t lead to a bad end’. The campaign, which has been backed by cross party politicians in Scotland, prominently features Morag’s key finding that young people growing up in Scotland’s most deprived communities are 3 times more likely to die before the age of 25, and the statistic is being highlighted across various media, including posters in buses and trains.

Beth Watts interview for the Scotsman featured in an article responding to alternative giving options to better support people begging in Glasgow.

Queens Anniversary Award

In February, I-SPHERE were delighted to receive the Queens Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education 2019 for our contribution to ‘tackling homelessness, reducing rough sleeping and helping destitute people nationwide
Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are awarded every two years to outstanding work delivered by UK colleges and universities. Winning entries, awarded by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, are required to demonstrate excellence, innovation and public benefit to the wider world. Since its launch in 1994, the Queen’s Anniversary Prize has handed out honours to 275 prize-winning entries.
Glen Bramley, who, along with Heriot Watt chancellor Richard Williams, received the award at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace said

“It is a tremendous honour for everyone involved with I-SPHERE to be recognised with a prestigious prize, such as the Queen’s Anniversary Prize. This award really speaks to our ability as an institution to affect change and government policy for the betterment of society. That is something we all strive to do and I’m delighted that our efforts have been recognised at the highest level.”

Professor Richard A. Williams, principal and vice-chancellor at Heriot-Watt University, said:

“At this University we are tremendously proud of our first-class research that has, and continues to deliver, profound benefits to communities around the world. The award of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize recognises our ability to not only influence at the most senior levels of government but make society fairer and more compassionate.”

The ISPHERE team are also grateful for all the lovely comments from friends, partners, funders and Government Ministers alike and we are committed to continuing to strive to make a difference for people living in poverty and experiencing extreme forms disadvantage across the UK.

New Projects

Recent new commissions include:

  • ‘Qualitative study of women’s experiences of severe and multiple disadvantage’. Building upon I-SPHERE’s ‘Hard Edges’ reports and recent gendered profile of severe and multiple disadvantage (SMD), this project will seek women’s views on the effectiveness and timing of service interventions intended to prevent, ameliorate and/or resolve SMD. It has been funded by The Oak Foundation and will be led by Sarah Johnsen with input from Morag Treanor.
  • ‘Homelessness amongst EEA nationals’: The project is being led by Glen Bramley and is a joint project with Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) and University College London (UCL). It will (1) develop a data model to estimate current levels of homelessness amongst EEA nationals and (2) inform a better understanding of the causes and impacts of homelessness amongst EEA nationals specifically.
  • Development of homelessness measures and projections for Crisis, to build on the Homelessness Monitor series and refine and strengthen measures of homelessness, forecast future levels of these measures and the impact of different economic/demographic scenarios and policies.
  • Evaluation of the Manchester Rough Sleeping Social Impact Bond, funded by Bridges Fund Management, and conducted in collaboration with CaCHE. Being delivered by Jenny Wood and Suzanne Fitzpatrick.
  • An evaluation of Greater Manchesters A Bed Every Night programme Phase 2 which aims to prevent the need to sleep rough across the city-region, funded by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, being led by Beth Watts


I-SPHERE appointed Charlotte McPherson in January, as our fourth Oak Foundation research intern. In her six-month placement, Charlotte is conducting research on Young people’s experiences of, and perspectives on, food poverty and food banks in Edinburgh and London.

Morag Treanor was appointed Deputy Chair of the Scottish Government’s Poverty and Inequality Commission.

Publications, blogs and events

Aspiring to Survive

Professor Morag Treanor’s second book ‘Child Poverty: Aspiring to Survive’ was published in February. In the book Morag places children’s experiences, needs and concerns at the centre of this critical examination of the contemporary policies and political discourses surrounding poverty in childhood. She examines a broad range of structural, institutional and ideological factors common across developed nations, and their impacts, to interrogate how poverty in childhood is conceptualised and operationalised in policy and to forge a radical pathway for an alternative future.
Reviews include:

“Beautifully written, highly scholarly and well organised. A devastating critique of oppressive government, this book will be used as a source by students from a range of disciplines.” Jonathan Bradshaw, University of York

“Child poverty is a national disgrace in the UK. Read this wide-ranging book to understand the facts and to get a new handle on how to address these pressing problems.” Jane Millar, University of Bath

To secure your copy click here


Sarah Johnsen, Beth Watts, Suzanne Fitzpatrick published Rebalancing the Rhetoric: A Normative Analysis of Enforcement in Street Homelessness Policy

Suzanne Fitzpatrick authored an essay on projections of homelessness in 2030 

Glen Bramley, Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Morag Treanor published the paper ‘The ACE (adverse childhood experiences) Index: mapping childhood adversity in England’ with a range of public health colleagues in the Journal of Public Health

Beth Watts published a paper with Australian colleagues Prof Andrew Clarke and Dr Cameron Parsell in the Australian Journal of Social Issues on ‘Conditionality in the context of housing‐led homelessness policy: Comparing Australia’s Housing First agenda to Scotland’s “rights‐based” approach’

Filip Sosenko, Glen Bramley and Sarah Johnsen produced a gendered profile of severe and multiple disadvantage in England which was published by Lankelly Chase.

I-SPHERE Oak Intern, Chris Devany, completed his research into ‘the trends and connectivity in the use of psychoactive drugs and homelessness in Sheffield and Edinburgh’. The research involved a literature review and primary qualitative research with homelessness and drug services and people with lived experience of drug use and homelessness across the two cities. Click here for the key findings of the research and for further information on our I-SPHERE and Oak internship programme.


Professor Sarah Johnsen wrote a blog for The Conversation entitled ‘Homelessness: what the next government needs to do about the UK’s rough sleeping crisis’.

Jenny Wood published blog ‘Children most notable in national planning policies through their absence – what needs to change?

Jenny Wood published a blog for Campbell Collaboration UK & Ireland ‘An Evidence and Gap Map for Qualitative Evidence on Homelessness – what does it show and why?

Morag Treanor published a blog piece in Transforming Society ‘Child poverty is not inevitable, it is a political choice‘.

Morag Treanor with Juliet Harris of Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) blog on Child Rights and Child Poverty was published by the Poverty and Inequality Commission

Filip Sosenko blog on What’s Driving Hunger in the UK was published by The Trussell Trust.

Peter Mackie, Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Jenny Wood published a blog for CaCHE on ‘Homelessness Prevention in the UK – Emerging Impact’ of Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence Analysis’ 

See Beth Watts guest blog for Cyrenians ‘Homelessness prevention sounds great but how do we actually do it?’


Suzanne Fitzpatrick has chaired four meetings of Scottish Government’s first Homelessness Prevention Review, convened by Crisis.

Morag Treanor presented to Education Scotland on poverty and education and to Aberlour Public Affairs Panel Event “A bad start to life shouldn’t mean a bad end”

Jenny Wood sat on the scientific committee for international conference ‘Towards the Child-Friendly City: Children’s Rights in the Built Environment’. in November. She  presented three projects on child friendly planning policy, children’s engagement in place-based decisions in Scotland, and young people’s participation in planning in China.
Jenny also contributed a video presentation to symposium ‘Building A Child Friendly Cardiff &Vale‘ in March on child-friendly town planning, organised by Public Health Wales, and chaired policy event ‘Children’s Rights: protecting, supporting, empowering’ for Holyrood Communications.

Morag Treanor was a keynote speaker at the Tayside Regional Improvement Collaborative conference in March on ‘Poverty, Education and ACEs’.
Morag was also invited to speak to the 9 ‘Challenge Authorities’ on ‘Poverty, young people and mental health’ in March.

Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Glen Bramley have spoken at a wide range of events about the Hard Edges Scotland research, including to the Talking Social Work event for Tayside and Fife, the West Scotland GP Deprivation Interest Group (DIG), Cymorth Cymru Conference on Psychologically Informed Environments, and Scottish Working Group on Women’s Offending.

Beth Watts spoke to the Scottish Chartered Institute of Housing on Housing as a Human Right at its event in November, to elected councillors with homelessness in their portfolio at a Local Government Association event in December, and to Homeless Network Scotland’s ‘Change Team’ about the evidence base on housing led responses to homelessness in February 2020.

Glen Bramley spoke at Scotland’s Housing Festival in March 2020 about Affordable Housing Requirements in Scotland: Are we building enough homes to meet housing needs, and are we building the right homes in the right places?’

I-SPHERE Seminar programme

Over the winter I-SPHERE seminar programme included fantastic seminars by:
– Claire Frew from the Glasgow Homelessness Network on Participatory Action Research: Supporting People with Lived Experience of Homelessness to Co-Deliver Research
– Megan Park, ex I-SPHERE intern on The use of discretionary housing payments by Local Authorities
– Autumn Roesch-Marsh, Edinburgh University on Wellbeing and Transition: The needs of BME, migrant and refugee children and their families

Unfortunately we had to cancel  seminars by Professor John McKendrick, Dr Cameron Parsell, Delma Byrne and Hal Pawson. Future seminars will of course be dependent on guidance on coronavirus and we are working to develop online capability. You can keep up to date on our seminar series here.

Thank you

Thanks to all for your interest and support and best wishes for what will be a difficult Spring.

Keep in touch, stay positive, safe and well.

Kindest regards from the I-SPHERE team.

%d bloggers like this: