The first in a series of articles by James Hopkirk
Monday was my first full day at Brixton Advice Centre (BAC) – I’m at the beginning of a yearlong photographic and journalist journey, documenting the impact of government cuts on people living in Lambeth.
As Patrick Torsney, BAC’s Director, announced earlier this week, I’ll be working in collaboration with BAC and its clients – along with a number of other organisations in the borough – to highlight the difficulties many people are facing as a direct result of cuts to benefits and the state-funded services they once relied on.
I’ve chosen Lambeth because it has been my home for the last 20 years. There is a great deal that I love about this borough, but the inequality is increasingly stark. It’s home to some of the richest and poorest people in the country, and the gap between them seems to be ever-widening.
I believe that many residents simply have no idea how bad things have become for vulnerable people who live here – or how much worse things are likely to get.
I’ve chosen BAC because it has been a Brixton institution since 1966, offering invaluable advice and representation to struggling Lambeth residents on housing, homelessness, welfare benefits and debt. Its services are needed now more than ever.
I spent my first day on reception with Simone, who has worked at BAC for many years, initially joining as a volunteer. She and her colleague Sue are at the front line of BAC’s work, offering advice and support, directing people to other relevant services, and referring more complex cases to BAC’s legal team.
The Centre is open Monday-Thursday 10am-3pm and on Monday I witnessed a steady stream of people pouring through its doors – some with pre-booked appointments, many coming for the first time.
I heard stories of illegal eviction notices, spiralling debts, child, disability and housing benefit payments stopped without warning and families on the brink of living on the streets. It was a sobering but instructive day. At this point, I’m trying to gather as much information as possible so that I can better understand the story I want to tell.
Over the coming months, I will be regularly posting images, interviews, case studies and more on BAC’s website, as well as on my own blog – provisionally titled Lambeth: Living With The Cuts. I’ll also be using #LambethCuts on Twitter – you can find me @jameshopkirk.
If you’d like to get in touch, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter or by email at email@example.com. In particular, I’m hoping to hear from Lambeth residents who have experienced the sharp end of the government’s cuts and who would like to collaborate with me, share their stories and help to raise awareness of what’s happening in our borough.
James Hopkirk, January 2016
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