The Living Wage: The Next Fair Trade?

Wendy Kyla, Birmingham City Council Summer Placement Intern, comments on future Living Wage coverage  in light of the recently released Work that pays: The Living Wage Commission Final Report . Currently an undergraduate student of International Relations with French at the University of Birmingham and usually analysing poverty in the context war and conflict-afflicted countries across the world, Wendy gains insight on the different face of poverty found amongst working people in the UK. 

A million more by 2020

Considerably higher than the National Minimum Wage at £6.31, the Living Wage is currently set at £8.80 in London and £7.65 across the rest of the UK. Unlike the National Minimum Wage, it is voluntary for employers to adopt.

Considerably higher than the National Minimum Wage at £6.31, the Living Wage is currently set at £8.80 in London and £7.65 across the rest of the UK. Unlike the National Minimum Wage, it is voluntary for employers to adopt.

An ‘ambitious but credible’ target  has been set by the The Living Wage Commission – an independent, 12-month inquiry made up of leading figures from business, trade unions and civil society that investigate the future of the Living Wage campaign – calling the government to bring an additional 1 million employees under the Living Wage by 2020.

Although gaining traction as one of the solutions to in-work poverty and a growing campaign and increasing membership, 5.2 million employees in UK are being paid below Living Wage leaving much scope across both the public and private sector for an increase of Living Wage coverage.

One of the loudest arguments amongst those who resist a universal Living Wage, is that increasing wage bills are expensive for smaller businesses and lead to redundancies. So how does the Living Wage campaign increase coverage in the private sector against these challenges, without compulsion or legal obligation? By becoming the next ethical movement.

Would consumers be looking out for this kitemark? Would it signify; fairness, community, encouragement and celebration for consumers?

The Kitemark 

The report recommends the Living Wage campaign to emulate a strategy similar to Fair Trade movement. This could potentially become the next popular ethical movement for businesses and consumers, whereby accredited employers would proudly boast their kite-mark representing their action in valuing the individuals that make up their workforce. Consumers would then be able to identify which businesses are Living Wage accredited and make better informed consumer choices.

In contrast to the familiar image of supporting coffee bean workers in the Amazon, we would be supporting vulnerable low-income families and communities in the UK.

Similar to the way the Fair Trade logo determined which tea-bags and coffee beans shoppers opted for in supermarket aisles, the Living Wage kitemark would provide companies a ‘comparative advantage’ over others, bettering their brand and increasing their appeal to ethical consumers.

Why go Living Wage?

The campaign is centred on rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.

The profile of those in poverty in the UK has significantly changed: for the first time, the majority of people in poverty are working. With minimum wages and the abuse of zero-hour contracts, low-paid employees are finding it increasingly difficult financially supporting themselves and their families, contributing to a rise in the amount of people using and becoming increasingly dependant on food banks and in-work benefits.

“Low wages equals living in poverty.” - Dr Sentamu, Chair of Living Wage Commission Final Report

Surveys show that individuals that were once working multiple minimum wage jobs and still were unable to make ends meet, expressed that because their employers decided to adopt the Living Wage, they were given time to spend with their families and contribute to their communities. An increase in their pay has allowed them to feel as if they are really ‘living’ and not just surviving; valued and appreciated by their employers.

Will Nestle live up to its motto with their new Living Wage accreditation status?

Risks

Although a successful marketing strategy to strive for, the Fair Trade logo does not guarantee all of its promises. Critics of the movement question whether Fair Trade is truly fair. By paying a few extra pennies, does the Fair Trade label simply ease the mind of charity-motivated shoppers in the West rather than actually being an instrumental tool in breaking the poverty-cycle in developing countries?

The Living Wage campaign aspires to stay close to its principles with conviction- a community-led movement ‘rooted in the real lives, rather than balance sheets and statistics.’ What immediately comes to mind is the commendation of newly accredited Living Wage companies such as Nestle, the largest food manufacturer corporation, that has experienced its fair share of controversies and scandals regarding worker’s rights and unethical practices. Recently being the first of large corporations to adopt the Living Wage, could this create the image that becoming an accredited Living Wage employer pave the way towards the road of redemption?

Furthermore, could exclusive branding of Living Wage businesses as ethical potentially inadvertently punish small start up companies that are simply not able to afford paying the Living Wage?

Does this remain to be symbol of reassurance for conscious, ethical shoppers?

Although there is a desire to extend Living Wage coverage across the private sector, particularly amongst companies which would feel little impact from wage bill increases and embrace the opportunity to better their ethics image, above all, the adoption of the Living Wage should stay close to the principles of the campaign and maintain integrity. Valuing the employee and empowering low-paid workers, where community, encouragement and celebration are at the core of the Living Wage movement.

Birmingham : A Fairer City

The Commission’s report hopes these values are also shared across the public sector, illustrating how society benefits from the Living Wage.

Confronted with big city challenges, low wages across the city and child poverty rates well below the national average (more than one in three children living in poverty), Birmingham City Council already taken steps in championing the Living Wage campaign by providing a Living Wage for all council employees, as aspires to become a Living Wage city.

The Living Wage campaign has prompted councils to identify the different needs of different communities, leading to a deeper understanding and stronger mandate to carry out effective solutions to combat poverty. Alongside the Social Inclusion White Paper (which sets out the council’s commitments and recommendations to achieving social inclusion across city), the launch of the Business Charter for Social Responsibility, the formation of arenas such as the forthcoming Birmingham Child Poverty Commission, Birmingham is actively working towards becoming a fairer city.

As well as the Living Wage kitemark illustrating a potential new ethnical movement for businesses, I hope that the Living Wage campaign will continue to inspire and encourage the private and public sector to recognise their role and responsibility in pro-actively tackling in-work poverty and dismantling inequality in the UK whilst empowering individuals and supporting communities.

Have your moment on stage – Dosh Days ‘play in a week’

Pay ahead

From the 17-21st August 2014 Pay Ahead Stay Ahead will be holding a festival of events called ‘Dosh Days’ to explore various issues around money. As part of the festival they would like to recruit a number of young people living in Birmingham aged 16-24 who would like the opportunity to work with Pay Ahead Stay Ahead and the renowned Shontal Theatre for FREE!

Over the course of one week they will work to create, rehearse and perform an original play at the Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham City Centre. Pay Ahead Stay Ahead want to create a theatre resource led by young people for young people and perform the play as a promotional resource at events and conferences.

Thye are looking for individuals or established groups who are willing to learn new skills, commit to the project for one week and learn in a fun environment. In return they offer the experience to work with theatre professionals and the chance to perform in a theatre to an invited audience of some of Birmingham’s biggest change makers – an excellent addition to any young persons’ CV!

Travel expenses and lunch will be provided, and the participants will be able to invite family and friends to the performance. If you are interested please RSVP by contacting Melissa at Melissa.hurlbutt@ashramha.org.uk or by calling free from landlines on 0800 160 1990 or direct on 0121 764 3809.

 

 

pay

Do you know any young people who want to start a business or social enterprise? Do you know any young entrepreneurs who have been running a business or social enterprise for 12 months or less?

Birmingham City Council’s Enterprise Catalyst Business Support Initiative will be hosting EnterpriseGen 2014, a one day free event taking place at the Library of Birmingham on Thursday 17th July, to support the next generation of young entrepreneurial talent to start and succeed in business.

The event is designed as a platform for young people aged 16-30 to explore enterprise as a viable career option and brings together various partners at EnterpriseGen 2014, to exhibit their products and services. Throughout the day over 250 young people will have the opportunity to gain expert knowledge, get advice and guidance and be inspired to become the next generation of successful entrepreneurs. As one of the youngest cities in Europe, Birmingham is an ideal location for this new enterprise event.

MASTERCLASS 101            11.00am – 4.00pm

Enterprise Catalyst  and various partners will be delivering workshops and seminars, which are designed to assist attendees with practical support and advice, to turn their dream into a reality. This includes business planning, Intellectual Property, grants, Start-Up Loans, how to market your business on a shoestring budget.

DRAGONS DEN                    4.00pm – 5.00pm

Enterprise Catalyst will also be hosting the Enterprize Generator, a pitching session for anyone who is ready to launch their idea into a business, with the opportunity of winning a package of prizes to the value of £1,000.

Young people can register to attend the event by visiting http://enterprisegen2014.eventbrite.co.uk or if you would like to register a group of young people to attend please email enterprisecatalyst@birmingham.gov.uk and we will be happy to accommodate your needs. For further information please call 0121 675 7584.

 Click this link to see the poster:  EnterpriseGen 2014 17th July

 

 

Want to run your own business? – Get help from the Enterprise Catalyst Business Support Initiative

Enterprise Catalyst Business Support Initiative

Enterprise Catalyst provides entrepreneurs in Northwest, Central and Southeast Birmingham with free expert advice and access to match-funding to make entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

Enterprise Catalyst initiative

Enterprise Catalyst initiative

Enterprise Catalyst provides that much needed support to help you start out, grow your idea or develop your existing business with the use of dedicated coaches and finance packages.

Enterprise Catalyst aims to help people to help themselves by driving forward credible ideas – whether it is a completely new venture or an existing business looking for growth.

Their combined approach is aimed at helping entrepreneurs eliminate the obstacles common to tripping up even the most business-minded individuals, whilst helping to build a positive economic culture in key communities. To make this as easy as possible, Enterprise Catalyst work with a range of specialist providers, including The Digbeth Trust, Business Insight and Winning Moves to provide intensive business support packages that are tailored to the specific needs of individuals and existing businesses.

To ensure that people can access the support on offer, the Enterprise Catalyst Executive Delivery Team is staging a series of Enterprise Catalyst Business Clubs for residents in North West, Central and South East Birmingham.

Come along for expert advice on business planning, employment law, intellectual property, marketing, finance – and more!

Enterprise Catalyst event 16 June: Helping #brum new entrepreneurs & existing #business

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/enterprisecatalyst

 

Stop Loan Sharks Challenge – A chance to win £100!

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Loan Sharks

Despite the cuddly-toy look Loan Sharks are very unpleasant people! They lend money without the necessary permissions –  which is a criminal offence – and they frequently charge high rates of interest. They can also harass, intimidate and beat up their victims to ensure re-payments.

Birmingham City Council has a dedicated Illegal Money Lending Team to help tackle Loan Sharks and do this though the Stop Loan Sharks project.

The Stop Loan Sharks project is run by Trading Standards and has been working across England for a number of years, raising awareness of the perils of using loan sharks, prosecuting them and supporting their victims.

The Stop Loan Sharks project team are always looking for new ways to get their message across to the general public and have recently launched an online quiz to warn people of the dangers of Loan Sharks, whilst giving them the chance to win £100 of shopping vouchers.

The quiz involves getting people to watch some short  video clips which convey the key Stop Loan Sharks messages – that Loan Sharks should be avoided, are criminals, and that help and support is available for people who have borrowed.   The closing date is not until the end of September so you have plenty of time to enter.

“Take a 10 minute online challenge and win £100 of shopping vouchers”!

The Stop Loan Sharks project online quiz, will give one lucky person the chance to win £100 of shopping vouchers. Two runners up will each receive a goody bag and it will take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

To have a chance of winning the prize please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/IMLTchallenge

 

Good luck!”

 

Promoting responsible credit and savings – a workshop for dioceses with Sir Hector Sants

Image: itv.com

Image: itv.com

There has been a considerable expansion of small sum, high cost, consumer credit products in the UK in recent years.

The expansion of these products, which are typically sold to households with below average incomes, has led to concerns about the wider impacts of borrowing on the ability of some households to pay for essential services and on living standards more generally.

The Church of England has taken a central role in responding to the rise of credit companies. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has famously declared his intention to “compete Wonga out of business” and has set up a Task Group on Responsible Credit and Saving, chaired by the former head of the Financial Services Authority, Sir Hector Sants.

Sir Hector will be speaking at a Church of England roadshow event, Promoting Responsible Credit and Savings, at Carrs Lane Centre in Birmingham from 1.15 pm to 4.30 pm on Tuesday 3rd June 2014.

The event will also include a presentation from the Church Credit Champions Network and examples of local and national fair credit initiatives.

Places at this event are free, but should be booked in advance via Eventbrite. For more information, contact Polly Taylor, project coordinator of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Saving by email to polly.taylor@churchofengland.org or phone 020 7 898 1469.

Street Association

Wish your street had more community spirit?  The answer is to start a

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How does it work?

A Street Association is run by a core group, usually of 6 or 8 or maybe 10 people, who meet once a month for one hour.  They get to know each other, get comfortable with each other and have a good laugh.  And when they meet, they ask, “what shall we, as a street, do next?”

Different Street Associations have come up with an astonishing array of activities, big and small, such as a quiz night, a barbecue, a fireworks party, a Christmas children’s party, a front garden sale, a walk in the countryside, an Easter egg hunt, a visit to the theatre or movies, a coach trip to the seaside, a coffee morning for retired people – and so on.

They also start looking out for who on the street has needs and who might be able to give an elderly person a lift to hospital, or offer help with a bit of DIY.

And the result?

Within a year, you could have a street where everybody knows each other, people smile, greet, chat, watch out for each other’s children, make new friends, find new purpose, banish isolation, enrich each other’s lives and have a street where everyone’s proud to live.

It’s easy

Just go to www.streetassociations.org to order your free starter pack, which includes a simple ‘how to’ guide on introducing the idea to the street, to a seven-minute video to show neighbours, to window stickers and ideas for how to get the Association off to a flying start.  And Birmingham residents can ask for a facilitator to come and help with the first meeting.

Try it!  And see the difference it makes for many people to be real community, together.

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Amanda Cobbalt

“We all lack the confidence to go up to someone and suggest meeting for tea, but I’ve been so warmly received by so many nice people that I can actually now do it”.  (Amanda Cobbalt)

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Dyllis Stride

“I’ve got to know 10 or 12 people well.  The street feels different now.  There’s no feeling of isolation.  If in need, I could knock on a door for help”. (Dyllis Stride)

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Tony Barlow

“In many streets, we don’t acknowledge each others’ existence.  Here, since the start of the Street Association, we know each other and we greet each other.   Just someone looking you in the eye, saying hello and smiling makes a massive difference”. (Tony Barlow)

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Rinkel Shergill

“For years, I wanted to get to know my neighbour across the street, but I was scared.  Then, through the Street Association, I found out that she always wanted to get to know me, but was also scared!  Now we’re good friends”.  (Rinkel Shergill)

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Debbie Perryer

“I’m actually a shy person and I’ve only lived on the street for two years, but I know more people on this street than I’ve ever known anywhere I lived.  Its made me feel this is a home, rather than just another house.  It has really changed the feel of the street.  It’s a nice, warm feeling”.  (Debbie Perryer)

Sarah Shaw

Sarah Shaw

“As soon as I moved in, I had a card through my door, saying ‘Welcome to your new home – best wishes from the Street Association’, signed by neighbours.  It was just the loveliest thing and it really touched me.  You can get caught up with people trying to sell you things, but this is about people’s generosity and kindness – human nature at its best”.  (Sarah Shaw)

 

 

Erdington Works Employers’ Breakfast Event – 1st May 2014

Erdington District Committee, in conjunction with, Erdington Works, held an employer’s breakfast event on the morning of the 1st May 2014 to encourage Erdington based businesses to employ young people from locality.

Erdington Works was established as one of the six Young Talent for Business ‘Exemplar Projects’ to help unemployed NEETS (young people aged between 16 and 24 not in employment, education or training) in the Erdington District to gain workplace skills and find sustained work. Erdington Works, is funded by Birmingham City Council and delivered in partnership by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA), Castle Vale Tenants and Residents Alliance, Castle Vale Regeneration Services, Merlin Ventures and John Taylor Hospice.

Since its launch ‘Erdington Works’ has helped create 18 new work placements and 6 ongoing apprenticeships in Erdington.

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Hosted by Trinity Mirror Midlands (TM), the publishers behind the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail, the event was held at their Birmingham Headquarters on the sixth floor of Fort Dunlop.

Delegates tuck into breakfast

Delegates network together before the start of the event

Cllr Bore and Dave Brookes  catch up over a coffee before the start of the event

Cllr Bore (Leader Birmingham City Council) and Dave Brookes (Editor in Chief, Trinity Mirror Midlands)  catch up over a coffee before the event

Delegates awaiting the start of the event

Delegates gather to hear  the speeches and presentations

After a short welcome and introduction the Chair, Dave Brookes (Editor in Chief) Trinity Mirror Midlands, went on to introduce Councillor Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council.

           Councillor Bore offers up his challenge to businesses

Councillor Bore offers up his challenge to businesses

Cllr Bore cited Trinity Mirror as a shining example of a local business stepping up to the plate to deliver real change and investing in the people of Erdington and Birmingham as a whole. He spoke of them as being a fantastic example of a private sector business contributing to and investing in an issue that affects us all  - that of youth unemployment. He then issued a challenge to the businesses present and more widely to all business located in the Erdington District to join Trinity Mirror in acting pro-actively and to ‘do something’ to get people into work, boost the local economy, and to help make our young people feel valued. He suggested business could do this by offering paid employment, training and skills opportunities or work experience to young people to help them into sustained work.  

 Shilpi Akbar, Assistant Director for Employment, Birmingham City Council outlines the many programmes on offer to businesses

Shilpi Akbar, Assistant Director for Employment, Birmingham City Council outlines the many programmes on offer to businesses

Delegates were then provided with information on opportunities available to them by Shilpi Akbar,  who outlined the benefits of the Birmingham Jobs Fund, Young Talent for Business, the National Apprenticeship scheme, and a host of other initiatives and available funding designed to help businesses employ young people.

Some of the enthusiastic young people challenging delegates possible negative views of young people.

Some of the enthusiastic young people challenging delegates possible negative views of young people.

Young people who had had first hand experience of the Erdington Works Exemplar project spoke  movingly about their experience and how the programme had changed their lives. They too challenged the delegates to review and revise their possibly stereotyped views of young people. Urging the businesses present to help give them a start in the work market-place.

Andy Winmill, Urban Devotion

Andy Winmill, from the Charity, Urban Devotion

This was followed by a very impassioned talk by Andy Winmill from Urban Devotion about how the Birmingham Jobs Fund had helped his charity organisation take on a young person and how that had not only helped the young person gain employment, but had also helped improved the effectiveness of his organisation by bringing a new perspective to the way they engage with young people.

Andy George outlines the new B1 job app

Andy George outlines the new B1 job app

Andy George from Trinity Mirror Midlands then spoke about B1, the name for the new app that Trinity Mirror are producing in conjunction with Birmingham City Council. He described  B1 as being basically a dating app which matches up those seeking a job, with companies offering jobs. Initially you need to enter your profile of skills and work experience (a bit like a CV) then the app will link your skills with those being sought by companies offering job opportunities. You will then receive a text giving details of the job and who to contact. The app is still in the testing stage but it is hoped that it will be available in the autumn.

Stacey Barnfield, Editor, Birmingham Post, chairing the question and answer session

Stacey Barnfield, Editor, Birmingham Post, chairing the question and answer session

To close the morning, Stacey Barnfield, Editor, Birmingham Post, chaired a lively question and answer session which provided examined in more depth some of the issues raised earlier in the morning. All in all a very successful morning and during the networking opportunity that followed businesses were able to meet the young people and learn ore about the various funding initiatives available to them. This is the first event to be held in the Erdington District and hopefully future meetings will help find work for the many able and willing young people living in that district.

 

Outcomes

This event was part of the Action Plan put in place to deliver the recommendations of the SIP White Paper. Commitment 1.2 Develop an approach to ‘locales’.  – Locales aim to bring community development and economic development together. It also helps address the proposal to pilot local economic summits in Districts across the city as outlined in the City Council Leader’s Policy Statement 2013.

Food and our Future

 

Two males working in foodbank

image: theguardian.com

The Lunar Society, in association with Localise West Midlands, Birmingham Leadership Foundation, Midland Heart and the Nishkam Centre, is holding a panel discussion to stimulate debate on the importance of issues related to food to the future of the West Midlands region, its people and its businesses on Wednesday 14th May 2014 at 6.30 pm for 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm at the Nishkam Centre, 6 Soho Road.

The questions that will be addressed at the first event of this joint initiative are:

  • Why are we seeing a growth in the number of food banks and the numbers who depend on them across the West Midlands Region at at the same time as we face a growing obesity epidemic, much of it within our younger population?
  • What do we actually know about the extent of these issues and their causes?
  • What can we do locally to mitigate negative consequences and what local, national and international trends do we have to consider in the short, medium and long term?

The joint organisers said:

“Developments in the production, distribution and consumption of food will have profound consequences for our future lives. As well as the food poverty, access and health issues, which will be covered by this first event, they also impact on our environment, on climate change (and vice versa) and on our confidence that we know what we are eating.

“As citizens and in our work lives we need to develop our understanding of the international, national and local dynamics of food supply and demand, of the infrastructure of food production and distribution, and of our ability to acces food to enable healthy lifestyles. We need to debate the impact of these on our current and future lives, and agree what action is needed by whom to offset negative impacts and encourage positive ones. “

Starting the discussion will be speakers Chris Mould, executive chairman of the foodbank charity, Trussell Trust, Adrian Phillips, Birmingham’s director of public health and Liz Dowler, professor of food and social policy at Warwick University and a trustee of the Food Ethics Council.

Kate Cooper, incoming chair of the Birmingham Food Council, will be chairing the event.

This event is free to attend, but places are limited and must be booked in advance via Eventbrite. A contribution on the evening to refreshments provided will be welcome.

You can follow the event on Twitter #foodfuture.

 

Transforming Place: Birmingham’s new approach to neighbourhood working

Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum

Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum

Transforming Place is Birmingham’s new neighbourhood strategy. It sets out eight key building blocks to help support and develop neighbourhood working across the city:

  • Neighbourhood working to be locally designed and delivered
  • Joined-up  and better coordinated services
  • Building social capital and supporting resident-led activity
  • Bringing communities together
  • Identifying and harnessing neighbourhood assets to benefit local communities
  • Embedding neighbourhood working through city council districts
  • Integrating a neighbourhood focus in city-wide plans and strategies
  • Sharing learning and information across neighbourhoods

This framework has been shaped by the views of residents, community groups and professionals put forward during last year’s summer of dialogue about a new approach to neighbourhoods.

The document sets out how we aim to design and deliver services and engage with citizens to collectively work together to build strong cohesive neighbourhoods against the backdrop of unprecedented funding cuts.

In his foreword to the framework, Cllr John Cotton, cabinet member for social cohesion and equalities, says:

“Facing up to these challenges requires a new approach, one in which the city council works alongside residents, local organisations and service providers – marshalling scarce resources, breaking down silos and making more creative use of the assets and skills we have in our neighbourhoods. That’s how we will ensure that our neighbourhoods become stronger, more resilient places, where people can come together to improve things and have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.”

Make a pledge

The city council wants to work in collaboration with residents, local groups, voluntary, community and faith organisations, the public and private sector to improve opportunities at a local level. This is a new approach in which new kinds of relationships will be forged and new approaches co-designed with others.

If you want to help to transform a neighbourhood, please get in touch. Maybe your group wants to become a Place of Welcome or you would like to volunteer your expertise and time to a local project? Maybe you are already running a local project and want to join our neighbourhood network? Or perhaps you work for an organisation which can provide neighbourhood management support locally?

You can make pledges of support by completing and returning a Make a Pledge form, downloadable here:

Transforming Place pledge form – individuals

Transforming Place pledge form – organisations

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