Why the gap between rich and poor matters

Richard WilkinsonOne of the country’s leading “fairness gurus” will be speaking at the Birmingham social inclusion summit on Wednesday 10th July.

Professor Richard Wilkinson is co-author of “The Spirit Level – why more equal societies almost always do better” and a founder of The Equality Trust which works to reduce income inequality in order to improve the quality of life in the UK.

In his keynote speech Professor Wilkinson will be setting out his evidence to show that people in more equal societies live longer, have better mental health, better chances for a good education regardless of their background, that community life is stronger where the income gap is narrower and that when inequality is reduced people trust each other more, there is less violence and rates of imprisonment are lower.

The summit, Sharing Best Practice in Europe, is being funded by the Eurocities’ Cities for Active Inclusion Network (part of the EU PROGRESS programme) and its programme also includes speakers from Barcelona, Rotterdam and Stockholm who will be giving presentations on active inclusion initiatives in practice.

Over 150 delegates from the public, voluntary, community, faith and private sectors across the city are expected to attend the summit at Austin Court, which is being co-chaired by The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham and Cllr John Cotton, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for social cohesion and equalities.

Some of the innovative work by local organisations in Birmingham contributing to build a social inclusion “movement for change” will be showcased in a display at the event.

The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Professor Richard Wilkinson to Birmingham and to have the opportunity to hear him present his evidence on whey equal societies almost always do better.

“Many people may feel intuitively that the world ought to be a fairer place, but what Professor Wilkinson’s research shows is that there is a direct correlation between income inequality and a whole host of indicators.

“Birmingham’s social inclusion process, Giving Hope Changing Lives, is based on having a better understanding of the causes and effects of social exclusion and what works in tackling these issues.

“Hearing Professor Wilkinson present his evidence and discussing his work with him will help us increase our understanding of the effects of inequality and, in turn, make us better able to provide the support needed to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our city.”

Cllr John Cotton, cabinet member for social cohesion and equalitis, said: “Inequality and deprivation doesn’t just hurt certain individuals or neighbourhoods, it also damages our city as a whole. Unless we challenge the causes of poverty and disadvantage, we are sabotaging Birmingham’s economic future. Harsh experience here in our city shows us that Professor Wilkinson’s analysis is absolutely spot on.

“But we are focused on taking action to turn this around. Our social inclusion process has been leading the way, taking practical steps to tackle unemployment, challenge the causes of child poverty, poor health and educational achievements.

“This summit is an opportunity to take stock, learn from others across Europe and plan the next steps in our attack on inequality in our city.”

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  1. Escaping the inequality trap: Grounds for different inequalities | The New Optimists

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