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.

 

 

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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!”

 

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)

 

 

Birmingham Declaration – Uniting across England to tackle Social Exclusion!

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As new reports highlight the increasing inequality in the UK economy; cities, towns and boroughs across the country have united to tackle issues of social exclusion in a new national network set up by the Leader of Birmingham City Council and the Bishop of Birmingham, in the process signing the Birmingham declaration on social inclusion.

Declaration sign page

While in recent months economic stati stics seem to be indicating a more positive outlook for the UK economy, it is clear that a significant proportion of our population are still not feeling the benefit of this improvement.  Only yesterday the Equality Trust released a report highlighting that the gap between rich and poor was rising and that inequality was costing the country £39bn a year.  Figures from Oxfam also released yesterday highlighted that the five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the bottom 20% of the entire population and the gap between the rich and the rest has grown significantly over the last two decades.

Continuing and increasing inequality has the potential to have a  long term damaging effect on our population,  impacting on a wide spectrum of social outcome.   Duncan Exley from the Equality Trust highlighted it perfectly when he said yesterday “We know that inequality is a major cause of social problems from crime, to poor health to low educational performance, and that it is psychologically scarring, reducing trust in strangers and isolating individuals”.

Local authorities in towns and cities across the country are grappling with these issues every day, however the challenge of dealing with social exclusion has been made more difficult given the reduction in resources that organisations have at their disposal.

It is within this context that the launch of the National Social Inclusion Network and accompanying Birmingham Declaration is so timely.

Led by the Bishop of Birmingham,  Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Process has over the past two years been trying to develop ways of dealing with social exclusion in the city.  The process quickly identified that the task of creating more inclusive cities has moved beyond what local or national government can do on their own, and that there was a need to build a network of local authorities to work together, share knowledge and understanding, as well as establishing a collective voice to challenge the Government to bring about changes we want to see from them that will make dealing with these issues easier on the ground.

This resulted in the first National Social Inclusion Symposium being held hosted by Birmingham City Council’s Leader, Cllr Sir Albert Bore and The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham and funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, in September 2013.  At this event 15 local authorities from across the country agreed to establish the National Social Inclusion Network and to sign the declaration as indication of their commitment.

By signing the declaration, participating authorities have agreed to:

  • Be part of the National Social Inclusion Network
  • Share learning and develop joint campaigning on key issues around social inclusion
  • Build a strong collective voice to articulate the arguments for social inclusion for all our communities across the country
  • Identify action that can be taken around issues of shared concern

The authorities that have signed the declaration are Barrow-in-Furness, Birmingham, Bristol, Islington, Knowsley, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Plymouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Tower Hamlets.

The work of the network starts now.  We are already sharing ideas of best practice from successful Birmingham programmes such as the fair money manifesto, places of welcome initiative  and the Birmingham Jobs fund; and we are learning about other projects from across the country. 

Over the next few months we will continue to work together in variety of ways across the network with the common determination of addressing deep-rooted issues of inequality and disadvantage and to deliver the changes needed.

If you would like to  follow the work of the network you can through the blog , via social media @fairbrum and #fairplaces or by getting in touch with our team fairbrum@birmingham.gov.uk

Places of Welcome come together

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Almost 20 representatives from a range of voluntary, faith and community organisations gathered to take part in a half day event for Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Process initiative, Places of Welcome network on Tuesday 4 March 2014 at the Faithful Neighbours offices in Sparkhill.

Participants were welcomed by two of the Places of Welcome steering group members, Jessica Foster, Near Neighbours and Sarah Turner, Thrive together Birmingham who  explained how the Places of Welcome network was developed from the city’s Social Inclusion Process, which has been led by  Rt David Urquhart , Bishop of Birmingham since March 2012.

As part of the Social Inclusion Process’ extensive engagement across the city it identified seven commitments outlined in the social inclusion white paper with one particular recommendation focused on doing more to support new arrivals in the city whether they are asylum seekers, refugees or they have moved from different parts of the city.

Also, participants heard that a small Places of Welcome steering group was formed to engage with Birmingham’s community, voluntary and faith groups who said that there was a need for Places of Welcome in the community and that five key elements or principles were formed for groups to sign up to operate as a member of the network.

To be a Place of Welcome (Places of Welcome summary nov 2013) there needs to be willingness to offer:

  • an unconditional welcome to local people for at least a few hours a week
  • and to commitment to the five P’s

Place: An accessible and hospitable building, open at the same time every week
People: Open to everyone regardless of their circumstances or situation, and staffed by volunteers
Presence: A place where people actively listen to one another
Provision: Offering free refreshments (at least a cup of tea and a biscuit) and basic information
Participation: Recognises that every person coming to a Place of Welcome will bring talents, experiences and skills that they might be willing to share locally

In a simple geographical mapping exercise (north, south, east and west) individuals represented their groups across the city, not only did it help them develop their own local networks, but it also gave them an opportunity to share their experiences of running as a Place of Welcome. One delegate shared how by offering simple friendship and a hot drink helped one young man boost his confidence to attend a training course, leading him to get a job in the local community.

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In smaller groups individuals shared their hopes and fears, both for their own Place of Welcome and the wider group:

  • Q: What happens if no one turns up? A: Make sure that you enjoy joint activities with those around you, so if no one arrives you have still a productive time
  • Q: Signposting, how do you provide the resource without setting up expectations? A: The offer should be simple with basic support without make your offer too complicated.

Yardley Wood Road Baptist Church, John Glass shared how their group has been running for 10 years and that joining the Places of Welcome network has not only given those visiting an automatic understanding that the place is different to just a coffee morning. But also they are part of something bigger, reassuring and supportive. As a Place of Welcome it has also given them a Place of Welcome kite mark giving agencies the assurance in the standard of care that their clients will receive.

Refugee Action, Phil Davis spoke of how many asylum seekers have fled from their homes (country of origin) under terrible circumstances and moving from area to area through a complicated and difficult system. Very often a smile and simple offering of kindness can help them start to become part of the local community. Phil added that for Refugee Action having a network of Places of Welcome was important as they can direct vulnerable individuals to a trusted place.

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Participants also suggested ideas which would help develop and support their Place of Welcome:

  • A website pin pointing the location, opening times, dates, basic offer and blog to share stories
  • A banner to be displayed outside the Place of Welcome when open
  • Workshops and training to support and develop Places of Welcome
  • A soft launch to agencies and groups, including those of non-faith backgrounds across the city to participate and grow of the network

All the new Places of Welcome received a banner and printed materials which were funded by Barrow Cadbury Trust and presented to them by Debbie Pippard Head of Programmes.

If you or your organisation would like to join the growing network of Places of Welcome and are interested in becoming a Place of Welcome, please contact Sarah Turner or Jessica Foster at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre on 0121 675 1155 or email sarah@thrivetogetherbham.org or jess@nearneighbours.com.

For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/PlacesOfWelcomeBirmingham

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Bishop opens “Hunger Hut” to launch End Hunger Fast Birmingham

Hunger Hut in Cathedral Square

The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, opened a “Hunger Hut” outside Birmingham Cathedral in Colmore Row on Wednesday 5th March 2014 to launch the End Hunger Fast campaign in the city.

End Hunger Fast is a national campaign, focused around the traditional Christian fasting season of Lent, which seeks to petition the Government to put an end to widespread food poverty in the UK.

Bishop David was one of 27 Anglican Bishops who signed a letter calling on Government to address the growing amount of hunger in the country as part of the campaign in February.

The Bishop, who chairs the Birmingham Social Inclusion Process, Giving Hope Changing Lives, has criticized the effect that increasing levels of poverty are having on individuals and families throughout Britain, saying that it is “a scandal” that in the seventh richest nation in the world, more than half a million people have needed to use a food bank in the last year and thousands have been admitted to hospital suffering from malnutrition.

As part of the campaign there will be a National Day of Fasting on Friday 4th April and a vigil in Parliament Square on Wednesday 16th April.

To pledge to join the National Day of Fasting, go to the End Hunger Fast website.

For more information about how to get involved in the campaign in Birmingham, visit the Birmingham Churches Together website.

Progress against the Social Inclusion White Paper – Update to Cabinet

It has now been over 12 months since the Birmingham City Council Cabinet approved the Social Inclusion White Paper .  The White paper was the result of an intense period of engagement, analysis and evidence gathering throughout 2012 led by the Bishop of Birmingham and the Social Inclusion Steering group.

On Monday the Cllr John Cotton – the Cabinet member for Social Cohesion and Equalities  – delivered an update paper to Cabinet to update members on progress in delivering the commitments and recommendations of the  White Paper.

You can view the Cabinet meeting item on Social Inclusion by clicking here.

If you would like to read the papers you can do so below:

Delivering the Social Inclusion White Paper

Delivering the Social Inclusion White Paper – App 1

Delivering the Social Inclusion White Paper – App 2

Delivering the Social Inclusion White Paper – App3 EA

Do you have a business idea that needs following up?

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Are you a resident looking to set up your own business? Or do want to develop your existing business?

If you live or trade in any of these areas: Aston, Bordesley Green, Hodge Hill, Ladywood, Lozells and East Handsworth, Moseley and Kings Heath, Nechells, Soho, South Yardley, Sparkbrook, Springfield and Washwood Heath – then help could be on hand.

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Enterprise Catalyst can support you to develop your business idea, start your own enterprise, or grow your existing business through a dedicated team of business coaches and mentors – as well as support you to access grant finance.

This initiative is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund programme 00405_Smart EC 2ppFlyer_v3_LR (2007 to 2013) and the following support is on offer:

  • Workshops and seminars
  • Enterprise Generator
  • Enterprise Coaching
  • Business Development Support
  • Access to Business Development Grants (Subject to eligibility)
  • Specialist Social Enterprise Support

For more information download this leaflet: 00405_Smart EC 4ppBooklet_v4_LR

To find out more about how to become part of Enterprise Catalyst call 0121 675 7584, text EC to 80800 or visit http://www.enterprise-catalyst.com.