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.

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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

 

 

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.

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.

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

Get on board for a brighter future in Shard End

bus cartoonIf you’re unemployed, looking to improve your skills or thinking of starting your own business, then advice and support is on hand. The jobs and skills bus will be parking up in various locations in Shard End Ward during March and April with trained advisers on board to help local people get into work, training or even start their own business.

A range of organisations will be represented on the bus, including Birmingham Adult Education Service, Phoenix Training, Kingsbury Training, Department for Work and Pensions, Birmingham City Council traineeship scheme, Prospects Services and the National Careers Service, The Pump and Business in the Community.

The jobs and skills bus will be popping up in the Shard End area as follows:

Wednesday 26th March 2014

10.00 am to 2.00 pm

Heathway Shopping Centre (opposite the Heathway Pub)

Wednesday 2nd April 2014

10.00 to 2.00 pm

LIDL car park, Mackadown  Lane B33 0NG

Wednesday 9th April 2014

10.00 to 2.00 pm

Frontage of Madoc & Rhodes, 151 Lea Village B33 9SJ

The jobs and skills bus is part of a bigger initiative called Our Place! to improve the lives of residents living in Glebe Farm, Kitts Green, Lea Village, Shard End and Tile Cross.

The Our Place! approach puts the local community at the heart of decision-making and brings everyone together – residents, voluntary and community organisations, businesses, public sector workers and city councillors – to tackle local issues and make the area a better place to live. An important strand of this work is addressing unemployment and lack of skills in the area.

Cllr John Cotton, Shard End Ward Councillor and Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion and Equalities, said:

“Too many people are being held back by inequalities in education and employment, preventing them from reaching their full potential and making the most of their talents.

“The jobs and skills bus is designed to bring opportunities out into the neighbourhoods of Shard End, Kitts Green, Tile Cross, Lea Village and the Glebe.  So, if you live locally, are unemployed or want to improve your skills, coming along to the bus could be an important first step in getting access to employment, training or other advice.”

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.

A Living Wage – why it’s good for business

Evidence shows that 35 per cent of children in Birmingham live in poverty.  Many of these children are living in families with at least one parent in work, so any improvement in wages will have a positive impact on child poverty in the city.

Birmingham City Council took action to help its lowest paid workers by introducing a Living Wage in July 2012. In April 2013, the council launched the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility, which aims to boost the local economy by maximising the social value that the council gets from its purchasing power.

One of the six key principles of the charter to be followed by organisations adopting it is to be a good employer by supporting staff development and welfare and adopting the Living Wage.

The Social Inclusion Process White Paper, Making Birmingham an Inclusive City, welcomed the city council’s Living Wage policy and supports the principles in the charter, urging other bodies to “use their influence and expertise to promote this more widely within the business community”.

Social responsibility expert, Carole Parkes, from Aston University – itself a supporter of the Living Wage – provides a business case as well as a moral argument for introducing poverty-relieving pay packets in her article for the Chartered Management Institute magazine, Professional Manager, in February 2014.

Carole says that looking at the issue of low wages from a purely economic perspective is to ignore an important tenet of any civilized society – that it is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.  But, she argues, if “doing the right thing” is not enough, evidence suggests that paying the living wage reduces absenteeism, turnover and subsequent recruitment and training costs and increases productivity. It is, indeed, good for business.

To read Carole’s article, click here.