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

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)

 

 

Giving Hope, Transforming Lives!

alcoaPhoenixpump

The launch of the Alcoa Internship programme at the Pump, last Friday (28th February 2014) provided a wonderful example of partnership working between The Pump,  Alcoa, Birmingham City Council and Phoenix Training.

The Pump/Alcoa Internship programme is part of the World Wide Alcoa Foundation Internship programme  and in Shard End offers fully-paid 12 week Internship opportunities for up to 50 young people within manufacturing companies, in and around the Shard End area. The goal is to provide unemployed youth with the experience to start a successful career in manufacturing. The programme is open to both young men and young women and Alcoa are keen to see young women engage with this programme and to help them move into the manufacturing sector.

However, before they can engage with the Internship programme the young unemployed people need to become ‘work ready’ and the Birmingham Jobs Fund Exemplar Project, run in Shard End by Phoenix Training, provides that part of this process of engagement.

Young people from Phoenix Training with trainers

Young people from Phoenix Training with trainers

The stars of the launch were undoubtedly the seven young men who are currently on placement with Phoenix Training. (They are pictured above with the trainers and a female colleague who is championing the programme.) The confidence and enthusiasm of these young men moved all those present. Wearing smart suits, shirts and ties these young men almost appeared to shine when they stood up to tell their stories. Their enthusiasm to find work was a brilliant testament to the work done by the two Phoenix Training trainers who accompanied them. The young men spoke with great confidence about their journey so far (they have only been on 5 weeks of  a 12 week course) and how they had gone from being unemployed to vital, spirited, committed young people eager and willing to engage with the world of work!

One particular young man explained how the project had transformed his life. He used to lie in bed until 3pm each day, and took no notice of his mother’s constant exhortations to get up and find a job. It was hard to equate that former lifestyle with the confident young man who stood before us, anxious and eager to move on hopefully into the Internship programme. He now got up at 6am, made his mother a cup of tea before setting out for the training course in order to make sure he got there on time, and consequently always arrived early! Others spoke about the outward bound course they had been on; their visits to Wales; the friendships they had develop and their altruistic desire to get their mates to sign up to the programme by badgering them by text and word of mouth to get down to the Pump or onto the Skills Bus and sign up to the programme.

The event introduced by Charlotte Linforth from The Pump, included various other key speakers who outline their involvement in the project: Nigel Bratt from Alcoa presented a film of the work Alcoa undertake and the kind of career the young men and women who successfully get onto the Internship might expect:  Richard Pearce, from Phoenix Training, gave more details of their training programme and Councillor Ian Ward from Birmingham City Council outlined the Council’s commitment – despite the cuts – to keep working to help young people into work and praised the success of this particular Exemplar project.

Clearly the young men present had experienced a life changing event which would stand them in good stead whatever their future turned out to be, a future which they were now in a much better position to determine. The value of such a programme cannot be overestimated and let’s hope that before too long this ‘exemplar’ project becomes ‘mainstreamed’ and the lives of many more of our unemployed young people can be transformed in such a radical and inspiring way!

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

Lending data – Have the Banks gone far enough?

MAP 3 Loan value per head (18+)

In July last year the Treasury announced that the UK’s biggest lenders were revealing how much they lent at a local level.  After major campaigns by the likes of Community Investment Coalition, the data was finally released in December through a  framework agreed by the British Bankers AssociationCouncil of Mortgage Lenders and the treasury.  The data provides details at postcode sector level of more than £1tn of lending across Great Britain for residential mortgages, loans to small and medium businesses and unsecured personal loans.

Richard Browne from the Fairbrum team, had a look at the data for Birmingham to see what it said

A blog about what he found can be found on the New Start website:  CLICK HERE

 

 

Do you have a business idea that needs following up?

00394_Catalyst_

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.

Booklet Copy

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.

Birmingham Fair Money 12 week update

Money

Birmingham Fair Money has now been established for 12 weeks since the run up to Christmas, for the sole aim to disrupt the growth of high cost lending in Birmingham by promoting the services of not for profit lenders. Below is a quick summary tells part of the story of what has been achieved over the last three months:

  • 1309 meaningful visits to the temporary cabin – many with existing debt difficulties featuring high cost loans
  • 1580 visits to the website www.birminghamfairmoney.org.uk
  • 3 credit unions – Citysave, Advance and Circul8 and  3 CDFI’s – Moneyline, Street UK and My Home Finance joined together under a single brand

The main success of this project is the way that Birmingham has responded and united behind the need to support local residents who are currently struggling with unaffordable debt, which is taking millions from our city economy each month, withdrawn through our most vulnerable households.

The core staffing for the shop and project was provided by Citysave, but this has been a truly wide effort.

  • Illegal Money Lending team provided the cabin, the signage, the literature and the street passes which allowed us to distribute over 10,000 leaflets during the project, and without their generous support, this project could not have occurred.
  • Cavell Nurses Trust provided welfare advice and support every week, not only to the nurses and midwives currently suffering financial hardship, but to many visitors to the cabin; as well as training to our staff and the other volunteers involved in the project.
  • Aston University provided a whole team of students and staff for this project, and recruited other students from other universities to volunteer and keep the cabin staffed and literature dispensed throughout the 12 weeks.
  • We also welcomed volunteers to the cabin from Shelter, Unison, Age Concern, Severn Trent, Unity Trust, Nat West and Pay Ahead Stay Ahead

Birmingham Fair Money has had unanimous backing of Birmingham City Council, which has been fundamental, and provides a platform for a true legacy to this work. The council Fair Money Manifesto is attached, and sets out a commitment to ensure residents have access to ethical and affordable financial services. Birmingham is the first council to issue such a pledge and lead the fight to better protect residents from predatory and unaffordable lending.

The outcomes from this project have been many and varied and I would ask that you take 10 minutes to read the Birmingham Fair Money Final Report. In one Saturday afternoon at the cabin I met six visitors, all young adults, all working and each of whom felt they were working to pay the interest on their unaffordable debt and facing hardship that was seeing them go without basic necessities. It was a shocking and humbling experience. Rebekah, one of our young graduate volunteers commented on her experience which I think summarises what the project was really able to do:

‘As a volunteer, I was aware that my contribution would be limited and assumed that cabin staff would only raise awareness of alternatives to high cost lenders. Following my first day I realised that I had underestimated both the scope of the project and the role of staff working at the cabin. Early on the first day, one lady enquired about applying for a loan to afford food for Christmas. She had thought that she would have enough money, but her account had been emptied by Wonga and had no extra money until her wages were paid in January. The opportunity to ease such financial hardship was made real with the existence of the cabin and this case, along with others, left me feeling as though everyone was working towards a worthwhile cause.’

The project, combined with recently issued bank data,  http://birminghamfairmoney.org.uk/birmingham-stand-up/  shows that Birmingham residents in many areas do not have access to affordable personal finance through a high street bank. The gap currently, has been met by a range of lenders including pawn brokers, log book loan stores, payday lenders, rent to own lenders, doorstep and other high cost lenders.

We found that operating under a common brand significantly raised the profile of the not for profit lenders to better challenge these lenders. We have the capacity and the capability to do much more, and in doing so reduce the poverty premium, strengthen individual financial households as well as our wider community. It is estimated that for every £1 loaned by a credit union it adds £10 to the local economy, because the money stays here, which is why the board and team at Citysave are committed to reach further.

Thank you for your support and interest in Birmingham Fair Money.

Angela Clements
Chief Executive Officer

Citysave Credit Union Ltd
Owned and managed by the members for the members
Authorised and regulated by the Financial Service Authority FRN: 213258

16 Waterloo Street
Birmingham
B2 5UG
Tel: 0121 616 6200
Email: ceo@citysave.org.uk
Website: www.citysave.org.uk