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

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

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

MASTERCLASS 101            11.00am – 4.00pm

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

DRAGONS DEN                    4.00pm – 5.00pm

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

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

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

 

 

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

Enterprise Catalyst Business Support Initiative

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

Enterprise Catalyst initiative

Enterprise Catalyst initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Loan Sharks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Good luck!”

 

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

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.

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

Financial advice at market Christmas grotto

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Birmingham families will be able to get more from Father Christmas than they bargained for at the Bullring market this weekend.

Whilst treating their youngster to see Father Christmas for free, parents will be encouraged to seek advice on the dangers of loan sharks and help in money management in the run up to the Christmas holidays.

The grotto will be at front of the Bullring Indoor Market on Saturday 14th December between 11.30am and 3.00pm for a chance to meet Father Christmas and receive a small gift, all parents will need to do is bring their own camera or mobile phone to take their pictures.

Co-organised by The England Illegal Money Lending Team, Birmingham’s Financial Inclusion Partnership and the Bullring, they will also be running a treasure hunt competition throughout the market. The aim will be to raise people’s awareness of the hazards and impact that borrowing money from loan sharks can have on individuals and their families.

Individuals will also have the opportunity to win an Ipad which will be drawn in the New Year.