City brings country together to fight social exclusion
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities
Cities, towns and boroughs across the country have united to tackle issues of social inequality in a new national network set up by the leader of Birmingham City Council and the Bishop of Birmingham.
To symbolise their commitment to working together, the leaders of the participating local authorities have signed the 'Birmingham Declaration on Social Inclusion', published today.
The declaration states that, against a backdrop of public sector cuts, the task of creating more inclusive cities has moved beyond what local or national government can do on their own and that there is an urgent need to rally resources and expertise.
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 so far 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 network’s activities will be focused on eight themes that were identified from the reports produced by fairness and poverty commissions from around the country and developed at the symposium. Each theme is being coordinated by a local authority member of the network. They are:
• Living wage and income inequality (Islington)
• Impact of welfare reform (Birmingham)
• Fuel, finance and food (Plymouth)
• Education and skills (Liverpool)
• Youth employment (Birmingham)
• Transport, access and affordability (Sheffield)
• Democratic accountability (Newcastle)
• Housing (Tower Hamlets)
Birmingham has already been working to tackle social exclusion locally - 2013 saw the publication of the white paper 'Making Birmingham an Inclusive City', and the recommendations made in the report are now being put into action.
The campaign sets out the city’s clear commitments to challenging high cost loans, helping people to tackle unaffordable debt and ensuring that Birmingham residents are able to access ethical financial services by calling for better regulation of high cost lenders, supporting the expansion of credit unions, engaging with banks so that they widen their services to residents and seeking powers to allow the council to manage the growth and operation of high cost lenders.
Cllr John Cotton, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for social cohesion and equalities, said: "I entered politics to help people and I'm proud to say that this declaration represents a very real commitment to improving the lives of millions of people across the country. Even as we face up to unprecedented cuts, the councils signing up to the declaration are demonstrating a united commitment to those people who feel they have been marginalised for too long.
“It's clear that we're all facing similar challenges. Looking across the various fairness commission reports and frameworks that have been developed it is also clear that we all share a common determination to address deep-rooted issues of inequality and disadvantage and to deliver the changes needed."
The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, added: “The strength of the Birmingham Social Inclusion Process which I have been chairing for the past two years is that it has not been simply about defining the problem, but instead, building a movement to drive forward the solutions that are needed to address the significant disadvantage that exists in our city.
"This is not just the responsibility of a few policy-makers but rather the opportunity for everyone to play their part as life-changers and hope-givers in the places they call home.
“Creating a national movement is another step in the process. The National Social Inclusion Network will provide an opportunity to bring together our experience and expertise, learn from each other and combine our efforts to build a strong collective voice to articulate the arguments for social inclusion for all our communities across the country.”
Rob Willoughby, Children’s Society’s Director for the West Midlands, said: “This is a hugely positive step in the right direction.
“The Children’s Society welcomes and supports the announcement of Birmingham City Council’s declaration which aims to bring together local authorities to fight social inequality and poverty.
"We wholeheartedly believe more needs to be done to create a more socially inclusive UK and this declaration marks a major move towards that.
“There is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor, with nearly 4 million children living in poverty – this simply cannot continue. Increasingly, local authorities are being asked to come up with the answers, and urgently need to work together to achieve change. Signing this declaration shows their commitment to that process and underlines the importance of forging strong partnerships.
“Challenges for local authorities range from providing access to affordable credit and emergency support for families, through to ensuring services such as children’s centres – provided by organisations like The Children’s Society - are able to reach those most in need . We hope this campaign, headed by the Bishop of Birmingham, will go towards addressing these issues and improve the lives of vulnerable families.
“This level of partnership will enable action which will hopefully make a real difference in their lives."