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Barrow Cadbury Trust is very pleased to announce the appointment of Anna Fielding as the Learning Partner for our Economic Justice programme. Anna is a strategist, researcher and facilitator, with a specialism in economic systems change.

White person with cropped dark brown hair, wearing a black high necked top

She has 20 years’ experience of working for social, environmental and economic justice, across civil society, purpose-driven business, philanthropy and academia, and she has played an important role in the UK’s new economics sector for over a decade.

Anna has specialist training in evaluation and learning for complex systems change, which she combines with a commitment to equitable evaluation, participatory research methods, and critical pedagogy. She has designed and facilitated learning programmes for small and large non-profit organisations, social innovation initiatives and public sector partnerships, and she coaches individuals and teams to embed impact planning and assessment in their work. We are very pleased that she will be bringing all these skills to bear as we develop and deliver our economic justice work.

The Trust’s Economic Justice programme work is now focussed on Birmingham where the Trust has historic roots and where were already involved in place-based activity. The programme is being co-created with local Birmingham partners. Our intention is, over time, to create a movement of people from across Birmingham who, in different ways, wish to influence how Birmingham’s economy is structured and managed to increase economic justice.

We have recruited Huddlecraft as a facilitator of a growing action network and are in the process of recruiting a learning partner.

We are now looking to recruit a Communications Partner to work with us for the remainder of our current five-year strategic period (to end March 2027) to support participation and engagement, and share learning from the programme.

The programme is at an early stage but we have identified the need for a dedicated website and a communications strategy and plan detailing how to keep participants and others informed about and engaged with the work.

Communications Partner connection to Birmingham

We consider that an understanding of Birmingham and local connections is essential to the delivery of the brief. In addition, we want wherever possible for our programme spend to benefit Birmingham’s economy. We will therefore only consider applications from individuals or organisations based in Birmingham or the very immediate surrounds.

Application deadline: 17.00 on Monday 30 October
Shortlisting Monday 6 November
Interviews: Wednesday 15 November in Birmingham

Find out more about the Economic Justice programme and the Communications Partner role.

Individuals and communities in Birmingham are coalescing around the theme of economic justice and seeking to build a local economy that truly serves the people says Anna Garlands of Huddlecraft – the Network’s facilitator – in this cross-posted blog.

As summer drew to a close this year, a group of bold and curious individuals came together in a room in Birmingham to participate in a “Kick Off” session for the Economic Justice Action Network. This Network, initiated and curated by Barrow Cadbury Trust and facilitated by Huddlecraft, seeks to tackle the root causes of economic injustice in Birmingham and beyond, pulling focus on the systems that perpetuate and amplify inequality within the city. The room was packed out with folks with varying associations with the theme of economic justice, all eager for meaningful change, all ready for action and all keen to learn more about how the Action Network could facilitate the systemic shifts we want and need to see.

When we talk about economic justice within this space, we are referring to a sense of economic fairness. Everyone having enough money to live. Everyone having access to the essentials of life: clean air, good public services, suitable housing, positive health care experiences, access to green spaces and, ultimately, equal life chances. Economic justice is about changing our social and economic structures so that people aren’t disadvantaged by their position in society, for example gender, ethnicity, class or disability. Economic justice is ensuring that the decisions that are made by those with power and the money that is generated in Birmingham, benefit everyone, not just those with power. It is about protecting the environment for future generations and it is halting the trend of the growing gap between rich and poor.

The Action Network has emerged because we recognise that the way Birmingham’s economy is structured does not deliver economic justice. There are areas of persistent poverty, wide disparities between the most and least affluent sections of the population and, as in other areas, structural racism, sexism and other–isms prevent many people attaining a decent standard of living and others being ill-rewarded for the work they do. Statutory agencies recognise the long-standing problems of economic exclusion and their strategies reflect a desire for change. However, things are not moving far or fast enough, and new solutions are needed.

Because we are all part of the economy, we should have a say in how it works and be able to challenge those in power on their economic choices and values. But what do we actually mean when we talk about ‘the economy’?

In his presentation at the Kick Off event, Joe Earle from People’s Economy shared that the economy is a relatively modern invention. It gives value to items that fit into the gross domestic product (GDP) framework — a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced in a specific time period by a country or countries. Within this GDP framework, much essential work is ignored, for example unpaid care work, key workers and ‘low skilled’ workers. GDP also fails to provide a good measure of health, wellbeing or justice. It is crucial that we broaden our view and consider the economy as a system. It is about resources; money, buildings, land, food, energy, people’s time, it is about how they are used for different purposes, and how decisions about distribution of those resources are made.

It is also crucial for us to consider interconnected economic systems at different scales. How and where is the Birmingham economy impacted by broader UK economic systems? How do global economic systems affect the UK? We need to understand and examine how Birmingham’s economic system is shaped by government and corporate decisions, as well as by cultures and behaviours formed and developed outside of the city.

Birmingham’s economic system is like an iceberg. The unjust outcomes are visible but much of how the system operates and the conditions that uphold it, are hidden below the surface. In order to create the change we want to see, we first need to understand the system to explain why the system operates in a particular way and then develop interventions which can bring about change.

When thinking about the entrenched power and ideas which uphold Birmingham’s economic system, working for change can feel like a daunting and unlikely prospect. The good news is that systems are not static, they are changing all the time, and there are already many people doing important work to change our economic systems in all sorts of ways. We want to amplify and build upon this work.

The Action Network is a place for alliance-building, learning, developing ideas for change and action.

The Action Network is folk coming together to build a shared, working understanding of the economy - learning about how the current system perpetuates inequality; how adopting an intersectionality lens can widen our approach; how alternative economic models and systems can be imagined and implemented in Birmingham. The Action Network is people coming together to dissect, examine and map out the existing economic landscape in the city, identifying and engaging levers of change. The Action Network is seeding and cultivating an interconnected web of citizens, grassroots activists, change-makers and disruptors from across the city, all sharing a common view that change is possible and the need is urgent.

We recognise that no single sector  -  the public sector, private business or civil society  –  can change things alone, but that we need to work together, harnessing the ideas, experience and energy of individuals and organisations to make Birmingham a city that works for everyone.

The Action Network is open to anyone with an interest in making our economy work better for local people. What you will have in common is:

  • a willingness to have conversations and work with a variety of people who you otherwise may never encounter;
  • an energy and excitement for learning about the economy and how we can imagine design fairer, regenerative and distributive economic systems;
  • an appetite for action and creating change within the spheres you are affiliated with;
  • the ability to attend Action Network meetings every other month, where possible.

We have been delighted to see so many people from a broad range of sectors and backgrounds attend the Taster event (July) and the Kick Off meeting (August). There is clearly an appetite for spaces to connect, learn and explore these issues and we will be welcoming new members throughout the coming six months.

The next meeting will be taking place on Wednesday 4 October and we would be delighted to see you there. Refreshments and lunch will be provided. Please sign up via this link if you would like to join.

The second ‘State of Economic Justice in Birmingham and the Black Country’, authored by the New Policy Institute and supported by the Trust, revisits themes and data from the first report, whilst incorporating current concerns and interests of local stakeholders.

The majority of data analysis took place pre COVID-19, but figures which were already worrying took on increased weightiness in the context of the pandemic.  Over recent years, levels of deprivation across Birmingham and the Black Country have, at least in relative terms, worsened, with some populations faring much worse than others.

The deep and chronic disadvantage described in the report can, however, be alleviated if those with their hands on the economic levers – regional and local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and large employers – explicitly address the question of how economic benefits are distributed.

According to Sara Llewellin, CEO at Barrow Cadbury Trust:

“Many people were already struggling to manage on low incomes, but job loss, reduced savings and high unemployment, mean that many who just about got by before will now find themselves in need in a way they never imagined.

Challenges will be deeper and local authorities, statutory bodies, private business, social enterprise, faith groups and the voluntary sector across Birmingham and the Black Country will have to be creative and collaborative in ways never seen before. There are enormous challenges ahead and we hope this report provides evidence to assist action, target resources and attract additional attention to the region from a range of audiences. We are well aware both of the challenges facing stakeholders in Birmingham and the Black Country, but also the assets and wonderful work that is already being delivered by so many of those we know and respect”.

Read the report.

A new report by the New Policy Institute (NPI) and Barrow Cadbury Trust ‘The State of Economic Justice in Birmingham and the Black Country’ paints a fresh narrative and analysis of data on the population of Birmingham and the Black Country, focusing on household resources, employment, skills and wages, levels of deprivation and housing and homelessness.

Like many other local authorities, Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton have struggled in a period of cuts. These budget cuts have affected the delivery of services and child poverty has risen.  Working-age poverty rates have risen as well as in-work poverty – 33% of households in Birmingham and the Black Country are classed as ‘mixed’, with only one employed adult. And the level of working age residents aged over 25 in Birmingham (50 %) and the Black Country (58%) with low skills, militate against increasing labour productivity.

Peter Kenway, one of the report’s authors and NPI’s Director said: “Birmingham and the Black Country face problems around employment, deprivation and housing as bad as anywhere in England. Central government policies, for example on social security and local government funding, deepen these problems and hamper locally-led responses. Big inequalities within the West Midlands, notably between the weakness of the Black Country economy and the economic strength of Coventry and Solihull, should be a top priority for the elected Mayor”.

Whilst it’s hard to ignore the massive gaps between this region and other parts of the country such as the South East and Manchester, the information in this report will help local authority leaders and private, voluntary sector and social enterprise partners to better understand the gaps and where to focus energy and resources.

Opportunities presented by HS2, the 2022 Commonwealth Games and other enterprises and business – many relocating from the South – will bring economic growth and prosperity to the region but, the authors of the report argue, should be forged through a lens of fairer and more inclusive economic growth. This is already in the hearts and minds of city leaders – the Inclusive Growth Unit within the West Midlands Combined Authority offers opportunity for co-operation and partnership around skills development, industrial growth and employment matched to areas of need.

Read a summary of the report.
Read the full report.

 

Angela Clements blogs about how ethical credit alternatives such as Fair for You will benefit not just those on low incomes, but everyone

I have lived and worked in Birmingham all my adult life, the last 10 years almost exclusively providing affordable credit as an alternative to high cost credit, firstly running a credit union and then Fair for You.

It’s a generalisation but on the whole our customers are women, in lower income households, with some caring obligation and in part-time work.  ‘Managing mums’ is a term that has been coined in recent months. I would say these women are sassy, switched on, entrepreneurial, hard working, and not really managing very well at all. Or at least they are until something goes wrong when they need access to fair, affordable and well- designed credit.

I have sat in rooms over the last 10 years, hearing my customers talk about the need for financial education, budgeting and debt advice.  I felt strongly throughout those years that they need better alternatives to the credit options that are currently available.

In 2014, a group of us spent hours listening to mums of younger children in Northfield, Birmingham tell us very frankly and openly about their experience with high cost credit. I went in there thinking I knew what Fair for You would look like, and I came out knowing what it had to look like.

Some amazing people and organisations have backed our work over the last three years, but we never lost sight of what we were told, and we delivered what those people needed.

High cost credit isn’t just expensive – all versions of high cost credit have that in common. But the other common trait is that it is designed for the benefit of the lender, and to take maximum extraction from the customers’ financial household.

The term the ‘poverty premium’ is used to describe  the additional costs  low income households – in other words those who have less consumer power – have when purchasing essential goods and services. Whilst the amount of that premium fluctuates in various situations, it is always consistent that the lion’s share is made up of high cost credit i.e. the additional cost of using credit when faced with emergencies.  And the same households need credit when hit by emergencies, as they have less insulation and resilience to what to other people would be relatively minor emergencies.  There seems little point in measures to address poverty in the UK, without removing the poverty premium.

On 22 March we release the third social impact report relating to the work of Fair for You, a national challenger to high cost credit that directly responds to all of the needs we identified in our research. Now I don’t just have the voices of the mums who came to all of the sessions we ran, I have thousands of voices of customers whose financial situation has been changed because they have access to an alternative.  They prove every day, that they don’t need education and advice, they need better alternatives.

Fair for You is on line, available seven days a week, customer focused and a modern solution that uses multi-media communications including social media. Put simply, credit delivered with dignity and respect, designed to meet the lives of mums – and anyone else – who juggles, struggles and are not really managing at all.

And our customers love it – we are so proud to be rated among the highest financial services in the UK according to Trustpilot.

Please check us out and if you can support our work and our drive to change the way we lend to lower income households, then we would love to talk to you.

Angela Clements is the CEO  of Fair for You

Read Centre for Responsible Credit’s Social Impact Report

www.fairforyou.org.uk

www.fairforyou.co.uk

 

 

The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) is an independent, not-for-profit think tank that has scrutinised the gender impact of social and economic policy decisions of successive governments for more than two decades.  In response to the 2017 Budget, on Social Care Women’s Budget Group welcomed the announcement of an additional £2bn for social care over three years but said it is not enough, with the funding gap estimated to reach £2.8bn and £3.5bn annually by the end of the Parliament.

“The social care crisis hits women hardest. Not only are the majority of paid and unpaid carers women, but the majority of those with care needs are women too. While Hammond focused on older people blocking beds in the NHS, we know that there are around 1.86 million people over the age of 50 with unmet care needs, the majority of whom are women. 

“Tackling this requires more funding than was announced today and a new approach. We look forward to Government’s Green Paper later in the year for further details on its proposed strategic approach for addressing this crisis.”

According to WBG the announcement of “the additional £20 million for domestic violence services for the next two years, while welcome, is insufficient compared to the scale of the problem. Sexual violence services are excluded from this additional funding, even though we know that these services are severely stretched. It costs £70m annually to run Rape Crisis England and Wales and they currently have a £10m budget shortfall, yet will not see any of this additional money.

“The Chancellor also announced £5m for women returning to work and £5m for celebrations to mark the centenary in 2018 of women gaining the vote. This will make no difference to the daily lives of ordinary women that have lost the most, and gained the least, from changes to taxes and benefits. We know that women in the poorest 20% of households by 2020/21 will be losing £1,600 a year on average as a result of changes to taxes and benefits since 2010.

On the National Insurance rise for self-employment WBG said: “The Chancellor’s announcement on the treatment of employees and the self-employed is welcome. In particular we welcome the move to equalise parental rights for the self-employed.  However, by focusing on the contributions paid by the self-employed, these measures do little to disincentivise employers from pushing individuals into bogus self-employment. We urge the Chancellor and government to look at this as a matter of urgency as it particularly affects women, who are also then denied access to the protections of employees.

And on the failure to carry out a robust Equality Impact analysis: “The Chancellor and Treasury have again failed to undertake a robust equality impact assessment of the Budget, despite their obligations under the Equality Act and calls for the Women and Equalities Select Committee to improve its reporting of equality impact. Without such an assessment, the government cannot fully understand the impact of its decisions on different groups, including impact, or how to minimise unintended negative impacts.

The Women’s Budget Group has published an independent distributional impact assessment by income, gender, and ethnicity in collaboration with Runnymede as well as a report on the gender impact assessment of the Spring Budget 2017.

 

A new report from Fairbanking Foundation finds overwhelming evidence that Save As You Borrow (SAYB) schemes by credit unions can be successful in turning people into habitual savers. Research by the Fairbanking Foundation carried out by Ipsos MORI shows that 67% of SAYB users who had no savings, and found it impossible to put money aside, now have plans to save regularly throughout the year as a result of using a Save As You Borrow product.

This habitual change, brought about by the integration of savings features in financial products, has been hailed by the Archbishop of Canterbury as “having a transformative effect on the financial lives” of SAYB users. The new Save As You Borrow – Credit Unions Creating Good Habits report, was launched at a session of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on credit unions.

Illustrating the scale of the positive impact of SAYB schemes, the report found that only 26% of respondents were saving regularly before taking out an SAYB loan. Through the positive effect of SAYB encouraged saving, 71% of users said they would continue to save regularly throughout the year after paying back the loan. An overwhelming majority of 97% of respondents confirmed that they found the approach from credit unions helpful in encouraging them to save.

When respondents were asked about how they thought their SAYB product was helping them, almost a third replied that they would find it difficult to save if it wasn’t done for them through their loan. One in five also replied that they realised the need to set funds aside for a “rainy day”. Only 15 out of 1,055 respondents said that they thought saving while repaying the loan was unhelpful.

Credit union loans are among the most competitive in the market for amounts up to £3,000. Although customers might think that it takes a little longer and there is an incremental increase in the interest costs of SAYB loans, the additional cost brought about by the savings features will in most cases prove to be very small. On top of this, 79% of people said that this approach was worth it in the long run. 17% of these spontaneously said that it paid off, quite literally, in terms of having a lump sum at the end of the loan and 12% said that it helped change their approach to saving in the future.

In addition to the SAYB impact, the report analysed the effectiveness of further product features that are deemed positive for the financial well-being of their customers and found that many of these prove highly effective as well, such as the support that is given to borrow the right amount: 81% of respondents said that they had reviewed their income and expenditure in order to work out how much they could afford.