Are you ready for this …?

Title: A More Equal Wales - Preparing for the Socio-ecoomic Duty

In 2010 the Equality Act was brought into law in the UK. The Socio-economic Duty, an aspect of the Act requiring public bodies to consider how their decisions could reduce socio-economic disadvantage, was something which many anti-poverty policymakers and activists were very excited about, but this bit was not enacted.

In April 2018, Scotland brought the Fairer Scotland Duty in to force, and Wales follows on 31st March 2021. Public bodies will have some work to do in preparation, and in moving forward in a way that complies with the Socio-economic Duty.

Senedd Cymru has produced some excellent guidance and resources to support public bodies to prepare.

Please get in touch if we can help you get ready! A good understanding of socio-economic disadvantage will help you do your best work and deliver great results.

Let’s Try UBI!

On December 3rd, Swansea became the first local council in Wales to add its voice to the growing campaign for a pilot of Universal Basic Income.

There are many ways in which this could improve our society, not just for the individuals struggling to escape poverty but for all of us, because living with inequality hurts everyone.

I could write a lot here, but instead I will hand over to one of my favourite changemakers, public speakers and forward-thinkers, Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe. I love hearing Sophie speak, because she can take you on a journey through so many different themes to demonstrate the holistic importance of taking the right approach to a problem, which, of course, is what the Well-Being of Future Generations Act is all about.

Enjoy Sophie’s short piece on the need for a UBI pilot, and while you’re there, have a look at the other resources offered by the UBI Lab Network. Consider getting involved. If you’d like to see your local council pass a motion in support of a UBI pilot, I might know one or two folks in Swansea who could lend a hand.

Living Wage Increase

As every November, the Living Wage Foundation has announced the increase in rates for within and outside London. Increasingly, the foundation itself resorts to inserting the identifier, “Real” in front of “Living Wage”, to clarify that only this rate of pay is actually calculated to provide full-time workers with a wage that’s adequate for the essentials of a basic, decent lifestyle in modern Britain.

Most people I talk to are unclear about the difference between the Minimum Wage, the National Living Wage, and the (Real) Living Wage. No wonder, when those in power have deliberately created so much confusion.

Mentions of the so-called National Living Wage by Money Saving Expert, the website founded by Money Saving hero, Martin Lewis, often include the same quote; this year’s Spending Review news was no exception:

“When the national living wage was first announced, founder Martin Lewis blasted it as being “naughtily nicked” from the Living Wage Foundation to give “extra credibility” to the scheme despite not paying that amount. “

The fact is that the National Living Wage is not the Living Wage, it is simply the Minimum Wage for people over 25 (23 from April ’21) , and unless/until it catches up with the Living Wage, it isn’t enough to live on, and doesn’t deserve that name.

What fascinates me is that year on year, the Foundation reports the increase required to keep pace with the cost of living … while policymakers choose not to intervene to lower the costs of the essential items that are added up to work out what the Living Wage needs to be. In 2014, for the first time, a car became an essential household item if your household included any children, because public transport had become so a) absent and b) expensive. Doing something to improve public transport, making it more accessible and affordable, would reduce the cost of this household essential, lowering the amount that responsible employers need to pay in order to ensure their workers can afford a decent life.

Instead, the Foundation reports the increase in living costs, and employers agonise about whether they can keep pace with it or not. Conscientious local councils have had some respite from this worry over the last couple of years, since the pay floor agreed has been at (Real) Living Wage levels. Time will tell if this parity continues, or if the lowest public sector earners may slip back below the amount needed for a decent, basic standard of living.

A Year On …

It is only a year since the fabulous Race Equality & Social Justice Conference held by Race Council Cymru and 4theRegion. Looking back at video footage of people crammed chummily into seats right next to each other, milling around with drinks and chatting, without masks on is surreal. The event was some 7 months before the shocking death of George Floyd … 8 months before angry people in Bristol threw a statue into the harbour … and we had plenty to talk about, as people concerned about race and equality always have.

“Black Lives Matter” took on even more resonance as Covid spread and people realised the particular risk faced by BAME people. All sorts of factors are at play here, not just poverty, but poverty is most certainly relevant. It is relevant to front-line, poorly paid care-workers, who can’t take time off, no matter how frightened they are. It is relevant to larger families in homes without enough rooms for a sick person to isolate from others. And I believe it is relevant to the everyday stress that affects people’s immune systems, and is worse for people on low incomes, and no doubt worse for people who feel uneasy going about their daily lives, as many BAME people so tragically and unfairly do. More on that in a future article. Today I just wish to look back with gratitude for a wonderful event that combined knowledgeable speakers, an enthusiastic audience and a lively atmosphere.

4theRegion continues to deliver excellent online conferences and talks – do check them out.