Birmingham unites cities to tackle social exclusion

Click on the audio file above for Cllr John Cotton’s comments on the Birmingham Declaration on Social Inclusion.

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 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 formation of the National Social Inclusion Network and the Birmingham Declaration came out of the National Social Inclusion Symposium 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.

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. For example:

Birmingham Fair Money campaign – Birmingham’s response to the prolific rise in high cost lending in the city, leading to the launch of the Fair Money Manifesto in December 2013. 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.

Places of Welcome – a network of community places that offer information, contact and assistance for new arrivals to the city and to people who move from one neighbourhood to another, underpinned by values of hospitality, simplicity and generosity. By the end of 2013 it had 17 members, with a further 30 expressions of interest in joining from other organisations.

Welfare Reform Multi-Agency Committee – bringing together a wide range of council services, external services and voluntary agencies, this committee has rapidly taken a leading position in the development of local welfare policies. It has raised Lottery funding to set up the Gateway to Birmingham Advice Services project, developed the city’s policy on Discretionary Housing Payments (with over 9000 payments made to date) and re-established the Financial Inclusion Partnership which is developing the city’s response to illegal loan sharks and the Fair Money Manifesto.

Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) – launched by the University of Birmingham in June 2013, IRiS is at the forefront of high quality research to inform policy-making and to answer the globally, nationally and locally important questions that emerge at the nexus of migration, faith, language, ethnicity and culture. Its Practitioner Research Programme helps individuals and organisations in the city to gain a deeper understanding of the diverse communities that they work with and allows the city to pool this information to develop a better knowledge about Birmingham’s superdiversity.

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, said: “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.”

ENDS

Notes for editors:

  • The Birmingham Declaration on Social Inclusion can be downloaded here: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Birmingham-Declaration-On-Social-Inclusion.pdf
  • The Barrow Cadbury Trust is an independent, charitable foundation committed to supporting vulnerable and marginalised people in society. The Trust provides grants to grassroots voluntary and community groups working in deprived communities in the UK, with a focus on Birmingham and the Black County. It also works with researchers, think tanks and government, seeking to overcome the structural barriers to a more just and equal society.
  • For more information on the Birmingham Declaration or the National Social Inclusion Network or to arrange interviews, please contact Geoff Coleman, press officer, Birmingham City Council by email to geoffrey.coleman@birmingham.gov.uk or phone 0121 303 3501.
  • Social media: follow the network on Twitter @FairBrum using the hashtag #fairplaces.
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