Leeds and other key cities unite to tackle social exclusion

Leeds is further cementing its efforts to tackle issues of social inequality by joining other towns and cities in a new national network.

To symbolise the commitment Leeds City Council has signed the Birmingham Declaration on Social Inclusion, published today (Tues March 18).

It 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.

In Leeds the council has for some time been re-focusing its services and working with partner organisations to tackle poverty and create job opportunities.

People needing help in the city have a strong network of support available to them, with council staff and partners able to either directly help or refer them for advice on issues such as job training, benefits and how to get low-cost help with debt from organisations such as credit unions rather than resorting to payday lenders.

Recent partnerships have also been set up between Leeds City Council and both the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and the Young Foundation, both of which are strongly rooted in tackling inequality.

Last month the council and JRF launched the More Jobs, Better Jobs partnership*. It aims to make sure that policy thinking and practical work out in communities are linked and influence each other. It is also working with The Young Foundation on social sustainability and reducing health inequalities.

Meanwhile, in signing the Birmingham Declaration, Leeds has 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 it 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 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.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“These are incredibly challenging times and our greatest priority is to ensure that those most vulnerable do not get left behind. This can only be achieved by everyone working together to give people strong support along with the opportunity to challenge their circumstances and make better lives for themselves.

“We are doing this against the backdrop of greatly reduced budgets and we have to develop new ways of working with partners and the community to make sure we make the most of our combined resources to deliver the best possible outcomes for our citizens.”

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. They are: living wage and income inequality; impact of welfare reform; fuel, finance and food; education and skills; youth employment; access and affordable transport; democratic accountability and housing.

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.”

Notes to editors:

• The Birmingham Declaration on Social Inclusion can be downloaded from www.fairnessnetwork.wordpress.com.

• 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 “More Jobs, Better Jobs” partnership between Leeds City Council and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation go to http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/more-jobs-better-jobs

• Further details about the work of the Young Foundation can be found here: http://youngfoundation.org/

• Leeds City Council also established The Commission on the Future of Local Government, to unleash the power of everyone in communities to play their part in influencing their own area. Read more about it here: http://civicenterpriseuk.wordpress.com/commission-final-report/

• Social media: follow the network on Twitter @FairBrum using the hashtag #fairplaces.

For media enquiries please contact:

Donna Cox, Leeds City Council press office, 0113- 224 3335

Email donna.cox@leeds.gov.uk