There are many International Days Of…. that we mark, but today’s is particularly worth stopping what you’re doing, putting your cup of coffee down and taking time to consider. Today is World Day of Social Justice. Developed by the United Nations, it is a day to remember the commitments made across the world to promote national and global economic systems that are based on the principles of justice, equity, democracy, participation, transparency, accountability and inclusion.
With ‘World’ in the title it is easy to immediately jump to the global context or ask what political leaders can do, but the challenge to create these systems is as acute here in the UK as anywhere and involves you and I.
In September 2019 the UK government published its latest Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). It focuses upon seven factors that are considered to impact the life chances and outcomes of people living in a neighbourhood– these are Income, employment, health and disability, education, skills and training; crime; barriers to housing or services and the living environment. Those at the top of the index are considered to experience the worst living conditions, highest levels of poverty and fewest opportunities. Whilst the language the index employs can be stigmatising, the importance of paying attention to these factors cannot be underestimated and as a Foundation we use the scale to inform where we invest our funds.
The rankings of neighbourhoods across the country on IMD2019 has not changed to the extent you might wish from its previous version. 88 per cent of neighbourhoods that are at the top of the index were also at the top of the IMD2015. Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Knowsley, Kingston upon Hull and Manchester are the local authorities with the highest proportions of neighbourhoods at the top of the index. The challenges faced by these neighbourhoods is not shifting and the outcomes continue to be poor.
I grew up in one of these areas. My mum’s family are from Middlesbrough and we lived there until I was 10. I loved living there, I did well at school there, I had good childhood health and lived in a strong community. There is a lot to be said for Middlesbrough, but there is an injustice in the fact that the disproportionately poor health, low wages, unemployment levels and barriers to housing experienced by Middlesbrough residents remain unchanged. Middlesbrough alongside Blackpool ranks as the place in England with the highest number of children living in poverty.
On this World Day of Social Justice the global situation is brought into focus, but so should the local situations you and I encounter. At the Virgin Money Foundation we use our funds to support change happening in the communities that need the money the most. We back the incredible people in Middlesbrough and beyond who work to support local people and create strong positive communities.
The work cannot be left to charities or foundations, political leaders or businesses. The work of social justice is the work of each of us. Each of us upholds the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality, champion Youth Voice, ensure the provision of advice and support, or work to regenerate a local community. Each of us can advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, place of birth, income or disability and work to build inclusive work places, communities and families. Each of us can advance social justice through the shopping we buy, the hiring decisions we make or the questions we ask our political leaders.
May this World Day of Social Justice be a reminder for us all to work for a fairer world.
Virgin Money Foundation