Last night we held “A Conversation About Race..” – a Listening Event with BME groups in Plymouth. It proved to be a very emotional two hours where we were told of individual stories of racism that people have encoutered in the city.
We heard of people being spat at in the street, comments made from young children and harassment from neighbours who want to drive their black neighbour out of her home. We were also told of incidents where young black people have wanted to bleach their skin and iron their hair. One of the things that came up, was the small things that happen on a day to day basis where the lines are blurred and some people don’t always realise that they are being racist and actually really hurting someone.
A white man spoke to us about his black grandchild – she asked him if it was okay for her to stare back at all of the people who stared at her as they both walked through town. It’s heartbreaking for a young child to have noticed that.
It was also said that their voices are not heard. There was a much better situation in Plymouth 20+ years ago than there is now, things seem to have gone backwards. This is a similar situation to what we heard from our LGBT event and also similar is the feeling that there is a lack of reporting incidents, because of a lack of trust in the system into actually doing something about it.
“Because I’m white people think it’s okay to share racist comments with me. It’s not. I try to challenge it as much as I can, but if I did every time I heard it… It’s tiring for me, so what must it be like to actually live it?”
On Friday we released our Summer of Listening report which gave details into what is perceived as fair and unfair in Plymouth by its residents. It can be found here on our website.
Throughout the Summer of Listening, commissioners did just that – listened. They listened to people across the city who may not have otherwise had a chance to have their say by using a number of methods of collecting information. This included satellite meetings with community groups, walkabouts, street surveys, e-surveys, select committees and listening events. The report not only states what people found to be unfair about the city, but also listened to what was perceived to be fair.
The findings in this report will be used to shape the final recommendations which will be presented in March 2014, not just to the council, but to leaders all across the city.
A summary of the issues that the report found to be unfair:
Financial issues including the cost of living, Housing: lack of affordable homes and lack of suitable housing, Education: including the differences in quality of provision, the allocation system, the 11+ and a difference in attainment by area, Lack of support for those with mental health issues, Cost of public transport, Access to healthcare and dentistry, Affordable healthy food, Discrimination amongst race, disabilities and LGBT groups, alcohol and drug related abusive and anti-social behaviour, Barriers to involvement in community activities, Health inequalities and obesity, High cost and availability of parking in the city centre, Lack of employment opportunities for young people, Barriers to successful engagement in apprenticeship schemes, Absence on major employers in the city, Number of closed shops in the city centre, Large number of national chains at the expense of local shops and Small businesses lacking the ability to influence city policy
A summary of the issues that the report found to be fair:
Education: Anti bullying, equality of access and good standard of teaching, Access to adult learning, Social housing: allocation and investment in new build properties, Good healthcare provision, Citizen engagement opportunities, Abusive and anti-social behaviour issues are dealt with promptly by police of PCSOs, Current mix of shops meet local needs, Parking: acceptable costs and appropriate number of spaces, Park and ride facilities and Opportunities for employment and skills development
The next step is for the Plymouth Fairness Commission to release its Interim Report/Position Statement which will highlight the key areas of concern which will be taken from the Summer of Listening report.
We really have a lot to learn from Islington Fairness Commission. More than two years on from completing its final recommendations the commission is staying true to its word and heping to fight for fairness in the area.
Their first recommendation is “No-one in Islington should do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on.” This has been widely supported by Islington Fairness Commission by encouraging businesses to become Living Wage Employers which is something that Islington Council has supported, becoming the joint first Local Authority to gain accreditation as a London Living Wage employer in 2012.
The standard has been set high and here in Plymouth we will make sure that we follow the level of commitment that we have seen from Isligngton.
1 in 5 people in the UK are earning below the living wage. Minimum wage is set to £6.31, yet to actually be earning the living wage everyone in the UK (outside of London) should be earning a minimum of £7.45. This shows major issue of unfairness that is faced all over the country and shows that, as also stated by the State of the Nation report, that those who are in work are more likely to be facing poverty.
Campaigners in the South West are encouraging businesses in the area to pledge to pay their workers at least the living wage. It is argued that doing this will actually help to improve the current economy and will enable to put more money back into it due to a willingness to spend.
This relates back to our previous blog post we mentioned about the rise in shoplifting which could be down to the high cost of living. This has resurfaced in the past few days following new evidence, but it just goes to show that something needs to be done.
UPDATE: It has been announced that the living wage has now risen to £7.65 – 04/11/2013
At yesterday’s Mental Health Select Committee we were joined by Julia Moore – Mental Health and Liaison Officer from Devon and Cornwall Police, Lin Walton – Mental Health Commissioner NEW Devon CCG, Sarah Lees – Office of the Director of Public Health, Sharon Claridge – Plymouth MIND, David Mcauley – Community Mental Health Services and Paul Boyes – Vice Principal at Lipson Co-operative Academy.
Many points were discussed and below are a selection of these points and possible ways of improving the current situation:
There is a high need for mental health services for children in Plymouth and some children can be waiting for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for up to six months.
There are high levels of mental health needs because of key risk factors in Plymouth which includes; deprivation, unemployment, poor housing and drugs and alcohol.
Some people have to go to Exeter for care, sometimes further, depending on their specific needs as some services are not available in Plymouth.
There hasn’t been, and there should be more spend on prevention and promotion of mental health issues in Plymouth.
Devon and Cornwall police has one of the highest numbers of people detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. It has been known for children as young as 12 to be arrested under this section because there is nowhere else for them to go.
Plymouth has the highest levels in the country of self-harm.
We need to look at what we can do to create extra value. For example, GPs spend an extra 10 minutes with their patient to identify the root cause and direct them to somewhere catering to their specific needs as opposed to a generalised process.
There needs to be focus on stopping people from feeling stigmatised if they admit to having an issue.
The Plymouth Fairness Commission would like to thank all those that attended the select committee for their valuable input which will be used to help form the commission’s recommendations
According to a study by Age UK, it has been found that a quarter of over 65s are worried about staying warm and states that it is possible that up to 24000 older people may not survive the cold weather.
Almost 6 million older people are concerned about the hike in energy bills which could lead to preventable illnesses and deaths this winter. The ideal temperature for living rooms is 21c and bedrooms should be kept at 18c. This will help to prevent the likelihood and severity of flu, chest infections and other repertory problems as well as a rise in blood pressure which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
People are being urged to keep an eye on elderly family members, friends and neighbours, so let’s all do our bit to make sure that Plymouth stays safe this winter and help someone who might be affected by the cold weather.
Tesco has revealed its food waste figures for the first time ever which has shown a large amount of waste being disposed of by the supermarket. Here are some interesting statistics from the article from the Guardian released today:
28500 tonnes of food was wasted by Tesco during the first six months of this year
68% of salad sold in bags is wasted (35% of this is done in the home)
40% of apples are wasted
Just under half of bakery items are wasted
A quarter of all grapes are wasted between the vine and the fruit bowl
A fifth of bananas are unused and customers throw out 1 in 10
In order to tackle this, Tesco will remove multi-buy promotions on bagged salads and will remove display until dates from fresh fruit and veg among other initiatives.
It also estimated that families are throwing away on average £700 worth of unwanted food each year (according to the article on The Guardian website)– yet it has been found that Plymouth is below the average with annual waste at around £400. Whilst this is below the national average, it is still a large amount of money that will make a difference to a lot of families in the area. Food is often thrown away either because it is passed its sell by date or because people have prepared too much and Tesco has said that it will help by providing tips to customers on how to keep their food waste to a minimum.
It could be argued that less food is wasted in Plymouth because there are people in this city who understand the value of food a lot more than people elsewhere might do. During our food select committee, it was brought up how packaged fruit and veg is not a viable option for some people in Plymouth as it is more food than what they need at a higher price, so the reduction of packaged fruit and veg will make healthy options more accessible to poorer people in the city.
Hopefully these figures will make more people around the country aware of the amount of food that is wasted unnecessarily and will encourage people to think more throughly about the quantities which they buy, in effect saving them quite a large amount of money over a period of time.
Last night we held a listening event to talk to the LGBT community in Plymouth to discuss what issues of unfairness they face in the city and how the situation could be improved. As there was such an impressive turn out that it meant we needed to split into three separate groups in order to have effective conversations.
Here are a selection of the many issues that were discussed:
-There is a label that is attached to someone who is LGB or T, but being gay or transgender is only a small part of who individuals are. People are a lot more complex. One person commented and said that she doesn’t want to be labelled, but feels that she has to label herself in order to educate people for there to be a change. Another said that she hates to be labelled as a ‘transgendered female’ and said that that is all over with now, so she should just be able to get on with her life without the label.
Why can’t I just be me?
-Linking to this is the discrimination that many people face. When asked what would make things fairer, one man answered saying he just wanted to be able to hold his partner’s hand and kiss in public without being shunned. Another lady said that she feels that they keep getting told that they are ‘victims’, but said that they shouldn’t be made to feel like that. However, another man stated that he felt that he has received little prejudice in his life, which led to a conversation on how people are accepting if they know you – but they face prejudice in the unknown
-It was discussed that more funding is needed to either back schemes already in place, or to create a new forum, independent to the Plymouth Pride Forum which is funded by the council. They said it feels like because the forum is council owned they are being told how to be, as opposed to being able to take ownership. It was also discussed that more backing is needed from the council for events in the city and was even mentioned that these could be Devon-wide events to help encourage tourism and promote the area elsewhere
-There needs to be improvements for young people – for example, drop in centres can be created for young LGBT people to go for help and advice. This also links to mental wellbeing and ensuring that everyone has access to correct help and information. There is also no statutory responsibility for schools to report on homophobia which is something that should be looked into in order to improve prejudice and discrimination
Please bear in mind that this is a brief overview of just a few of the topics which were discussed. There was a fantastic turn out and we are so happy that so many people gave up their free time to join us – so thank you!