Scroll down the page for the Live blogs of the talks.

Videos about Inequality & poverty

Live blogs about Inequality & poverty

Jenny Sealey talk

JennySealey_portraitJenny became deaf (with speech) at aged 7. Her mother said she could do whatever she wanted. Her careers officer said she could become a librarian! With Graeae, she works with some extraordinary deaf and disabled artists. She is showing a video of some of them as she continues to speak.

Disabled people are dependent on Access to Work and the Independent Living Fund. The first is one of the government’s best kept secrets. It helps disabled people into the workforce, so they can fulfil roles with equality, and come off benefits and pay taxes. The latter does what it says. But in 2012 Esther McVey announced out of the blue that it will be closed and passed to local authorities in June 2015. The pot is £23m, and per person the cost of £346 compares very favourably with the cost of care in residential homes [several thousand]. Jenny argues the closure breaches human rights.

When working on the Paralympics Opening Ceremony, Stephen Hawking said don’t look at your toes, look at the stars. He and many other deaf and disabled people (Beethoven, Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo) have contributed enormously to civilisation. They needed and received support. Jenny is running through a list of people who are struggling with accessing government support so they can fulfil their potential.

For example, a graduate in business studies had Access to Work for 6 hours a day, then when moved to another job was only given 3 hours a week, and had to leave the job… which also means that two signers lost their employment too.

Disability does not occur because someone has done something wrong. Yet disabled people are vilified and in some countries treated as beggars. It amazes some that there are disabled people on the stage. Many decisions seem to be the result of lack of empathy and understanding. For example, how do blind people use tablets with smooth screens? The Paralympics were glorious. Following it, Channel 4 asked Jenny to put some of her people forward to Undateables, which she found sickening.

So Jenny asks us to familiarise ourselves with Access to Work, and with the issues, and help disabled people in their efforts to give their great contributions to society.

Beth Barnes talk

BethBarnes_portraitNow we hear from Beth, who is a student at Exeter College. We wanted to hear what young people have to say and what they want, and Beth won a competition to speak today.

Beth is telling us about a system that allows us to direct our resources to what we think will do the most good: charitable giving. Increased transparency of governance mean it is possible to find charities who are doing great work, such as the Schistosomiasis (spelling?!) Society.

We are used to a world in which the most resources are invested in things that are not important. What if we directed our huge resources to solving global poverty? 10% given by 10% would generate $4 trillion. It would only take 5% of that to solve poverty, so Beth has given us a shopping list for the remaining 95%, with some left over to fund a mission to Mars!

Effective Altruism encourages and helps people to give well – via e.g. GiveWell, Giving What We Can websites. The latter asks people to give away 10% of their lifetime earnings. Wouldn’t it be good if everyone did this?!

Carmel McConnell talk

CarmelMcConnell_portraitCarmel points out that we live in the 6th richest economy and a great loving country, but we are living towards the end of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. Prices have gone up and wages down, which has led to a problem of child hunger, and this is a real problem for education.

0.5m children in the country go to school too hungry to learn. Children get a great lunch, but the most important lessons are usually in the morning.

Carmel was researching a book on change activism, during which she spoke to headteachers about inequality. They all said that they had hungry children, and across the country, 55% of teachers are bringing in food for children. She asked why the parents aren’t feeding their children… and was told the parents are hungry too. Children were late or not attending school, because they were foraging for food, and they had behavioural problems.

So she started bringing food to five schools every day. And that made a difference. Children were attending and on time. They could focus, and behaviour and social interaction improved. Carmel therefore had a hard decision… continue to advise big business on making a difference, or make a difference herself.

She chose the latter, so now Magic Breakfast is delivering breakfast to 17,000 children every day, at a cost of 22p per child per day, or £45 per year. They want to reach the 0.5m sustainably, tackle holiday hunger, and make the case for change. They are only a small team, and need to be catalytic on the ground. Ofsted is on board, as the project is driving improvements in school performance.

Carmel tells the story of Zara, who is seven. She often needed to ask for food at cafés on the way to school, but often didn’t get any. She was at risk of being excluded for being naughty and affecting the whole school. But after a bagel and a glass of milk, she was settled and the whole school was ready to learn. She visited No.10 with the school, and sat in the PM’s seat. Perhaps Zara or one of those 0.5m could be PM one day?

Vinay Nair talk

Vinay Nair featureOur first session is about international themes, and our first speaker is Vinay Nair from Acumen.

Five years ago, he found himself in remote NW Mozambique, sitting down and buzzing about budgeting and planning for a social enterprise selling jam, run by women who were HIV positive. They were managing to generate an income, and become active agents in their own futures. One was asked by the Red Cross to set up similar enterprises across the country.

Vinay had a sense that the work was about dignity not dependence, choice not charity. But he’s not a good Samaritan, he’s a former investment banker – his joke! And yet, that experience helped him in the position he is now in, and he wants to explore those interconnections and interdependencies.

A few years ago, he visited Robben Island in South Africa, where he tried to get inside the head of Nelson Mandela. On the way home, he bumped into Gordon Brown at the airport, thanked him for his work on debt relief, and was then surprised when they had a conversation about economics and finance as vehicles for reducing poverty and improving social justice.

Before the financial crisis, Vinay took a sabbatical and spent some time in India. He met Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer in microfinance. He thought initially that microfinance was a silver bullet, but realised that often the goals of social justice had got lost in the push for a financial return. 

So he left the world of microfinance and ended up in Mozambique and then the Clinton Foundation, before studying for a masters at LSE. He got involved in Acumen, and began to work with its founder Jacqueline Novogratz.

Acumen’s model is to take donations, bypass governments and conventional finance, and invest ‘patient capital’ in social enterprises. The returns can then be recycled again and again. It also has a strong focus on ‘how’ it makes decisions, in a difficult and messy area of work. Listening and humility are core, but there is also a need for leadership, audaciousness and accountability.

Vinay found himself back in India, in the rice belt, working with a renewable energy company which was burning rice husks to generate electricity for sale at £1 per month. Because it wasn’t free, people demanded customer service etc – dignity not dependence. There were also improved health outcomes, through not inhaling kerosene fumes, and improved education, through better lighting – not just the financial bottom line.

He’s now leaving Acumen to set up a new initiative in the UK, to tackle poverty and inequality here. There is a need to understand what and how investment can support innovative social enterprise and charities. There’s a lot that can be learnt from Acumen and other organisations, because of the interconnections. As they say in Bantu South Africa: Ubuntu, I am because you are.

Hazel Stuteley talk

Hazel Stuteley portrait We’re all on the same journeys. Hazel will be 101 in 2050!

And she has ditched her script. This is Hazel unplugged!

Why are we in the UK so bad at preventing the poor health of the poor? Why have billions of £££ of investment in poor communities not made a jot of difference?

Hazel will tell us about what makes a difference – not about £££, but about connecting and listening.

She was a community midwife in Lewisham, and saw all the health inequalities between the bottom and top of the hill. When she moved to Cornwall, she saw some of the worst child-protection challenges ever. Cornwall is the poorest county in the country. She saw all sorts of young people born into poverty.

In the 1990s, the Beacon estate in Falmouth was the poorest ward in the poorest county. As a nurse she had to have police protection there. But she saw a complete rebirth. Hazel and another health visitor couldn’t cope with illness and depression, and knew something had to change. Police and other authorities had abandoned the communities, so they all had to be reconnected. The residents had to lead, and the agencies were invited to join. Three did – police, local authority and education. Five residents were the leaders, the ‘famous five’. They were connected, and over four years magic started to happen. While the residents and agencies were meeting, the community started to come together, and managed to raise £2.2m money in various ways. (Pig racing was nothing to do with the police!) As a result, Hazel and other community visitors could do their jobs again. There was a 50% drop in crime and a 70% drop in unemployment. Boys education retainment went up 100% because post-natal depression was brought down. Asthma was down 50%. Gardens were transformed. People started to feel good about themselves: “We thought we were doing up our houses, but we were doing up our lives.”

This is the power of listening in connecting communities. The community will tell you what they need to heal. For example, the TR14ers in Camborne said they wanted to dance, and the power of dance to heal Camborne was extraordinary. Never ever give up. Do something small, but something wonderful will happen.

Fab talk, loads of laughter, another standing ovation, cheers.

More Information

Connecting Communities C2 Programme within the Health Complexity Group at the University of Exeter

Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer in Scotland, on “Linking mental health indicators to promoting mental health in early life”