Social Justice Conference
Monday morning and I was really looking forward to the Social Justice Conference at the Kings Centre. This was organised by Living Wage Norwich http://www.livingwagenorwich.org.uk and Norfolk Community Advice Network www.norfolkcan.org.uk
In its early days the term “Social Justice” specifically related to Poverty and the equal distribution of resources.
However, today “Social Justice” has a broader and more detailed definition and includes the issues and treatment faced by groups of people within our Society for example refugees, homeless, prisoners, disabled people, those with mental health conditions.
The way governments implement our laws and rights has a direct impact on how fairly resources and opportunities are shared out within society and therefore how these impact on our right to a dignified, equal and independent life.
In recent years we have seen how the oppressive implementation of the laws of our society has had an ever-increasing negative impact on lives within our communities. Unless there is a major change, the future is one of even more deprivation, isolation, and discrimination.
So whose responsibility is it to oppose the way we are treated within our “Modern” society?
In short, the answer is all of us and the best way we can do that is to work together. For the purpose of this blog, we are at the conference doors.
It’s a way for a cross-section of the community to come together to learn about the issues faced by Society today. To discuss the way our Churches and Organisations work to challenge and address these issues and how we can all work together to have an even bigger voice to challenge Governments policies and Procedures and the oppressive attitudes of a commercially driven world.
Following a half-hour arrival, tea and coffee period in which we all picked up our badges, brochures and popped our business cards in a networking “lucky dip” bag we all found our “topic” tables to start the day.
Over the course of the next few hours, we heard from a wide variety of speakers talking about Social Justice, its context and issues in relation to their specific area of interest or expertise including homelessness, poverty, mental health, disability, prisoners, refugees, migrant workers and the church.
- Rt Revd Alan Hopes (Bishop of Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia)
- Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick (Bishop of Lynn, Church of England Diocese of Norwich)
- Alan Waters (Leader Norwich City Council)
- Tony Gammage (Founder of Living Wage Norwich, Chair of Planning Group)
- Dr. Jan Sheldon (CEO, St Martins)
- Paul Mortimer (HM Prison and Probation Service)
- Paul Martin (CEO, Matthew Project)
- Daniel Childerhouse (Living Wage Norwich & CEO of Future Projects)
- Carrie Sant (Community Development Worker)
- Jonathon Moore (Chair, Equal Lives)
- Sue Whitaker (Former Cabinet Member & Chair of Adult Social Care Committee, Norfolk County Council)
- Dan Mobbs – (CEO, Mancroft Advice Project)
The informative presentations gave a thought-provoking range of perspectives, experiences and alarming statistical information and highlighted that whilst we were discussing the impact on our local Communities, the issues faced are Global ones.
John Moore on behalf of Equal Lives
John Moore our Equal Lives chair of trustees talked about the systematic violation of disabled people’s rights and the austerity cuts. And the impact of these on disabled people’s lives.
These austerity measures have seen many peoples care and support cut so low. Disabled people becoming a prisoner in their own homes is becoming a reality.
Again the fierce benefits regime has not only seen people losing significant financial support but making them afraid to even apply for it in the first place.
Whilst the government have been promoting a policy of getting more disabled people into work, changes and caps to the Access to Work Scheme are restricting disabled people from being able to carry out their jobs as anyone else would.
Continuing on from the presentations we dispersed into our topic groups and I facilitated my table’s topic of disability.
We had approximately ¾ of an hour but could have talked forever!
Feeding on a media portrayal of “disabled scroungers” disabled people find they face abuse and discrimination when for many the reality is that they are fighting the system to be able to go to work or afford the basics they need. But of course that doesn’t make “good” reading does it.
A huge Mental Health Crisis is no real surprise when you take a startling realistic look at the pressures people are facing within society. A big message yesterday was about tackling issues before they get to crisis point.
It was felt that the number of people getting to crisis point will only increase if more isn’t done to support early intervention.
It was discussed that a significant amount of work needs to be done working with children from a young age.
Whilst acknowledging the pressures schools are under to achieve examination results there was the discussion on the radio about the potential of removing the music, drama, and arts from the curriculum to concentrate on the more academic subjects. However, the emotional and physical well-being of our young people should not be overlooked.
Using your academic qualifications becomes difficult if you have no social skills, no confidence, and self-esteem. Employers who do not understand how to make a workplace or job accessible or even have the attitude to consider trying. Many have negative experiences so don’t even want to leave the security of their home. Even though deep down they just desperately want the life they know is out there.
Is this really the life we want for young people and others in our communities?
Of course, this is not placing the emotional and physical wellbeing at the door of schools. For a lot of this, we rely on our family and support networks. Though, as we looked at the above if the family is struggling financially with both parents on low wages or zero hour contracts and dealing with all the issues that come with it. Where is the support our young people, older people etc. going to come from?
Mancroft Advice Project MAP provide support mental health support to young people www.map.uk.net
Your Own Place provides independent living skills and employment support to young people www.yourownplace.org.uk
We hear a lot about isolation, which I have discussed in a previous blog. However, there is an enormous amount of work going on to tackle isolation. It has recently has been a “hot topic” for many funders. Unless there is a significant move to change the oppressive nature in which our laws, policies, and procedures are being implemented then more disabled people will find themselves isolated. And not by their impairment, but by the lack of “Social Justice” within our Society today.
It was asked at the meeting about what would someone coming to our Country think about us……which is an interesting question…
So you might say what a negative and depressing conference. The issues, experiences, and statistics did not make for pretty reading. However, what was positive was the energy, drive, and enthusiasm. Everyone in the room had the drive support the people within our communities who face barriers to an equal life.
The message from the conference was about working together so we have a bigger voice. The whole day encouraged us to find more ways to work together. To see people as a whole person (and not just as individual issues) and realise that whilst there are large and complex issues that need addressing that will take perseverance and time. We all have opportunities in our lives to take the time to improve the life of someone we know.
In short, unless we all start to work together and voice that we are no longer prepared to accept these injustices on our rights and independence then we only enable others to systematically remove those rights and to return disabled people to a “behind closed doors society”.
For more on the Social Justice Conference see the following news articles:
- Network Norwich article: https://www.networknorwich.co.uk/Articles/515096/Network_Norwich_and_Norfolk/Regional_News/Norwich_conference_tackles_issues_of_social_justice.aspx
- EDP article: http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/norwich-social-justice-kings-centre-norfolk-1-5373486
- Future Radio interviews: http://futureradio.co.uk/futureplayer/mixcloudplayer/1799