Story: Douglas Johnson
Sheffield’s Fairness Commission – which met at Sorby House on 9th May – was set up to look at the harmful impact of the gap between the richest and poorest and to see what can be done in Sheffield.
Its job is to look at inequality in society – how much richer the richest are compared with the poorest. In Burngreave, 40% of households get Housing Benefit but in Fulwood, only 5% do. A lot of academic research shows that looking at this gap tells us more about social deprivation than by just looking at average levels of poverty. It is something that affects wealthy people as well as poorer ones.
These ideas were brought together in a book called “The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone” by two professors – Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson.
Professor Wilkinson himself was the main speaker at the Fairness Commission and he showed how the inequality gap relates to poor health, crime levels, life expectancy, illiteracy etc. He suggested the Commission should call for a “living wage” (minimum £7.20 an hour) for the lowest paid and also to publish the pay differences between the highest and lowest paid in organisations. Before the main meeting, he led a discussion hosted by the Sheffield Equality Group, which meets regularly to discuss and campaign on equality issues.
The Dean of Sheffield was the second speaker and spoke of the church’s work on poverty. He said that people on low incomes spend an average £1300 extra a year on the goods they buy. He was a controversial choice because of his action against the Occupy movement, which campaigned for action on the very wealthy.
The Commission has to publish its report by September.
Professor Wilkinson called for the meetings to be better publicised because it is a topic that he felt more people should be engaged with.
There will be an open discussion at Sorby House on 12th June (3-5pm) where the topic will be women’s issues.