28 June 2016 – Concepts of a Good Society: The Response of Civil Society to Food Poverty
Tuesday 28th June, 10.00-11.00, Committee Room 17, House of Commons
Hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty
What makes a Good Society? In conversation with Adrian Curtis, Foodbank Network Director at the Trussell Trust, Professor John Diamond and Katy Goldstraw from Edge Hill University will present interim findings on the response of civil society to poverty and inequality in the UK through the lens of food aid.
Foodbank use has become a key indicator of poverty. This study explores how the social support offered as a side dish to food aid’s main course provides a clue as how a Good Society might be built.
Reliance on food aid has increased steadily over the last decade and it is estimated that over 500,000 people currently depend on foodbanks. The provision of food aid is an area where civil society is rapidly expanding. Providers range from community groups operating independently out of garages to The Trussell Trust which has over 400 franchises across the UK. The response of civil society to what Oxfam terms ‘the scandal of food poverty in 21st Century Britain’ is not without critics. For some, this response depoliticises the issue and reinforces the notion that hunger is a matter of charity not politics. However, as public trust in politics has eroded, the response of civil society to the alleviation of food poverty has been brought into sharp relief.
Food poverty is one of several perspectives from which Edge Hill University’s Institute for Public Policy and Professional Practice (I4P) is examining civil society’s response to poverty and inequality. This study informs wider research by I4P into concepts of a Good Society and is funded by the Webb Memorial Trust.
What is the role of civil society in building a Good Society? Should the voluntary sector be providing essential services? How are Fairness Commissions tackling inequality and poverty at a local level in the context of national spending cuts? What next?
Please arrive at the Vistors Entrance to the Houses of Parliament (off Parliament Square) by 09.30 in order to clear security. You may be asked for ID. Information about visiting Parliament can be found here.
This project evolved out of interviews with Fairness Commissions across the UK as well as conferences and focus groups with members of the public, the private sector and civil society. These were conducted with a view to gathering academic and practitioner considerations of what makes a Good Society, to share what is being done by different sectors in terms of poverty alleviation, and to consider what more can be done.
The focus groups and conferences centred on the need for collaborative action between local groups, the state, civil society and business. Focus groups were held in Glasgow, Belfast, Newcastle, Birmingham, Newport, and Bath. These groups complemented ‘Meeting of Minds: What might a Good Society Look like?’ conferences in Manchester and Bradford.
Representatives from Fairness Commissions across the UK will be in attendance at this event and will have an opportunity to share their experiences. We welcome attendance from people working across civil society, parliamentarians, researchers and the public.
Professor John Diamond is the Director of I4P, Edge Hill University. In 2014 John co-researched a national study funded by the Webb Memorial Trust examining the role of Fairness Commissions. He has worked with the North West Regional Youth Work Unit on a number of different initiatives, including their 2014 report into Youth Employment – Simple Truths. In 2015 John was invited to give the Annual Keib Thomas Memorial Lecture. He is currently the national chair of the Association for Research with Voluntary and Community Organisations.
Katy Goldstraw is a Research Assistant at I4P, Edge Hill University and a PhD Student at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Katy also runs The Volunteer Training Company and works as an Associate Lecturer for both MMU and Edge Hill Universities.