When inequality exists at the outset of a child’s life, the cycle often perpetuates into their adult years. Those who are under-served during their early education can fall behind their age-related expectations, and by the time they reach working age often have not had the same support or access to career signposting and development opportunities as other children from more affluent families. Similarly, they are less likely to understand how best to take responsibility for their health and well-being and how to access support in these areas, so that health and other inequalities will also exacerbate the challenge of achieving good life outcomes for those who are under-served.
To help tackle these major inequalities, I, along with representatives from a variety of Bath and North East Somerset organisations, have established a dynamic new community-focused group – Opportunity For All.
The group – a subgroup of BaNES Council’s Future Ambition Board – will have a particular focus on the issue of poverty, education, and health, and we will be looking to support those most at risk of falling on the wrong side of the inequalities divide when moving into employment.
With a view to addressing economic inequality and poverty, our initial focus is to tackle unemployment across the region, with a particular emphasis on supporting those under-served to find, and secure work, as well as creating an access point to gain stronger career development pathways. The initiative is timely, given data from Local Government Inform (LG Inform) which shows that in BaNES, unemployment reached 4.3% in the final quarter of 2022, compared with 1.8% in the same period in 2021. With a wealth of excellent education institutions in the area, a thriving business and tourist hub and intelligence which suggests many employers are struggling to fill vacancies, this simply should not be the case.
Inequality in BaNES and the challenges faced by the Opportunity for All group are complex and entrenched, but together, the partners aim to remove the barriers faced by members of our communities when it comes to finding jobs across the region to create a more fair and equal society.
At St John’s, we understand the stark education attainment gap that exists across the region through our Foundation Fund work that aims to level the playing field across BaNES by supporting children to meet their potential. It is our job to spearhead initiatives that will positively impact our communities and improve children’s lives; we work with many organisations to deliver on this vision. It is also our duty to support other local projects because it is only through partnership and collaboration that we can make our communities stronger and fairer: a holistic approach is key.
The focus of Opportunity For All chimes well with St John’s work, not only with the Foundation Fund, but also through our Crisis Programme and Good Living Service. Much like our work with local delivery partners without whose knowledge, expertise and networks we could not implement our own initiatives, this new group is all about pooling collective experience and insights so we can bring about positive social change.