Equally Ours is pleased that the Levelling Up white paper has been published. The focus on some of the most disadvantaged parts of the UK is important – we are one of the most geographically unequal countries in the OECD.
But to truly level up opportunities and outcomes for everyone, levelling up needs to tackle inequalities between people as well as places.
In the UK today discrimination and disadvantage continue to hold back millions of people, preventing them from reaching their potential. Women, disabled people, Black and ethnic minority people, over 50s and LGBT people face discrimination and structural inequality in the labour market and workplace, as well as barriers due to socio-economic disadvantage. Unless this is addressed employment rates and productivity won’t change, and levelling up won’t deliver for those who need it most.
We know how to do this. All programmes under EU funds were required to tackle discrimination, and advance equality and social inclusion. Equality was designed in from the outset. To build the fairer and more prosperous society that we all want, equality and social inclusion must be hard-wired into levelling up.
There is still the opportunity to make this happen, through the detailed design of programmes both nationally and at community level.
We welcome the increased devolved decision-making that has been announced. This creates new opportunities for involving the people, communities and our organisations who might otherwise have been excluded. Doing this will help the government be more effective in achieving its goals.
Equally Ours and our members are committed to continuing to work with national and local government to ensure levelling up delivers for us all.