To truly level up the country, the government must target funding at the people and places that need it most.
As well as having a strong focus on reducing geographical inequalities, levelling up must target individuals and groups experiencing discrimination, disadvantage and other barriers within the labour market and access to it.
For example, any levelling up funding should target disabled people, people from Black and minority ethnic communities, women and also people with multiple and complex needs. This could mean those with mental health problems, homeless people and ex-offenders. For this to happen, equality must be designed into any levelling up funding framework from the outset.
If you want to know the answer to the question ‘what is the goal of levelling up?’, the answer must always be ‘equality’.
What is the government doing – the levelling up white paper
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government was renamed the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in September 2021. Michael Gove takes the lead as the Secretary of State in the department, along with Neil O’Brien as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State.
The Levelling Up White Paper was published on 2 February 2022.
It is welcome that the White Paper has now been published and Equally Ours and our members are committed to continuing to work with national and local government to ensure levelling up delivers for us all.
What is Equally Ours doing – a new research project
Equally Ours has published a new report – Levelling Up: Firm Foundations.
We commissioned research into what an equality and human rights-based approach to levelling up would look like.
Our research focuses on the cumulative impact of disadvantage and discrimination on people’s lives and the need to address the root causes of both. That is, both the direct drivers of economic hardship – low pay, rising living costs, a lack of social security – and the specific barriers that create unequal outcomes for individuals and groups because of their age, gender, ethnicity, disability or other protected characteristics.
The pandemic has shown how structural discrimination and inequality in employment, in housing, in health – in all aspects of our lives – lead to lost potential and, ultimately, to lost lives. Our research shows the importance of making sure that levelling up addresses all aspects of inequality and gives people the security and opportunity to lead lives where they can fulfil their potential.
Equally Ours has worked with members to develop an agenda demonstrating why and how equality and intersectionality should drive policy as we rebuild post-Covid.
This repost provides benchmarks against which we can test the government’s white paper, and its plans for levelling up, to see how they are tackling systemic inequalities.
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund
EU funding has made a huge difference to those experiencing inequality and discrimination in the UK. Now we have left the EU, the government is proposing to replace these funding streams with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). This is intended to be the government’s ‘flagship policy’ for levelling up, and once it is up and running could be worth more than £1 billion a year.
The government is running a pilot scheme for the UKSPF, the Community Renewal Fund, which will be completed by April 2022. The pilot projects aim to help people gain access to skills, jobs and work opportunities.
The UKSPF is an opportunity to create a simpler, more accessible fund. But it must also carry on the vital work of embedding equality and tackling discrimination. This can only be achieved if the new fund is equal by design.