Prof. John Hills discusses with Opportunity and Fairness Commission

On Thursday evening, renowned academic Professor Johns Hills set out some key challenges for Croydon. Speaking at an open Opportunity and Fairness Commission meeting, he challenged the idea that the welfare systems sets ‘skivers’ against ‘strivers’.

Drawing on his recent book, “Good Times, Bad Times – The Welfare Myth of Them and Us”, he debunked the misperception that the welfare state is only used by small sections of society who experience long-term unemployment. Instead, he pointed to evidence which shows all members of society receive and benefit from welfare services throughout their lives.

Professor Hills said “this creates social divisions amongst communities, when in reality all of us depend on each other and the state’s support to get on in life. It means that when people experience hardship and are most in need of support, then there is less political will to provide it.”

In welcoming Professor Hills’ contribution, Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon and chair of the Opportunity and Fairness Commission, said: “Divisions in communities need to be tackled, and the Commission is examining what can be done to bring communities in Croydon together and build stronger social bonds amongst them.”

Bishop Jonathan then invited attendees to give their views. These included the suggestion that well-off pensioners who choose not to use their Winter Fuel Allowance could donate it to local voluntary organisations that tackle fuel poverty. Another suggestion was for further work to understand how public money is used locally so that people can be clear about where it goes.

Closing the meeting, Bishop Jonathan said: “Our open meeting with Professor John Hills was enjoyable and extremely helpful in the work of the Commission. Professor Hills spoke lucidly about the problems that emerge when social divisions are created. I was also very encouraged by the involvement of those who attended – penetrating questions were asked and some good suggestions emerged from the discussion about how to build stronger communities in Croydon.”

Notes

The Croydon Opportunity and Fairness Commission will run until January 2016 when it will deliver a report on how Croydon can become a place of greater opportunity and fairness. The Commission was launched by the Council but is independent and comprises thirteen commissioners. Its interim report, including updates on its findings so far and priority areas identified, is due to be published in October 2015.

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