19
Jul
Chloe Roberts

Covid-19 has given us a harsh lesson in education inequality

Posted by Chloe RobertsTagged , ,

Although ‘Freedom Day’ is here, Covid’s effects will, as we hear all too often, be felt for years to come.

One sector that has had more than its fair share to deal with is education. Covid has meant months of missed lessons and face to face contact with teachers and peers for thousands of pupils. Official government data shows that the number of pupils absent from schools in England for Covid-related reasons is at its highest since schools fully reopened in March, with almost 840,000 children out of class last week.

This is of course not to mention the disruption and frustration it has caused for teachers and parents – many of whom were left juggling work, family and childcare.

In Grace’s recent blog, she talked about how Covid has exposed and exacerbated inequalities across all facets of life. However, it has also created a unique moment, amid the chaos, to stop and re-evaluate what we really value, how we do things and how to make things better.

This is all too true of our education system which, Maccs Pescatore, CEO of Montessori Centre International, says “isn’t working as well as it should and hasn’t done for a long time because the sector has been woefully underfunded.”

And while the pandemic has impacted the whole education sector, the early years is rarely spoken about.

Read more “Covid-19 has given us a harsh lesson in education inequality”

16
Jul
Aga Maciejewska

The pandemic of inequalities

Posted by Aga MaciejewskaTagged , , , , , , , ,

Last week, the Health Foundation’s Unequal pandemic, fairer recovery report made headlines, revealing that throughout the pandemic, the chances of dying from Covid-19 were nearly four times higher for adults of working age in England’s poorest areas than for those in the wealthiest places.

The report is just the latest in the string of evidence that the pandemic has not been ‘a great leveller’, as some people referred to it back in the spring of 2020. The UK has struggled with deep-rooted, socioeconomic inequalities for years. Those have not only contributed to the country’s high and unequal death toll from Covid-19 but have also been exacerbated and made worse, particularly for some groups, including ethnic minorities, women and those on low pay.

Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director for Programmes at Impact for Urban Health, has been working with families in the South London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to understand how various inequalities impact population’s health. As he explains:

“Health inequality is the starkest manifestation of other inequalities – unfairness tends to layer on unfairness. If you’re subject to systemic racism, you are also more likely to be poor, live in lower quality housing and then you’re more likely to get sick. All those things interact. Fundamentally, it’s the inequality that’s the issue and health inequality is just the starkest example.”

Looking at the impact of the pandemic,  Andy has no doubt that it has made the existing inequalities worse and that this might sadly be just the beginning:

“We layered Covid on top of an already very unequal situation. We haven’t really even started to feel the impacts of the economic pandemic and the long-term health effects of it. We’ve seen a lot of policy changes, such as furlough and the uplift of universal credit, designed to help people through the pandemic. When those start to fall away, we will have an economic wave that could have huge long term health consequences.”

 

Read more “The pandemic of inequalities”

02
Jul
Grace French

Has the pandemic set us back 50 years, or will it propel us forward?

Posted by Grace FrenchTagged , ,

At its onset, Covid-19 was described as the great leveller. But the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequalities across many facets of life. For many, the situation has never been worse. But we also discovered a renewed intolerance for inequalities, a greater appreciation for those around us, and a desire to cement a better future for all.

This has created a unique moment for change. It’s vital that we examine what’s changed during the pandemic – both the good and the bad – and learn from it, to create a more equal and inclusive society.

Shining a light on mental health, during the pandemic we saw a story of two halves; more people struggling with mental health, and more people speaking up about it. In a year of drastic change and lockdowns the mental health of people of all ages and backgrounds has been greatly impacted. At the same time, mental health is being discussed more than ever and there’s a desire to improve mental health outcomes as we emerge from the pandemic – which itself comes with its own stressors.

The figures speak for themselves. Depression and anxiety levels significantly increased since the pandemic began, but at the same time diagnoses and referrals plummeted in lockdown. This is creating a pressure point – with an anticipated 11% increase in referrals in the next 3 years – a bottleneck of people who urgently need support.

Read more “Has the pandemic set us back 50 years, or will it propel us forward?”

29
Jun
Beth Davies

Pride 2021: Tokenistic campaigns just won’t fly anymore

Posted by Beth DaviesTagged , , , , , ,

June is Pride Month, a time for celebrating the diverse accomplishments, identities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. With 2020 seeing the queer community face a disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it is perhaps more important than ever for us to show our support and allyship.

Over the years, Pride has become an opportunity for brands to express their support for equal rights and representation, investing heavily in sponsorships, ads, and pride-themed products. But we know consumers are turning a critical eye to the companies they buy from, and brands need to go further than just wrapping merchandise up in rainbow packaging and calling it a day.

So-called ‘rainbow washing’ or ‘pink washing’ is too often the route that organisations take, and many major brands haven’t maintained a consistent enough relationship with LGBTQ+ communities to last Pride Month without some scrutiny. To be honest, it can be a difficult to hold back the cynicism, when even Pret rebrands as ‘Pride a Manger’.

Some 2021 Pride campaigns have certainly struck the wrong chord. Take Bud Light, which brought out an advert replacing the letters in the acronym LGBTQ with ‘Let’s Grab Beers Tonight, Queens’. An ad that erases identities in favour of selling beer, surely had to be designed without any queer people in the room. Also attracting criticism is Skittles, for its attempt at meaningful action which consisted of donating a portion of product proceeds to the media advocacy group, GLAAD. The problem? Skittles limited donations to less than 0.03% of sales during Pride month. 2020 brought with it an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, and tokenistic marketing just won’t fly anymore.

Read more “Pride 2021: Tokenistic campaigns just won’t fly anymore”

23
Jun
Natasha Machin

We like big books and we cannot lie

Posted by Natasha MachinTagged , , ,

One of the few silver linings of the multiple lockdowns across the past 15 months, was a significant and unexpected amount of free time at home. At first it was an overwhelming amount of free time – but gradually, people found their own way to fill it and help them get through a difficult time.

With no work commute and extra time spent at home, people across the country seized the opportunity to find new interests, such as baking, exercise, online virtual parties and quizzes, crafting, gaming – the list goes on.

With the recent annual profits report from Bloomsbury Publishing showing that book sales rose by 14% in the year to the end of February, it is clear that many found comfort and solace in picking up a good old book, and reading for pleasure.

The pandemic has been a challenging time for many, and the escapism of a good book enabling readers to explore someone else’s mind, experiences and story, gave us a release from the reality of the day-to-day of lockdown and rising Covid-19 cases. There’s no denying that reading has a positive effect on your mental health and can be a great way to practice mindfulness. A 2015 report from Quick Reads showed that reading helps to reduce stress levels and improve wellbeing – all the more vital against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Read more “We like big books and we cannot lie”

07
Jun
Jevan Watson

World Environment Day; a farce or a timely reminder?

Posted by Jevan WatsonTagged , , , ,

World Environment Day took place this past Saturday, and in the run-up, many companies around the world plastered their social media accounts with posts about their drive towards net-zero or a reduction of single-use plastic. This is a small, but significant win – the fact that companies feel they need to be seen and heard in the green environmental space highlights a shift in mindset, not only by consumers but some of the largest corporations in the world.

We all know that we need to do more as a society – there isn’t an onus on one organisation or a set of individuals. This year, World Environment Day focused on our ecosystems to Reimagine, Recreate and Restore. This call to action comes as we are reminded of our situation, such as every three seconds, the world loses enough forest to cover a football pitch.

Fundamentally, healing our environment and driving towards a net-zero future is a multifaceted task that requires more than just pretty pictures, flowing social media copy and pledges. It requires tangible action, and this is coming from someone that has a career in crafting this external messaging.

Read more “World Environment Day; a farce or a timely reminder?”

25
May
Georgie Howlett

Can fashion change its ways?

Posted by Georgie HowlettTagged , , , , ,

Clothes are wrapped up in our identity. What we wear says something about us – whether we care about that or not. Over the centuries, clothes have symbolised status. Our outfit can affect our mood. We have special clothes for special occasions. Clothes can be a socio-political statement. And some people can’t afford clothes.

For quite some time, second-hand clothing has been broadly seen as second-rate. There have always been those creative individuals with a flair for unearthing vintage gems in a charity shop, but now society is reaching a tipping point. As someone who is fascinated by human behaviour and how to encourage habits that help the planet, I have been watching this gather momentum over the last few years.

Motivated by ‘voting with their wallet’ and reducing their carbon footprint, individuals have already been pushing change within other sectors e.g. single-use plastics, organic or local food, fairtrade supply chains. But we’ve been a little slower on the clothing front because it’s a hard habit to kick. As I said, clothes are deeply connected to our identity. And the fashion cycle is strong.

But the impact of the clothing industry is becoming harder to ignore: 350,000 tonnes of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill each year in the UK, and it takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans. Depressingly, the fashion industry is actually responsible for a huge chunk of global water pollution – it consumes more energy than shipping and aviation combined, and by 2050 is anticipated to be responsible for 25% of the world’s remaining carbon budget.

Better late than never, second-hand is experiencing a much-needed makeover. Driven by early adopters and influencers like Michaela Coel and Maquita Oliver, demand is sky-rocketing, with Gen Z at the helm of social norming pre-loved. Brands are having to adapt to put sustainability at the top of the agenda. (The significance of purpose / ESG / sustainability in the boardroom is something that we’ve seen grow steadily with clients across all sectors.)

I’d like to offer some proof points that show businesses need to go beyond organic fabrics and ethical supply chains and embrace a truly circular approach:

  • While brands like Mud Jeans have pioneered circular thinking for some time, mainstream brands are now joining the movement. Cos, owned by H&M, has launched a resale service on its website, Asos has seen vintage sales rise by 92% and Asda announced recently that it will sell second hand clothing in 50 supermarkets
  • Trend-setting teens have been trading clothes on Depop, Vinted, and Nuw, and renting through apps like Hurr and ByRotation in rising numbers – younger generations are taking their thrift hacks and tutorials to TikTok
  • Websites and apps that sell used clothing, such as Loopster and Kidclo, are growing fast, and eBay has sold over 60 million used items in the last year

We’re not there yet, though. The global apparel market is worth $1.5 trillion and is growing. A recent article on Bloomberg highlights that “while #thrifthaul and #knitting have a not-insignificant 456 million and 478 million views respectively on TikTok, #Sheinhaul — in which users showcase purchases from the ultra-cheap, ultra-fast fashion store SHEIN — has 2.3 billion”. And despite Boohoo being exposed for serious ethical failings, it’s still trading and successfully.

The other behaviour to watch out for is that, with the pre-loved market easing the conscience, people will continue to buy new, under the premise that they will re-sell rather than throw away. Charities and leading voices in this sector need to keep the focus on starting with second-hand, rather than easing the psychological burden with ‘recycling’. In the end, recycling is the last of the three pillars around addressing our problem with waste – the first two are ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’.

But I’m optimistic. Sustainable habits are taking root, and even though this overhaul of the fashion industry will take more than one generation, it feels like a shift that is here to stay.

18
May
Olivia Williams

Democracy’s a game – but who’s playing around?

Posted by Olivia WilliamsTagged , , ,

What do Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Roger Williams (my Grandad) have in common? No, they’re not just older, white men. It’s the love of the game.

The European super flop:

In the last few weeks, the worlds of football and politics collided, with the European Super League rising and falling with the grace of the Ottoman Empire. Last month it was announced that a new league was to be forged, consisting of top clubs across the world, competing exclusively against each other in a closed format. By the Wednesday of the following week it was over, with protests across the country and all six UK clubs pulling out, taking the positions of Jose Mourinho and Manchester United’s Executive Vice Chairman with it. So, what’s problem?

The new league, backed by JP Morgan, sent shivers down the spines of fans and politicians alike, as many feared this was another step down a slippery slope to a US-style sports-league. US leagues often face criticism for their anti-competitive structures, whereby, wealthy elites who own the league, are at liberty to make TV and sponsorship deals, decide where and who plays and are able to impose rules on clubs’ business operations, which stops money flowing to the players… and the fans.

“It means everything to the fans”

The issue most took, was that such a system risks a near-future where an elite set of clubs distance themselves from their communities of life-faring fans and supporters. In the US, for example, teams have moved sites to seek greater profit, have curbed spending on youth development to make bids for new players, and are propelled (even more so) by big brand sponsorships.

In the UK, the slippery slope may have already begun. Advertising in football is at an all-time high, with brand names dominating football kits; for all the efforts of various fan groups, season ticket prices are increasing each year; smaller clubs went under during Covid-19 without the support of the bigger players; meanwhile increasingly clubs are being bought out by foreign investors, while fans lose control of a club and a team that they have identified with, shouted for and spent Saturday’s with ever since they were a child.

Political football

In a divided political landscape, football has united the playing field and seen politicians reaching across the aisles, albeit from different standpoints. Boris Johnson criticised the league on the grounds of free market values, believing it to offend “the basic principles of competition” and clubs distancing themselves from local communities. Keir Starmer was adamant the non-domestic league should not be able to ignore supporters, and Jeremy Corbyn was distraught with his own club, Arsenal and its move away from its humble beginnings when it was, like many others, funded by workers. (My grandad by the way, was also appalled that Norwich City hadn’t been invited). The common theme, however, in all these conversations: voice, participation, community.

A democratic playing field

If you ask any football fan, no matter their team, they will be adamant that they love the game. If you ask any politician, no matter their party affiliation, will they be adamant that they love democracy? Debating in order to achieve common ground with the community in mind, no matter your party politics, is for me, where the spirit of democracy lies. Indeed, the super-flop was truly a watershed moment, as for the first time in a very long time we saw genuine consensus.

Now the dust has settled, and with a good dose of hindsight, I propose that there are two lessons to be learned. If we can all agree that football without its community is nothing, can we also agree that society without its community is nothing? Football is of course not perfect. It is tribal by nature and this comes with its own issues that must be stamped out. But isn’t there something in the game’s power of bringing people together, a joy that can be shared whether it’s in the back garden or in Anfield, a game where one is based on their own merits, skill and passion?

Lesson one: we currently face some of the biggest challenges of humankind: climate change, structural racism and poverty. It’s about time we injected this sense of community back into big debates to find common ground. Whether that be through citizens assemblies or genuinely listening to voters’ concerns.

Lesson two: it’s not just football that can spur community. We’ve seen devastating cuts to our youth services (70% in the last decade). Maybe, that community feel got lost because we don’t have enough clubs and spaces, be they sports, arts or humanities, to unite under. As Martha Nussbaum said: “Play teaches people to be capable of living with others without control; it connects the experiences of vulnerability and surprise to curiosity and wonder, rather than to crippling anxiety.”

Since ‘Super League-gate’, nine of the clubs who joined the league, including England’s big six, have signed a letter of apology, recommitting themselves to UEFA and agreeing to give money to the grassroots game in recompense.

The whole debacle showed us that community spirit is still very much alive. But football, music or art – it doesn’t really matter. Play, in whatever form, teaches us how to live together, in a community and in a democracy.

A small ‘footnote’

The cynic in me cannot help but add a footnote to this article. You can find a really interesting piece about Red Wall politics and the political reaction here.

13
May
Sadie Fox

Taking the time to reflect, recoup, reset and reward

Posted by Sadie FoxTagged , , ,

As many will say, the pandemic which has consumed our lives over the last year, has provided us with opportunities to reflect, recoup, reset and rightly reward ourselves.

In one full cycle, we’ve gone through the ups and downs of home working, the trials and tribulations of Zoom and ongoing lockdown fears. After what has felt like a 2-year life break for many, we are now starting to see the circle of life spring back into action, once more.

It’s certainly been an emotional journey; however, despite the majority of us being eager to get back into the swing of things, it is of course important to remember those in our lives who have anxiety about returning to a ‘normal’ society and those who have consistency struggled throughout the pandemic. We are all human, with our own poignant pandemic story to tell, so taking the time to reflect recoup, reset and reward will be just as prevalent post-pandemic, as it was beforehand.

As we break out of our home offices and return to our social offices, now is the perfect time for us to reflect on the workplace champions who vow to continue investing and understanding the importance of the infamous work life balance.

Read more “Taking the time to reflect, recoup, reset and reward”

06
May
Grace French

Celebrating a positive shift across the industry

Posted by Grace French

The PR Week Best Places to Work Awards holds a particular significance this year. In an industry that’s known for being dynamic, adaptive and where “no two days are the same”, this has taken on a whole new meaning during the pandemic.

We’re honoured to have been shortlisted for our employee support during Covid-19, for the numerous ways in which we adapted and bolstered our wellbeing, training and development programmes to support our colleagues. We’re proud of the recognition both from PR Week and the feedback we’ve received from our colleagues, so for us, being shortlisted is a win.

We’d like to congratulate all the winners of the PR Week Best Places to Work this year, for prioritising their colleagues and knowing the difference this can make. The fact the competition was so stiff this year is testament to the many agencies of all shapes and sizes who are doing the right thing.

It’s inspiring to see a shift happening across the agency – the pandemic, though incredibly challenging at times, has acted as a catalyst for positive change. Gone is the era where paying lip service to wellbeing and support is acceptable. Gone are the days when superficial perks will be preferred over meaningful, tailored support.

Read more “Celebrating a positive shift across the industry”