Poverty, economic exclusion and inequality are a stark reality in Leicestershire and elsewhere in the UK. Homelessness, the use of foodbanks and the wide gaps in employment, attainment and opportunities across regions are just some of the visible signs of the problem. On the 3rd December, the Institute for Applied Economics and Social Value hosted an event, bringing together experts from academia, policy, business and charity, to explore the challenges and opportunities in tackling poverty.

The morning began with talks from five guest speakers. The first speaker was Juliet Stone from the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University. She gave an overview of research on the Minimum Income Standard, defined as the minimum amount a person needs to have an acceptable standard of living. We saw that around a third of people are below this minimum standard. Subsequently, Juliet looked at factors specific to poverty, and child poverty, in the East Midlands. One issue highlighted was the role of low pay.

The next speaker was Alison Adams, who is Diocesan and Cathedral Social Responsibility Enabler, the Diocese of Leicester. One issue she talked about was Leicester’s Homelessness Charter – a call to action to bring people together to work with one another to prevent homelessness. On a related note she emphasized the need for a joined up approach to tackling poverty that brings together actors from across the City and County.

Chris Shaw, Director of Ethical Business Exchange and ThinkCSR, talked next about the role that business and corporate social responsibility can play in helping to tackle poverty. Then Chantal Brotherhood, from Voluntary Action Leicestershire, talked about the GREAT Project and YES project designed to help people move towards work or training.

The morning session finished with two talks from DMU colleagues. Simon Stevens, Lecturer in Political Philosophy talked about how public space is being shaped in a way that can create a negative environment for homeless people. Finally, Gregory James, Reader in Finance and Banking, reflected on his experiences of participating in a CEO sleepout in Nottingham in support of homeless charities.

After tea and coffee we had an open discussion on the way forward in tackling poverty in Leicestershire. The role of housing was a recurring theme, as was the need for City wide coordination. There was also a call for more efforts or possibilities to collect evidence to inform policy. This is something we hope that IAESV can help lead on in the future.