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Reflections on ‘Ideas for a more equitable Leeds’

Added: 17/03/2022

Voluntary Action Leeds

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VAL, working in partnership with Leeds ACTS! have just reached the mid point in a series of seminars on exploring ‘Ideas for a more equitable Leeds’. VAL’s Chair, Chris Hollins, reflects on what we’ve learnt to date.


“Homelessness is a choice”, a controversial statement made by one of our speakers at the third of our Ideas for a more equitable Leeds seminars. It turns out to be not just controversial, but a powerful statement which applies to every question of equity. It is not that homeless people make that choice, they don’t, frequently they are not in a position to make even the most basic of choices which govern their lives. The choice is made by those with the power and the resources to bring about change.


Equitable Leeds seeks to open a space to discuss some of the big challenges that face the people of our city and explore ideas for solutions. It has brought together leaders by experience/practice and academics to share their viewpoints and stimulate debate from other participants. To date the series has covered ‘Money’, ‘Green Space’ & ‘Housing’, with ‘Health and Wellbeing’, ‘Food’ and ‘Education, Employment and Training’ still to follow.


We are looking forward to the next event on – 23rd March– ‘Health and Wellbeing’, when our speakers, Heather Nelson and Dr Maria Maynard will look at how we can improve health and wellbeing in Leeds for all.


We don’t have to look far for the big ideas that have come up in conversation; universal basic income, bring the natural environment closer to people and communities, eradicate child poverty, green up the inner ring road, retrofitting houses, there is no shortage of discussion or ideas. However, we are frequently left with the question, where will the money come from? And that is where “Homelessness is a choice” comes in.


Ideas that change lives are never going to be easy, never without cost. Whether it is housing, or the environment, access to a transport system that can give those who need it the route to a job or education, or the health system. Ultimately it is all of us, society as a whole, which makes those choices. We like to leave the big decisions in the hands of elected officials and pass them the responsibility. We accept the level of homelessness, ill health, poor transport and inadequate environment that we are prepared to tolerate as a society. We have made that choice.


Many of the big ideas of times gone by have come from individuals who have then worked to bring them about. Housing was transformed in the 19th century by Joseph Rowntree and Titus Salt as they sought to bring a degree of equity to the people who worked for them. Times may be different, but if we want things to change now we must first set out our objectives, then seek to change the minds of everyone who can play a part in bringing them about.


We know that many of the proposals need major investment, often with the help of central government. However, we’re sure there are some things we can do together that will make a difference. At the end of the seminar series we’ll be publishing a report that identifies some of the big things we think that Leeds could achieve if we all pull in the same direction.


If you want to join the conversation sign up now for our upcoming seminars:

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Voluntary Action Leeds

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