FCE held on Wednesday 25 October 2017 in New Volunteer House a roundtable discussion on the Fife Partnership plan to make Fife by 2027 a place where all residents live good lives, make informed choices and have a sense of control to reach their full potential and where all children are safe, happy and healthy.
About the Let’s Talk Approach:
- The first thing that comes to mind, is ‘Who has signed up to this?’. What attempts have been made to get organisations on-board? It feels very much like a top-down exercise, these do not become community groups by themselves feeding into existing public sector structures
- It is hard for people to respond to something as big as this, people only really know and raise the issues that affect them. For this report, you really need a map and compass to find out what is relevant to whom. It is not just to criticise the work that went into this, it is an enormous job to try and fit into a timescale.
- [They] are not consulting on what people want before deciding what programmes are to take place. The ‘average’ angle does not work to represent the reality. Transport issues are disabling many in SW Fife, and this does not come through in the report or local plan. The report says older people are fine if they can drive but that’s not everyone.
- The plan and the challenges described do not always match the everyday concerns of folk. For many members of the congregation do not perceive they are receiving any services from Fife Council, so what is in the plan does not relate to them.
- The approach in the plan reflects the concerns of Fife Council, which is not always the best outcome for communities. For example [we – Dysart] have a voluntary sailing group and we obtained use of the harbour on a 100-year lease. It is the community that has kept the fees very low so anyone can take part in sailing. We have people with old, small and cheap boats all the way up to the latest luxury boats, but there are no barriers in place. Fife Council want to take over the lease, they would prefer to run it like Anstruther, with higher fees. And it is also the arrogance we will have to deal with, they made it very difficult for us to stay as it is, and it is similar to bullying tactics – you need professional advice to know what is going on and it is not easy for small groups to afford the costs.
- What we have [in the plan] is the repeated and entrenched view of people using services [as they are] – it is normal and understandable but it is not the wider view. We need to validate and look at who is providing the evidence
Theme 1: Opportunities for all
- It is an old saying that “we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns”. We are all equal, but that is no longer the case – we feel that we are not that equal anymore.
- People are chaotic, they all have different views and is not easy to group them in to themes. Their thoughts are “they have a right to be equal, and ‘they’ are getting more, why should I not get more too?”.
- It is leading to divisions in society, everything is political and divided. Do we continue to encourage the divisiveness or can we all manage to see things a little different?
- Politicians cause so much divisiveness too by polarising issues, I mean, just look at Question Time.
- When you hear that the ageing population is a big challenge, […] there is so much contradictions in that argument. Migrants are generally young, skilled and are ready to do jobs that other people don’t want to do and yet they are made to feel they are not welcome anywhere. Their contribution is simply not recognised, what does it say about us when they receive letters stating their employment or stay in the UK can be terminated? Of course, they would look at this and compare with all other countries in Europe where they would be treated better and we miss out on all those skills.
- What really needs to be changed is seeing and recognising people as assets. We have a society that is based on inequality, and rewards from the top which creates more inequality.
- Creating opportunities for all is in the plan, but when you look at the focus on STEM subjects, it is not only about how many people take them, it is also about who takes them – i.e. gender, social class etc. There’s a lot of barriers across peoples, we need to name them and address directly.
- There is little or no progress on Equal Opportunities. In fact, it seems like it is going backwards, there is less respect for anyone who is slightly different, say with a disability or LGBT etc. We need to enforce their protection, with time acceptance will become the norm but in the meantime we need to protect [them].
- To change behaviour, you need to work closely with groups. I remember in the 90’s working with homeless people, we faced a lot of challenging opinions and values. You had people using racist words without particularly thinking about it, once you sat down and explained to one person what was wrong with this, they would rethink the situation. The next time they heard it, they challenged racism themselves. It’s that self-policing we need to get in to.
- The plan looks at institutions but not really into changing communities’ attitudes and that counts a lot in making life a bit fairer.
Theme 2: Thriving places
- In the 60’s, there was still social capital, with neighbours looking after each other. It was not perfect for sure, if you were different you would get picked on but it was not as vicious as the attacks you get now.
- There is change in the neighbourhoods as well, places that used to be considered good areas get looked down upon.
- There is still a stigma attached to where people live. Social housing was seen as normal in the past, now we see it as a sign of poverty. There is a mentality of looking at a house as an investment as opposed to a place to live. Value and self-esteem is coming from what you own and it’s getting worse as it’s difficult to get into the housing market.
- Social media also does not have a moral compass. Younger generations see things very differently, they also get their news or stories from their Facebook or similar. Older generations still get theirs through the news or the papers, and it becomes a vicious circle as papers start printing titles that will sell instead of really reporting on what’s happening. More and more, it is putting people in silos.
- There is also the need to dig deeper to know what is really going on. For example; we did a survey with parents of migrant children in schools, and we heard that Polish parents were seen as being arrogant. Through spending a bit more time and having conversations, we found that Polish people were simply scared to get into conversations. The language barrier [they face] can easily be taken the wrong way.
- For LGBTI communities, the younger generation tends to be more inclusive and accepting. Over time, the changes do happen – it’s just that in some areas there is very little happening and we need to find ways to accelerate this.
- It is easy to misread statistics. Another example was that there was talk of rise in crime statistics with the arrival of migrants in Fife. People talked about that a lot, but if you look in to it, it was mainly because of a rise in driving offences as the Polish community was not used to driving on the left.
- We need to feel like we can challenge negative behaviours to really have ‘thriving places’
- There are different protections, the Equality Act can’t always help someone who has been harassed based on sex for example, it is unlawful in certain circumstances and the public on average does not understand the details in the Equality Act.
- The zero-tolerance approach for verbal abuse on bus drivers has been very successful, but that is because there is clear repercussion on the health and safety of passengers, and other drivers on the road. It is not the same for all environments.
- To get community cohesion, what we need is to get to communities policing communities by themselves: not having the situations where we are ok being bystanders when there is an incident.
- We need to re-establish the fabric, so that we do look after our neighbours and after each other’s well-being and not just our properties.
- The only way to do this is by increasing face-to-face contact, seeing people as people – the disconnect from just using the internet reinforces prejudice.
- To address this, we need civic leadership, politicians to drop the lies they tell during elections and get people working together.
Theme 3: Inclusive growth and jobs
- There are not enough support mechanisms to really integrate in to their communities. Often for individuals having problems when moving into a community, it’s often a question of the communities not knowing how to address people’s behaviour.
- The job situation we have at the moment is that we expect people to work for longer, and the impact is that young people are simply not able to get into jobs.
- Fixating on a number is not everything, someone could suffer a stroke at 63 and another could be healthy till the late 70s. Also, there is a variation in life expectancy across local authorities – e.g. between Glasgow and most of SE England. How fair is it that people in the wrong postcode not only live less, but retire with less money and total state pension?
- About paying people fairly, it depends a lot of where people work. The ‘living wage’ can vary a lot for businesses, even more for those employing migrant workers. There are so many people on zero hours as well, they might get a ‘living wage’ when they get paid but they don’t get work that often.
- There is still some dockyard animosity, such as when migrants were brought in to work at lower wages than local people, it has led to a perception that they were forcing people out of jobs. It is so short-sighted, we are all migrants from somewhere. We all have to work to live and someone somewhere decides the jobs will be made. Migrants go in to work where they can and they help the economy. Now they are made to feel like they will have to leave.
- In one case, it can cost up to £3000 of legal fees to fill in 80+ pages for a residency form, and yet still be told afterwards to be ready to leave.
- It is hard to know what is really happening with Brexit, there is so many question marks about the economy but we know for sure the economy will suffer
- It is sad but democracy does not work easily in the poorest areas, where migrants and the more marginalised people live. They have a language barrier or don’t have the social capital to get their story told.
Theme 4: Community-led services
- There is a lot of responses [in the plan] that match the many concerns people have, however what should matter the most is getting the core services right
- The whole fairness issue is a massive agenda, it is really about how we get people together and organise ourselves to deliver services that are really needed.
- There is a good example of how people organise themselves in St Kilda (The Life and Death of St. Kilda: The moving story of a vanished island community) and it tells a very different story of how a whole community that survived for centuries by sharing everything, the whole island was actually owned by everyone. It really tells us how as a society we’ve become competitive and greedy.
- The most noticeable issue is how inaccessible so many services are. You just cannot get through to speak to a person [on the phone] so as to sort something out. For older people, it’s no wonder they get disengaged or confused. A minor thing becomes an issue and then a source of constant irritation, just because you can’t reach anyone to get it sorted out early enough.
- The contact centre approach just does not suit the work (i.e. reporting abuse, housing issues, bins etc). People are people, not customers. If you call Fife Council, it’s because you are a resident – that is preferable term to customer or client etc.
- We need a Fife that matches the needs of the people, we have to work from the ground up to do this, and not just recreate the same plans and services. Of course consulting people on complicated issues is difficult but it is the only way to get this done.
- Some good examples are intergenerational work, such as getting older people in care homes meeting with nursery kids. It is about bringing communities together, experiential learning that happens naturally but that we just miss because of how we [institutions] are set up. We simply lack ways of connecting.
- We need to move beyond seeing everything service based, so that people can feel more in control and responsible of their own community. [The way it is] community councils are becoming meaningless it could be very different. A good example would be like the plan to distribute £60,000 to several community councils and asking them to find out what can help locally [in the Stirling area]. We need to work from there, from the ground up and see what we can do locally.
- There’s no mention of social isolation in the plan – or indicators that steer the plan towards more connectedness. We can live close to each other physically but in fact are very far from each other. Many people do not know their neighbours and are unlikely to in the future.
- Also, where is equality in the plan? There is mention of inequality but only as a broad aim, it does not talk about the relative issues of different groups, when there are multiple barriers being faced.
- The issue of access/transport is not accurate – West Fife area has major issues in transport. Also, there is no clear priorities for stimulus or economic development in small areas, such as helping set up community cafés.
- The wider issue is a selfish society. Neighbours used to be looking out for each other, but no longer. Popular TV shows are like The Apprentice, where people are rewarded for being greedy, trampling on people. It just nurtures the ‘I’m alright Jack’ attitude. We simply need kindness from more people.