As Regional Secretary of TUC North West, I have known and worked alongside Steve Rotheram for a number of years on campaigns promoting equality and tackling disadvantage and poverty. So, last August, when I was approached to chair his Fairness and Social Justice Advisory Board, I was delighted to have the opportunity to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the city region and help build a society with inclusivity at its heart.
The Fairness and Social Justice Advisory Board – or FASJAB as it has come to be known – is the first of its kind in the country, a permanent, standing board, designed to act as a “critical friend” to the Combined Authority in order to ensure that fairness and justice underpin every policy, every service and every economic initiative.
One year on, it’s a useful time to take stock of what we have achieved.
I was determined that the board would fully reflect the diversity of our city region so we set about building a team from right across the city region representing each of our communities – who would bring both professional expertise and lived experience with them.
We wanted the recruitment process to be open and transparent, so we invited people to express interest in taking part and were overwhelmed by the response and the support for FASJAB. By October we had put together a team of 12 and we began work.
We meet every two months and at each meeting we do three things:
- Invite members and officers to present to us the work they oversee; this gives board members a direct opportunity to influence policy and ensure that the needs of vulnerable groups are not overlooked.
- Ensure that we have input on policy from inception to implementation; recently been working to help shape one Steve’s key manifesto commitments – introducing a Fair Employment Charter.
- Identify where FASJAB can make a difference; by highlighting good practice and helping promote new approaches to equality and fairness. We’ve just finished an evidence gathering exercise analysing the work of the six local authorities on equality and diversity in their elected and appointed leadership, and are looking at ways to share nest practice.
Chairing the group over the past year has allowed me to meet incredible people, working hard for the residents and communities of our city region all determined, to bring about a fairer and more socially just city region for all. But we all know we must continue to update our own skills and knowledge to do that effectively, which is why we have just invited another six people to join the board in order to expand the range and scope of our work.
From a blank sheet of paper last August, to a respected and hardworking board articulating the voice of all our communities in one year is great progress, and we look forward to working on a variety of policies and initiatives in the next year that will make a real difference to the lives of the people of the Liverpool City Region.