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Looking back at 2023: winning ground in a challenging year

Lisa Meaney Wild Pear CIC - TA event

Creating Ground CIC

Lisa Meaney Wild Pear CIC - TA event

Creating Ground CIC

This year has been a challenging one for many in London’s civil society sector, but hope and encouragement continue to shine through. We want to thank all of our funded partners for their efforts this year.

We know many of you have been working flat out to serve the communities you work with, and we hope you’re able to take a hard-earned rest over the holiday period. Before we wrap up, let’s take a look back at some of the major milestones of 2023.

Click through the tabs for highlights from our different work areas.

Highlights from our migration work

Future voices - Voice of Domestic Workers

Voice of Domestic Workers at the Future Voices programme led by Sound Delivery Media

For our funded partners supporting migrant Londoners, 2023 was a tough year. Successive government announcements have continued to put the rights of migrant Londoners under threat, and many of our partners have had to focus their energies into pushing back against inhumane policies, such as the Rwanda plan and the Illegal Migration Act. In this context, many of our funded partners continued to carry out excellent work.

In recent weeks, the sector has been put on the backfoot again by the government’s announcement that the salary requirement for skilled workers moving to the UK has been hiked to £38,700 – well above the UK’s average salary. Across the sector, our partners have ensured that their voices are loud in pushing back against this policy.

Domestic workers

Migrant domestic workers are an especially vulnerable group, working in an unregulated sector. In 2022, their rights came under further threat. Latin American Women’s Rights Service (who also celebrated it’s 40th anniversary this year) published a vital report shining a light on the experience of Latin American domestic workers. Domestic workers can often be virtually invisible, and this piece of research played an important role in showcasing their experiences, and provided a clear roadmap for change.

Our partners the Voice of Domestic Workers campaigned throughout the year to protect domestic workers’ rights.

New migrant leaders

At the start of 2022, Shpresa – a charity supporting London’s Albanian community – launched a new leadership campaign. The project is for emerging migrant community leaders, to help them bring about positive change.

Ledi Pajaj: “Sometimes leadership can seem a distant concept. But we are really keen to promote the idea that leadership is within all of us. With a clear sense of a problem, and a burning desire to find a solution we can all step up to be leaders."

Extortionate visa fees

The fees that migrants have to pay to renew their visas and stay in the UK are extortionate, driving many families into debt and poverty. Migrant Voice's work brings migrants together to speak out against this system. Through their work, hundreds of MPs and Lords have heard directly from migrants the experiences of extortionate visa fees.

Young migrant-led organisation, We Belong, has also been carrying out vital work on this issue. This year they launched their Out of the Loop campaign. To mark the start of the campaign, a group of young migrant Londoners hand-delivered a letter to the home office.

No recourse to public funds

'No recourse to public funds' (NRPF) is a condition attached to work, family and study visas which restricts access to much of the welfare safety net for almost 1.4 million people, including around 175,000 children. It is a key factor in driving many migrants into poverty.

Using our funding, Praxis has set up a campaign to abolish the use of the NRPF condition, co-produced with migrants. The project has helped those negatively affected by the policy to build a collective voice. Praxis' NRPF Action Group, made up of 50 affected migrant Londoners, co-produces the campaign. Praxis has provided hours of skills development workshops to help the members develop their campaigning skills and confidence.

One action group member said: "It was amazing as led by people with lived experience. The sense of leadership and everyone felt they were doing something on something affecting them."

The campaign has contributed to two significant policy changes - a permanent extension of eligibility for free school meals to children living in poverty, regardless of immigration status, and an extension of 15-hours a week government-funded childcare for 2-year-olds living in poverty to families with NRPF. Both of these changes will make a difference to the lives of those affected by NRPF.

Praxis has also worked with London boroughs to improve the approach to NRPF. As a result of this work, it has helped Newham to identify key changes to improve services for migrants and to mitigate issues caused by NRPF. And Hackney became one of the first boroughs to set up a small grant fund for residents with NRPF.

Fair by Design Poverty Premium screenshot

Fair by Design's Poverty Premium story series

Highlights from our living standards work

Living standards took a huge hit in 2023. We continued to track how people’s living standards are being affected by the current climate. Our cost of living tracker showed that low-income people are suffering the most from rising costs. And our latest Minimum Incomes Standard London report showed that wages and social security are falling well short of providing millions of Londoners with a basic standard of living.

Our funded partners continued to provide vital services, supporting the most vulnerable Londoners and pushing for the long-term solutions we need to tackle poverty. But ultimately, without focused government action, living standards are unlikely to improve anytime soon.

Poverty premium

We’re proud to support Fair by Design, a campaign dedicated to ending the ‘poverty premium’ - the extra costs of being poor. A quarter of British households are estimated to experience at least one type of poverty premium – and on average, it costs low-income households about £430 a year. This year Fair by Design published reports on Insurance and the Poverty Premium  and Payments systems and the poverty premium, highlighting how these sectors need to change to end the unfair costs of being poor.

Fairer social security

Social security is meant to be there to support all of us, especially when we need it most. But current social security levels are woefully low, keeping many Londoners in poverty. While there are some small changes the government could make to improve the situation (for example, removing the benefit cap would have a huge impact on reducing poverty), wider overhaul of the system is ultimately needed.

We’ve been funding several pieces of work calling for these changes. In January, liberal conservative think-tank Bright Blue, put forward a blueprint for a fairer social security system. The blueprint put forward policy proposals to make the system more adequate, more accessible and more fair, including establishing a new ‘minimum living’ income to help low-income households.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Trussell Trust also launched a major new campaign, 'Guarantee Our Essentials’, calling for the basic rate of Universal Credit to include an ‘essentials guarantee’, so that nobody has to go without essentials.

Good food for all Londoners

Even in the current climate, there is more that local authorities could do to improve living standards. In Good Food for all Londoners, Sustain UK shone a light on each London borough’s approach to food partnership and household food insecurity. Each borough is given a scorecard and outlines actions that can be taken to tackle food poverty. The next report will be published in early 2024.

Highlights from our better work programme

London Living Wage event 2022 - girl looking at photo

London Living Wage campaign

More than half of working-age Londoners in poverty are employed. Low pay and rising costs mean in-work poverty is far too common across London. Employers have a huge role to play in tackling poverty and inequality. This year we continued to fund projects to help all Londoners to be able to access good quality work and to reduce the levels of in-work poverty.

London Living Wage

Too many Londoners don’t earn enough to get by. More than half of all Londoners in poverty are in work. We’ve been a long term supporter of the London Living Wage campaign, and in 2021 we committed another £4.8 million over four years to make London a Living Wage City. Since then, 1,296 organisations headquartered in London have been Living Wage accredited. Together, these organisations employ more than 400,000 people. By committing to pay the Living Wage, more than 52,000 Londoners on the lowest incomes have received pay-rises. This work continued throughout 2023, with the Living Wage Foundation focusing on getting some of London’s most iconic employers accredited as Living Wage employers and on ensuring that low-income Londoners have a security of hours through their Living Hours campaign.

Beyond pay

Paying everyone at least a real Living Wage is the single most important thing employers can do to lift people out of poverty. But there are other actions to take, too. We’re funding the Social Market Foundation to create a new benchmark for London-based employers who want to do more. This year, SMF published a new report on the levels of in-work poverty in London’s public sector. The report found that 140,000 Londoners living in a household relying on a public sector wage are in poverty and argued that London’s workers need more support from their employers. As well as better pay, this includes fair working hours, more opportunities for progression and improved benefits (such as subsidies for unavoidable costs).

London’s untapped potential

Young Black men are up to three times more likely to face unemployment compared to their white counterparts, irrespective of their qualifications. Despite making up 21% of London’s population, they account for only 4% of the construction sector and 5% of the tech workforce.

As part of the Moving on Up initiative, together with our strategic partners Action for Race Equality and City Bridge Foundation, we launched a film campaign calling on employers to hire more of the talented young Black graduates looking to launch their careers. It received over 170k views and approximately 90 downloads of the employer toolkit. Watch the campaign’s powerful film here.

Highlights from our racial justice work

Runnymede Trust

The Runnymede Trust

Ethnicity and poverty in London are closely linked. The latest poverty data found that Black Londoners are more than twice as likely to be in poverty than white Londoners. Our work under the Racial justice fund focuses on advancing a more just and inclusive economy by expanding opportunities for people from Black and minoritised communities to connect to quality work, participate in business ownership and build the economic stability necessary to pursue opportunity.

In 2022, we awarded funding to the first six organisations receiving grants under our racial justice fund. These projects began work in earnest in 2023. This year we opened applications for the second round of funding. We're in the process of shortlisting the expressions of interest and will be looking to provide grants under this round in March 2024.

Highlights from our disability justice work

ADHD Babes

ADHD Babes

We provided more than £1m to 16 Deaf and Disabled people’s organisations across London under our Disability justice fund this year. These projects aim to support movement building including investing in the capacity of Deaf and Disabled people’s organisations to campaign for change and diversifying the disability movement. We’re currently open for the second round of funding under this programme until 4 March 2024.

Highlights from our social investment work

Micro Rainbow Award ceremony

Micro Rainbow, winning Charity of the Year at the British Diversity Awards

Alongside our grant-making, social investment is another way we support organisations delivering social impact. This year has been busy for our social investment team, which gave out £2.4m into eight organisations. These covered a wide range of work, including:

  • Branches, which provides shelter to single homeless people in Waltham Forest, to open a new centre, to open in 2024
  • House of St Barnabas, a social enterprise membership club in Soho, to help the team run their employment training programme for Londoners experiencing homelessness
  • London Early Years Foundation to open a new, state-of-the-art nursery in Greenwich. The nursery will help give children in the borough – especially those most in need – the best start in life.

We’ve also agreed a number of exciting new investments for next year. We'll be providing funding to Jerk Grill, a Caribbean restaurant that delivers social impact to the local community through food-banks and cooking classes, and to Youth PWR Magazine, a youth culture and lifestyle magazine that gives young people a platform to develop and present their writing, photography and journalistic abilities. More details on those coming next year.

Participatory social investment

We launched a new programme called Vested this year, in partnership with Shift Design and the Connect Fund. The project puts young people with experience of unemployment at the heart of decision-making for a social-investment fund of £300,000. Applications are open until 30 January 2024.

Lisa Meaney Wild Pear CIC - TA event

Creating Ground at the Better Temporary Accommodation Showcase 2023

Highlights from our housing work

It’s been an especially busy year for our housing work. Rents went up, homelessness hit a record high, and the housing crisis persisted, keeping millions in poverty. Against this backdrop, our many funded partners continued to put forward calls for change and provide support to people across London. Read Susie’s full reflections on our housing work in 2023.