Fairness is seen as a core value of the UK, yet just over one in five citizens across the North West believe society is fair

New PwC report identifies five tests for building a fairer future

●        Only 30% agree that society as a whole is ‘fair’ with 37% disagreeing

●        71% believe there is ‘one rule for some and a different rule for people like me’.

●        18% in the North West strongly disagree that ‘British society is fair compared to 9% in Northern Ireland, and 8% in the East Midlands

●        37% of people in urban areas compared to 25% of people in rural areas are more likely to believe ‘British society is fair’

●        Londonders are twice as likely to think that UK society is fair’, than those in the North West, South West or East of England

PwC’s latest Future of Government report, Making the UK Fairer, surveyed 4,000 people across the UK and found that, while 70% agree that the government is primarily responsible for achieving fairness across the UK, only 25% of citizens believe that government does a good job when it comes to making sure people are treated fairly.

PwC set out to identify how the public define ‘fairness’, if they perceive themselves as being treated fairly and how they perceive the role of government in facilitating a fair society. The overwhelming majority (81%) of respondents define fairness as ensuring that everyone is given an equal opportunity to achieve. The survey also found that fairness starts with everyone having access to food and shelter, being free from poverty and where children can access high quality education.

However, across the UK, only 30% of respondents agree that society is fair, falling to 22% in the North West and East of England and to 20% in the South West. London (45%) and Northern Ireland (37%) are the regions’ most likely to believe that society is fair. Across the 12 UK regions, people living in urban areas are 48% more likely to believe that society is fairer than those living in rural areas.

Based on the survey results and on extensive engagement with senior UK government officials, and leaders in public sector service provision and business, PwC has created a framework of five tests for fairness. These draw on best practice elsewhere, including New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget priorities and on PwC and Demos’ rolling research into Good Growth for Cities where health and happiness - and not merely wealth - is a measure of fairness in society.

Dan Burke, author of the report and Strategy& partner for Government & Health Industries, said:

“We’ve listened carefully to the public and to experts from other countries to stimulate conversation and new thinking about the future of UK society. Our research confirms more needs to be done to make the UK feel fair in the eyes of the public. Closing the opportunity gap will involve big, bold changes - not just rhetoric - but with ambition and political will it can be done. We’ve come up with five fairness tests which we hope can provide policymakers with practical pointers to help embed fairness and inclusion in everyday decision-making.”

The five tests which PwC believes could be used by government to design and test public policy to help build a fairer future for the UK are:

●        Provide for fundamental needs, prioritising the vulnerable and those in greatest need

●        Help people earn a decent living and prepare for the future world of work

●        Close the “fairness gap” between places and opportunities

●        Give individuals more control over the services they access

●        Empower communities to shape the places they live

Quentin Cole, Government and Health Industries Leader, commented:

“The Spending Round signalled that public services spending taps are being switched back on. But extra cash alone won’t necessarily deliver the outcomes the public expects, including fairness. That’s why we’ve designed the five tests, as a tool for policymakers to test and design public policy in a way that would build a fairer future for the UK.

“As reflected in the tests, our research found a desire on the part of citizens to be involved in the design of public services and this is a topic we will examine in our subsequent Future of Government publications.”

Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the steering group, commented:

“Amidst the Brexit rancour, the concept of fairness unites our country.  Yet when less than 1 in 3 people see British society as fair it is obvious we can and must do better to spread opportunities across the UK. If the divisions we face are to heal, a new effort is needed to put fairness at the heart of how governments make key decisions.”

Designing and delivering ‘fairness’ is not a new notion. Successive governments, including three reviews by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Social Mobility Commission’s recent State of the Nation 2018-19 report, have challenged how to make the economy work for everyone and how people of all backgrounds can get equal opportunities.

 

Dan Burke
Quentin Cole

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