People's Health Trust CEO, John Hume and Director of the Living Wage Foundation, Katherine Chapman with guests at the 50th Living Wage Funder event

People's Health Trust's Chief Executive, John Hume on why the Living Wage is so important to health.

"Last week we celebrated the 50th Living Wage Funder at the fantastic Living Wage Employer and Funder, Jerwood Arts.

The Trust became a Living Wage Funder about five years ago, and to be honest, it was fairly easy for us.

At a meeting around the same time five years ago with Living Wage partners, I began to think about what more we could do in this area and specifically for low paid workers in the charity sector.

Low pay is a systemic issue and therefore it required a systemic solution. If low pay was prevalent across the charity sector, then this was, in no small part down to funders and the way we fund.

Some funders at the time said that their applicants could apply for living wage salaries if they wanted to but they chose not to. For me, this denies the power structure which is at work. As a funder with money to give away, there is perceived and actual power imbalance and therefore asking for salaries which were living wage or higher takes courage and is almost a game of strategy for applicants – am I better to go for a lower amount and get it, than risk nothing at all.

This got us thinking about the opportunity to throw our collective weight behind the real Living Wage: to develop a Living Wage Funders badge and to openly demonstrate to applicants that, not only did we support the Living Wage, but that we welcomed applications for salaries which are paid at the real Living Wage.

For People’s Health Trust this was not just a campaign we felt we could sign up to. It was a critical component of our work. We exist to address health inequalities – these are the differences in length of life and quality of life between people who are wealthy and people who are not. These differences are a very serious piece of social injustice. The differences in life expectancy between one area and another can range from 8 years on average in parts of England to 13 years in parts of Scotland.

These differences are a huge social injustice and are fuelled, to a significant extent by wealth or a lack of it. One of the key determinants of health we address is work and that’s because we know that being out of work, being in low-paid employment and/or being in the low-pay-no-pay cycle, has a significant long-term negative impact on your health and your wellbeing.

Pronounced, long-term cycles of low pay do mean you live with disabilities for longer and do mean you die younger.

The Marmot review of 2010, on the back of the WHO report of 2008, recognised good, well-paid work as critical part of the jigsaw in tackling long term health.

So for us, being a part of the Living Wage movement, working with our colleagues in other funders to set up the Living Wage funders was a matter of profound social justice.

I feel really very proud of what has been achieved through the Living Wage Funders.

Starting from a room with four or five people, we are now celebrating Virgin Money Foundation and Wellcome Trust as our 49th and 50th funders.

Reaching this 50th milestone means collective funding power of £1.8bn, over £1bn of which goes directly on wages – paid at the living wage.

Since the Living Wage Funders launched, the charity sector has become the fastest growing sector of all Living Wage employers – increasing by a staggering 220%.

And this isn’t just about percentages, collectively this means that the movement has accredited 2,353 Living Wage employers benefitting 19,115 workers and securing increases in wages which mean that they can live comfortably in the real world, and not in one where the wage is dictated solely by what an employer can afford.

The Living Wage journey is far from over. Low pay in the charity sector remains endemic and if you’re heritage is Black, Asian and minority ethnic, you are a woman, part-time or a young person, you are more likely than any other group to the be paid below the real Living Wage.

I’d urge everyone to promote the Living Wage Employers and Living Wage Funders schemes, so that we can start to see that through a systemic increase to the amount we all allocate in funding to salaries, we see some positive movement in the metrics in charity sector pay. This is the stuff which makes you happier, it is quite literally a contributor to living healthier for longer."

To find out more about the Living Wage Funders scheme, click here.

To read more news from the Trust, click here.

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