Deborah, Matt, Will and Shakeela tell us their views on fairness and inequality in Sheffield

Deborah My name’s Deborah. I’m a teacher, and I’m here with my son and one of his friends.

Matt I work for myself. I live at Swallownest and we’ve sort of come over for the first time in… It’s many years since I’ve been here and we’ve come over just to bring the kids.

Will I’ve lived in Sheffield on and off ten years. I came to university here when I was 18. I’m a health economist, but I’ve been to the uni at various stages and I’m finishing a PhD at the moment.

Shakeela I’m Shakeela. I live in Sheffield, been born and bred in Sheffield, currently work for a young people’s homeless charity in Sheffield, and I’m here with the family enjoying the weather, the stalls and the food.

Do you think Sheffield is a fair place to live?

Matt I would say so, yeah. Where we live at Swallownest, there seems to be a lot of opportunities to enjoy that area. We’ve got Rother Valley Country Park close to us. We’ve got many amenities, you know. We seem well looked after where we are.

Deborah No, not particularly. I think there’s massive inequalities just within a couple of miles of each other. So for instance I live in Bradway, which is very well off in places, then just down the road there’s obviously Lowedges, which is completely different.

Shakeela Yes. Yes, I do. I think Sheffield’s a wonderful place to live. You find people from all backgrounds, cultures, ages, colours in Sheffield.

Are you aware of any inequality in the city?

Matt I think I would be aware of it, but I’m of the opinion that people have the ability to get away from poverty if they so wish.

Shakeela I think inequality exists amongst communities who either don’t participate or engage very well with the wider community.

What do you think causes inequality?

Deborah To begin with, it’s probably a massive issue in terms of housing. Rather than spreading out social housing, you’ve got it in Sheffield - and I imagine most of other cities - grouped in one place.

Matt At the moment immigration’s a big factor. I am aware that certain pockets of my own community - because we’re from an old pit community - coming through the years, I think certain people have become used to surviving on welfare, but I feel that is starting to change quite a bit. I think people are starting to make a move in the right direction.

On average, a girl born in Ecclesall will live around ten years longer than in one born in Burngreave. Were you aware of this and do you have any idea why?

Deborah Goodness me. That’s quite big, isn’t it?

Is that something you were aware of?

Deborah No, I wasn’t aware of that at all.

Shakeela I know there’s a bigger concentration of ethnic minority communities in Burngreave and surrounding areas. Possibly that’s it, but there is also, although it’s not admitted by the local police, there is an issue with gangs in the area as well.

Who do you think is treated most unfairly in Sheffield?

Will I know that personally I’m treated quite well. I know that I’m treated ok. I think there are people who would say they aren’t treated very well in Sheffield by different things, and I don’t think perhaps I’m the best person to say who is or isn’t. I wouldn’t like to put one group as being the worst treated, because I don’t really know.

Deborah Anybody who’s on any kind of benefit whatever is getting a massively raw deal at the moment, and that’s not just a Sheffield issue is? That’s nationwide.

Shakeela It’s heartbreaking to say this, but new immigrants are treated unfairly by people in my community, and I find that shocking and surprising given that my community suffered the exact same thing when they emigrated to this country.

45% of privately rented houses in Sheffield do not meet the requirements of the government’s decent homes standard.

Will That doesn’t surprise me at all, it doesn’t, and that’s becoming big news now. Housing is our biggest crisis, because there’s a massive shortage of housing. If that happens landlords don’t have to meet as high standards, because people are desperate for housing.

Deborah Oh, you’re joking? No, I did not know that. You kind of expect it from when you’ve been to uni and you’ve lived in some dodgy places, but then you know you’re only there for a bit.

Shakeela I know that new legislation means that HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) have to be registered. Although they have to be registered and it’s the law, doesn’t always mean that people don’t break the law.

Whose responsibility is it to deal with issues of inequality?

Deborah It’s the government entirely - how you distribute the wealth you take in. There’s this false dichotomy between ‘we haven’t got money in the country and therefore we need to do x, y and z’, but only to these people in this particular pocket of society. It’s entirely a government issue.

What is fairness?

Matt I think it’s as much to do with respect as anything else. Just make sure you respect everyone and everything around you, and I think fairness will come along quite simply then on its own.

Shakeela To me it means I treat people with respect, give them time, be patient, be understanding.

Will For me it’s something that’s just a value that people can all relate to. It’s a human value, and it’s about equality of opportunity. I’m not giving a very good example, but I still feel I know what fairness is.

To me, [fairness] means I treat people with respect, give them time, be patient, be understanding.

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