Non-government responses

Governments are not the only institutions working to address social and economic inequalities - the voluntary and private sector also play significant roles.

The voluntary sector

A foodbank in Epsom, Surrey
A foodbank in Epsom, Surrey

Outside of governments, there are voluntary organisations helping to tackle social and economic inequality. Across Scotland and the UK there are many charities established to help with things such as homelessness, health, and discrimination.

One of the most talked-about voluntary schemes of recent years has been the establishment of food banks.

According to Independent Food Aid Network there are at least 2000 food banks in operation in the UK. The Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest food bank network, handed out over a million three-day supply food parcels between 2016 and 2017. Over the same period, the public donated over 11 thousand tonnes of food for the Trussell Trust banks via supermarkets.

The majority of people who receive food from these banks are on low incomes or awaiting benefit payments. Only around 5% of people who use food banks are homeless – many more food bank users, currently about 25%, are in work but are unable to feed themselves or their families properly due to low wages and lack of money.

The private sector

Private chemotherapy. Spire Wellesley Hospital, Southend-on-Sea
Private chemotherapy at Spire Wellesley Hospital, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

The private sector also plays a wide role in addressing social inequality from implementing government initiatives to addressing racial and gender discrimination in the workplace, to providing private health care, to entering into partnerships with government to build hospitals and schools.

Private health care is available for those able to afford it. Health care services – such as dental care or mental health counselling – are often provided by employers in workplace schemes. The unemployed, however, are excluded from these types of schemes.

The private sector has also helped build new schools and hospitals in partnership arrangements with governments and local councils. Usually the private companies pay for and build the new buildings and then rent them to the councils or government. The appeal of these partnerships for governments is they do not have to provide funds upfront to pay for construction.

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