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CSJ Award winners fight deepest social problems and should inspire us all – says PM

The Centre for Social Justice honoured the work of the most effective charities tackling disadvantage and social breakdown at its annual Awards ceremony last night. 

Leading figures from the worlds of politics, entertainment, business and sport gathered in London to celebrate and recognise the impact of six outstanding charities and groups that are helping to tackle poverty and turn lives around.

The event coincided with the CSJ's official celebration of its 10th anniversary.

Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a video message to the audience, and said the Award winners “are people who reject the notion that poverty and disadvantage are inevitable”. He said they “work against the odds to offer hope, spread opportunity and transform lives”.

He added: “I’m delighted their work – so often overlooked – is being given the recognition it deserves tonight.” Watch the full message here.

The occasion, which was hosted by TV presenter June Sarpong, saw six cash prizes of £10,000 awarded to groups that were selected by an expert panel of judges.

Awards were presented by a host of celebrities, including historian Dan Snow, screenwriter and creator of Downton Abbey Sir Julian Fellowes and England cricket legend Allan Lamb. CSJ founder and Patron Iain Duncan Smith MP concluded the event with a speech on the importance of the voluntary sector.

The CSJ Awards has brought voluntary groups to the attention of the national media and policy-makers over the last 10 years and has given out nearly £400,000 in prizes.

The first winner named on the night was the Big House, a London-based charity that works with care leavers who are at a high risk of social exclusion, using drama as a therapeutic tool. Their award was presented by Lord Fellowes. The Big House website is available here.

Sheffield Alcohol Support Service, which helps people to tackle addiction and change their lives through a range of specialist services, won the second award of the night, the Maxie Richards Award, presented by Dan Snow. View the SASS website here.

The winner of the third award was Action Foundation, which provides support to the most isolated people in Tyneside. This includes a project to provide accommodation and support to destitute asylum seekers. The award was presented by Allan Lamb. Read the group’s website here.

The next award focussed on groups supporting victims of modern slavery and human trafficking – a subject the CSJ put under the spotlight last year with its major report It Happens Here.

Home Secretary Theresa May recorded a message for the ceremony, saying: “The CSJ’s work on modern slavery inspired me to put forward a new Modern Slavery Bill that will soon become an Act. It will ensure that Britain once again leads the world in its fight against this crime.” 

This award was given to the Baca Charity, which works directly with vulnerable migrant children across the Midlands who are seeking asylum or are victims of modern slavery. Broadcast journalist Aasmah Mir presented the award. View Baca’s website here.

In a new category for the event, the next award was dedicated to groups specialising in early intervention. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan continued the presence of high-profile politicians at the ceremony, and presented the new award to The Eikon. The Surrey-based group identifies at risk youth and provides support. Their website is available here.

The final award of the evening was the Mark Duncan Award, named in memory of the CSJ team member who led work on problem debt and its link to disadvantage. Mark’s wife, Nicola, presented the award to women@thewell. This women-only drop-in centre in London is dedicated to supporting women with a complex range of needs relating to street based prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse, offending and rough sleeping. View its website here.

Go to the CSJ YouTube page here for videos of last night’s winners and previous winners. A picture gallery of the event is also available here.

Prime Minister backs CSJ plans for reforming failing schools

Centre for Social Justice proposals to get some of the best teachers to the weakest schools have been backed by the Prime Minister.

David Cameron last week set out a raft of policies he wants to implement to improve failing schools in England, many of which were suggested by the CSJ in the recent Breakthrough Britain 2015 reports.

This includes a national teaching service, which would help to tackle the problem of schools in challenging areas struggling to recruit high-quality staff.

The service could create a central pool of talented teachers, with support and training, who could be deployed where they are most needed.

The service was proposed by the CSJ in the August report Closing the Divide, which was welcomed by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Another recommendation from this report that the Conservatives have backed is that regional commissioners should be given stronger powers to make immediate changes in struggling schools.

Nicky Morgan has also announced she wants to see more done to link primary schools with the world of work – something the CSJ called for in its Journey to Work report.

The Breakthrough Britain 2015 project is already having a major impact on mainstream political parties, who are expected to list many of the recommendations in their election manifestos.

Chancellor George Osborne said the Tories want to "abolish" long-term youth unemployment and backed a CSJ scheme to help young people gain skills to get into work.

The party also outlined plans to introduce pre-paid benefit cards to help some of the most vulnerable people, such as drug addicts with families. The CSJ called for the trial of this in the report Ambitious for Recovery, also published in August.

• Author of Closing the Divide, Lee Davis, last week moved from the CSJ to be a Special Adviser at the Department for Education. Lee also researched and authored the CSJ report Requires Improvement.

Government to enforce CSJ calls for businesses to reveal anti-slavery measures

Large companies will have to disclose the steps they are taking to ensure their supply chains are “slavery free” – a key recommendation put forward by the CSJ.

It is expected that the move will be added to the Modern Slavery Bill, which was a key recommendation in the CSJ’s landmark It Happens Here report last year.

Karen Bradley, the Minister for Modern Slavery, said the Government would hold a consultation over the exact threshold for the size of businesses that will be involved.

The Minister said: "We all have a responsibility to stamp out this evil trade and this world-leading measure calls on businesses to play their part. There are already many companies taking a lead and taking action."

The provision is partly modelled on transparency arrangements in California.

At the Conservative Party conference earlier this month, CSJ Director Christian Guy hosted a main hall debate on modern slavery, which included appearances from Karen Bradley and lawyer Caroline Haughey, who prosecuted the first cases of modern slavery in Britain. Watch it here

The CSJ was also involved in media debates on Saturday, which was Anti-Slavery Day. Andrew Wallis, who chaired It Happens Here, was on BBC Breakfast and CSJ Associate Director Fiona Cunningham discussed the new legislation on BBC News - available here.

Read a Spectator blog from the CSJ on why including businesses in the fight against slavery is so important here. Watch how the BBC and Sky News covered the publication of It Happens Here.

Think-tanks enrich our democracy, CSJ tells BBC Daily Politics

The CSJ appeared on BBC Daily Politics this week for a discussion on the role of think-tanks and the influence they have.

Christian Guy described how the CSJ is unique due to its Alliance of grassroots charities – which ensures the research is grounded in the communities it seeks to help.

The discussion, which included chief executive of the RSA Matthew Taylor, looked at how think-tanks come up with the policy, the impact of it and how it is evaluated.

The CSJ’s impact on policy has been wide-reaching – successes include inspiring the radical welfare reform Universal Credit and the introduction of a Modern Slavery Bill.

Watch the show here.

Youth mental health under the spotlight at CSJ event

The CSJ is teaming up with leading urban youth charity XLP to host an event exploring youth mental health in December.

ITV News presenter Nina Hossain will co-host the event, which will look at issues such as why children from the lowest income households are three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems compared to children from the wealthiest backgrounds.

Other speakers will include XLP founder and CEO Patrick Regan and Dr Samantha Callan, CSJ Associate Director on Families and Mental Health. Dr Charlie Howard, a clinical physiologist and founder of MAC-UK, and Olu Oyerinde, the Youth Offending Nurse for Tower Hamlets, will also talk at the event.

Approximately 40 per cent of young people interacting with the youth justice system have mental health issues, and this rises to more than 90 per cent for those in custody.

The CSJ has carried out extensive work on mental health issues, including Completing the Revolution and Commissioning Effective Talking Therapies.

More details of the event are available here