Dame Julia Unwin
Hello there, my name is Dame Julia. I’m a consultant, speaker, philanthropist and dreamweaver - and I’ve been a non-executive Director at MEARS since 2016, where I’ve been able to see our little housing company blossom into a large asylum landlord. I’ve been appointed to so many British Empire positions that I’ve almost lost track: OBE in 2000, CBE in 2006 and DBE (that’s a Dame to you!) in 2020, not that I do this tireless work for the badges! I joined MEARS after a long stint as CEO of the anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, authoring a number of books on the topic along the way (Spoiler argument from my 2013 missive ‘Why Fight Poverty?’: just stop watching Shameless!). I take poverty very, very seriously, and as my TedX motto is ‘pay attention’ I would strongly rebuke any accusations that MEARS’ months of failure to provide financial support to people in the hotels we’ve managed over the pandemic was in any way impoverishing. Same goes for the £5.66 a day people get when they are able to access asylum support, which of course is totally out of MEARS’ hands (but is so important to have that caring, committed Civil Society influence in the room!). I was actually Chair of the Refugee Council between 1995–1998, just as this whole asylum support system was being set up, and a time of great disagreement about NGOs taking Home Office contracts (luckily, nobody seems that worried about that any more!). Though I am passionate about public service, I see no issue with that being just a tinsy bit private when needs must, an ethos I bring to my Directorship of Yorkshire water, as Pro Chancellor at York St John University and at the shady leasing company Pagoda Leasing Ltd I also Direct, along with my ex-diplomat Dad and TV director brother (He co-created Casualty but sadly also directed the aforementioned Shameless a few times: family argument alert!). I’m a life long campaigner for social justice, who just goes to show that with gumption, family connections and a finger in every pie going, one can really make that into quite a living indeed: I’ve certainly made sure I never have to worry about poverty!