Poverty is a grinding reality for millions of people in the UK today. Despite numerous government strategies and charity reports, obscene poverty continues to dominate lives.
FINDING A SOLUTION
It is our conviction that we cannot hope to understand, let alone address, the causes and symptoms of poverty unless we involve the experts. In this context, the experts are those who have a direct experience of poverty; living with the reality day in and day out. To use our motto, taken from the South African post-apartheid process, “Nothing about – without us – is for us”. We believe real progress towards overcoming poverty will be made when those who experience poverty are central to the development, delivery and evaluation of solutions.
Our current work is threefold:
- Supporting people living in poverty to have the confidence to speak and people in positions of power to have the confidence to listen
We work with people with a direct experience of poverty; supporting them to tell their story, discover their expertise and speak out. We also support people in positions of influence, including those working on the front line of service delivers and those writing policy, to listen and have the opportunity to enter into real dialogue on the issues which come up.
- Supporting other organisations who would like to work in similar ways
We work with a number of organisations, supporting them to work in similar ways to our own. Some organisations wish a lot of support while others request a shorter term involvement.
- Using social media to share the stories of people living in poverty
We use Blogspot, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube to help people share their stories. We continue to work with mainstream Media to ensure stories and voices are heard as widely as possible.
- We facilitate a number of Poverty Truth Conversations throughout the year. These provide an opportunity for people living in poverty to work together with those in positions of influence to come together. Titles are left at the door and everyone meets as people, fellow humankind; not as professionals or service users. People with a direct experience of poverty have the missing expertise. As such, their concerns set the agenda.
- We host monthly Wee PTC meetings. These are an opportunity for people living in poverty to meet together, share stories and support one another. These meetings are deliberately informal and provide an excellent opportunity for relationships to be fostered.
- We piloted a Mutual Mentoring Programme whereby civil servants with responsibility for key policy areas tackling poverty are mentored by people drawn from communities that have direct experience of poverty and inequality. The civil service mentees met with their mentors in their own communities. Visits were reciprocated with the mentors shadowing civil servants. The purpose of the pilot was to help policy makers understand more fully the realities of life for those who their policies affect.
- We seek opportunities for, and provide support to enable, people experiencing poverty to be present at a number of anti-poverty events and strategic meetings throughout Scotland.
- We support Commissioners to meet together as working groups looking at issues identified as being particularly pertinent for those involved in the Poverty Truth Conversations. The current Commission is looking at: in-work poverty; the costs of being poor; stigma; and welfare cuts.
Relationships. In order to most effectively work together, it is vital that everyone involved is able to trust one another. That trust is gained through the building of human relationships which, in many cases, have developed into friendships. It is when stereotypes are left at the door, when everyone really listens and people are valued as people that we can seriously begin to tackle poverty.