Poverty- not just about lack of money
I recently attended the launch of Salford's Poverty Truth Commission – a grand title for what is an ambitious concept.
“What if those who have experienced real poverty in the City could come together with civic and business leaders, to share experience and influence change.”
The event was very well attended by some of the most influential people from across Salford, including the new City Mayor. It was also very interesting. It didn’t focus on the facts; the fact that people in poorer parts of Salford will die up to 10 years sooner than their more affluent neighbours; or the fact that one in three children across Salford live in poverty, or that 11,000 children live in workless households. The focus of the launch was about real people telling us some real stories. Stories about the care system failing those children it was set up to help, or the welfare system failing to recognise and support real need. What it also showed was an incredible level of determination in amongst the ‘real life commissioners’ who told their stories.
The session reminded me that poverty isn’t just about lack of money, it’s about a whole host of other things, including; loneliness, isolation, mental health, lack of opportunity and aspiration. Focussing on the facts often sanitises us to the reality of what people are experiencing. One of our facts, for example, is that we ‘only’ evicted 75 people last year. We are proud of the fact that this is 25% less than we evicted in the previous year, but inevitably some of those people will have been evicted as a consequence of poverty.
As a housing provider, we need and expect people to pay their rent, and we make no apology for this. Rental income helps us deliver high quality services to our customers, allows us to continue to build more homes across the City for those in need, allows us to support the eradication of poverty and deliver on our vison of improving people’s lives.
We are using our skills, experience and resources well. For example, we are using our assets to improve the financial standing of our customers, as we have done through our affordable warmth programmes. We work with others to make sure that those customers in need get the right level of support when they need it to prevent their situation getting worse. As a large employer in the City and are using our spending power to create and sustain jobs at a living wage, - setting an example to others.
City West Housing Trust has signed up to the Poverty Truth Commission and we welcome the opportunity to be active participants in this discussion. There is no defined outcome as yet, the intention is that we will meet regularly over the next 12 months or so with our real life commissioners to share experiences and see what happens.
So watch this space.
David Cummins is Managing Director of City West Housing Trust.