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Poverty Truth Commission Reports: “All we have really done is listen.”

20th March 2018

West Cheshire Foodbank was a key driver in getting the Poverty Truth Commission off the ground, and it was launched in February 2017 to bring together some of Cheshire West and Chester’s key decision makers with those living at the sharp end of poverty. For the last twelve months, 15 Community Inspirers have spent time with local civic, business and faith leaders, getting to know and trust each other, listening and learning from each other. In February 2018 interested parties were updated by the PTC and Emma Greenwood has summarised what she heard.

These words from David Briggs (Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire) closed the Celebration Event held at Chester Race Course on the 28th February and perfectly sum up the simple but powerful heart of the West Cheshire Poverty Truth Commission.

“We know that the safety net of the welfare state has massive holes in it and that the benefit system is unfathomable and difficult to navigate. We see the evidence of this every week in our foodbank centres.

We also know that one of the ways we can tackle food poverty is to help policy makers listen to the real experts, people who have faced food poverty themselves, and work together on real solutions.”

West Cheshire Foodbank was a key driver in getting the Poverty Truth Commission off the ground, and it was launched in February 2017 to bring together some of Cheshire West and Chester’s key decision makers with those living at the sharp end of poverty.

For the last twelve months, 15 Community Inspirers have spent time with local civic, business and faith leaders, getting to know and trust each other, listening and learning from each other, and focusing on these three areas:

Person Centred Approach

The Benefits System

Mental Health

And there are some very tangible outcomes – two of the Community Inspirers have got a job, there’s an online tool for navigating local mental health support and a commitment from Chester West and Chester Council to ensure its online search tool enables people to easily find information about local support services.

Letters sent out about housing benefits have been reviewed with the Community Inspirers and have been improved. A pledge has been written to help organisations commit to treating people with respect and not erode their self-esteem and self worth.

Henry Terefenko, Director of Operations at ForHousing, was involved in the process and, reflecting on its outcomes, posed the question. ’Is there more milk in people’s fridges? Maybe not……yet.’

The results from are not immediate, but there is a huge amount of potential in this approach and many lessons we can learn as a foodbank. We need to be committed to finding ways to work in partnership with the people we help who are struggling.

We can’t end hunger in West Cheshire on our own. But we can listen, and must do everything we can to continue to ensure our provision of emergency food is a two way process, not just a transaction.

The Poverty Truth Movement

Poverty Truth Commissions began in Scotland and have since been created in Leeds, Wolverhampton and Salford.

They are based on the following principles: The Black Civil Rights Movement in the USA would not have made progress had white people dominated its leadership. Similarly, the Feminist Movement would not have achieved what it has, had men been running the show. And so a movement to tackle poverty needs to have people who experience it at its heart if real change is to be achieved.

Nothing about Us without Us is for Us.

Find out more here: www. cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/povertytruth.

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