West Cheshire Poverty Truth
It all started with a question
Could people living in poverty help shape the way our borough's leaders make decisions about the support services in place? Would it make a difference to the decisions that are being made? Would it also strengthen relationships, change attitudes and create solutions to some of the difficult questions poverty creates?
The answer to that is yes. Following on from the success of the very first Poverty Truth Commission (PTC) in Glasgow, Scotland, the first West Cheshire PTC (WCPTC) was set up in 2017, with the aim of tackling the root causes of poverty. The WCPTC was the first to be led and administered by a Local Authority, Cheshire West and Chester Council, helping to address gaps in services and inequalities across the borough.
The WCPTC aimed to give a face to the facts by creating safe spaces for community inspirers, those with lived experience of poverty, to tell their stories. It also provided opportunities for those making and influencing decisions to listen. The WCPTC framework ensured that people with lived experience are at the heart of how the borough thinks and acts in tackling poverty and inequality.The success of the first WCPTC led to the launch of a second WCPTC in 2019 that ran until March 2020.
- Creating a voice and empowering inspirers to contribute to a range of Council and partner agency work.
- Strengthened relationships between inspirers, civic leaders and partner agencies.
- Inspirers feel listened and able to influence change, by sharing their lived experience of poverty.
- Requests to present at events locally, regionally and nationally.
- Development of PTC Pledge with partner agencies.
- Strong, positive media coverage.
- Community Inspirers consistently reported a stronger sense of confidence, enabling them to have voice, secure employment, develop their learning, become more independent.
- Increased partnership working across a number of agencies.
- New models of working across the Council, the volunteer sector, businesses, and the wider community.
- A deeper model of partnership working with people who have lived experience of poverty.
- New support for front line staff to understand the story of the person in front of them (their challenges, stresses and often complex problems) and the need for compassion, empathy, and making any difference they can, no matter how small. E.g. One social housing provider has reported a 75 per cent reduction in evictions since it changed their approach to managing tenancies. The organisation moved from a reprimand approach to offering a well-being service which focuses on early intervention and supporting people to sustain tenancies.
'How we live'
The WCPTC recognises it is essential to include the voice of children and young people in change, and that is important to do this in ways which are fun to enable them to feel valued and safe as they have their voices heard.
Over the last two years a selected group of young people from Winsford Academy and Wharton Primary School, were involved in a number of drama workshops, facilitated by the WCPTC team. They developed a fictional character and story which they played out at the WCPTC launch event at the Storyhouse in Chester.
The script was then developed with support from television producer and screenwriter Phil Redmond CBE and other industry professionals to make a short film - 'How we live'. It is a powerful film which raises awareness and understanding of the issues young people face, caused by poverty and is largely shot through the eyes of a young person to remind us all, as professionals, to have a person-centred approach and to look at the barriers surrounding that ideal non-judgemental practice.
Watch the trailer
Online workshops have been created around the film to help influence the change that we want to see within the lives of young people.
To find out more please email WestCheshire.PovertyTruth@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk.
The next stage
Building on the learning from WCPTC one and two, it was agreed in early 2020 to mainstream this approach to inform and support all poverty work across the Council and with local partner agencies, developing a programme of work in conjunction with services that retains the existing WCPTC ethos.
Call for a poverty emergency
Work was given added impetus in July 2020 through a report to Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet proposing that Cheshire West and Chester Council declare a poverty emergency for the borough. This was agreed to take forward to Full Council as a recommendation.
Poverty Truth Advisory Board
In addition, Cabinet also established a Poverty Truth Advisory Board, to oversee the poverty agenda and report to Cabinet as a sub-group. This Board began meeting in July 2020, with an equal split in membership between public, private and civic sector representatives and Community Inspirers. The Board is co-chaired by Councillor Mandy Clare, Poverty and Inequality Champion for the borough, and a Community Inspirer.
The Board will act in an advisory and support capacity to services across the Council and partner agencies. It will build on the learning from the two Poverty Truth Commissions, ensuring people with lived experience are at the heart of any decision making.
- Bringing the poverty agenda to the forefront and respond to any changes/challenges that the communities of West Cheshire face.
- Listening and learning from people with lived experience of poverty.
- Influence the Council and partner organisations to recognise people with lived experience as key stakeholders.
- Securing a robust framework to ensure that change in how decisions are made is permanent.
- Building a community to help inform work.
- Reducing stigmas and assumptions attached to the use of the word poverty.
- Gathering data to evidence the impact COVID-19 is having on those already in poverty, or likely to experience it as a result.
- Using knowledge and evidence to influence those in positions of power to review how we tackle poverty within Cheshire West and beyond.
- Advising and helping to develop policy on the use of appropriate funding to support the poverty agenda, now and in the future.
- Timely and pro-active involvement in Council policy reviews.
- Building knowledge of how decision making and influencing works within Local Government and beyond.
- Exploring and developing opportunities to network within the wider community and beyond West Cheshire to make change-making more accessible to people experiencing poverty or on low incomes.