People often ask what will change as a result of hosting a Poverty Truth Commission. The honest answer is that we do not know. What we do know is that good things will happen. It is a bit like a conversation. You don’t always know where it will end up but you do know very quickly whether it is worth investing in. Looking back on commissions which have now taken place across the country, we can identify lots of changes they have helped to happen. As more commissions are established, we are certain that other new and unexpected thigs will happen.
Poverty Truth Commissions help to bring about changes for individuals, for organisations, at a policy level and in helping to alter the ways people think about poverty.
Commissioners have consistently spoken about how being involved has changed them. For some that has been about increasing confidence or getting a job. For others, it’s about friendship, motivation, fresh ways of understanding difficult problems and motivation.
In Morecambe Bay, for example, Alex talks about how being involved has had a huge impact on his life. In the evaluation carried out in West Cheshire, business and civic leaders reported experiencing ‘more’ or ‘much more’ understanding of poverty.
Of course, there isn’t dramatic change for every commissioner but the majority point to how they are different people because they got involved.
The organisations most impacted by a Poverty Truth Commission are, unsurprisingly, the ones that have got most involved. Commissioners take what they have discovered back to their organisations and communities.
- In West Cheshire, one social housing provider has reported a 75% reduction in evictions since it changed its 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.
- In Wolverhampton, a Mental Health Community Partner said, “the service going forward will be person-centred. The expert is the person sitting in front of you…put the computer aside and have a conversation with the person sitting in front of you.”
In this work we encourage people to be the change that they want to see in their own organisations and neighbourhoods.
Policy Level Impact
Changing policy often takes a long time and involves many people working together to bring it about. So the direct link between the work of a Poverty Truth Commission and a change in in policy is not always easy. Some of the changes we have seen happen include:
- In Morecambe Bay over 100 travellers were saved from potential eviction by working through the Poverty Truth Commission to change attitudes towards loss of a site they had lived on for over 30 years.
- In Scotland, the Commission instigated a mentoring programme for civil servants through which those who have direct experience of poverty coached senior policy leaders. This programme is now being developed more widely.
Wider Societal Impact
Poverty Truth Commissions are helping to change the public debate about poverty across the UK. Their Opening and Closing Gatherings tend to be large scale events which have attracted wide media interest. The expertise of commissioners is often also drawn into other events.
- In Birmingham commissioners have spoken about the Poverty Premium at the 2018 Conservative Party Conference; were interviewed by The Sun; and have been featured on BBC Panorama.
- In Leeds, working with True North, commissioners produced ‘Fighting Shame’ a film about their experiences of poverty. This was featured on the Guardian website and premiered at the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival.
If you want to know about these and other changes that have happened because of the work of Poverty Truth Commissions, please get in touch.