A new project, South Lakes Poverty Truth Commission (PTC), is aiming to bring the voices of people who have direct experience of living in poverty into the local decision-making process and make a real difference to the lives of people across the South Lakes.
Cumbria CVS, one of the key partners in the PTC Support Group alongside local government, charities and health services, is hosting the project and has just taken on two new members of staff to get the ball rolling.
Stella Sukram and Lois Sparling are now looking for volunteers from across the district to get involved to help those who know what it’s like to go without to tell their stories and get their voices heard. After a series of informal meetings to get to know each other and share their experiences, these ‘community commissioners’ will then hold a public launch meeting. After that, they will invite ‘civic commissioners’ - decision-makers in local government, services and businesses - to join the discussions and work towards solutions to common problems.
"We have lots of evidence from other Poverty Truth Commissions that this process can make a real difference to how poverty is seen and tackled locally", says Lois. "Just down the road in Morecambe, a new befriending scheme has dramatically reduced evictions from social and supported housing. In Leeds the council policymaking process has changed to involve people with experience of poverty at every stage. It’s all about removing stigma, developing real empathy and understanding and working together."
Stella added “All we are asking for is your time and your willingness to use your experience to improve lives in South Lakeland. Transport, childcare and refreshments are provided for all PTC meetings – so not only will volunteers make new friends and learn new skills but they won’t be out of pocket either."
Although South Lakeland is perceived as an affluent area there are many families who can’t afford the basics in parts of Ulverston, Kendal, Windermere and other villages because of factors like low-paid work, lack of affordable housing and poor public transport – and spiralling food, fuel and energy costs are only making things worse.
In July 2022, median house prices in the South Lakes were roughly ten times more than median full-time salaries – considerably above the national and county averages. 5% of households have a total earned income of less than £10,000.
To find out more about taking part in the Commission, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, give Lois a call on (07458 058536) or visit www.cumbriacvs.org.uk/about-us/south-lakeland-ptc/
A flyer about the South Lakes Poverty Truth Commission is available here.