Stoke is defined as the 16th most deprived city in England, with 34% of working people living in households with incomes on or below the threshold of poverty and a further 16% in search of work or limited through incapacity, yet poverty-related hardship is not perceived to be its focus.
There is no shortage of statistics on every aspect of the population. However, there is a lack of understanding of the depth, extent and culture of poverty, and therefore on how best to address it.
There is no over-arching strategy aimed at poverty. Instead, there is a multiple array of initiatives and organizations working address aspects of poverty. Sometimes in collaboration with others and sometimes in competition, with the commissioning and funding process not that effective.
It appears that this lack of understanding of and focus on poverty is due in part to a perceived negative attitude towards poverty and criticism of those in it, and in part to the belief that if the emphasis is put on growing the economy, then poverty will be addressed.
Alleviating poverty and economic regeneration is heavily dependent on increasing the income of all, and those experiencing poverty in particular.
Alongside growing the economy there needs to be a well-planned and coordinated strategy, focused on helping those in poverty cope with it and helping them to succeed out of it.
This is what the hardship commission’s recommendations are based on. It does not try to address all aspects of hardship and all aspects that can contribute to poverty. It is very focused on those aspects that can help to improve income.
Expert citizens were invited to this launch, Darren spoke about some of his personal lived experience around accessing the right benefits at the right time to help him move on with his life. The difficulties faced by many people trying to access benefits and support are very difficult for people living in a very chaotic world and society. The report highlights that there are estimated that 50 million pound of unclaimed benefits just in the City of stoke on Trent alone. This affects the local economy greatly. Expert Citizens have signed up to the hardship commission. We’re looking forward to working together with our partners in the commission, to help develop Stoke On Trent.
You can read the initial report here.