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Our local group in Sheffield invite you to join them for this event as part of Challenge Poverty Week:

Saturday 16 October 2021

Gather: 9:00am, Church of Christ in Darnall, Station Road, S9 4JT for a 9:30am start

Visit: Darnall Well Being, High Hazels Park and Allotments, Attercliffe and Darnall Mission, Galeed House, Darnall Family Centre.

End: Around 3:00pm

Length: 3 miles

Hear about local issues and responses to them as we walk and pray together:

  • The community work of the Church of Christ in Darnall.
  • Darnall Well Being’s drive to eliminate health inequalities and the Allotment Project’s contribution to community cohesion.
  • Attercliffe and Darnall Mission’s bid to engage with young people and families to build a Christian community from scratch.
  • Assistance provided for young, single, vulnerable, homeless people.
  • Galeed House’s drive to help people from different backgrounds and cultures build trust and friendship and learn new skills.

Practicalities

  • The 52 and 52a buses connect Darnall with the city centre, Walkley, Broomhill, Attercliffe and Handworth and some go as far as Worral, Loxley, Wisewood and Woodhouse. Closest bus stops to the Church of Christ are on Staniforth Road.
  • Some trains from Sheffield Station to Lincoln also stop at Darnall.
  • If coming by car, allow extra time for parking. Church of Christ’s car park has insufficient space for pilgrims and the public car park on Station Road is currently closed. Parking on single yellow lines on Station Road is banned and the nearby Prince of Wales Road Car Park has a three-hour limit. You may park on stretches of Darnall Road where parking is permitted on Single Yellow Lines on Saturdays or on side roads.
  • Please bring a mask, as some of the venues may require one to be worn, also wear suitable shoes and bring a waterproof, drinking water and a packed lunch.
  • Please follow stewards’ advice, particularly at road crossings.
  • Walkers take part at their own risk and anyone under 18 must walk with a responsible adult.
  • The event is not suitable for dogs as we enter premises.

Come and be open to be challenged and changed by what you see and hear

For more information or to register to attend, contact Briony Broome on briony.broome@hotmail.co.uk or 07801 532 954.

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Stef Benstead looks back on her experiences as part of the first Manchester Poverty Truth Commission.

Read the Poverty Truth Commission's full report here

I was invited to join the Manchester Poverty Truth Commission by Niall Cooper, after he had met me a few times at various Christian conferences on poverty and related issues. It sounded like a great idea that addressed one of the challenges I regularly come up against in my work on disability and the social security system – that those with power don’t listen to those affected by their policies, and end up making bad policies due to wrong beliefs or assumptions about what the issues are and what are the causes, and therefore the solutions, of those issues.

It’s really important that people with lived experience of an issue are an equal part of the policy-making process. Many of the problems with Universal Credit are because the government didn’t listen to people in poverty and on benefits; problems with benefits for sick and disabled people would also have been avoided if sick and disabled people had been listened to.

But it’s also hard for people with lived experience to get involved. It’s not just a lack of time, lack of contacts or lack of knowledge about how to get our voices heard. It’s also that the bureaucratic barriers that have built up and the harm that flawed policies have caused have built a painful wall between policy-makers, such as the local council, and the people affected. When policy-makers do want to start listening and put into practice what they are told, it isn’t enough to simply say that they’re listening. First there needs to be a relationship between the two sides, so that those of us in poverty and with lived experience of the impacts of policy can be reassured that this time the listening is genuine and the outcomes will be real and positive.

This is what Poverty Truth Commissions achieve. The time taken to share personal stories revealed a common humanity which I at least wasn’t expecting. I thought there would be a middle class/poorer people divide. In fact what I heard was business and civic leaders who had grown up in poverty, brought up by single parents on council estates; and grass-roots commissioners who, like me, had grown up middle-class only to fall into poverty later. Commissioners on both sides had experienced recent bereavement or relationship breakdown. These stories of our lives levelled the playing field: we realised that where we had ended up wasn’t representative of who we are as people, and that was as true for the business and civic commissioners as for the grass-roots commissioners.

The biggest impact for me was when one of the business and civic leaders took an idea that I had put forward, which from her perspective was unaffordable and unworkable at that point, and came back a month later with a revamped idea that could be made to work. I’m still working on this idea now and hope it will eventually come to fruition.

The PTCs break down barriers between the people who usually make policy and those who usually merely receive it. It does this by creating relationship between the two sides, teaming us up in a common fight against poverty and inhumanity. It can be a transformational process with ripple effects that continue long after the commission itself has formally finished. All it needs is people willing to listen.


Stef Benstead is a trustee of Church Action on Poverty, a grassroots commissioner in Manchester Poverty Truth Commission, and the author of Second Class Citizens: The treatment of disabled people in austerity Britain.

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Tracey Herrington from Poverty2Solutions says why campaigners are heading to Conservative Party Conference this week

It has now been 18 months since the country first went into lockdown. As we begin, slowly and hopefully to move out of the pandemic, it has never been more important to make sure that we really do ‘build back better’ and create a better future for us all.  

Doing this properly means politicians and policymakers must start to actually learn from and work with those with the expertise that only comes from lived experiences. As someone who lives in an area too often dismissed as ‘left behind’, working and living alongside people experiencing poverty and the social security system first-hand, I witness and learn from this expertise every day.

The pandemic has been challenging for us all and it has amplified the existing difficulties and challenges faced in low-income communities. But it has also shown us how policymaking too often ignores the expertise of experience; and fails to bring it to bear on decision making. Creating a sustainable road map out to a better future will need us all to come together, to ‘do your duty for equality’; and tackle persistent inequality head on. A just and compassionate society demands this and it really is the only way to ensure that no one is left behind.

Three members of Thrive Teesside, including blog author Tracey Herrington
Three members of Thrive Teesside and Poverty2Solutions, including blog author Tracey Herrington, centre

It's never been more important to listen

At a time of high economic uncertainty, and with a government commitment to ‘levelling up’, there has never been a more important time for people with direct experiences of poverty to be involved in policy and decision-making, contributing their expertise and ideas for change. As Sue, a member of community group Dole Animators puts it:

‘Too often people are portrayed as numbers on paper, or as stats and percentages. It is very easy for policy makers to dismiss who they represent when they aren’t considered as individuals. Having someone describe their lived experience is not only brave but essential if we want positive and long-lasting change. They can show us our failings, our lack of compassion and humanity. If a policy affects someone why shouldn’t they have the right to be involved in its making?’

What we want to change

Poverty2Solutions, a coalition of three community groups (ATD Fourth World, Dole Animators and Thrive Teesside) led by people with direct experiences of poverty, want the UK government to commit to working with people with lived experiences of socio-economic disadvantage in policymaking processes and decision-making. Doing so would ensure that policies that have a direct impact on those in or at risk of poverty make a positive and effective contribution to stemming the rising tide of poverty and inequality. 

Despite the pledges of successive governments, rates of poverty and levels of inequality remain unacceptably high. Covid-19 has hardened and exposed these inequalities, strengthening the case for targeted and effective action.

If Government had listened sooner...

Experiences of the past 18 months show us that harnessing the expertise that comes with experience can lead to more targeted and effective policy responses. 

Whilst the government introduced a range of bold and compassionate policies at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, had they engaged with people with lived experiences as the crisis developed, their response would have been better and more effective. 

For example, groups with experience very quickly flagged issues tied to digital exclusion and Free School Meal replacements. Had these groups been listened to and learned from, robust and practical responses could have been better developed that would have mitigated, at least in part, negative consequences that we have seen such as a widening educational attainment gap. Working in partnership with groups with lived experiences would have enabled the government to develop targeted policy responses in an efficient and timely manner, as opposed to taking the more knee-jerk and reactive response we’ve witnessed.

At Conservative Party Conference this week

Poverty2Solutions have been working together for almost five years to develop solutions to poverty that are grounded in our own expertise and experiences. We know what would make a difference in the communities that we live in; creating a fairer and more equal society and we want to be part of conversations about how we improve policies for all of us; we want to ‘build back better.’ 

The re-launch of our report, Do your duty for equality. Making the case for addressing rising levels of inequality in partnership with people with lived experiences of poverty will happen at the  Conservative Party Conference. Poverty2Solutions will be partnering with Bright Blue to host a fringe event: “Leaving no-one behind: the people’s voice in levelling up”

A real chance for transformation

Poverty2Solutions are a bit different from the usual policy wonks, journalists and parliamentarians that you typically find in attendance at the Conservative Party Conference. But we are attending and speaking up because we want to work with politicians to share our expertise and experiences, and to collaborate in exciting and innovative ways to create positive change.

The possibilities that can emerge by working directly with people with direct experiences of poverty and social security is genuinely transformative. I really hope politicians will listen, and grasp the opportunity we’re holding out to draw on the expertise in communities just like mine.

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In north Sheffield, dignity, agency and power are coming to the fore through food

For 11 years, the Parson Cross Initiative has played an important role in its community, coordinating various activities and support. For many years, it ran a weekly food bank session, but the pandemic prompted the change in approach that the team had long wanted. Nick Waterfield, who is pioneer minister in Parson Cross and who features on the October page of the 2021 Dignity, Agency, Power photo calendar, tells us more…

Nick Waterfield on the Parson Cross Initiative allotment. Photo by Madeleine Penfold.

What has changed since covid began?

One of the big changes is that we phased out our old food bank work. By January this year it had finished. That was all done to increase dignity, agency and power of local people. It was about shifting how we do food support.

We now do two things: we do a market and meals service, and a community hub with a social café. There are no referrals now, and people make a small financial donation if they can. 

We have a broader range of people using it now. For instance more people who didn’t necessarily need free food but who do benefit from some support are coming. 

Parson Cross in north Sheffield

Dignity, agency and power through food

Before, we were ringing around for donations of food but now we pay £20 a week to Fareshare and the food comes and people get to choose what they want. It gives a lot more choice and agency, and people can decide what they want and what they can give. It has been a momentous change from the old food bank approach.

There is more dignity now. In a food bank setting, you know why people have come and sometimes that’s the immediate context of a conversation. Now, it’s a more natural welcome, and it’s acknowledging that none of us has a right to know about other people’s private situation.

We never doubted that it was the right thing, to move away from the less dignified food bank approach, but one thing I did worry about was what might happen to some people who might stop coming. In fact, I am encouraged and amazed by how many people have kept coming back.

Dignity, agency and power through food

At the end of 2019, Nick had recorded this video with Church Action setting out his hopes for the 2020s as a whole, little knowing the pandemic was about to disrupt all our lives. 

Nick now says that upheaval has perhaps accelerated some of the change he talked about, reminding everyone of the value of community…

At the allotment, we have had opportunities to do new things. Indoor spaces were taken away from people in the pandemic but we have established new partnerships with other community groups. There’s a group here, Brown Girls With Drills, who we’ve been working with, and some young adults. It has given a whole new group of people access to the allotments.

It has all been about growing. Growing stuff and people and relationships, for want of a better phrase. It has been a major shift over the past year towards working in partnership and sharing space.

And what has happened is, the more and more people we have seen, the more and more stories we have heard of personal and community strength and resilience. Our services weren’t there for a while, but people were still supporting one another and looking out for one another.

Above: Nick Waterfield on the Parson Cross Initiative allotment. Below: A harvest of apples from the plot. Both photos by Madeleine Penfold.

Sharing space, sharing power

That’s where power can come from. You cannot develop community power without a sense of belonging. Only then can you talk about values and hopes and dreams, which is where shared power develops. 

At the allotment now, we have more young people talking with older people who they would not have been talking with before, and all the groups are recognising that the others have rights in the same space. 

These are small shifts in power in a community, at micro levels. Ultimately, you give power by listening to and valuing someone and their story and that comes from connecting.

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

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Lent course for 2022: Life on the Breadline

Our Cookery Book

Keep the Lifeline – sign our open letter to the Prime Minister

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Long read: How do we build dignity, agency & power together?

The story of a Cornish food and community revolution

“You are worthy. Don’t ever give up.”

How can policy-makers and churches work together to tackle UK poverty?

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