Speak to the people affected
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has completed his two-week tour of the UK.
His initial statement was a major testimony on the impact of austerity on ordinary people and what it is like to live in poverty.
Sadly, this will be a familiar story to many people in the North East who know all too well what it is like to struggle to put food on the table and heat their home. Statistics from the Social Metrics Commission’s report show almost one in four people (600,000) have been sucked into poverty here.
As an engagement manager at Turn2us, I work closely with organisations to tackle poverty in the North East. I know that many charity workers and other frontline staff are struggling to cope with increased demand for their help.
This is backed by evidence from a range of organisations; Trussell Trust has seen a 52 per cent increase in demand at its foodbanks. Turn2us has experienced a 45 per cent increase in people in the North East using our Benefits Calculator to find out what they are entitled to over the last year.
Turn2us has received funding from Comic Relief to work with charities and community groups across the North East to enable them to help more people maximise their income.
As part of this project we have been providing free training and workshops to upskill staff and volunteers working for frontline organisations to enable them to help their clients better and understand what financial help they could get.
Our project is ambitious in combatting poverty and aims to help thousands of people towards living a more financially stable life by February. To date we have trained more than 800 dedicated staff in the North East and hope to reach many more.
What rings true to me listening to Philip Alston is that to fight UK poverty there is need for much more joined-up thinking between organisations. Ultimately, services that are designed to help people struggling to get by need to have their needs at the centre of what they do.
This cannot be achieved just by looking at the big picture, we need to speak directly to people in poverty, and also consult with the amazing staff on the frontline, to find out what it is they really need and deserve.
Engagement Manager, Turn2us