A few months ago I was asked if I’d take part in a new initiative that was starting, The Leeds Poverty Truth Challenge.
The Challenge itself will be formally launched next month, when people with direct experience of poverty will meet to tell their stories to the city’s leaders at an initial “gathering”. Together they will decide what issues they would like to explore to discover how they can make a difference together. They will meet to think through alternative solutions and work with those who are responsible for delivering these to make sure that the best responses are being offered.
After the initial meeting next month there will be monthly gatherings where government and community leaders will meet people who experience poverty and together we can come to a better solution, so that those in power will think and act differently to tackle poverty in the city.
The principle of the Leeds Poverty Truth Challenge is that decisions about poverty must involve people who have directly faced poverty.
Imagine if people living in poverty could take the lead on challenging the city’s leaders to work with them on tackling poverty? Would it make a difference to the decisions that are being made? What things would change? Would new solutions to poverty be discovered? Would people listen and, if they did, would they better understand the challenges that poverty brings?
So that’s the ‘blurb’ on the commission. People in poverty, talking with people in power. No secretaries to get past, no huge desks and power pushing leather chairs, no gold chains and red tape, just people talking to people to come to a better solution.
The initial gathering is on the 6 February, but already things are happening.
A few days ago I met with Nicola Swan, the director of Leeds MIND. She’s been asked to get involved since a lot of people experiencing poverty also experience mental illness and depression. I spoke about big issues like the placement of MIND centres, the lack of mental health drop in centres in South and East Leeds. Then smaller things, like how they only give volunteers £3.60 for travel, but a bus pass is £3.90.
The response was very positive, I even got some personal advice on my future plans. Little issues that have probably never been considered, can be changed straight away. Better mental health support in South Leeds will take time, but at least it’s on the agenda. Now if I could only get the fly tipping 5 feet from my front door sorted I’ll be laughing!