We know the truth about poverty – it’s not a pretty picture

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Jackie Stockdale explains how becoming a member of Poverty Truth Community helped her speak out about how difficult life in poverty actually is

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21st March 2019 by TFN Guest 2 Comments

In my teens, estranged from my family, I lived in a flat for young homeless people. The heating system was inadequate, the flat was damp and in the winter sheets of ice would form on the inside of the metal framed windows. I had so little money I often skipped meals and I would walk anywhere rather than pay for public transport. I would regularly walk an 8-mile round trip to college, on an empty stomach.

Years later when my family were on in work benefits – work that we were told would lift us out of poverty, I encountered again the shame poverty brings. Imagine knowing that your kids’ duvets are grotty, their pillows are stained, their cheap lino flooring is ripped, and their towels are fusty. Then you find that one of your kids has used black gaffer tape to cover a hole in the sole of their school shoe. Just imagine....

There is nothing positive in the experience of poverty and in the current climate; hopelessness among people on low incomes is endemic. But it would be grossly unfair to ignore the transformative, progressive and innovative work of organisations like the Poverty Truth Commission which I joined in 2017. 

Jackie Stockdale

Jackie Stockdale

Communities are being divided by the media, distracted by consumerism and crushed by government policies. The poor are being played off against each other. I felt helpless in the face of all this until I found my voice through the Poverty Truth Commission. 

As a commissioner, I was given the opportunity to meet and connect with people with similar experiences to me as well as influential public figures. We all wanted to identify and challenge the causes of poverty and create change. The space we were given to learn from each other felt safe and respectful and I felt that my contribution mattered. 

I was able to play an integral role in producing a report containing powerful personal testimonies from people with lived experience of poverty. I have been given the opportunity to facilitate and speak at large events and I have been asked to do media work.

Now the Poverty Truth Commission is evolving; building on its successes and learning how we can do better. We are becoming the Poverty Truth Community, changing our name but not our values, venturing into new areas we have identified: young people, universal credit and in-work poverty. Together we are developing new ways of working. Members who live with poverty will lead the work – going into communities to listen, learn and start conversations. Members like me will help people find their voice, like I did, and genuinely empower them to influence decision-making.  

After all, we are the ones who know the truth about poverty. We are the ones who can raise awareness of the damage it does to ordinary human beings. I can confidently state that it is essential that decisions and calculations about poverty be made in direct consultation with people living in poverty. Through the Poverty Truth Community, we can take small but powerful steps to resist, transform and overcome. For "Nothing About us, Without Us, Is For Us."

Jackie Stockdale is a member of the Poverty Truth Community, formerly the Poverty Truth Commission.

22nd March 2019 by Davy Milligan

Superbly written article by Jackie. Lays it on the line about who really has the expertise on poverty.

22nd March 2019 by Jane Wright

What an honest and heartfelt account of living in poverty. For a rich country we should be ashamed that this is the reality for so many people