Amplifying the voice of people living in poverty is key in order to raise awareness of and effectively address the issues faced in low income communities.

Not wanting to be left out of mainstream debates that have the potential to affect long term, sustainable change, the voice of lived experience of poverty continually seeks opportunities to influence and give meaning to the subject matter at hand. 

“It would be good if we didn’t have to constantly seek these opportunities to converse, share insight and impart our areas of expertise in order to affect change. How refreshing would it be, if it was par for the course to invite all stakeholders, including lived experience to engage within debates that ultimately lead to the development of policies. What a novel idea?”

Tracey, Thrive

For the time being, we will embrace the opportunities that are presented to us. Thanks to Turn2Us, the APLE Collective were invited to speak the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Universal Credit. Thesemeetings are where groups of MPs and peers meet to informally discuss topics of interest to them and the APPG on Universal Credit has been running for a couple of years as a way to raise issues with parliamentarians and discuss specific matters around Universal Credit. The MPs will often go on to follow up on certain things that have been raised with Parliamentary Questions or work in a committee.

APLE’s opening was clear – ‘it is only with having lived experience of poverty around the table that (a) insight in relation to the impact of policies in low income communities can be highlighted and discussed and (b) a full understanding of the skills and knowledge untapped in our communities can be realised, harnessed and allowed to influence decisions’. I hold a firm belief that, ‘you can only write good policy if you include the lived experience of the current issue at hand’

Debt deductions from Universal credit are crippling. Already living off a very low income and struggling to get by, claimants who then have a number of repayments then coming out of their entitlement simply can’t even get by any more. Advances, budgeting loans and housing arrears repayments are simply unaffordable. So what is the alternative? – These are issues that need to be debated and considered in order to arrive at realistic and effective solutions. Denying opportunities for people to meaningfully participate and contribute will lead to harsher consequences in communities already suffering

Darren from Hartlepool Action Lab emphasised the need for Universal Credit to be more accessible and co-ordinated with other agencies. In Hartlepool, a door knocking campaign led to £350,000 worth of benefit payments made to over 500 households. You may ask why these entitlements weren’t previously accessed – evidence from communities suggests that there is a lack of accessible information regarding entitlements and who qualifies for what. Navigating on line platforms to initiate claims is burdensome and confusing. Problems are heightened when there are changes of circumstances in households. 

A number of presentations were given throughout this meeting. All were rich in data, but unable to offer the personal insight and impact. It is becoming increasingly important that ‘real life lived experience is balanced in statistic heavy meetings’

– Darren, Hartlepool Action Lab

One final thought that was raised succinctly from an attendee at the meeting – ‘Do we have to continue to carry out surveys? – We can’t keep pointing out what is happening. We all know the 5 week wait is not working… let’s have no more surveys .. let’s do something’. We here at APLE, will do something and we will do it with the voice, expertise and the insight from our members.