APLE’s response to The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic

“Wherever men and women are condemned to live in poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.”

When Joseph Wresinski, the founder of ATD Fourth World, first coined these words on 17 October 1987 he set a precedent for people from all walks of life to come together on that date to observe what has since become recognised by the United Nations as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The day represents an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts and struggles of people living in poverty all over the world, to break the silence that surrounds poverty and to speak out for justice and human rights.

The APLE Collective (Addressing Poverty with Lived Experience), a growing grassroots network across the UK which aims to raise awareness of poverty, reduce stigma and work together with others to eradicate it embraced the recognition and need to ensure participation on this national day of collective solidarity. As part of their ongoing national work, APLE set out to work alongside others in order to light up the UK map and provide and support opportunities to amplify the voice of people who live in poverty. A visual display of united solidarity was key to ensuring the voices of people living in poverty, who are all too often ignored, were amplified and had a UK wide platform to say what was of importance to them:

“I will not be silenced and will persevere to ensure my voice, along with others will be heard and acted upon. All too often, the issues we face on a daily basis are ignored or undermined, this cannot continue and I hope one day, with growing support, it will be impossible to ignore the realities of our difficulties ”

Kath, Thrive

Amplifying the voices of people with lived experiences of poverty all too often is challenging, COVID-19 has exacerbated this . Barriers to participation and an ability to engage in meaningful conversation that could have the potential to affect change are inherently problematic. People with lived experience of poverty have few avenues to affect change and generally need to rely on structures and methods that are fundamentally flawed and consequently, participatory decision making processes/arenas are not within reach. Living through this pandemic has led to an over-reliance on technology – to access limited mainstream services, to connect with family and friends, to fully home school children and to access the information disseminated within communities.

According to the Office for National Statistics, ‘in 2018 there were still 5.3 million adults in the UK, or 10% of the adult UK population’ who are non-internet users and without any access to the internet, they are becoming increasingly isolated and cut-off from mainstream society. 

The APLE Collective community are disproportionately affected by the digital divide and with this in mind, amplifying the voice of our community on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was a challenge – a challenge the collective embraced. Drawing upon individual skills and expertise, the collective developed a range of opportunities whereby all voices could have their platform and their thoughts, experiences, comments and proposals were able to be disseminated through a range of mediums. Relying on the support from people who were connected and gathering experiences and comments through the age old use of pen, paper and phone calls supported the Collective’s ability to light up the UK map. 

In Scotland, the Poverty Truth Community (PTC) opened a Facebook page where people with lived experience of poverty had their voices heard and their experiences shared via video, blog, music and creative workshops.

The first event of the day was a video showing a young boy explaining the importance of October the 17th but also sharing his own lived experience of poverty.

Secondly, the videos produced by APLE for the day were uploaded on the Facebook page as well as the end of the day a video of one member playing a music was also uploaded. PTC, also uploaded a blog by one member starting with ‘Let me tell you something about me’. Finally, at 12, each PTC member was asked to light a candle, post it on the PTC Facebook page and tell something about the day on a piece of paper. At the end of the day, all items were put together in a video by Elaine.

PTC members commented on each stuff uploaded on the Facebook page. It was a friendly way to interact and be together and to show that we care about people struggling on a day to day basis with poverty, we care about each other and show that it is together that we can change things. 

Aimee, one member of the PTC did a video where she shared ‘what it feels like to have a voice and what it would look like to be heard’. Aimee lit a candle and said, ‘keep the fire of tackling poverty burning’. Finally, she spent part of her day looking at the PTC Facebook posts and commented on them. 

Aimee commented that she did this because she thinks that, 

‘Poverty is not an accident, it is man -made and can be removed by the actions of human being’ (Nelson Mandela). For this change to happen experiences of poverty must be shared for people to know what to do to address poverty. People with lived experience of poverty must be part of the solution seeking process’

Aimee, Poverty Truth Community

Reflective thoughts and feedback from the PTC highlights:

“That the engagement and the Facebook comments were very inspiring and hopeful. The video putting all the things we did together was very touching and inspiring. The use of Facebook gave the opportunity for more people to join and also to reflect on the day and on their experiences and take action to change their lives. The way the day was planned made it enjoyable! Well done US! ”

Aimee, Poverty Truth Community

Hartlepool Action Lab (HAL) held their events online via social media. Initial planning (before restrictions were put in place due to the pandemic) included having some face-to-face events across the town. However, due to the stricter local lockdown in place, plans had to change to online only. Working with Hartlepool Borough Council (HBC) and the third sector in the build up to the day. HBC were supportive and able to get some good quotes and comments from a range of people who were applying for welfare benefits. Hartlepool also gathered their our own quotes from the community and media to put out on the day and these seem to have been well received. 

“Due to not being able to host physical events, expectations for the day were lower than we had had for the previous year. Although watching APLE’s JRF takeover was remarkable to see. Overall, we were happy to at least have gotten some content out, raising awareness of the day, and the need for listening to the voices of lived experience” APLE’s JRF takeover was a bright spot and seemed to go down really well.

Darren, Hartlepool Action Lab

HAL put out a social experiment about how some people, often through no fault of their own, begin life at a much lower starting point than others. This started some positive conversations about where we begin in life does not determine where we end up.

Darren commented he was personally ‘proud of the messaging being put out across the nation. Hartlepool was so ready to be a part of this, HAL were pushing at an open door when pitching this to our Local Authority. Hopefully, we have set the foundations for our LA to begin, at the very least, reviewing how participatory their current ways of engaging are.  Hartlepool often gets a bad press and the media have set a narrative in motion, one which tells a story of deprived people acting in a deprived way. Hartlepool Action Lab will continue our work to change the media driven narrative, to highlight the bright spots of Hartlepool and the amazing people within.’

When reflecting on the day and thinking about if we things could have been carried out differently:

Great question, and one which we should always continue to ask ourselves. Given the current global pandemic, the fear and confusion, and the grief people are living through right now. I don’t think we could have done things much differently, whilst still making sure that everyone was safe. We raised awareness, and did so with poise and compassion, to an audience of people who are in a position to help. If that’s a bad day at the office for APLE / HAL, then I think we are in a healthy position moving forwards!

Darren, Hartlepool Action Lab

ATD Fourth World marked the date this year with a small event which was held in the grounds of Frimhurst Family House. The day remembered two much loved grass-root activists of ATD Fourth World who sadly passed away over the past twelve months and celebrated their lives and highlighted their commitment to fighting for the most vulnerable.

Two trees were planted in a moving ceremony. A beautiful Rowan tree in memory of Moreane Roberts in Frimhurst’s park land and an ornamental Crab Apple tree in memory of Leane Hilton in Frimhurst’s community garden.

“17 October has been the most important day in our family’s calendar since the late 1980s. It was mum’s favourite day of the year [and] it all came from the fact that her first 17 October was at the stone in Paris and it was life-changing for her,”

wrote Bea Roberts in a text exploring the significance of the day. 

“One of the best things about 17 October has always been the coming together of the families in the preparation, projects and meetings leading up to the day itself. Getting to talk to each other and then sharing our work with people in other countries. I think about all the big conferences and gatherings where we had the time and space to be together and do things we’d never normally do, thinking together and sharing our knowledge and experiences.

“This year, Covid has robbed us of lots of those opportunities but technology has enabled us to contribute and work together in new ways. It’s given us a chance to think about what is important, where our priorities lie and what we want for the future.

“ We can never replace those that went before but we can try to continue on the path they started, carrying their stories, memories and messages with us.”

New members of Expert Citizens spoke openly about their expectations relating to lighting up the UK map and the amplification of people’s voice through the APLE Collective initiatives

“we were unsure what to expect for IDEP 2020. Given that this was our first year with APLE and that with the current climate we were unable to set up an event. We were very pleasantly surprised though and our tweets and retweets hit huge numbers. We can only hope that next year we are in better circumstance and are able to arrange something befitting the occasion”

Phil, Expert Citizens

Thrive Teesside supported APLE’s acknowledgement of the day with the launch of their special edition of Thriving Teesside book. This book was inspired by community members who felt demonised, ignored and undervalued by the wider society. Through a collection of their stories, poetry and photography  – Thriving Teesside showcased the untapped skills and expertise alive in our community. It is with hope that by sharing their thoughts, others can be inspired.

“It is a testament to our community that Thriving Teesside has come to life. We have a lot to offer and feel strongly that our voice can be instrumental to make changes that will help us improve our lives. We don’t want pity and we don’t want to be stigmatised. We want the opportunity to make a difference”

Corrina, Thrive

This has been a difficult year, full of challenges and demands. Members of the APLE Collective pay tribute to all who speak out and dedicate their time to affect change. The voice of lived experience of poverty merging with other areas of expertise has the potential to ensure transformative change. In accordance with the vision for the International Day for the eradication of Poverty, it is important ‘to break the silence that surrounds poverty and to speak out for justice and human rights’

#IDEP2020 was a brilliant success and the APLE Collective are proud to be involved in this movement. Our goal this year was to reach as far and wide as we possible could, achieving this through our videos, blog posts and lighting up the UK map. We also disseminated our work through Twitter, with the help of JRF through our Twitter Takeover.  

JRF sent over some of the Analytics from our Twitter Takeover on their account: 

For a full list of Analytics from the JRF/APLE Twitter Takeover- Click Here.

  Our own content shared via Twitter was also a brilliant success, shown below is a comparison of our analytics from 2020 and 2019:

2020:

2019:            

It is great to see that we are gathering more voices across the UK, building on our campaign from 2019 and highlighting the voices of lived experience. We gained almost double the number of tweet impressions compared with our top tweet of 2019 which is further evidence that our campaign should be listened to and our reflections on what it feels like to our voices of lived experience to be heard is gathering pace.

As we reflect on this years mostly online campaign APLE Collective will continue to campaign around the digital divide and the effects that having no data or Wi-Fi has on silencing peoples voice. We ask for free Wi-Fi for all low-income groups.