Thrive Teesside #APLEMonth2021

Thrive Teesside, a grassroots organisation based in Stockton on Tees, work tirelessly to amplify the voices of people living in poverty.

We vehemently advocate that it is only when lived experiences of the issues at hand are afforded the opportunity to meaningfully engage in decision making processes, that positive change will happen. We are not a group averse to difficulties and certainly never shy away from challenges, but we could never have imagined the intensification of already existing problems as a result of Covid-19

Thrive are proud to keep Teesside on the map. We are innovators of change. As a member organisation of Poverty2Solutions, we were proud to be named as one of the Top 100 Changemakers of 2020 by the Big Issue and as part of this collaboration, were described as ‘a righteous torch bearer lighting the world, leading the way and changing the world for the better in 2020’

Thrive are seen as a go to charity that has an ability to speak out on a wide range of issues locally and nationally because at the heart of all our work is the people who live in our community.

Life is always challenging and the ability to realise potential is hampered by the constraints of living in difficult circumstances. Poverty is not a life choice and on a local level, Thrive have continued to support and help our community with the practical issues that they face on a daily basis – completing benefit entitlement forms, advocating on their behalf with creditors, supporting through tribunals and carrying out mandatory reconsiderations without this support especially through those difficult times, support from charity’s has become such a vital service, those who we support may have had even more difficult times if they could not seek support from Thrive “Really appreciated you taking the time out to come and see me at home, its been a lifeline and kept me on track and made me feel like I’m not alone” – Jackie, Thrive  

To say that this has been a perplexing year is an understatement. We have entered a world of zoom and online forums, made far more phone calls and returned to sending parcels and letters through the post to our community. We are pleased that our work has remained varied and responsive to the needs of the community we serve

It is impossible to select any one illuminating moment or achievement of 2020, but we are particularly proud of our partnership working and unity with others that help address the issues that are important to our community. 

Amongst our new friends and activities, we were proud to contribute to the report by the Human Rights Watch: Automated Hardship, How the Tech-Driven Overhaul of the UK’s Social Security System Worsens Poverty; partner with the Covid-19 Other Front Line Global Alliance (OFL) in order to give voice to the millions of people bearing the brunt of inequalities being exacerbated by the pandemic; work with representatives from Unite the Community, the Commission for Social Security and others to campaign for an increase in child benefit and work with the University of Warwick IAA project Building a better social security system. 

“I would like to see a 100 people behind me. On my own I can be pushed aside; with others I am stronger and not easily swatted away” – Kath, Thrive

We have spoken out about Universal Credit and the £20 uplift “Why the £20 Universal Credit increase is a vital issue for Teesside – and what our politicians say about its future” this article was published in The Gazette; UK parliament week we supported students to speak out about the digital divide throughout the pandemic – Feeling left behind. We were invited to speak on a panel at the Bristol Poverty Conference – Multidimensional Poverty Session; Setting the Scene: Poverty in 2021and Closing the Digital Divide, Opportunities and Challenges. We were pleased to be part of a 2021 grassroots calendar put together by Church Action on Poverty – People in poverty exercising dignity agency and power; and will be on the panel of this year’s North East Child Poverty conference; The Trussell trust have invited us to co-author research on debt.

We are honoured to be working with a number of partners and allies that support the vision of Thrive. 

We continue with our work on The Stockton Poverty Truth Commission around mental health and being part of the project – A New Tomorrow, was really exiting ,

“Opportunities like this are hard to pass, meaningful participation in research and the production of events aren’t always made in participation with those with lived experience of the topic. After all the Poverty Truth Commission approach is, “Nothing about us, without us, is for us.” 

We have continued to work with community members to produce blogs – Poverty Truth in Lockdown, talking about the frustrations of hardship and lockdown, mental health and the additional costs of the school day.

We look forward to October 17th as The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and Challenge Poverty Week present opportunities to showcase and raise awareness of our local initiatives. 

We are immensely proud of our books Thriving Teesside and Thriving Women, a collection of inspiring articles and photography from our creative and motivating community’ helped light up the UK map and spoke out about the digital divide. A response to a call for evidence from the House of Lords in relation to the digital divide was submitted.

2021 will see Thrive building on their work to date. We will progress our collaborative actions that aim to put the voice of lived experiences at the heart of policy making. Addressing the digital divide and deductions from benefits are two of our priority actions.