Expertise by Experience is essential to getting the COVD-19 response right.

We are in unprecedented times, all that we have previously felt to be ‘normal’ has changed. COVID-19, the global pandemic, has resulted so far in fundamental changes to the way that we live our lives. Now more than ever, we need to remind ourselves of the values we hold dear; of compassion and justice. We are in unprecedented times and the new government has an unprecedented task.  We need to rise to the challenge of what is facing us now. It is fundamental that those who are already experiencing poverty, who are already struggling against a tide of unsympathetic welfare reforms, poverty premiums and zero hour contracts are not left self-isolating with zero support. The government have announced some support for people struggling but significantly more needs to be done and fast.

Activists across the country are describing situations where people who are already trapped in rolling waves of poverty are drowning, self-isolating and unable to afford food or medication. APLE Collective members are made up of groups with lived experience, addressing poverty in their local areas, we are already hearing about situations where people on the breadline, working several zero hours jobs, to keep their heads above water and care for their families have suddenly had their income stripped from under them.

It is vital that the right conversations are being had with the right people to ensure that those already struggling in poverty are offered practical, substantive support right now. We, the Addressing Poverty by Lived Experiences (APLE) Collective, would like to be part of these conversations. We have something important to offer, given our experiences and expertise on poverty and inequality.  APLE will be putting together some solutions based what is going on for people living in poverty and experiencing the effects of COVD19. We will then to put these solutions, based on expertise by lived experience, to government. We are asking for individuals and groups with lived experience of poverty to share their tangible solutions to what they are seeing happen in communities. We would like you to tell us how you would respond if you had a meeting with Government tomorrow, what solutions would you be putting to them?

APLE are starting by asking people who know how poverty feels, who feel the impact of COVID-19. APLE as a Collective, are fighting the effects of this virus on people in poverty. This fight starts from a point of humanity, armed with the knowledge and expertise borne from our communities of disadvantage. If you started 2020, feeling like you were swimming against a rip-tide; with another food bank voucher, without money on the electric meter, wondering how you were going to pay all those bills that keep coming through the letterbox, then you will most likely have a sense of how poverty feels. If you are now self-isolating or are trying to home educate your children without access to the internet or enough teaching / reading materials then the chances are that you will be overwhelmed by that tide.

We need to be honest, this pandemic is unprecedented, the government are having to make it up as they go along. They are drawing on the expertise of public health experts and economists, they need to also draw on the expertise of people with lived experience. In 2020 the new government will make serious changes to policy and practice which will change the lives of people experiencing poverty. From periods of past unprecedented challenge, public policy has emerged with a greater focus on social justice, on equality and fairness. It is only by working together with policy makers, practitioners and academics that solutions to addressing poverty both locally and nationally can be found. We believe meaningful change to eradicate poverty is only possible when this happens.

If you are a group of campaigners and activists or a community group led by people in poverty we invite you to share what’s going on in your area and to join us in our mission to have the expertise of people with lived experience of poverty, influence the COVID-19 policy responses. Given what you are seeing happen in communities now, we ask you to suggest practical and realistic ways that the government could realise our overall request to be listened to? Tell us, from your perspective, what would it look like to be listened to? We will gather these responses, develop these into an action plan and put the collaboratively developed solutions to government with urgency.

 We invite you to join us, to get involved and to contribute to our campaigning. @aplecollective  contact@aplecollective.com

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