A new approach to help people experiencing poverty to have their voices heard is to be launched in the New Year.

A North of Tyne Poverty Truth Commission will bring together community, civic and business representatives with people with experience of living in poverty. It will aim to better understand the specific effects of the COVID pandemic for people living in Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland and come up with practical solutions. The impact of the coronavirus crisis on people already struggling and the steps needed for economic recovery will be a central theme of the Commission’s work. The North of Tyne version is the first Poverty Truth Commission to be supported by a Mayoral Combined Authority.

Cllr Joyce McCarty, North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Employability and Inclusion, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to our economy and for our most vulnerable people. We want to better understand all the impacts of this crisis on people experiencing poverty so that our recovery as a region is for everyone. This is about bringing different stakeholders together to listen, learn and act. That’s why the North of Tyne Poverty Truth Commission is so important.”

Poverty Truth Commissions are usually supported by local authorities but not led by them and are hosted independently to ensure their work is genuinely collaborative. The North of Tyne Poverty Truth Commission is expected to run for two years, including a ‘start-up’ phase of around six months. Commissioners will include people who have experience of living in poverty, local councillors and representatives from business and the voluntary sector.

There are 10 active Poverty Truth Commissions across the UK. Each is independent and developed locally while supported by the Poverty Truth Network, an independent charity. A key element of the Poverty Truth Commission model is a recognition that it is a learning experience where results and outcomes are not determined in advance.

Martin Johnstone of the Poverty Truth Network said: “Poverty Truth Commissions have made a difference to every part of the UK where they’ve been established. From Surrey to Stockton, from Wolverhampton to West Cheshire, Poverty Truth Commissions are working to connect those living in poverty to those in positions of power. We’re delighted they will now be joined by the North of Tyne – the first Combined Authority in the UK to host one. We will do everything we can to support this important new initiative.”

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor, said: “Coronavirus has hit people hard. Those least able to protect their health and their income have paid a particularly heavy price. The North of Tyne Poverty Truth Commission is for them. No one should be going hungry, or unable to heat their home, or buy their kids’ school uniform. Understanding the truth about the barriers and difficulties people face helps us develop lasting solutions. It’s about fixing the causes of poverty in the long-term.”

Image of Jamie Driscoll.

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscol

Further information:

  • Poverty Truth Network: https://www.povertytruthnetwork.org/
  • Examples of success from Poverty Truth Commissions include:
    • Leeds, where widespread misconceptions surrounding unemployment and ‘welfare’ were challenged.
    • Salford, Greater Manchester, where the local authority provided an extra £70,000 funding for the council’s welfare rights and debt advice service as a result. This helped to support 3,436 people with specialist free help and advice and secured nearly £5 million in extra disposable income for Salford residents.
    • Scotland, where a review found that people living in poverty had the confidence to speak and people in positions of power had the confidence to listen.