Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission, which meets again on 16 April, will stress the need for a major change of culture in developing anti-poverty strategies.
The Commission, which has brought together both policy makers and those with direct experience of poverty, has challenged politicians to listen and learn directly from those living on the margins, and has adopted the slogan "Nothing about us without us is for us" as its watchword.
Anti-poverty activists in Scotland and other parts of Britain believe that the present government's cuts policies are hitting the poorest hardest, and that decision-makers need to engage directly with those whose lives they are addressing.
In the run-up to the UK general election last year, the Poverty Truth Commission, which is sponsored by the Church of Scotland Priority Areas Committee and Faith in Community Scotland, in cooperation with grass roots organisations throughout the country, adopted a 'Manifesto' to encapsulate the new approach it has been modelling and advocating.
Jim Wallace, co-chair of the Commission said at the time: “This Manifesto not only highlights the issues of concern to Scotland’s poorest communities, it demands a new way of working. My engagement with the Poverty Truth Commission has convinced me that we are more likely to identify solutions to some deep-seated problems if politicians and officials involve in the process of policy-making those who experience the reality of poverty in their daily lives. That is a real challenge to government.”
The Commission's other Co-chair, Tricia McConalogue, further commented that a government "serious about building a better society ... needs to work hard to address all strands of this Manifesto and to break the cycle of poverty in order for everyone to feel part of and engage in society. It is essential that no one is excluded from society.”
The closing gathering of Scotland's first Poverty Truth Commission will take place in Glasgow City Chambers (George Square, Glasgow) on Saturday 16 April between 2pm and 4pm.
POVERTY TRUTH COMMISSION MANIFESTO
We believe that the deep-set problems and far reaching consequences of poverty will not be truly tackled until those living this reality are seen as part of the solution - not as part of the problem. We believe that people affected must participate in the policy making process from beginning to end. Only by doing this do we believe that real and lasting change is possible.
We will not support any initiatives or legislation that have a negative effect on people living in poverty. Instead, we will promote policies and initiatives which address the root causes of poverty and inequality in Scotland.
We recognise that where you live has a huge impact on how long you live (by as much as 20 years) and what opportunities are available to you. We will actively work against this postcode lottery for living, jobs, benefits, loans and services of all kinds that exists for people living in our poorest communities.
We are deeply dismayed by the statutory support provided for children being looked after by kinship carers. We call upon all levels of government – and all political parties – to work together to give these children the support and resources that they deserve.
We understand that violence is a public health issue linked to the growing levels of inequality in our society. As a result we know that it cannot be adequately dealt with through policing alone. We want communities and the public sector to come together to support initiatives which will help to ensure a long term reduction of all forms of violence.
We know the devastating impact which alcohol and drugs can have on people’s lives and that the consequences of these are often most severe for those living in poverty. We will advocate and support initiatives that tackle the root causes of addiction in order to reduce the use of alcohol and drugs by people of every age and economic status.
We are aware that the debate about the level of the national debt is likely to dominate public debate at this time. However, we are also deeply concerned about the high levels of personal debt particularly for people living in poverty. We will work to outlaw the exorbitant interest rates which people in poverty often have to endure as well as promoting possible and viable alternatives. These will include the extension of credit unions and the development of micro-finance.
More on the Poverty Truth Commission: http://www.povertytruthcommission.org/
Church of Scotland - Priority Areas: http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/serve/priority_areas
Faith in Community Scotland - http://faithincommunityscotland.org/