Turning the Tables on Poverty

On Friday 9th October the Stoke-on-Trent Hardship Commission launched its report. After 12 months of hard work, reviewing statistics, talking to the people who experience poverty first hand and deliberating over their recommendations, they finally released their conclusions.

It should come as no surprise that the Commission identified high levels of poverty in the city. Organisations, like CAB, who have worked closely with people on the lowest incomes have known for many years how extensive it is and how corrosive the effects can be on people's lives. However, it does not harm to have this confirmed once again.

Since the early nineteen nineties and the 'Sick City' report published by the then Area Health Authority, decision makers have known that poor people die younger in Stoke, as they do elsewhere. Unfortuantely very little has changed in the meantime.

What may be different now is that the Commission has demonstrated a huge commitment to do something about it, to take action to address the problem. What is equally encouraging is that at the launch the City Council, a key participant in any solution, committed its support.

The report makes many recommendations, outlining practical steps that can alleviate poverty. One striking example is to prioritise benefit and tax credit take up. Cautious estimates put the figure for unclaimed social security benefits at close to £50 million. That is £50 million worth of public money that people in this city are legally entitled to but have not claimed. An extra £50 million a year spent in the local economy would have a significant effect and go some way to offset the money lost through the welfare reform cuts.

There will be plenty of people who will cynically dismiss this as just another good intention that will peter out and make no difference. That may prove to be the case; but until that happens the Commission deserves the support of the people of the city and its institutions, both public and private, to try and make a difference, to have one more attempt at tackling an issue that has blighted the city for far too long.

After all poverty is a matter of life and death. This is too important not to succeed.

This entry was posted on October 12, 2015

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