Poverty has become big business. It keeps a lot of people in good jobs and comfortable lifestyles. Peering into the vulnerability of those marginalised and living on the fringes of society whilst trying to keep their heads above water.
This is not to minimise the value professionals bring to the massive job of challenging poverty, but knowledge seems futile without informed action bringing it to life. We hear of the need to bring people with ‘lived experience’ into the conversations about how to tackle poverty. Of how that lived experience can help us find solutions.
Often, I wonder if these are words I actually hear from others or if they are my own thoughts echoing around inside my head. As I pitch up time and time again to add my voice to the discussions I can’t but help notice we, those with the lived experience, are in the minority heavily outweighed by the professionals. If we keep asking the same questions, of the same people we will undoubtedly get the same answers.
The questions that rattle around in my head never seem to find an answer and I’m convinced that I can’t be the only one thinking the things that I do. If poverty is on the rise, why do we keep doing the same things; clearly, they don’t work. In the fight against poverty, the focus on the individual seems lost, there is never a mention of individual agency and of the potential in empowering individuals to change their own lives and shift themselves out of poverty, albeit with effective support and facilitation.
However, the notion of things being done to and for rather than with permeates. When does the balance shift between them and us? Where is the value seen and appreciated?
The notion of tokenistic lip service struck me heavily as I sat after a 13 hour day doing my bit to challenge poverty, looking at my £25 ‘payment’ and seeing tokenistic appreciation in action; £1.92 per hour falls a little below the living wage.