Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Commissioners invitation to Chancellor to meet with them

In November the Commission’s secretary Martin Johnstone, along with Ian Galloway, the convenor of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, wrote to Chancellor George Osborne inviting him to meet with the Poverty Truth Commission, so that he could hear firsthand about the stories and struggles of surviving in poverty.
Now, a number of the Commissioners have also written to Mr Osborne asking him to come and meet with the commission and as well as visiting the communities of some of our members where he might hear the stories wisdom and insight at first hand of those living in poverty.

The sending of these letters has been featured in two articles in today’s Herald (Chancellor is challenged to visit Scotland’s deprived communities and Listen, Mr Osborne).

Chancellor is Challenged to visit Scotland's deprived communities

Poverty campaigners in Scotland have challenged the Chancellor to visit Glasgow to hear first-hand accounts from people living in deprived communities.

Members of Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission have written to George Osborne, in a bid to challenge the misinformation they say has characterised the welfare reform debate.

The commission, which includes representatives of the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, the police, and the voluntary sector, was set up to bring together community leaders and people living in poverty to find solutions to hardship.

Founding commissioners include three former moderators of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Bishop of Glasgow Mario Conti and Lord Wallace of Tankerness.
Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, commission chairman, said too many statements from Government treated people on benefits as if they were all the same.

“At the spending review, the Chancellor spoke about £6 billion being lost through benefit fraud, when the real figure is £1.8bn and the rest is down to overpayments,” he said.

“You end up blaming a group of people who are not homogenous. It doesn’t do any good – that group of people could be part of the solution, not part of the problem.” Letters have also gone from representatives of poor communities.

Commissioners hope that if he can be persuaded to visit, Mr Osborne may change his perspective on poverty, as his colleague Iain Duncan Smith did after a visit to Easterhouse.

Listen, Mr Osborne

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been challenged to come to Scotland and meet people living in deprived communities, in a bid to tackle what campaigners say are stereotyped attitudes promoted by the Coalition Government.

Members of Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission have written a series of personal letters which will be sent to George Osborne this week. The commission was set up to fight for people in some of the country’s poorest communities, and has been meeting regularly since March 2009.
It is backed by the Church of Scotland and Faith in Community Scotland, and includes representatives from the Catholic Church, the police, academia and the House of Lords.
One of Scotland’s most senior ministers, the Rev Ian Galloway, convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, has already written calling for the Chancellor to follow the example of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, who famously revised his views on poverty after visiting Easterhouse in Glasgow.

Mr Galloway wrote: “Sometimes it is hard to understand something that you have never experienced yourself. This is why we have invited the Chancellor to hear first-hand the stories of struggle and survival.”

Letters will also reach 11 Downing Street this week from two of the Kirk’s former moderators – Dr Alison Elliot, now chair of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, and the Very Rev Dr David Lunan – as well as Poverty Truth Commission chairman the Rev Dr Martin Johnstone. A number of people from communities affected by poverty have also called on the Chancellor to make time to meet with them.

Those behind the initiative say they want to challenge representations of the jobless as feckless and unwilling to work, or as fraudsters.

Another letter due to reach the Chancellor this week, from Anne Marie Peffer of the Frank Buttle Trust, says: “There is a real feeling amongst those living in poverty that their views are not actually sought in the first place, and where there is opportunity to speak those views are ignored.

“There is now alarm and distress that the Government itself is buying into the view that people on benefits are workshy, lazy and happy to cheat their way to a better income. “I would urge you to come to Scotland and attend a meeting of the Commission.”

Dr Lunan has written: “This is not a politically motivated exercise.

“I know you and the Prime Minister want the Government’s policies to be seen in the light of us ‘all being in this together’, and it is in this spirit that this invitation is being made.”

Single mum Ghazala Hakeem, from Govanhill in Glasgow, is among the people who have testified to the Commission about poverty. She has also written a letter to the Chancellor.

She said she was alarmed by some of the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform. “I am not a scrounger,” she says. “I am not too lazy to work. I am not a benefit fraud.”

Instead, she says, she is a single parent who has been a victim of domestic violence – and who cannot find a job that would pay enough to allow her to come off benefits.

She said she would like to explain in person the efforts she had made and the costs involved in being a working parent.

“I would like Mr Osborne to listen to us so he gets the actual feeling of what it is like to be in our situation. People like me feel insignificant, as if we are not part of society. We are not a partner in the discussion – we are viewed as a problem.”

Dr Johnstone said members of the original commission had found that talking to people facing poverty in their own communities had been eye-opening.

“It changed their ideas,” he said. “We know visiting Easterhouse had a very significant impact on Iain Duncan Smith’s attitudes.

“There are some good bits of the welfare reform bill, and they came about as a result of that.
“We believe a movement to tackle poverty will not succeed until it is people in poverty who take the lead.”

Nobody from the Treasury was available to comment.

‘People who are working are living like this’

Blair Green, from Drumchapel in Glasgow, defies the stereotype of a victim of poverty. He doesn’t claim benefits and has always tried to work.

Yet in his letter to Chancellor George Osborne, he says: “I have struggled to survive my whole life.”

Mr Green, pictured left, was brought up by his mother. His family was reliant on clothing grants and charity shops, but he says he was determined to “do better”.

He studied horticulture at college, but had to drop out to work to help his mother.

He bought a flat, moved into it with his partner Diane, and started a family. He was working and getting by – until he took on a bad finance deal to buy a car.

The family lost their house and ended up living next to drug dealers in a decrepit council house.
Now he is back on his feet, but still works an average 70-hour week to make ends meet.

“I would ask you to meet either with myself or with the Poverty Truth Commission, to hopefully change the way you see people who have to work hard to feed themselves and their kids on benefits,” he wrote to Mr Osborne. “People who are working are also living in poverty.

“Policies like welfare reform can be very destructive if they are created by people who have no idea what the situation is like on the ground.”

Friday, 3 December 2010

Poverty Truth Commission send an invitation to George Osborne

Last month Martin Johnstone, the secretary of the Poverty Truth Commission, and Ian Galloway, the convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, wrote to the Chancellor, George Osborne, to challenge him to come to Scotland and to and talk to members of the Commission in order to hear first hand their stories of struggle and survival in poverty. To read an article about the letter, go to www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/13589 or visit The Convenor's Blog at http://churchsociety.blogspot.com/2010/11/poor-are-major-stakeholders-in-welfare.html

Monday, 25 October 2010

Kinship Carers Hit Holyrood

On 28th October - UK Grandparents day, the Poverty Truth Commission and commissioner Johann Lamont MSP will co-host a 'kinship carers tea party' in the Scottish Parliament. MSPs and other officials have been invited to join thirty incredible grandparent carers to drink tea and hear their stories and plight before they return to the chamber to debate the Carers Strategy.
At the same time 120 grannies and the children they care for will gather in Westminster for a campaign day organised by Grandparents Plus (www.grandparentsplus.org.uk). A demonstration will take place outside council buildings in Glasgow, and call outs for support and recognition will also come from Dundee and Edinburgh carers.

The Poverty Truth Commission has campaigned alongside kinship carers since its inception. We have highlighted the important role of this hidden army of carers who are giving at least 13,400 of Scotland's most vulnerable children the best possible chance in life, while saving governments £536 million per year in care costs. But kinship carers are struggling massively to do this job for society without adequate support from central or Scottish government and local authorities.

Citizens Advice Scotland's recent report 'Relative Value' claimed that kinship carers are being let down by the system as 'too often, the modest level of assistance that can make all the difference to a kinship care household is either missing or the route to accessing it is long and tortuous.'

Watch this space for more details, photos and a full report of the day's events.

Citizens Advice Scotland's advice service for kinship carers can be reached through their website (www.cas.org.uk), at a local CAB office or by calling the CAB service’s confidential Kinship Care Helpline on 0808 800 0006.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Please sign kinship care petition to Scottish government!! See details below. takes less than a minute!

Dear kinship care supporters,

Since the Poverty Truth Commission was formed in March 2009 it has campaigned alongside kinship carers for the support they desperately need to give the children in their loving care an equal and decent chance in life.

In the next month we will accelerate this effort in a huge push for cooperation between the UK and Scottish government and local authorities to work alongside kinship carers towards providing adequate services and financial support for their children.

One of the elements of this campaign is a petition to the Scottish parliament, which will be discussed by the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee after October 12th.
I am writing to ask for your support in signing this petition before October 12th. The process takes less than a minute! The more signatures we can collect the more seriously our urgent calls will be taken by the committee, who are then mandated to address it with the Scottish Parliament.

The petition can be signed online at:


It would also be great if you could post a comment by clicking on 'join the discussion' or going directly to:


It would also be deeply appreciated if you could circulate this email widely to your networks - friends and colleagues etc - and encourage them to sign also.

Many thanks for your support, it is deeply appreciated by kinship carers and their children throughout Scotland.

Best regards always,

Miriam Rose

Poverty Truth Commission

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Poverty Truth Commission article for Church Action on Poverty Newsletter

Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission brings together two groups of people: those who know and understand the struggle against poverty in their lives and those who have the power and influence to change Scotland for the better.

On 21st March 2009 in front of an invited audience of 400, people who live with the reality and consequences of poverty on a daily basis testified to their lives. Using dance, drama, poetry, rap, stories and animation, the testifiers vividly told of the struggles they have faced and described their hopes for the future and their resolve to work together to overcome poverty. A clear message was put across, “We are part of the solution, not part of the problem. Nothing about us, without us, is for us.”

At the same event the Commissioners, from politics, the media, academia and faith communities, listened and responded to what they heard, saying that henceforth they would want to work together as a single group in order that policy changes might be informed by the combined wisdom of both groups.

The Commission has been meeting regularly since March 2009, and is specifically looking at the areas of Kinship Carers, Positive Alternatives to Violence and the Media.

Scott MacKinnon is 17 and speaks about his involvement with the Poverty Truth Commission, and how a meeting with Community Police Officers has led to the organising of a football tournament.

“So many people complain. The Police should do this, the government should do that. I’ve said some of these things before too; I now think slightly differently.

Yes, I agree that the police and the government have their duties and responsibilities. I understand that it is their job do to things which everyday people cannot.

But what about our ideas and opinions? Isn’t it even more our duty and responsibility to ensure that we do our part for society rather than depending on and expecting others to do it for us.

Hearing about the Poverty Truth Commission kicked me up the backside and made me re-evaluate. When I got involved I was really happy to be a part of something that changed my views on things. I saw it as my opportunity to help others realise that they too can help society in many ways.

All my life I have been brought up in a environment that has gang fighting all around. All my friends have just the same. People have fights and disputes with each other simply because they live in different areas.

Currently, through the Poverty Truth Commission myself and others are organising a football tournament which will bring young people together from these different areas. We are working together with the Police, who have supported and encouraged our ideas and the police will also take part in the football tournament.

The idea behind this is to try and break down the barriers not only with people from different areas but also to break the barrier between young people and the Police and to encourage respect on all sides.

I am very happy to be doing this work and I will never stop trying to do things like this that will help the community.

A lot of people say that one person cannot make a big difference and to a certain extent they are right but a lot of those people could make a team and a team can make a big difference. Even if every single person done only one thing to help society, that is a lot of help and it would make a difference.”

Monday, 26 July 2010

Stories behind the Manifesto

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 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.

From a Dramatisation at the Poverty Truth Commission Event, 21/03/09

You will never guess what happened to me on the way home from school - some mad nutter came behind me with a knife! I knew who he wiz anaw! I'm allright but the boy is messed up, you know he’ doesny even live in the real world! He never goes out anymore, except to bully people, ever since he got caught up in the gang fighting and got a beating. That’s is why he takes it out on other people, he stays in his house all the time.

That’s what annoys me about living here. It’s the small minority of people that get caught up in the gang fighting and give the rest of us a bad reputation. I’ve never been in trouble before in my life. All I ever do is go to my dance classes. I’ve stayed on at school and I’m sitting three higher grade exams and I have a part time job. I’m hardly a criminal. But the media like to portray everyone from Ruchazie as mindless thugs.

Aye the media has got a lot to answer for! It sends the image of the perfect person to be stick thin, have the best clothes and cars and that’s one of the reasons most people in Ruchazie have low self esteem. If that’s not hard enough to deal with, trying to get out of poverty with our postcode seems impossible.

I’m worried about my career. When people ask where I’m from I hesitate to tell them because most people will think the worst. If your postcode shows that your from the poorest areas you are less likely to get a good job.

That's if you manage to get to school in the first place. Some of the new first years starting at the secondary school got chased home by a local gang. None of the wee
first years are even involved in gang fighting. One of them got stabbed in the thigh trying to run away.

And then there was when Ruchazie Primary School was closed down. The new school was only 5 minutes away, but there was trouble from the gang members who didn't like seeing the weans walking through their territory and chased 9 and 10 year olds home. The mums got together in their wee gang and walked them to school in big groups, which was good. That got that sorted.
Thank God the church gave us the chance to visit Malawi! It took us away from our lifestyle and showed us to believe in ourselves. It also gave us the strength to change our way of thinking and not to be put down by the media and other outside influences.

I now have a firm belief in myself which I can show in my dancing, even William and Daniel came home and started up their own football team which was very successful. We all even got involved with the poverty truth commission because we just don’t care about ourselves in our own wee world we also care about community. I wish more people were like that.

Jamie-Lee Smart and Donna Barrowcliffe

Monday, 12 July 2010

What a night! The Kinship Carers Notre Dame charity ball. 5th July, 2010

By Miriam Rose, Poverty Truth Commission Researcher
Those who know the work of the Commission will have heard much about the plight of children in kinship care; How their carers (usually grandparents) often struggle with poverty, lack of financial support and services, difficult family situations and the psychological trauma suffered by the children in their care - and still manage to give these children the unremitting love and support that will give them the best chance possible in life.It is not so often that we have really positive news to report on this key area of the Commission's work; but last Friday's kinship care gala dinner at the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow was a night of pure celebration at the strength and passion of these incredible grannies (and grandads), and how they have organised their own support where the government has so utterly failed them.

The night was devised and brought to fruition by Sally Brisbane, a kinship care and chair of the West Glasgow Grandparents Group, one of the many self organised support groups in Scotland set up by kinship grannies to help each other through the many hardships they face. Sally knew from personal experience that one of the services most essential to kinship children is psychological support, to enable them to move past the traumas of their early childhood, face their immense challenges, and reach their potential. The Notre Dame centre provides this service to vulnerable children and has been deeply committed to kinship care kids over the years. In the face of political failure to provide this support, Sally put over a year of thought and planning into an event that would raise money to keep the centre open, and honor kinship carers in the process. Along the way her charisma and passion attracted the support of businessmen, politicians and banks who donated prizes and paid for aspects of the night. One of these was James Smith, a businessman and a foster carer himself, who was horrified at the abysmal treatment of kinship carers who do the same job as foster carers such as him but receive a fraction of the support or regocnition. He subsequently became a patron of the West Glasgow group, and co-organised much of the night with Sally.

The night itself was so special. Over 100 kinship carers, in gorgeous and glamorous frocks, walked proudly down a red carpet in honor of the undervalued and incredible role they hold in Scottish society. Two rippling flames at the entrance marked the burning love and passion in their hearts for the children in their care. The Poverty Truth Commission had a table in the beautifully decorated hall, and heard heartfelt speeches from MSP Bob Doris, kinship carer Tommy McFall, and the Commission's own Darren McGarvey, who spoke about the important role of his grandmother and the Notre Dame centre in his young life, and thanked them for giving him the chance to stand there as a symbol of hope for others today. Thanks was also given to the Commission for its work campaigning for the rights of kinship care children.
Incredible raffle prizes including a holiday in Turkey, a voucher for The Diamond Studios, and a day in a Ferrarri, were given out, and entertainment from dancers, magicians, singers and DJs rolled on into the night, as the kinship carers and their families and supporters smiled and danced. I didn't stop grinning the whole night through either. To see the glowing faces of these loving and passionate women, who struggle against so much, being truly recognised and celebrated for the work they do was very moving, and sadly so very rare. I am in awe of their resilience and feel so honored to know them and work alongside them with the Commission. Darren's story is a testament to the power of the unrelenting love they give, which can rescue children from the harsh realities of poverty, drugs, alcohol and violence they are born into, and turn them, against all odds, towards their inherent and beautiful potential to live happily, and even become the role models and change agents that society so desperately needs.

Thank you to Sally Brisbane, Jessie Harvey, Jean Forrester and all of the kinship carers in Glasgow and greater Scotland for their commitment and love. The world needs you.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Stories behind the 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 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.

Poverty is an issue that can affect anyone, in anyway, anyplace. When I was approached to be a testifier for the Poverty Truth Commission I wouldn’t have actually classed myself to be one living in poverty. One thinks of poverty and images of starving, naked Africans come to mind. However, when poverty is explored it brings to light the fact that poverty has many different guises. Bringing the issue closer to home, although I wouldn’t like to admit it or want to be associated with it, I am an example of someone living in poverty.

I am a person who fits into many communities. I am a female, Asian, Muslim, single parent, from Govanhill and poverty can affect any of these communities. One of the significant things that has left in this position is my single status. Normally within the Asian community a girl is looked after by her daddy and when she marries she is looked after by her husband. I left my husband in order to survive as I was a victim of domestic abuse. As I don’t have the traditional support of a husband I have to rely on the welfare state. I don’t think one would normally associate domestic abuse with poverty yet it can be a cause.

Poverty affects me. I rely on benefits to survive and ensure my daughter and I are looked after with the basic necessities – a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, clothes on our back. Having to live within the constraints of benefits means that the essentials are naturally a priority but having to worry about when the brown envelope is going to come and will the cost be within the confines of benefit payout.

It is only after the bills have been paid that the fridge-freezer and cupboards are allowed to be stocked and that is to a limit and this requires careful planning – which shop is the cheapest for which product.

Clothing only gets renewed once the water leakage into the shoes is a considerable amount and the trousers that are supposed to be below the ankle are now above the ankle and the full sleeve tops are now ¾ sleeve tops.

Those are examples of poverty that affects my daughter who has just turned 8 years old. This is not fair. My daughter has not done anything to deserve this. She has been unfortunate to be born into poverty. Poverty ensured that my daughter wasn’t able to get a birthday party with all the trimmings in a children’s play area like her peers.

Poverty ensures that I cannot take my daughter on holiday, not even to places which are so common, and cheap to some, such as Benidorm or Majorca. Poverty ensures I cannot buy my daughter the toys she desires or ensure she has the appropriate school uniform with the school logo instead sufficing for a version that is merely the same colour.

One of daughter’s friends didn’t go on a school trip as the mother couldn’t afford the £3.00 fee. This then singled her out as the one who didn’t go on the school trip and didn’t join her friends. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that point for my daughter but recognising the fact that it very easily could.

People listening could very easily say ‘get a job’. That is not a solution as poverty affects even those that are in employment. Issues that would then concern me would be childcare foremost. As many working parents will be aware childcare is an issue in itself. To initially source childcare, dropping and picking up the child and most importantly paying the childminder. This can work out expensively. The first thing that comes to my mind regarding childcare is the quality time that I would lose with my daughter and this is before the reassurance that my child would be safe and well-looked after. Dinner and bedtime isn’t sufficient to ensure parent and child have a strong, emotionally stable relationship with good communication and assurance for the parent that all is well with the child. So in this case poverty would rob me of time with my only child. I am also aware of the many reports that children whose parents are in employment do not do as well emotionally and at school as those children whose mother or father are able to devote time to them. This shows that poverty affects education and the well being of a child.

To be able to get to work would require money for travelling and this would naturally amount to a great cost over the course of a week. Therefore travel expenses would also play a part in ones road to poverty.

Coming from the Asian community I am able to identify some of the barriers to employment even before childcare and travel expenses would be tackled with. One of those barriers being a lack of confidence and this could be due to language, never been in employment or having less chances compared to our white counterparts which unfortunately does happen. Exclusion based on cultural or religious differences is a fact and this fact leads to poverty too.

A lack of respect from self and others due to ones situation leads to other problems. Hope can be washed away having to accept ones situation. The knock on effect could be that the next generation is compelled to accept that poverty is in their fate too. A vicious circle.

What worries me is that if I went into employment then I would be liable for my own rent, council tax would increase, I would have to pay for regular travel expenses, pay for childcare, and miss out on quality time with my daughter. Being so close to my daughter, as we only have each other, prevents me from gaining employment too. I don’t want to be apart from her.

I am aware of the governments drive to get people off benefits and into employment. This should not be seen as a solution on its own. For many being on benefits have its advantages. Would a salary be able to give the same amount if not more comfort? There are many changes to be made and some of these changes will be highlighted by my fellow testifiers.

Ghazala Hakeem

Monday, 21 June 2010

Stories behind the Manifesto

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.

20 years ago when my son was troubled with addiction his other granny took my grandson into her care. He was 2 years old. Throughout his life he suffered the effects of his parent’s choices and the environment he was exposed to, and at 17 he was the victim of a murder. I feel that if there had been support and recognition for us to intervene earlier in his life this tragic story may not have happened. Kinship carers are doing a free service for the state and they would do nothing less for these children. But they deserve at minimum psychological help, basic allowances and support and recognition to prevent another lost generation.

Many kinship carers don't come forward to jump the hurdles for support that they desperately need, because they would feel like failures in their natural duty to the kids in their care.
When we decided to form a kinship care support group 6 years ago we had no idea that any help was available. We have come a long way with talks and meetings with the relevant people but barriers keep appearing and blame gets passed from pillar to post. Nobody wants responsibility for these children's rights as human beings, and seem to forget that they're the future of the UK.

Through the Poverty Truth Commission kinship carers have now got a strong voice on behalf of the children they love and care for, and also a vision to end the discrimination and stigma that kinship children are suffering through ignorance and inequality. People in power should realise that they are not being accountable to the children's needs. Invest in early intervention and we can look forward to fine upstanding citizens that we can be very proud of in the future.

Jean Forrester

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Stories behind the Manifesto

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.

From Ruchazie to Malawi

I can't walk round the corner without going into someone's territory, and if you go into that territory, then you're going to get chased out. Unlike when we got the chance to visit Malawi through the Church, it's totally different there. When you go out there you can walk for miles, and no-one will say anything to you, nothing at all. And if people do see you, they'll come over and shake your hand and be nice to you. And that was a really big shock, and it's really opened my eyes.
In Ruchazie when you walk by, people put their heads down. Whereas in Malawi they came over and shook you by the hand and were dead happy, in Ruchazie they're scared. They put their heads down and try not to look at you. Just ignore each other basically, as if you're not there. There are plenty of places here in Ruchazie where we just can't go. I've got family in Ruchazie, and I can't even walk to where they live because of not so much fear, but common sense. Cause if you walk up there, and it's the wrong crowd, I wouldn't even like to say what would happen. It's quite scary. I mean, people have actually been killed through this, and other people have been injured. It really takes it out of people, really knocks their confidence.
It's not just with boys; it's with girls as well. There’s girl gangs that fight as well. It's bad for everyone. Even grown men, women, grans and grandas fighting.
It's really intimidating when you walk by and they all stop talking and look at you and you've got your head down. It's not a nice place to be.
In Malawi it made me feel really happy and full of confidence when all those people were shaking my hand. But it also made me feel really bad for where I stay cause I was there for a few days and was walking for miles, and I've been living in Glasgow all my life, and can't even walk 500 yards to see my family. It could cost me my life to go and see my family.
The people from Malawi came over to visit us in Ruchazie as well. They really have got nothing and they came over here and made the most of everything. It
really makes me think to myself - why can I not do that? Anything they get they're grateful for.
I want to go and make the most of my life now. I think I've learned more from them than they have from us. Even though, we may have the latest technology and the best education, but they've taught us much more than we taught them. Just shows you that money's not everything. I've realised that life isn't all about money and possessions. They have inspired me to get on with making a difference where I am, and to encourage others to do the same.

William Barrowcliffe

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Charity Dinner for West Glasgow Grandparents Support Group

Our friends from the West Glasgow Grandparents Support Group are holding a Charity Dinner in the Clyde Suite of The Marriott, Glasgow on the evening of Friday 2nd July.

The group will use the funds raised to support Kinship Carers who need specialised help for their vulnerable grandchildren.

Tickets cost £30 per person which includes a buffet meal and entertainment.

For more information please contact Sally Brisbane on 01419548737.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Stories behind the Manifesto

Blair, from Drumchapel, shares his experiences of poverty.

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.

Blair’s Testimony from Poverty Truth Commission Event, 21/03/09

I'm here today to talk about poverty and the problems it causes to the ordinary people affected by it. About the problems and stigma that come with living in a poverty stricken area.
When you mention poverty people often think about places like Africa. Although countries in Africa certainly need our help, and we should help, poverty remains right here in Scotland.
People said they were going to eradicate poverty when I was young - but what has changed? I would like to share with you some of my story and to talk a bit about the issues of debt and low pay.

When I was growing up it was just my mum looking after us. I can remember me and my two sisters and my mum huddled up under the duvet in one room, cause we could only afford to heat one room. It was old metal windows, and there used to be an inch gap down the side of our front door. There was a howling cold wind through the house constantly. You'd wake up and your feet were numb. This wasn't a tenement flat in the 1960's either, this was a flat in 1990's Glasgow. My mum only got a clothing grant for us once a year, and even then it didn't buy much. I've heard people say that others manage, but they never told you how much they owed loan sharks or Friends Provident. We got most of our clothes out of the charity shop. My shoes used to talk back to me in the morning. Some of the people at my school were bullied for wearing second hand clothes.

I remember one Christmas when I was about 10 when the Salvation Army brought Christmas presents round because we had no money or food. I can also remember how we had to go to my Gran's Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to get fed. It was only one meal a day, but it was absolute heaven, as there was nothing else to eat. This is still happening today. In Glasgow today people are still going to bed hungry. My mum put a lot of drive into me - you want to do better than this son. You don't want to bring up your kids like this.

I went into college when I was 15 to study horticulture. Whenever I could I worked as well, but couldn't do much because I was under 16. That was the first rung in the ladder for me. I had left school without many qualifications mainly because of things like bullying. There is only so much you can take, and when I had started to fight back I was excluded from school time and again. I fell behind.

I've always enjoyed planting things and watching them grow. Doing horticulture was something I enjoyed. The thing is, I had to leave college early because my mum was struggling and I was doing bits and pieces of work as I could, but it wasn't enough. I had to giver her a hand, I had to work. I got a job in MacDonalds. They say you shouldn't have any regrets in your life, but I think that is one of my regrets, that I didn't finish that college course.

I started helping my mum out till she got on her feet and then I started trying to save up enough to get my own flat, my own place. I took up lots of jobs. I got a 98% mortgage and my own wee studio flat in East Kilbride. That's where I met Diane, my partner. We made a little bit of money out of the sale of that flat and then managed to get a one bed roomed flat together in Knightswood. We worked hard to make it our home. We did have a bit of debt, but it was managable, and then the car thing happened and in the space of about 6 months everything turned around.

Is a car a luxury? Most of the jobs I get I need a car, I start very early in the morning,
and I take jobs wherever I can get them - sometimes that means ten miles away. A car is something we needed. So we went to a car finance company. There were a lot of problems with the car right away though. The brake disc colapsed. I managed to stop just in the nick of time, cause I was about to hit a petrol tanker. I went back to the company, and they said that was a wear and tear part and I would have to fix it myself. But I had had the car literally a few weeks. That should all have been checked before they sold it to me. They said I had signed the contract though and it was mine whether I wanted it or not. They were refusing to take it back.

They did in the end, but ever since then they've continued to chase me for the finance.
What these people were saying to us, how they would seize the house, how they were going to sell our furniture. How they would change the locks, throw us out on the street. They were phoning us up constantly during the day, sometimes 10 or 20 times. This was the same company that when I started arguing my rights with them told me that the Consumer Credit Act doesn't exist. The constant phone calls put us under pressure and caused extreme stress. I was out trying to work, so they were phoning Diane, who was heavily pregnant at the time. 7 days a week, morning noon and night they phoned. I was working all the hours I could, so we could try to keep the house.

Our daughter was not far away from being born and we just wanted a wee bit of security. Diane was petrified, she thought we were going to end up homeless. We didn't know what would happen after she had the baby and came out of hospital. We thought that maybe we possibily wouldn't be able to stay together as a familiy unit. It was terrifying. You still have bills to pay, you still have the mortgage to pay, so you start having to skip somebody - we had things to buy for the baby as well. We started to fall behind, and the mortgage was one of those things that we started to fall behind on. We ended up in a situation where we were robbing Peter to pay Paul, and then the mortgage company were threatening to re-possess as well.

With everything else as well, we got a letter through from Glasgow Housing Association saying that they were roughcasting the outside of the building, and because we owned 25% of the building, we would have to pay 25% of the cost. When we went to the meeting to discuss this, they said it's not up to you, as you're in a minority. We were over-ruled, and I said, well how are we going to pay for this cause I knew we couldn't on top of the mortgage and everything else. They wanted an extra £400 a month. They knew our situation and they still went ahead and did it. Their advice was to take out another loan to pay for it. The situation became unbearable.

So we put the house up for sale. It wasn't easy, it really wasn't easy, we loved that house and had put a lot of work into it. We sold it the day before it was due to get re-possessed.

I felt great, I'd lost a lot of money, but I'd cleared off most of the debt apart from the car, and we still owed GHA a bit. If we hadn't owed anybody any money, we would have walked away with about £30 000 from the sale of that flat. We walked away with nothing, but we got all those people off our back. Sometimes it's about more than the money. So we had to try to get a council house. We had a couple of months to get things sorted out before we moved. I was still working constantly on the buses trying to bring money in to pay for everything.

The flat the council offered us was in a right state. Diane went in to see it and was in tears. We had no choice but to accept this offer - we were desperate and had nowhere else. It was damp, it was wet, it was stinking. It was really dark and had been totally neglected. There were big holes in the walls. If you've ever seen the toilets in that film, 'Trainspotting' then you'll know what I'm talking about. The stench of urine when you walked in was powerful. When we came to see the flat, the Housing Officer said, "This is the best house I have seen in a long time - you are lucky to be getting an offer."

We asked him if there was anything they would do, like fill the holes, sort the dampness, you know it was thick with dust, and the people in it before must have been heavy heavy smokers, the place was just brown, it was just disgusting - but what choice did we have. The council weren't prepared to do anything to it. We'd done everything, put our whole heart and soul into our old flat, and then to walk away from that with nothing, to be put in a place where you wouldn't even have a bath, with Olivia our beautiful baby just 3 weeks old. She sat in a bogging kitchen in her wee car seat while we spent all our time trying to decorate the place and do something to it to make it a home.

The week after we moved in we had drug dealers move in next door to us, and then there were needles all over the close. People banging the door at all hours of the night, at the wrong door, looking for drugs. Diane answered the door at 4 one morning in desperation as she was trying to get the baby to sleep. She was dragged out by the hair. I was going out to work not knowing what I was going to come back to, knowing my family didn't feel safe there. It was unbearable. I nearly cracked in two with the stress of it all.

It gets to the stage where you can't eat, you can't sleep, you're just so stressed out. It's constant there's nothing you can do about it. I don't think there was a weekend went by when someone didn't get seriously injured in that close as well. You came out on a Monday morning to go to your work and there would be bits of broken glass, syringes, blood all over the walls. We went round the councillors, doctor, health visitor, trying to get a letter down, a wee bit of support to get us a move. They were really good, so supportive.

The Housing Officer at the time though was just a total nightmare. One of the most arrogant men I have ever met. When he heard that we were trying to get a move, and he got all these letters, he was like, "Why did you not come to me and I would have sorted it out."
We eventually got a move to where we are now, and it's so much nicer and we know and can rely on our neighbours. There's still hassle out, but not like before - we're safe. We were lucky to have a roof over our heads, but at the same time, how much do you have to put up with and be grateful for?

I have always worked all the hours I could as we couldn't have survived with me just working a 40 hour week. I've often had 2 or 3 jobs on the go at once. Friday used to be bad for me. Working 9-5 in an office, then 6-12 doing security at the Bowling, and then I would start a cleaning job at the chippy.

I promise you, I don't have a secret account with millions stashed away in it. This was just to get by. Now I work on average 70 hours a week. Me and my partner are just like two ships passing in the night sometimes. That is just to survive, and put a bit away for the future. I don't know how much longer 'll have a job for - people are losing their jobs left right and centre.
You're constantly working under the pressure that your job might be next, your company might be next. I always like to have options on the back burner in case something happens, but I know that isn't the same for everybody.

The biggest change for me was becoming a Dad. I felt inspired to make a difference in other people's lives and to make the world a better place for my daughter's future. And the past is my motivation to get out of bed in the morning. Through all these experiences now I feel I've managed to create a stable environment (most months) and am trying my best to help others overcome poverty. I volunteer when I can with the 3D Family Project in Drumchapel and am also becoming interested in the Poverty Truth Commission.

I can't change the past, but as for the future I want to make a difference.
We're not going to stop on 21 March. We're on the move. After the Poverty Truth Commission I want to say these things in Holyrood and in Westminster. I'm not stopping until things change.


Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Stories behind the Manifesto

Last week we posted our Manifesto on the blog. We want to follow this up with a series of stories which are the background of the aims and commitments in the Manifesto.

This week the story is from Scott, a 17 year old from Cranhill.

"We understand that violence is a public health issue which 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." (from The Poverty Truth Commission Manifesto, April 2010)

I could imagine why a person may not understand fully the text above. I can see people asking, "how is it a public health issue?" and "how can’t the police alone resolve this matter?". Reason being that if it weren’t for the experiences in life that I have had then, I suppose I may have trouble understanding the sheer truth to it also. However I have, and that’s why I am writing this.

I joined the Poverty Truth Commission in the latter part of 2009. Before joining, I asked myself what difference I could make. Surly one person cant make a big enough difference to change things, and I was right. However by being right it taught me that people joining and working as a team can be much more effective than a single person. Since joining in 2009 I have realised that yes, the police have their duty to protect the community and the government has the responsibility to change things for the better, but that also we as individuals of communities have more responsibility to look after our society as it is us that are effected by it.
So, how is violence a public health issue? People more than often look at the physical side of violence as being the only outcome. People don’t see that its far more complex than a broken nose or a black eye. We only have to look at some cases when violence is the biggest factor in the direction that a persons life progresses. I have seen for real in many cases, that violence has an effect on every aspect of ones life. It has emotional consequences of people feeling hurt, families feeling hurt, friends feeling hurt. It perhaps limits your doors in life for making friends, learning, working and in general living.

I believe that in particular, gang violence is a trap. I believe that people who fall into the mistake of gang fighting for the first time, see the immediate effects of things like feeling an adrenaline rush, showing loyalty to mates by "backing them up", feeling like part of a group (which for many people is enough to persuade them alone) and also having a sense of power. However, when a person is gang fighting they are sucked into a persona of someone tough, hard, brave even popular. By experiencing immediately good things this persona becomes a way life. This may not be who the person really is but they see this change as exciting. After being trapped by this, I have seen that it is very hard to escape this way of life. All your friends do the same
as you and any friends that you had before, in most cases, wont see you in the same light, your education will perhaps lack due to the "persona" that you live by, many people lose respect for you and also don’t forget all the people who now hate you and want to fight with you again because of previous happenings.

What can be done? For education, I believe that people should be far more informed about support that is available to people who need it. There is a massive pool of support available for people wishing to work and learn, however, many people just don’t know enough about it. As for friends, well the people that continue to fight whilst see the route of freedom, perhaps they are not the right friends for you. As for the friends who don’t see you in the same way, it is your job to win back respect. I understand if all this is doubted by many people as it seems exaggerated. However I know it does happen as not only have I seen it myself, a member of my family has found their self in this trap and have described it this way.

There are many reasons why we need the communities to take a bigger role in the fight against violence. Not only does it give an area a bad name, if you are continuously hearing bad stories about violence, but it takes away peoples hope. It makes people give up trying. I say why not express more good, positive stories in the news paper? Why not have even just a small section in the paper for perhaps personal achievements by individuals in areas? Why not tell more of what is happening in schools? Why not start giving communities positive feedback for good things rather than telling of only all the negative incidents? Not only would it give the community hope as a whole, it would perhaps inspire many individuals to change there way of life to match those gaining positive publicity. Also I believe that if communities come closer and act more as a community then many problems can be resolved.

My dad always told me that years ago communities were closer and that they could trust each other to help out with everyday things in life that really made a difference. From what I have seen growing up, I have not experienced this type of living with any of my neighbours. I wish I had a community like that. I believe that it would help with many things like poverty and perhaps even health. I would hope that in time to come, I could have the privilege of living in a community like that.

As the Poverty Truth Commission says, "Nothing without us about us is for us" is very much true. How can people be helped if you do not listen to them and act accordingly to their primary needs. How do you know what to do if you don’t have help understanding what it is you are helping. I myself would not feel this so strongly if it were not for the Poverty Truth Commission. I has made me realise how important it is to tackle problems and not just stand about doing nothing. This is why more people should be given hope that things can be done. To encourage people to not just stand about but to get involved and have their say. Everyone has their opinion and if everyone comes together with ideas then, I believe, many problems in society today can be reduced.


Friday, 23 April 2010

The Poverty Truth Commission Manifesto is launched

The Poverty Truth Commission has produced a Manifesto challenging people to sign up to the same commitments the members of the Commission hold about many different forms of poverty in Scotland including Welfare Reform, Positive Alternatives to Violence and Kinship Care. It will be featured in today's Evening Times.

In the run up to the UK General Election, we have made the following commitments and we challenge others to do the same:

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.

Jim Wallace, Co-chair of the Poverty Truth Commission said, “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 the next government, whatever its political complexion.”

Tricia McConalogue, Co-chair of the commission commented “If the future Government is serious about building a better society then it 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.”

For more information about the Manifesto and real life stories behind the policies go to www.povertytruthcommission.org.

Monday, 1 February 2010

A week of debate on poverty in the media

Last week Martin Johnstone (Secretary for The Poverty Truth Commisison) was invited to contribute a post on a blog looking at how poverty is portrayed in the media which has been organised by Community Link.

He comments:

"Virtually every day of my life I am fortunate to meet some absolutely incredible people. Folks like Jessie, Jean, Blair, Donna, Ghazala, Marie, Carol and countless others.
These are people who despite the poverty that they have to struggle against - the rotten housing, the appalling benefits, the regular threat of violence - are resilient, resourceful and determined that things will be better both for those they love and also for those they don’t know but who share their predicament.
I am sad that other people are less fortunate than I am - that they don’t have the privilege of those conversations, meetings and life-changing encounters. I am particularly sad that their view of people living in poverty is shaped by journalists who, on the whole, don’t have the time (or inclination) to find out what is real.
I don’t want to tar all media with the same brush - just as I don’t want them to pretend that all people living in poverty are bad folk, just because a few of them are. I want to congratulate, for example, Glasgow’s Evening Times for the stories it prints around the city’s community champions.
And I want to encourage some journalists to come and spend some time with the awesome, spectacular and incredible people that I know - and then to tell their readers and viewers about what they have encountered."

You can view his entry on the blog and see the many contributions made from a wide range of people, from award-winning bloggers to young people from Newham.


Monday, 25 January 2010

About Jesus Christ who walked
around a lot and listened

Jesus walked around a lot
where people

and listened

to everything they said

he thought
they had a lot to say

and so they DID.

They said
There wasn’t any food.

They said
Their kids was sick a lot.

They said
they needed help

and Jesus listened

And after he had listened
He said: if peoples
got together
it wouldn’t be
so hard.

He said
that maybe they could

change the

so children wouldn’t starve.

And after
he had finished saying that

he got some food
so they could eat

and then
he walked on down the road

to where
some other peoples lived

and stayed with them
and listened very carefully

is what he did.

He told the truth
about the rich

and listened
to the poor.

And then
the people

who ran the country
killed him.

It happens
all the time

--Jane Stembridge, age 19, Mississippi, 1964