Poverty blighting the lives of at least 6,000 people in South Tyneside, meeting hears

Poverty is blighting the lives of at least 6,000 people in South Tyneside, with the true figure likely to be far higher.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 11:05 am
Council chiefs are exploring ways of tackling poverty in South Tyneside

And as well as specific proposals to help families heat their homes and coordinate food banks, bosses could also follow the example of other areas and set up ‘poverty truth commissions’, where the most vulnerable and worst affected can tell their stories to decision-makers directly.

“We have 6,000 people classed as living in poverty in South Tyneside and that is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Cllr John McCabe, who has overseen the council’s Commission on Tackling Poverty

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South Shields town hall

“The real issues won’t start to come forward until we start deep diving into the problems and as we all know, COVID has exacerbated those problems.

“Poverty and truth commissions have been set up in Gateshead, North Tyneside and Stockton, as well as Leeds and Manchester, and it seems to be the way forward.”

Cllr McCabe was speaking at a meeting of the borough council’s ruling cabinet on May 19, which was held in person for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The first poverty truth commission was set up in Glasgow in 2009 and since then the model has been exported to dozens of areas across the UK.

Cllr John McCabe

In some cases, such as West Cheshire and Morecambe Bay, the process has been credited with policy changes which ended up slashing the number of evictions.

In Scotland, its findings have been incorporated into training for senior civil servants.

South Tyneside’s Commission on Tackling Poverty, led by the council’s People Select Committee, delivered an interim report in December which recommended developing a single system for the borough to identify families most at risk of poverty.

Its latest suggestions include enlisting the help of the private sector to make joint bids for government grants to improve homes and more training for GPs to help them recommend services to vulnerable patients.

Cllr McCabe added: “I’ve first-hand knowledge of working with people who have fallen into the poverty trap and it’s not a nice thing to happen in a modern society – poverty should not exist.”

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