On Wednesday 3 May, the Commission attended the First Minister’s anti-poverty summit in Edinburgh.
The cross-party summit was organised by the Scottish Government, and included representation from Scotland’s political parties, campaigners, public and private sector leaders, and people with lived experience of poverty.
At the summit the Commission was represented by our Deputy Chair, Professor Morag Treanor and Danielle from the Commission’s Experts by Experience Panel.
After the event, the First Minister said that tax, targeted support and tough budget choices will all need to be considered as part of bold measures to tackle poverty
Our Deputy Chair Professor Morag Treanor said:
“At today’s summit the level of commitment from everyone in the room to reduce poverty was clear. As well as this strong commitment there was also a lot of agreement as to what some of the barriers have been, and some good practical solutions and proposals to get started on. Now we need to urgently move to action to make sure everyone in Scotland has a decent standard of living and is freed from poverty.”
At the start of the morning, our Experts by Experience Panel member Danielle was given the opportunity to address the delegates after the First Minister, Chris Birt from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and Linda Craik from End Poverty Edinburgh.
Danielle urged the delegates at the summit to “be brave” enough to do what is needed to free people in Scotland from poverty.
The text of Danielle’s address to the delegates at the summit is below.
What I want to talk about is being brave.
When I first heard that I had been invited to speak to you all at this event one of the first thoughts I had was “how did I end up here?”
When people talk about lived experience of poverty, some people think that means hearing stories from people in poverty about how they have ended up where they are.
But I am not here today to tell you anyone’s story.
Other people think that listening to people with experience of poverty means consulting with a few people who are lucky enough to be invited to rooms like this – like me – and thinking that that they have learned everything they need to know about what poverty is like.
I do feel lucky to be invited here today. But I am not here to speak to you on behalf of all people who have experienced poverty in Scotland. I can’t. No-one can.
So I don’t want to tell you a story and for you to applaud at the end and think how powerful it was.
And I don’t want to talk to you about what all people in poverty in Scotland want.
What I want to talk about is being brave.
If you have done any anti-poverty related research before today, I highly doubt you will hear anything you haven’t heard before. We all know families that have to pretend to have camp-outs with sandwiches in the dark because the electricity has run out. We all know parents that can’t afford to send their children to school because they can’t afford the dinner money, we all know those with kidney failure that wait for months and months to be able to get an at-home dialysis machine, only to have to hand it back because they can’t afford the electricity to run it.
We know that these people, and there are tens of thousands of them living in Scotland, are brave beyond belief for the daily battles they are fighting.
What we need to know is how brave the people in this room are.
For the last year and a half, I’ve been part of an Experts by Experience panel organised by the Poverty and Inequality Commission.
Expertise that comes from having experienced poverty isn’t always more important than traditional professional expertise. But – if you want to identify the problems correctly and then go on to design the right solutions – you need to have both.
So, if you are in a position of any kind of power and authority – and I think most people here today will be – I’d like you to ask yourself honestly how open you are to sharing power with the people you are trying to help.
Another thing I would like you to think about today is fairness. So much of what the Panel works on is about doing our part to try make the system more fair, for people who experience the sharp end of it.
If you’re being chased for council tax debt and have your bank account arrested for debts you shouldn’t even have, but that you do have because you didn’t know you were entitled to council tax reduction – that doesn’t seem fair.
If you can’t take up the offer of a job opportunity because you’d end up worse off due to the way our social security, childcare and public transport systems work – that doesn’t seem fair.
If you feel ground down by all the additional pressures and costs that come with being in poverty so that you can’t even see how to move forward in your life – that doesn‘t seem fair.
Through working with my other Panel member and the Commission, I know that working to fix these things and make Scotland more fair is not easy.
But something being difficult or complex can too easily become a reason to avoid doing what we need to. For too long Scotland has focused on what we do not have the powers to change rather than what we do. And we can make change – the Scottish Child Payment is evidence of this.
When I started speaking, I told you about the first things that went through my head when I heard I would be talking to you in this room today.
I want to end by asking you all to think about who is not here today. More than a million people in Scotland live in poverty. They don’t all look like me, or talk like me, or think of the same solutions that I might. But what they have in common is that they all need, and deserve, better.
This room is full of intelligent people, you have the solutions to a lot of the problems that are imprisoning people to stay in poverty and the solutions to avoid more people falling in to poverty.
This room is full of ambitious people who have worked hard to get to the top of their game. There is no doubt on anyone’s intelligence or determination.
The question is are you brave? Brave enough to pilot the solutions from the experts? Brave enough to take a chance? Brave enough to say Scotland can free people from living in poverty? Be brave.