Q. What haven't you told us yet, which feels important to you?
Poverty is a human rights violation and is life threatening, both physically and mentally. I think it's important to reiterate that absolutely anybody can be plunged into poverty as a consequence of circumstances beyond their control. The Covid pandemic has exacerbated the inequality between richer and poorer communities than ever before and that income gap continues to widen. Policy makers also need to be aware of the effects of long Covid illness on the population which will come into play into the benefits system in due course and place it under ever increasing pressure; a system that already lacks reliability and validity and justice in terms of its assessment processes. I wish to also reiterate that, contrary to common narratives that abound, people living in poverty are not lazy, feckless, spongers or scroungers. We are human beings that have fallen on hard times through no fault of our own and a civilised compassionate society would recognise that and support us to get back on our feet. We have worth and are worthy of support instead of austerity, punishment and sanctions. The £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit that was introduced last year by the Government, although most welcome to those in receipt of UC, has exposed the fact that benefit levels are inadequate in the first instance and unequally applied. By supporting those in most need is the right thing to do and makes sound economic sense long term. Instead of considering benefits as a hand out, surely they should be considered to be an investment in individuals who, feeling supported and encouraged rather than punished and discouraged, will be enabled to flourish and in so doing will reciprocate that investment by returning to the workforce and contributing to the public purse. Look after the people, the economy (which being manmade in the first instance can be redesigned to work better) will be able to look after itself, more or less. I want the powers that be and people fortunate not to be in our situation to know that people living in poverty come from all walks of life and backgrounds; each with unique sets of knowledge, skills, aptitudes and talents that could be called upon if given the right level of support and opportunity. The assumption that people living in poverty brought it on themselves, cannot budget properly, or have a warped sense of priorities when it comes to maintaining themselves and their households is flawed and outdated. As I have learned through my own lived experience poverty is not a personal failing and more often a consequence of the too numerous structural institutional constraints and changes that I have been subjected to over the years. I'm hoping that the Covid Realities project has blown that myth right out of the water so people can see that we are truly resilient, diverse group of people who are deserving of respect.