From education to employment

Social justice team amplify the voices of people living in poverty

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To mark Challenge Poverty Week, academics at the University of Chester have worked with people in the community to create a powerful piece of prose amplifying the voices of people with lived experience of inadequateliving standards and inequality.

As the country feels the bite of the cost-of-living crisis, the University’s Social Justice Research Group, based in the Department of Social and Political Science, has been working with Cheshire West and Chester Council to highlight the voices of people in the community who are experiencing the harm of poverty.

The Social Justice Chester team includes  Dr Nancy Evans, Dr Kim Ross-Houle and Dr Holly White.The group works with ‘community inspirers’ who are volunteers that share their real-life experiences of living with poverty and social harm to push for change.

By reviewing materials from workshops, as well as blogs and letters produced by the community inspirers exploring the themes of poverty and social inequality, the team has this week published The (In)Human(e) Experience of Poverty. The prose reflects the thoughts and feelings of the participants and includes the lines – ‘My family and I are blamed and shamed, punished and struggling, because we are without money’ and ‘I don’t want to just exist – I want to live. I want to live a happy life’.

Challenge Poverty Week England and Wales (October 17 to 23 2022) is described as a “a chance for voices that are too often ignored to be heard loud and clear. It’s a chance to show that it is possible to build a better, more compassionate society in which everyone can live life to the full. And it’s a chance to start that journey, together, now”. 

From 2017-2020, the Council led and administered the West Cheshire Poverty Truth Commission, which provided a platform for people with lived experience of deep poverty and destitution in the borough to inform the sense-making of staff working in local policy and to influence decision making and policies for tackling inequality and poverty. In October 2020, the Council declared a Poverty Emergency highlighting the scale of poverty facing many residents and emphasised the importance of collaborating with partners and local people with lived and living experience of poverty to build on the Poverty Truth ethos of ‘nothing about us, without us’.  

Dr Nancy Evans, Dr Kim Ross-Houle, and Dr Holly White hold research expertise in social harm production, the impact of stigma underpinning many lived experiences of marginality, social change and justice, the power of narratives, as well as public social science, action research and co-production. The group’s central focus is to focus on current issues and challenges faced by marginalised groups and undertake collaborative research in pursuit of social justice.  

Dr Holly White said: “This week is an opportunity to amplify the voices of people with lived experience of poverty and to advocate for social change, dignity and rights for all. 

“This co-produced prose contributes to the conversation highlighting the feelings and struggles of people living in poverty locally and some steps towards a more compassionate and just society.”

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