The importance of using lived experience in solutions to poverty

17 October was the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year, at an ATD Fourth World event at UK Parliament, Rebecca Bromley gave a speech on the importance of using lived experience when finding solutions to poverty. This blog was originally published on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation blog.

I have booked the day off work to come here today as I feel extremely passionate about trying to find a solution to poverty. It matters to me because I have lived in poverty. I've struggled to keep a home, to keep it warm and struggled to put food on the table. I've been there and lived that sad, stressful and worrying life. Things changed for me when I took part in a fashion project provided by my housing provider, Leeds Federated.

At a point in my life where I had lost all self confidence I had to push myself to get involved. During the project I worked closely with Leeds Federated's community development manager who identified that all I needed was an opportunity, a chance to get my life back on track, a chance to be somebody again, a chance to enjoy life.

I was asked if I would like to do some work experience at Leeds Federated. After working voluntarly for six months I was then offered employment at Leeds Federated. Since then my confidence and knowledge has grown and grown to land me where I am now - a housing manager for Anchor housing.

It was during the time at Leeds Federated that I became involved with the Dole Animators. I was keen to get involved and to share my story and experiences. In the eight years I have been part of dole animators we have done a lot of work to try to raise awareness of the struggles of living on benefits.

At our last meeting we used our imagination and creative skills to create a zine, a DIY magazine. It can be seen on our website. Our latest project, Poverty to Solutions, has brought together three groups - Dole Animators, Thrive Teesside and ATD Fourth World to share ideas around finding solutions to poverty.

It is important that solutions to poverty are based on facts and individuals' experiences. Only then will we find solutions that will actually work and will make a difference to people living in poverty. 

How can you be sure that putting plans in place are going to work if you are not aware of the problems? The people living, or who have lived, in poverty are the people who can provide the most input to finding a solution as they are the ones that live a life of poverty, day in, day out. Find out what the real struggles are and where the real help can be placed. Help these people to live a life that, right now, they only dream of. A life that seems so far away they never imagine themselves there.

If voices of the people living in poverty were heard and action was taken based on these rea-life scenarios and conditions then maybe it would give them hope, ambition, encouragement, opportunities and happiness that everyone deserves.

Rebecca Bromley is a member of the Dole Animators, Poverty2Security and is a housing scheme manager.

Rebecca Bromley spoke at the ATD 4th World event in Westminster on 17th October 2018.

Rebecca Bromley spoke at the ATD 4th World event in Westminster on 17th October 2018.