We’re running a School of Participation with people who’ve been affected by the shame and stigma associated with poverty. Freelance journalist Helen Clifton has been supporting the group, and we asked her to share some thoughts about their work.
Over the last few months I have been working with a group of Salford people from all walks of life to help them understand how to fight the stigma of poverty.
Particularly the kind of negative attitudes displayed in the media.
The NICE group – as they have called themselves – are Non-judgemental, have Integrity and Compassion, and are committed to Equality.
Values they feel are sidelined by a Government keen to portray those in poverty as a drain on society.
Yet for the NICE group, and millions like them, the reality is much more complicated.
The group is made up of people like:
- Letitia – who is working hard but still struggling every week to make ends meet.
- Kasia, who is desperate to find work that will fit in with her childcare – but is unable to find anything but zero-hours contracts.
- Kay, wheelchair-bound with spina bifida, but who is being forced to fight Salford Council through the courts after they cut her care from 38 to just 13 hours a week.
- And ex-offenders and former addicts, like Carl and Ray, who are getting work, rebuilding their lives and volunteering to help others.
Many members of the group were scared to stand up for themselves for fear of being judged.
They also lacked the skills to articulate themselves with confidence.
But now they have learned how the media work; how to create empathy with their story; how to challenge stereotypes; and how to remain calm, confident and in control whilst being interviewed.
A website, www.stigmastories.com, documents their progress from scroungers to spokespeople, and shares their stories.
The group are presenting what they have learnt at an event on Thursday 17 July at the Beacon Centre, London Street, Salford, M6 6QT from 12:30pm to 3:00pm.
There will also be a panel debate about some of the questions they have raised – including issues around support for ex-offenders, social value, engagement, and the impact of welfare reform.
All are welcome and lunch is provided.
If you are interested in attending, contact Joyce Kay on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 236 9321.