IF you happened to be in or around Stockton in Teesside on Tuesday, you may have heard first-hand about poverty in the north east of England.
Around 15 volunteers and supporters from Thrive took to the streets, on a Walk Against Poverty.
They set off from Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Billingham and walked about 6.5 miles, to Thornaby Methodist Church, carrying placards and speaking to people they met along the way.
The walkers prepare to set off, from Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Billingham
The group also visited some projects and local businesses on the route, to raise awareness. The first stop was at Billingham Food Bank. Manager Jill Coyle reported that demand was increasing and she praised the work Thrive was doing.
Thrive Teesside is a close partner organisation of Church Action on Poverty. It works with disadvantaged residents to bring about change and to give a voice to people with first-hand experience of poverty.
We joined the team for the day, and spoke to some of those taking part.
Tracey Herrington, project manager at Thrive, said: “We want to raise awareness that there is an issue with poverty in the community. The voluntary sector is having to meet the needs of people who are struggling to get by through government cuts. We also want to raise awareness of all the injustice of sanctions and unfair PIP assessments.”
Tanya Lawson, one of the walkers, said: “It’s important to stand up for everybody’s rights. Everybody deserves a decent standard of living but under all these austerity cuts, and cuts to services, people are really struggling. In the summer holidays, people cannot afford to feed children. It should not be like that.”
Corrina Eastwood added: “It’s about engaging the community and creating awareness, and getting people’s stories. I am quite passionate about that.
“It’s also about getting together, showing people in the community that they are not on their own; there are other people going through the same type of situation. A lot of people do not like talking about poverty but this is quite ‘in your face’ and gives people a chance to think.”
Kath Carter said: “I am angry at the Government and also at people who do not realise there is real poverty here. Also, there are people who are stigmatised for being in poverty. It’s discrimination. Who of us would choose to be poor? Nobody.”
When the group reached Stockton, the walkers were greeted by Stockton South MP Paul Williams, who said he was keen to discuss how he could work with the group. He vowed to hold the Government to account, and said he wanted to be a “strong anti-poverty MP.”
Tanya Lawson, left, and Kath Carter talk to Stockton South MP Paul Williams