MONDAY 16th April saw the first meeting of six civil servants from the Scottish Government Public Health division with their mentors - people with direct and daily experience of poverty - who will deepen their understanding of poverty over the next six months. The Scottish Government pledged to pilot this unique scheme as one of a number of pledges from organisations at the official end of the Commission's life last April.
All parties were excited to meet for the first time and expressed their hopes for the scheme. The pairs will now meet six times until the end of the pilot in November when the process will be evaluated and hopefully have some wider influence on the Scottish Government's approach to consultation and participation. At the next meeting the mentors will take their partners on a tour of the community where they live, exploring what is good and what is hard about living there.
The Poverty Truth Commission's hope for the scheme is that those involved see the value of building relationships with people they would not normally meet – breaking down stereotypes and barriers of 'status' and gaining a holistic picture of life in poverty. We believe this does not happen in agenda-driven consultation meetings, but requires a longer term relationship. We are also confident in the experience of our Commissioners that this process leads to better policy making and more effective solutions to issues of poverty.