Friday, 30 November 2012

Members of our Mentoring Scheme meet to review the pilot

Earlier this week people who have experience of living in poverty and civil servants from policy areas that deal with Community Justice, Public Health and Public Service reform met together to evaluate and review a mentoring scheme which they have been involved in over the last 6 months.

People from both groups were paired together and have been meeting together regularly both in local communities and in Government offices to talk about each other’s lives and work. The meeting this week was a chance to reflect on the time that those involved took out of their busy lives to get to know more about each other. The initial aim for the scheme was that the pairings would meet 6 times over 6 months which was difficult in practise but was a good aim.

The group thought that the process had helped them to get to know someone new and that real relationships developed with real people which otherwise they might not have met. The process purposely did not have a set agenda, only a sheet of suggestions of where to meet and ideas that they could consider. This worked well for those involved, allowing them to find a way of meeting which suited them. There was also a consensus that it was good to meet each other in their ‘home’ patch which also gave those involved a chance to meet other people from communities or colleagues. Being introduced to folk by local people made a big difference to the relationships formed.

Liz* and Julie* were both very nervous in the lead up to their first meeting however once they got to know one another this changed. In their meetings they went on walkabout tours, visited Bridging the Gap (a drop in which Liz is involved in), visited the Government offices in Edinburgh and met with the Ministers private secretary and local community police. Liz was challenged by the way Julie worked and meeting with her regularly helped her feel much more confident and connected to the political process. Julie very much appreciated the opportunity to get to know people as herself rather than as a civil servant and welcomed the chance to learn by getting a feel for things rather than through research.

There has been much to take away from the process:
  • Learning, about how Government works and that civil servants are people and approachable;
  • Confidence;
  • A reminder that society is made up of individuals and the policies made in Government impacts on those individuals;
  • and how important it is not just to spend time behind a desk, but to broaden horizons by meeting with people directly.
Isabelle* from the PTC, who was involved in the scheme, said “I got involved as the idea of it sounded good. I liked the chance to work with civil servants rather than MSPs; the people that write the policies and don’t just want your vote. Being involved has helped me to meet someone new that has a different outlook on life and made me think more about the pressures civil servants go through. I hope to continue friendship we have formed.”

A number of recommendations were made and it is hoped that another group of people will undertake the scheme in the New Year.

*Names have been changed.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Commissioners share their experiences of the Poverty Truth Commission with the Scottish Leaders Forum

It was heartening that the Scottish Leaders Forum decided to devote one of its conferences to "Supporting resilient communities" and the Poverty Truth Commission were very happy to be invited to be a part of the event.  The audience comprised of chief executives from local government, top civil servants and leaders of major charities and government agencies.  Over two workshops we addressed some 50 delegates stimulating lively discussion at each session.

Commissioner Anne Marie Peffer, from Buttle UK, spoke with great panache and humour introducing the work of of the Poverty Truth Commission, highlighting achievements and future challenges in work with the media, reducing crime, kinship care and empowering people in poverty to get into direct discussion with politicians, top officials and policy makers. Fellow commissioner Jean Forrester moved the workshops with her personal account of being a kinship carer and the work she is doing to obtain proper recognition for the job they do. Another commissioner, Ghazala Hakeem, spoke about her work on behalf of the Commission, how it had developed her confidence all round and especially in her ability to influence change. Finally commissioner Bob Winter, former Lord Provost of Glasgow City Council, wound up by linking what had been said to the wider subject of the conference. Bob commented "It was clear from questions discussion and comments after the workshop that we had made a considerable impact." 
About her experiences of being a part of the event Anne Marie commented "it was a real pleasure to work with colleagues Bob, Ghazala and Jean again.  On this occasion quite a few of the audience had actually heard of the Poverty Truth Commission, but had not experienced the powerful presentations such as those made by Jean and Ghazala. Once again, the "truth" about poverty made a big impact and people were clearly moved.  Discussion was to the point and constructive.  I am always surprised at the number of service providers who have never considered involving service users in the planning of those services and was glad to note that a number of those present will now be reconsidering their strategy."

Ghazala commented "The Scottish Leaders Forum was an exciting and inspiring event for both the PTC commissioners and the attending delegates. The delegates were interested and positive about our presentation. Many approached us at the end to invite us to their respective organisation to speak to their staff. It is crucial for those who are experiencing poverty to be acknowledged and hears. As Nothing About Us, Without Us, Is For Us."

The workshops led by our commissioners had great feedback and in a letter of thanks Sir Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Government, commented "Your workshop in particular was commended for the speakers’ amazingly powerful presentations. You completely captured the reality of community empowerment and co-production with lessons on how to engage those communities and get the best from people who already want to be the solution as well as from those who may previously have felt they had nothing to give."