You probably have heard some friends and family say it. I am sure you have read politicians and journalists say it. You might even have said it yourself:
“People are poor because they are lazy.”
I have heard it countless times, sometimes from people I consider to be good friends. So why do I not accept it as true?
I don’t believe it because I have listened to the experiences of many people living in poverty in Glasgow. Through working with the Poverty Truth Commission, I have met people who are resilient and intelligent, very active in their community, yet, because of factors out-with their control, have been trapped by poverty.
I have heard of people forced to accept a minimum wage job where half of their wage is immediately lost on childcare and travel. I have heard of unpredictable incomes due to being on zero hours contracts, with workers turning up for a shift only to be told “not today”. I have heard of people being sanctioned unfairly and of the mental anguish of undergoing the undignified Work Capability Assessment.
I have learned how these factors can prevent saving and instead create a day by day existence, forcing people to pay extra for goods and services, further trapping them in poverty.
I don’t mean to sanctify these individuals or hold them aloft as superior. They are still human beings after all, with strengths and weaknesses just like you and me and everyone else.
Yet, as a society we often appear to show our own collective weakness in failing to treat them as equal members of our communities. We claim to understand their lives but how can we justify this when we don’t actually take the time to listen to them? It seems to me that it is us as a society who is being lazy here.
The Poverty Truth Commission seeks to challenge this laziness by enabling the voices of people in poverty to be heard by those in power.
On Saturday 21, June at the Woodside Halls in Glasgow the Commission will be doing this by Turning Up the Volume on Poverty. The Commission is inviting the great and the good from Glasgow, and across Scotland. They are being asked along, however, primarily to listen.
Through music, drama, poetry, comedy, interview and film, they will be presented with the findings of the Commission over the last two years. However, the PTC will not just be presenting problems. It will also be making proposals about some of the changes we know need to happen. The afternoon will be entertaining – the topic is anything but.
If you are willing to take the time to listen to those in poverty then we would love to have you along to our event in June.
To register at this free event click here; call 0141 248 2911; or email firstname.lastname@example.org #TurnItUp2014