Informing the future with expertise from experience

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By Daniel Oliver, Head of Programmes at Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA)

GMPA recently hosted focus groups with local people to influence our future programme delivery, as part of our commitment to meaningful engagement with people with lived experience of poverty.

Over recent months we have been involving and engaging with people who have direct experience of living in poverty, to inform our approach to programme delivery. This has sought to influence our work around boosting household income and financial resilience, and embedding the voices of people with lived experience in Greater Manchester’s decision-making structures and systems.

While this feedback has reflected national calls, for example around the impact of inflation and ongoing calls for increases to welfare benefits, these conversations also drew out significant points and ideas for change.

Regarding work to improve financial inclusion and resilience, the general feedback from local people has been about the need for organisations to adopt longer-term approaches and solutions, rather than short-term responses to the cost-of-living crisis   that are leaving both families and voluntary sector support services unable to plan ahead.

A central theme was also around the need for improved and expanded advice provision in community settings, as well as more in-depth support – for example, form filling with those who do not have the literacy skills or confidence to submit applications for welfare support.

The value of partnership working and support services being joined up and aware of each other were raised in  relation to this, reflecting the common theme we hear from communities that there should be “no wrong door” for accessing support and advice.

There was positive feedback about GMPA’s Money Advice Referral Tools (MARTs), with people recognising their use in communities, including more than 300 people who have been trained to use the MARTs in Oldham.

With lived experience engagement, the most common theme was around the inconsistency between areas and boroughs of Greater Manchester. Some localities have supported and hosted formal engagement programmes, for example Poverty Truth Commissions, and only a handful of examples were identified of longer-term engagement, such as the Oldham Poverty Action Network. Those we spoke to highlighted that permanent solutions were needed to maintain engagement with people living in poverty, that are meaningful and accessible.

Where these programmes have been successful, people said that they felt heard and that their voice had made a difference. An example is with the Trafford Poverty Truth Commission, that helped to change some of the local authority’s processes to make them easier to navigate for people living on low incomes.

Another important point shared in these sessions was around the need to compensate people for their time, recognising lived experience as valuable expertise. One person stated that:

“We shouldn’t be treated differently just because we don’t have any money.”

Likewise, people wanted organisations and services to continue seeking out and listening to new voices, going to where people are and recognising that everyone brings different experiences and ideas.

At GMPA we are passionate about amplifying the voices of people with lived experience of poverty, and these  recent sessions have been another reminder of the quality that this experience brings to decision-making and discussions. As well as feedback on current systems, there were many practical ideas and suggestions shared to support people living in poverty, particularly around the need for more spaces and networks for people to share their experiences and expertise.

If you are interested in helping to progress some of these themes in Greater Manchester, or would like to share your own experiences, then please contact Daniel Oliver on Thank you.

i3oz9sInforming the future with expertise from experience