“I’ve been sneered at, shamed, judged and felt very isolated” – The heartbreaking stories of those living in poverty


People living below the breadline in Trafford have shared ‘harrowing’ stories about their experiences.

Describing everything from grief and mental health battles to huge debts from benefit overpayments and homelessness, residents fought back their own tears and anxiety to speak publicly about their experiences for the first time.

One resident opened with a poem she wrote, summing up the stigma and the reality faced by those living in poverty. She said: “I am lazy, I am a freeloader, I have never worked a day in my life, I’m a bit of a chav.

READMORE: Bleed cabinet installed in Old Trafford to help stabbing victims before emergency services arrive

“I am the survivor of domestic abuse, I have a university degree, I have MS, I underwent chemo twice, my kids are my world, I believe God is my saviour, I’m so much more than poor.”

Trafford council officially launched its Poverty Truth Commission, part funded by Trafford Housing Trust, on Tuesday, May 10, at Stretford Public Hall.



Trafford council launched its Poverty Truth Commission this week

The scheme heard directly from those affected by poverty across the borough and aims to inform policy.

Today, those who have volunteered to share their stories and drive the borough’s response to tackling poverty through the scheme spoke candidly about their experiences, bringing many in the room to tears.

Mayor of Trafford, Coun Laurence Walsh, described the tales of the residents, who all asked not to be named, as ‘harrowing’.

One resident has two degrees and worked for years in the NHS. Following two miscarriages and a mental breakdown, she was forced into homelessness with her young son after her partner then threw her out of her.

READMORE: Extended hours for outdoor terrace approved for Irish bar

She said: “I’ve been looking for belonging all my life, it’s always been one step ahead of me. I know my story is one of many, but I’m trying to learn it is still valid. I thought I’d finally found some stability, but it wasn’t to be.

See also  Manchester Airport asks FIREFIGHTERS to load baggage belts amid staffing crisis

“The system made me feel worthless and added to the pain I was already experiencing. I felt scared and desperate. When I declared myself homeless at the housing office, I was offered temporary accommodation miles and miles away. I was told if I was desperate enough I’d take it. I’ve been sneered at, shamed, judged and felt very isolated for a long time.

“I want to work, build my confidence and give back. I can’t afford childcare and I’m worried I’m going to have another breakdown. The system is so difficult and traumatic, having to tell your horrid story over and over again, put on hold, things explained in inaccessible language. We’re all only steps away from this.”

Another resident described how she and her four young children had been plunged into poverty after the death of her husband.

She said: “He was the breadwinner, after our fourth child we decided I wouldn’t return to work and I’d raise the children.



Trafford launched its Poverty Truth Commission this week

“Two or three weeks after he died, I’d managed to find a job and worked nine hours that week. The Job Center told me I needed to work more hours. There was no empathy, no compassion. She wasn’t listening. You’re treated as a number, not a human being. They’re just waiting to get on to the next call. They just have boxes to tick and words to say.”

Another resident shared her experience of being so crippled by agrophobia that she did not leave the house for two years.

She said: “This is not a self-pity speech. Life has a funny way of bringing you down to earth sometimes.

“I attempted suicide last year, my mental health was spiraling. If it wasn’t for Stretford food bank, I don’t know what I would have done. I was lucky enough to be supported and referred to social prescribing. If support information had been available at the Job Centre, or even the GP surgery, it would have been so much easier.

See also  China's disastrous zero-Covid strategy is the serious threat to the global economy

“The system’s heavy-handed way of dealing with debt affected my mental health. I hope that we can make a massive difference with this forum, but the very least I am asking is that information about support is more readily available.”

Another resident, who has been through the bankruptcy process and was a full time carer for her elderly mother before she died, was placed on income support allowance by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Due to a series of overpayments made to her over a number of years, she was then accused of defrauding the government of £30,000. She’s been paying it back ever since.

She said: “I had no money constantly, I had so much resentment for them. My health went down then, nothing runs in the house, we always need something, nothing’s on an even keel. And it’s affecting my daughter, she can’t do what normal kids do.

“Thinking about the future, I don’t know how to make memories now, because I’m having to live in the day to day, I don’t know how to look to the future and make it different.



Stretford Foodbank

“I have to rely on a food bank, the [benefits] payments are meant to make your standard of living better, but you have to jump through so many hoops. I’ve been through the process four times now, it’s so hard to get across what you’re going through.”

Another resident said she experienced poverty as a child, as an adult, and again now aged 60. She’s frustrated that nothing has changed.

She said: “My mum worked two jobs to put food on the table, then I became a single parent myself. The guilt you feel for not being able to provide for your children is awful. We can’t afford holidays or the designer clothes that all of their friends have.

See also  Teen 'feels like a walking death sentence' after terrifying headache diagnosis

“Now, we’re very humbled, we have learned to really appreciate what little we have. I’m not materialistic at all, and neither are my children and it’s made us better people. But you get stuck in the poverty trap.

“Something has changed, after 55 years nothing has changed. If we can’t make changes to the present, I want to make changes to the future so nobody has to go through what we’ve been through.”

Coun Catherine Hynes, deputy leader of Trafford council, was also at the launch this morning. She said: “I’d really like to thank you [the residents] for having courage to come out to speak to us. Speaking in front of room full of people is daunting for anybody at any time, talking about personal challenges and difficulties is so incredibly impressive and takes a lot of courage. And doing so with the purpose of making a difference is very, very humbling.

“As I’ve been listening, I’ve really reflected on how the foundation of all of our lives can shift and change at any moment. The poverty truth commission will bring together leaders from across Trafford to make a real difference.

“The challenge to us is not only listen and be moved by those experiences, but that we actually understand those experiences and the impact of poverty on the decisions we make.”

The Poverty Truth Commission will meet regularly over the next year. Findings from it will feed into the council’s poverty strategy, due to be released this summer.

The commission will conclude its work in April 2023, at which point the council will review further findings and adjust its poverty strategy accordingly.




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.