In this blog St Giles’ CEO Rob Owen explains our approach to helping our clients out of poverty and realise positive futures.
Many of us have had to cope with sudden drops in income in our lives, whether from unexpectedly losing a job, a relationship breakdown or a bill we couldn’t foresee. For most of us, with support from our friends and family, we can get back on our feet. However, the people we support are usually trapped in grim situations which are beyond their control. As such, their futures appear bleak and without hope.
Ongoing poverty saps away at a person’s confidence and motivation levels. It has negative effects on both physical and mental health. It can increase vulnerability to factors such as abuse and exploitation – both of which can compound and complicate already precarious situations.
However, as highlighted on the piece on our Coventry Pantry on Radio 4’s Inside Health there are some simple offers of help that can be provided to support people in their hour of need and help them build a better future for themselves
One of the first things our caseworkers do when they meet our clients is give them hope and belief. No-one is beyond help and the first step is to listen, unpick their situations and work together to devise a plan of practical steps that will help our clients overcome the issues that are trapping them in poverty.
Sadly, this often means addressing basic needs around food and shelter. Services such as our Pantry network provide a friendly, dignified space where people can access healthy, nutritious food at an affordable price. Food is a great way of engaging people and we use this opportunity to tackle underlying issues. During the weekly shop staff at the Pantry provide friendly advice and guidance whilst discussing recipes and meal plans. This could be help with managing debts, support with their children or advocacy around housing problems.
Once these basic needs are met, our clients usually feel much more optimistic about their futures. And at this point, we can help them take the next steps on the road towards stability and independence. Many have experienced long-term unemployment whilst some have never had a job before and are in very complex situations. This means added support to help them find work. However, we see everyone’s potential and will work with them – at their pace – to identify their strengths, build skills and pursue their goals.
In-work poverty is a major issue for many of our clients . Working 16 hours a day in two very poorly paid jobs robs people of time to properly organise their finances, plan and prepare low cost nutritious food for themselves and their families and takes away quality time with children. Factors such as this chip further away at a family’s ability to thrive. We help people find better paid, sustainable employment that empowers them to plan and achieve long-term ambitions. Our Client Fund enabled one man trapped in a zero hours contract job to qualify as an accountant. As a result, his salary increased six-fold and he has also inspired others to follow similar ambitions.
It is only thanks to the loyal supporters that this work is possible. It means that someone no longer faces the mundane desperation of choosing between heating or eating. It means their children can grow up in a home where their parents do not have to work all hours to put meals on the table. It means people with more money to spend in their local communities.
It is in all our interests to tackle poverty and remember that everyone is better off if we do.
Rob Owen OBE
St Giles Chief Executive