13 million people in the UK don't have enough to make ends meet.
It is a statistic often quoted by JRF, but behind that big figure are millions of individuals and families with a story to tell. Today we are launching a film series with ATD Fourth World featuring people who have lived or are living in poverty, talking about their circumstances through their own words.
The films are inspired by The Roles We Play, a project ATD led to give people the opportunity to define and present themselves on their own terms. Angela, a mother of seven, describes the threat of her local food market closing and her feelings about using a Food Bank. Georgina describes how she expresses her feelings through writing.
The project is not designed to elicit pity or charity, or judgement. It is to provide honest, personal accounts of daily life and personal aspiration.
Every day, people are making the best of the circumstances they are in, and finding their own routes to combat poverty. In homes, neighbourhoods and communities, people are trying to find a way through. JRF research shows that nine out of ten people on benefits want to work. World Bank research shows that 80% of people in poverty believe what happens in their future is down to them.
But people's attempts to shape that future are not helped by lazy stereotypes and labels – scroungers, benefit cheats, problem families or shirkers. This suggests people living in poverty are lesser citizens, instead of individuals with hopes, dreams, successes and failures, just like everyone else.
A narrative that says people are entirely to blame for their own misfortune takes us nowhere in solving poverty. But so too does a narrative which puts all the responsibility at the door of government. Creating the space to enable people to speak for themselves is a critical part of unlocking the joint solution we need. People have ideas, innovation, voices, and the desire for change, and when brought together with those with resources, can radically transform this country's approach to poverty.
All of us share a responsibility to eradicate poverty in the UK. It is a solvable problem, and we all stand to gain from living in a UK without poverty. The answer doesn't lie in one group or another, let alone a distant state or market, but in recognising that we all, as neighbours, employers, families, friends, businesses, investors and citizens, have a role to play.
All the individuals featuring in the films have links to ATD Fourth World, an organisation which aims to find solutions to eradicate extreme poverty in the UK, and which works in partnership with people affected by these issues. Photographer Eva Sajovic, who made the films, worked closely with all the individuals, and her photography is the subject of a touring exhibition.
For more information about this project and ATD’s work challenging negative stereotypes of people who experience poverty and social exclusion, go to http://www.atd-uk.org/
View the complete collection of films here.