One year on from the launch of JRF’s strategy to solve UK poverty, Simon Hopkins of Turn2us explains how his organisation has responded.
Last year we were proud to endorse JRF’s seminal report into tackling poverty in the UK. In particular, we were pleased to see the brave and unambiguous view that this will take a concerted effort across sectors. We agree with that wholeheartedly. Civil society has a vital role to play – so often we can reach that parts that the public and commercial sectors can’t. That’s neither a criticism nor an excuse to let government off the hook; it’s simply how we see the real world.
As a charity whose focus is to get practical help to people when they fall into poverty, our endorsement not surprisingly emphasised the importance of coordinated action when people need help. As we said at the time: “This report can, and must, become a rallying call to any organisation or individual who has the will and the resources to fight UK poverty. [Our] collective response must find ways of combining better so that we make that work as comprehensive and effective as possible for those we serve.”
The need to act
So how has Turn2us responded to that call to action?
For a start, it’s helped us reflect on the role we play in our wider movement. There’s little point duplicating what others are doing brilliantly – that’s unlikely to increase or speed up the help we give. What we do is to connect people with practical help, such as grants and benefits, when times are tough – and sometimes we help directly through our various grant streams. We see ourselves as the fixer or broker in a wider system that is often inconsistent, unintelligible or simply daunting for someone who’s already feeling ground down by their circumstances.
It’s also helping us define our plans going forward. So, we’ve decided that any new developments should meet certain practical criteria:
- Does it get help to people, early?
- Is that help holistic?
- Is that help accessible?
- Are we helping people to feel empowered or brave enough to seek help in the first place?
And specifically, we’ve instigated some new programmes, using the JRF report to remind us of the bigger picture.
Helping individuals and families
One of our key innovations this year is the Turn2us Response Fund. Working with designated intermediaries, we are helping individuals and families deal with adverse life events such as bereavement. The new Fund bears the hallmarks of our wider work – it’s designed to get help to people early and it’s unashamedly rooted in the principle of working with other organisations to make that help more accessible and more holistic.
We’ve also started a three-year programme, run through our helpline, designed to identify and help those people who are especially hard to reach. Again, it’s about making the help that’s out there as accessible as possible.
We’re also working hard to build new partnerships in areas like disability, where the correlation with poverty is both deep and systemic.
Partnership, for us, remains the key. We can continue to tackle poverty as an aggregation of multiple agencies. Or we can become an unstoppable, coordinated movement. In that latter case we become unbeatable; there will only be one winner in this war and it won’t be the obscene scourge that is UK poverty.