The East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission

Poverty Truth Commission

Nothing about us, without us, is for us.

Stripey Stork are pleased to be part of The East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission. This is a group of representatives from local organisations and people who have experience of living with poverty who are all working towards a poverty-free future.

At Stripey Stork we carefully consider the language we use when we talk about families, and about poverty. We are mindful of the gravity of the situations our families are in, about the fact that behind every referral are real people, and that there are unhelpful narratives about poverty out there that can stigmatise the people we exist to help. As an organisation with a platform, we feel a sense of responsibility to talk sensitively and truthfully about the experiences of those living in poverty.

In 2023, Stripey Stork were invited to be part of the East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission, a year-long programme of co-production between people with lived experience of poverty and the organisations who are there to support them. Our Operations Manager, Sara, signed up as a Civic Commissioner for the commission, alongside twelve other individuals from organisations ranging from housing associations, charities, councils, health teams, local businesses and the police. The commissioners meet all together monthly, and are focusing on three key areas: domestic abuse, mental health and joined-up community support.

The thinking behind the commission, which is a national concept that has many regional iterations, is that by bringing those affected by poverty into conversation with decision-makers within systems and services in their local community, small changes can have a real impact. The motto of the commission, ‘nothing about us, without us, is for us’ sums up the reasons Stripey Stork were so keen to be involved: the opinions we need most when designing our services are those of the people we’re here to support. We also recognise the difficulty of doing that authentically – we don’t work directly with families, so don’t have a lot of opportunities to talk – and listen – to the people we want to help.

Sara shares her thoughts on the PTC so far, below:

“I joined the PTC because I’m passionate about being there for any family who needs help, and because, in my view, as well as responding practically, the third sector has a role to play in changing the narrative around poverty.

I think there is a lot of misinformation about how people end up in poverty, and what poverty really is. At Stripey Stork, we see that poverty isn’t just not being able to pay the bills. It’s dreading your child asking for a world book day outfit, or growing out of their school shoes. It’s not being able to get to your regular medical appointments because you don’t have a pushchair to transport your children safely. A referral to Stripey Stork can provide some of the essentials a family needs to be warm, safe and to help children access their education.

As services who support people living in poverty, we of course want to explore what people most need, but we also need to look at how we give this help with as few barriers as possible, and how we make people feel in the process. Understanding how it feels to experience the insecurity of poverty, the stigma of asking for help, and our own organisational processes, is key to providing authentic support.

There is something special about being in the room with our wonderful community commissioners. Their willingness to share their experiences, despite the personal cost, is inspiring. Stripey Stork is lucky to have the support of a community who really do want to help others, and we have a responsibility to direct their efforts to best effect. Listening to the community commissioners can help us shape our service so that we provide it with care and dignity.

I’ve joined the domestic abuse working group, because this is an experience that affects so many of the families referred to Stripey Stork, and we should always be willing to revisit how we support them. When families have to leave urgently with no belongings, and children have to change schools and leave friends behind, their support needs are as much emotional as practical, and we try to acknowledge that through a swift response and always adding some self-care items. We remind ourselves that behind every referral is one family – parents or carers who have faced upheaval and uncertainty, and are possibly sacrificing their own needs to prioritise their children.

The ‘snakes and ladders’ analogy that the community commissioners use to describe life in poverty is really powerful. It shows how an unexpected hardship is much harder to recover from when it’s not the first one, and how services like ours have an important part to play in creating hope. Changing how someone feels about their situation can be the first step towards the light.”

One way we are able to connect authentically with the experiences of the families we help is to work closely with partners who do run frontline services. Good Company, an organisation running foodbanks, low-cost pantries and other community support projects, are the force behind the Commission, and it’s well aligned with their aim to ‘address the root causes of poverty as well as immediate need’. Our delivery hub partnership with The Good Company allows us to reach families through referral partners working in the Epsom area who would struggle to regularly collect from us in Reigate.

The factors that push or keep people in poverty as a result of domestic abuse is one of the areas the PTC’s domestic abuse working group is looking at, and Sara has been able to learn from the insights of another of our key partners, I Choose Freedom, a Surrey-based charity dedicated to changing the lives of women and children fleeing abuse.

We hope that through our involvement in the PTC, we can build a clearer picture of our service as seen by those who need it. You can read more from people who have experience of living with poverty here.

Useful links

To donate to Stripey Stork to help us provide practical support to families living in poverty, visit

To find out more about the Poverty Truth Commission, visit

To find out more or support I Choose Freedom, visit:

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