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Civic Engagement

Thrive have secured funding from Esmee Fairbairn to help increase the number of women in Teesside participating in Thrive’s Civic Engagement programme


As depicted in the charts above, 34% of the voting population in the UK do not vote – a higher majority than either of the 2 leading parties Statistics published in January 2015, showed that 390,000 women living in the North east did not vote in the 2010 elections.

People living in deprived areas of Stockton-on-Tees are less likely to vote at local and general elections. Analysis of the data showed that differences in voting turn-out (May 2015) were as much as 27.53% between wards of advantage and disadvantage: Hartburn, 75.9%, Yarm, 75.2%, Newtown 48.7% and Stockton Town Centre, 48.47%

Consultation with community members living in wards of disadvantage highlighted reasons such as: ‘why bother voting, it won’t make any difference’, ‘they {the government} are gonna do what they want whether I vote or not’, ‘I don’t know enough about it …so I probably shouldn’t even try to work out who is best’ and, ‘they don’t care about us, my vote won’t change anything’ Of those we spoke to had voted, a high percentage stated that they voted for, ‘who their father had suggested’.

Although much has been achieved for women’s equality, there is still much to be done. Progressive legislation has supported the move towards equality, but recent policies ‘have tilted sharply against women: 85% of recent cuts came from women’s pockets. Women were the heaviest losers from the million lost public sector jobs – good jobs replaced with low-wage agency work. Women suffered most in cuts to services for the old and children, and were hardest hit by benefit cuts and freezes. Ruthless benefit sanctions have hit women worst as they try to juggle children and jobseeking rules and are cut off when they refuse shift work’ The Guardian 17 April 2015

Pay gap has widened nationally for the first time in 10 years, with women earning and average 19.1% less than men. In the North East, women are earning £18 per week less than in 2010 if you factor in the cost of living. In addition, nearly 30% of women earn less than the living wage, making it one of the worst areas in the country for women’s pay,

The rationale for encouraging women to participate and engage with the democratic process is to create discussion and debate in order to continue to raise awareness of the issues faced by women and help them improve their lives by being able to vote for members of Parliament who could change their situation

As noted on www.votingcounts.org.uk

“It is an unfortunate truth that politicians will sometimes look at voter turnout before making key policy decisions. If a certain demographics’ turnout is high then politicians may be more likely to make policy that benefits that demographic in order to please them and subsequently win their votes from other parties or retain their support.”

Furthermore, Electoral Reform Society Chief Executive, Katie Ghose, highlights, ‘women are more likely to make up their minds later than men, giving the parties an extra incentive to reach out to women right up until close of polls. A last minute battle for their votes would be a fine thing’

Thrive have worked hard to support people in our community offering money mentor support in these times of welfare cuts...

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Building Financial Resilience

Money Mentoring in the Community – an uphill battle

Thrive have worked hard to support people in our community offering money mentor support in these times of welfare cuts, austerity measures... and negative publicity campaigns. Demonizing the poor, „blaming the individual‟, severe cuts to entitlements and the delays in benefit decisions have led to money mentoring becoming more and more like crisis management.

With funding support from a number of funders over the past 3 years including Henry Smiths, Middlesbrough Welfare Reform and the Nash FoundationThrive have been able to deliver a much needed money mentor project in the community

The need for money mentoring projects is clearly evident: unmanageable debt is increasing in the NE. People living in low-income households are isolated, struggle financially to keep warm/feed themselves and are disengaged from services to help them financially. Further austerity measures – the cap on benefits and changes to tax credits are creating further despair for those who already struggling to get by.

Thrive responds to these difficulties through taking action to affect changes and offering community based mentoring schemes. Community based mentoring offers holistic support, building peoples' confidence to tackle their debt problems without creating dependency This project is building the confidence, capacity, knowledge and skills of people living in debt, enabling them to take control of their lives and manage their finances.

The practicalities of delivering the service over the past 12 months has proved challenging. Many money mentoring sessions have responded to crisis situations – making referrals to foodbanks, attempting to negotiate with bailiffs, spending hours on the phone with the DWP chasing up benefit decisions, thus leaving very little time to work with households in order to build their confidence and capacity. Setting savings targets, budgeting and reviewing spending habits has been unattainable. Data collated from households, evidences many households are extremely resilient. However, if the household income has been severely reduced and additional costs have been incurred from Welfare Reform measures and rising costs of living – making that limited income stretch even further has proved too difficult and consequently led the household to a crisis situation. Feedback

Feedback from the community suggests that court summons, bailiff threats, the length of time taken to make benefit decisions and sanctions have made difficult situations unbearable.

Thrive continue to raise awareness of people living in financial circumstances and have worked very closely with families to increase their income and reduce their expenditure. Over the past 3 years – benefit take up for households in Teesside has been over £80,000 – entitled money to households they may have otherwise not received. Debt and arrears have been negotiated with a high proportion of households, ensuring they have affordable repayments and are in the process of moving from high cost credit lenders

We must continue to address the issues that keep people living in poverty and address local practices that exacerbate the situation. It is time to rethink how we support our community and how we deal with spiralling debt and arrears. Court summons, delays in benefit decisions, sanctions and rising costs of living are not the way forward.

This money mentor project works with the most excluded and vulnerable groups who are subject to problem debt, and who have low levels of savings, low income and lack of financial resources. Typically the people we work with are: lone parents, from disadvantaged communities, either unemployed or in insecure part time work, already in debt, and using pre-payment meters, and have poor mental health.

Jane’s story

I have been finding it difficult to manage with the money I have coming into the house. I was paying £45 a month for a landline phone, £40 a month for a mobile that was so old I couldn’t really do anything with it..my gas and electric bills were unmanageable and due to a relationship breakdown my tax credits have been all over the place, resulting in an overpayment of over £200 I have to pay back. I also have to now pay bedroom tax, a contribution to council tax and am pressured by the job centre to work more hours. I currently work less than 16 hours a week due to circumstance beyond my control. I am trying hard to keep on top of thigs and provide for my daughter…but it is hard

We can’t afford holidays or trips away…buying a school uniform or keeping up with the costs of social groups and activities for my daughter is impossible. The government don’t help, they just seem to make things more difficult for us…just when you think you are getting on top of things, they hit you with something else. I am really scared of what will happen when Universal Credit affects me

Thrive have been great.. they have helped me sort out my phone bills and talked to the Tax Credit office to agree how I can repay what I ow. Talking to officials on a phone is so stressful, I get very anxious and could not do this on my own Thrive have also introduced me to other who are in similar situations.. I often speak out about the difficulties I face on the local radio and feel passionate about this. We should not just accept what is happening to us, but take action and speak out about how hard it is for us. We are not scroungers, just people who are doing their best to improve their lives and look after their families. I do a lot of charity work and try to give back to the community in other ways.

The following resources are available to use if you are working with people living in financial difficulty:

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Thrive Videos

August Goggle Boxes 2016

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Episode #1 The Speech

Published on 1 Jul 2016 This is the first episode of our new mini series, based around the people of Stockton, watching and reacting to a varied mix of television programmes ranging from Political debates to more light entertainment like Britain’s Got Talent. The aim of this media project is to engage people in Stockton with politics, poverty and injustice and get their views and opinions on different political issues, and also for a bit of fun!

Episode #2

This is the second episode of our new mini series, based around the people of Stockton, watching and reacting to a varied mix of television programmes ranging from Political debates to more light entertainment like Britain’s Got Talent. The aim of this media project is to engage people in Stockton with politics, poverty and injustice and get their views and opinions on different political issues, and also for a bit of fun! Episodes will air every Friday on this YouTube channel We want your voice to be heard, real people with ordinary lives. If you would like to get involved and even star in your very own episode, feel free to contact us-

Episode #3

This is the third episode of our new mini series, based around the people of Stockton, watching and reacting to a varied mix of television programmes ranging from Political debates to more light entertainment like Britain’s Got Talent. The aim of this media project is to engage people in Stockton with politics, poverty and injustice and get their views and opinions on different political issues, and also for a bit of fun!

We want your voice to be heard, real people with ordinary lives. If you would like to get involved and even star in your very own episode, feel free to contact us-

Episode #4

This is the fourth episode of our new mini series, based around the people of Stockton, watching and reacting to a varied mix of television programmes ranging from Political debates to more light entertainment like Britain’s Got Talent. The aim of this media project is to engage people in Stockton with politics, poverty and injustice and get their views and opinions on different political issues, and also for a bit of fun!

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