We would like to talk to 100 people in Stockton-On-Tees about some of the daily difficulties they are facing, can you help?

We are asking 100 community members in Stockton-On-Tees two questions about the future of Stockton-On-Tees.

  1. Why are people in Stockton-On-Tees living in poverty?
  2. What changes in Stockton would make life easier for people who are struggling?

Phases of our Facing Futures Project

Phase 1: For phase 1, our plan is to ask 25 community members our questions. These answers will provide valuable input into Stockton’s Anti-Poverty Strategy. We will then bring on a community peer researcher to conduct five in depth interviews, combining our Facing Futures questions and Stockton Borough Council’s questions.

Phase 2: Once we’ve received 50 responses, we will showcase our findings via our website and social media.  We will continue to share our findings with Stockton Borough Council. We will meet with a lived experience reference group every 6-8 weeks to explore the key themes from the wider community, to work as a collective alongside SBC to offer solutions and recommendations to local issues, helping to shape the anti poverty #FairerStockton strategy.

Phase 3: Upon collecting 100 responses, we will analyse and publish our full findings. We will then present these findings to Stockton Borough Council. We will then reach out to other service providers across the borough to offer recommendations from a lived experience perspective to help shape current and future services available in Stockton.

We aim to collaborate closely with Stockton Borough Council to create a fully participatory working approach, prioritising the influence of lived experiences. Our focus is on making the work person-centered, maintaining mutual respect, and aligning with Thrive’s core values to keep lived experience voices in the lead, from the planning stage through to identifying solutions and disseminating the Anti-Poverty strategy.

Anti poverty meeting with Thrive, Red Balloons, Stockton Borough Council and community members- 26th of March 2024

Our meeting which took place on Tuesday the 26th of March 2024 brought together residents and stakeholders from across the borough in an open discussion forum around the effects of poverty in Stockton and the wider area. Participants exchanged ideas, worries and anecdotes surrounding the issue of poverty in our area. Four main themes were covered: issues around food insecurity, mental health problems, the cost of living generally and what needs to happen to help people.

Food was the most discussed topic at our meeting, with almost everyone pitching in passionately about problems they have faced and those faced by others. Below is a list of the points that were raised:

  • There was a general discussion around the rapid rise in the cost of food, both for staple items and “luxuries”. It was noted that this does not just affect the most vulnerable in society but everyone in the community.
  • Local food pantries were praised, with special attention given to Norton Food Pantry for the work they have done and the friendly environment that it fosters for its clients. 
  • The Bread and Butter Thing (TBBT) was mentioned and praised. However it was noted that the service does not work for everyone. Issues were raised regarding the lack of choice and the need to help people understand what they can make with the various ingredients that TBBT offers. 
  • Foodbanks were also mentioned and praised for the service they provide for the most vulnerable. However concerns were raised due to the lack of accessibility in some instances due to the requirement for a referral at some foodbanks, particularly in Billingham. The need for foodbanks to be discrete was also raised to allay potential social anxiety and embarrassment for users.
  • Enthusiasm was also evident for the idea of a “mobile foodbank” that would allow less mobile, elderly or disabled residents to access the foodbank without having to leave their homes or travel far. Potential was also noted for this service to include a hot drink for those in need. 
  • The app To Good To Go was also mentioned and praised. However it was noted that the quality of produce available was not always consistent in quality or in what was offered. The fact that most of it had to be used within a short timeframe was also discussed as a drawback. 
  • Overall there was praise of the services that are available and of the volunteers that man them. However issues regarding accessibility and advertising were raised. Suggestions were made about advertising available services in hospitals and council bulletins/newsletters.

Mental Health Implications

Following the discussion of food related issues there was an interesting discussion around the mental health implications of the current climate in Stockton, below is a list of points that were raised:

  • There was unanimous agreement that the mental health crisis facing the UK has significantly worsened since the onset of the cost of living crisis.
  • It was also noted that the gap in mental health and support has widened between the richest and poorest. With the richest being able to access private care and having savings to fall back on, whilst the poorest are left with long waiting lists and increasingly strenuous financial circumstances. 
  • The fear of being turned away from foodbanks and other services was also raised, affecting the effectiveness of those services. 
  • Praise was given to the many charitable organisations that engage in mental health work, which many saw as plugging the gaps left by the state. 
  • Proposals were made to make a greater effort to consult with the public around issues of mental health. 

The Cost of Living Crisis Overall

Following this there was a general discussion about the cost of living crisis overall. Below is a list of the points that were raised:

  • Several participants pointed out that the cost of living has drastically increased without sufficient rises in either wages or benefits to match it, leaving people poorer.
  • It was noted that the financial strain of the cost of living crisis came for multiple directions, rather than just for instance the cost of food making it harder to grapple for residents.
  • Several participants raised issues that they or acquaintances have faced being able to pay their council tax due to inadequate phone lines as well as struggling to pay online due to computer illiteracy.
  • There was also evident confusion around how to receive and who could use energy vouchers. 
  • Praise however was given to the council’s cost of living booklets, being noted as particularly useful for those who had access to them. 

Next Steps from Participants

Finally participants were given the opportunity to say one things that would immediately help people that are struggling, here are there responses:

  • Help accessing dentistry due to a lack of NHS provision in the area and long waiting lists.
  • Better careers guidance, particularly for young people.
  • A need generally to raise awareness of what services are available.
  • A need for better mental health provision. 
  • A need to push the “Big Community Switch” energy scheme. 


Overall the meeting was very positive, with lots of healthy discussion from residents that will help to inform the council in future best practice. There was enthusiasm for more meetings of this kind in the future, showing a willingness to engage from the community. 

Benefits of taking part:

  • Have your say, speak out about current issues and offer solutions.
  • Take part in this project to make a change.
  • Be a part of tackling issues for you and your community together.

How to get involved:

Come into Norton Grange Community Centre on Somerset Road, Norton, TS20 2ND, and drop in from 10 a.m to 4 p.m on Mondays and Tuesdays.

We will be visiting local organisations, if your organisation would like to get involved please email corrinaeastwood@thrive-teesside.org.uk

Or simply fill out this form below:

Voices Collected

Can you help us reach 100 people?