Hartlepool to establish Truth Commission to tackle town's poverty problems

A Hartlepool scrutiny committee has backed organising a “truth commission” and other measures to work with residents to help tackle the issue of poverty in the town.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 4:12 pm

Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee made the recommendations at its latest meeting as part of its ongoing investigation into child poverty.

Council chiefs explained how a Poverty Truth Commission would see people experiencing poverty working with others to look at how lasting social change can be implemented.

Thrive Teesside and the Poverty Truth Network advised they would be happy to help Hartlepool develop its own commission, which requires a “genuine desire” to bring residents around the table.

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Hartlepool borough councillor John Riddle.

It comes after a report to councillors noted the numbers of those in poverty in Hartlepool “continue to rise at an alarming rate”.

Danielle Swainston, council assistant director for joint commissioning, said officers are “chomping at the bit” to move as quickly as they can to carry out recommendations.

She said: “The same individuals are coming in saying I still can’t sort my bills out, I still can’t pay gas and electric, I still need food.

“It’s about them being the experts and us having the conversation with them about, instead of sticking lots of plasters on, how can we fundamentally bring about change for you and your family.

“We do feel that we can make a difference.”

She added work is ongoing to engage with residents on existing local welfare support measures, and how they could be improved.

Cllr John Riddle, speaking at the meeting, said: “We’ve got a situation in our town where we’ve got absent landlords, creating poor housing and ghettos, we’ve got an erosion of health care and a plethora of other problems.

“We’ve got to stop talking and we’ve got to do something.”

Councillors also agreed to look at implementing a “socio economic duty”, which comes in under The Equality Act 2010.

This means the council would formally have to consider how their decisions and policies could increase or decrease inequality resulting from social and economic factors.

The recommendations also included pledging to work with residents, voluntary organisations and other agencies on a child and family poverty strategy “built on the voice of lived experience”.

A summary report featuring recommendations as part of the investigation will now come before the committee in December.