Over the last few months during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Poverty Truth Commission have still been continuously talking to community members of Teesside, whether it be through our social media sites, zoom calls, emails or phone calls, talking about life in Stockton and Teesside. These conversations and the work we do with people shape a lot of the ongoing work of Thrive and the Stockton Poverty Truth Commission.
We have been reaching out to people in Stockton to talk about their lockdown experiences and have discussed a wide range of issues, we have already noticed some common themes emerging.
We believe our more deprived communities will be hit twice as hard from the Covid-19 crisis and more so for families on already low incomes, free school meal vouchers haven’t been made consistently available, making children within low-income families suffer significantly more through lockdown as parents are unable to afford the extra food without the support of the free school meal vouchers.
Many parents have also been struggling with the extra cost of home schooling, having to buy extra equipment, printers, ink and stationary.
For many families, parents have had to continue work throughout lockdown, making childcare a real issue especially when the usual family carers (grandparents etc) have been shielding.
The Digital Divide has also been more prevalent during lockdown, with parents struggling if they are not computer savvy or do not have access to the internet.
Lockdown has had an effect on many of us, staying home has become the new normal, children have had a lot to cope with around the uncertainties of returning to school, closures of their usual services and after-school activities. Some parents have felt a great strain on being able to teach from home as well as work and have felt inadequate in their teaching methods.
A lot of community members of Teesside have been furloughed and some have never had to navigate the systems, a lot of people are already familiar with (Universal credit, PIP,ESA) People have talked about their frustrations on how long they have had to wait, either on a phone call or a written response. Although people have not had to attend jobcentre plus appointments yet, it may be something they will be familiar with in the future as unemployment is set to rise.
Comments from our community members on what has been difficult
- “Not having much space in the home has been difficult.”
- “Feeling like a bad parent because I have struggled with some of the kid’s schoolwork.”
- “I’ve never really suffered with my mental health, but can honestly sympathise with those who do, since lockdown I have been feeling very low and isolated and when it came back to going out I had a panic attack, I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”
- “I am not particularly good with a computer or most things technical so it has been difficult for me to stay involved in some of my usual support networks I would usually access face to face.”
- “Wondering when will things go “back to normal”.”
- “Not everyone has access to the internet so aren’t able to find out what is going on or what support is out there.”
- “People who are self-employed – not able to get UC due to household income.”
- “Not able to get financial support until June and then this income is taxable in their tax returns for 2021.”
- “social distancing means not going out much – so if you need cash to use at a corner shop, it can cost £1.70n to take cash out.”
Comments from our community members on what has been positive
- “Spending more time as a family has been a true blessing.”
- “I have learnt how to cook more than just spaghetti Bolognese.”
- “Thought more about my future and made a few changes to move forward.”
- “I have been doing a lot of jobs around the house that I don’t usually have time to do because of my work commitments.”
- “Re connected with family.”
Thrive Teesside and the Stockton Poverty Truth Commission have been speaking out on a local and national level about all of these issues as we feel it is very important to have those with the lived experience of an issue to be at the heart of decision making, to be sat around the table when decisions are made that will ultimately have an impact on their lives.