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Emotions were running high as an exciting and innovative project to help tackle the issue of poverty and its many causes was officially launched in Trafford.

A special team of Community Commissioners – Trafford residents who are living in poverty – shared their inspirational stories of survival as the Trafford Poverty Truth Commission (PTC) was launched by Trafford Council, Trafford Housing Trust and Stretford Public Hall.

During the special event at Stretford Public Hall, the Community Commissioners individually took to the stage and the screen to share their heartbreaking stories of poverty with 20 Civic Commissioners – representatives from the private, public and voluntary sectors.

The aim of the PTC is to bring the groups together to bring about the change that will impact positively on the lives of those living in poverty in the borough. Trafford Council has placed taking people out of poverty at the top of its corporate priority list and has promised to act on the findings of the PTC.

During the event, the Community Commissioners spoke in detail of the constant struggle to feed themselves and their families and their reliance on foodbanks as well as the massive impact poverty is having on their mental health on a daily basis.

One woman said that following the death of her husband she was plunged into poverty and “Didn’t eat for weeks as I wanted to feed my children.” She said that she then suffered anxiety and worry over the struggle to keep a roof over her and her children’s heads and said she was stigmatized and shown no compassion or empathy.

Another spoke of living in poverty for 55 years and the guilt and shame of not being able to provide for children properly while living on Income Support.

One Community Commissioner said: “How many people are affected by poverty? Think and understand what it is like to worry about where your next meal is coming from. Poverty is a weight around your shoulders. This is not living, it is trying to survive.” She added: “Poverty leads to a lack of food, clothing, shelter, hygiene and social discrimination.”

Cllr Cath Hynes, Trafford Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “The foundations of people’s lives can shift and change in a moment and it was incredibly powerful and moving to hear about the experiences of residents whose lives have been impacted by poverty.

“People told us they are often stigmatised by society and this is just wrong. We need to have the conversation about poverty and truly listen to those struggling to make ends meet. Trafford Council is totally committed to supporting people out of poverty and I was inspired to know that the people who shared their experiences with us did so to try to bring about a positive change for others. I would like to say a huge thank you to all the Community Commissioners for their contributions. The Trafford Poverty Truth Commission

is bringing people who have real experience of poverty together with leaders from organisations across Trafford to discuss solutions and that is exactly what is needed. “

Claire Vibert, PTC coordinator for Stretford Public Hall, said: “‘The launch event was an opportunity for our Civic Commissioners and the wider community in Trafford to hear powerful stories from our Community Commissioners. It was a real credit to their hard work and commitment to the process that they shared such moving and personal experiences. Now the challenge is to take those experiences, learn from them, and work across Trafford to bring about real change.”

Aileen Edmunds, Head of Social Impact at Trafford Housing Trust and Civic Commissioner for Trafford Poverty Truth Commission, said: “Now more than ever, with the rise in the cost of living and the need for mental health and anti-poverty services at an all-time-high, we need to ensure services are as impactful as possible.

“Making a difference is only possible by involving those who need and use these services – they know first-hand what works and what needs to change, and this is why Trafford Housing Trust has chosen to partner with Trafford Council to fund the Poverty Truth Commission. I am honoured to be a civic commissioner and I have been humbled and inspired by the community commissioners: together I know we can make a difference.”

For more information on the Trafford Poverty Truth Commission, please contact traffordptc@stretfordpublichall.org.uk.