Swansea Poverty Truth Commission logo graphicIn 2019, after looking at the evidence of how PTCs contributed to tackling poverty in their areas, Swansea Council ran a series of consultation events to gauge interest in whether a PTC was something the city wanted to explore. 

Representatives from the public, private and third sectors were invited, along with individuals with lived experience of poverty, resulting in a resounding consensus that a PTC would be welcomed.

Following this, a Start-Up group was formed which included interested representatives from across sectors and people with direct experience of poverty. The Start-Up group had responsibility for:

  • Identifying and securing the funding required
  • Recruitment of the facilitation team
  • Raising awareness of The Commission
  • Supporting the identification and recruitment of Commissioners

Initial developments

In 2020, a facilitator was recruited to work alongside a member of staff seconded from Swansea Council and work began to establish the parameters of SPTC and the process of identifying potential commissioners.

As the pandemic took hold, it became evident that an alternative approach would be needed to reach individuals, especially given the requirements for the population to isolate.

With in-person, face-to-face meetings being impossible and considerable digital barriers to consider, the facilitation team developed a new strategy to map and meet with key organisations working with families and individuals experiencing poverty.  

Resources were developed which could be shared online with service users and meetings set up with teams including frontline workers to spread the word about the Commission.

Given that related services were facing unprecedented demand and a substantial amount of those living in poverty were at crisis point, it was recognised that there would be a significantly extended timeline than what was first envisaged.

Recruitment of Community Commissioners

Between 2021 and 2022, a substantial amount of networking and raising awareness took place that resulted in the team being able to identify and begin supporting a core group of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds who would become the “Community Commissioners”.

The group gathered regularly online and began getting to know each other through trust-building activities and sharing their experiences of poverty.

Throughout this period, overcoming digital barriers posed a significant challenge that took time and additional resources to surmount. Fortunately, commissioners were able to access free mobile phones and data through being referred to Hubbub’s “Community Calling” scheme.  

As the year progressed, the pandemic continued to present a number of challenges in terms of impacts on commissioners’ health and well-being and restrictions on how commissioners could meet and access support.  As a result, some of the individuals who made up the original commissioner group changed during this time.  

Developing themes

A number of common themes emerged as commissioners engaged in a range of online activities to enable them to explore their experiences in accessible ways. Some of these recurring themes included:

  • Barriers to seeking support ranging from attitudes of frontline workers to inaccessible and sometimes hostile and complex systems
  • The link between mental ill health and poverty
  • Homelessness and insecure housing
  • Connections between being a domestic abuse survivor and poverty
  • The relationship between being a primary carer and poverty
  • The impact of poverty on life aspirations, career and education options
  • The intersectionality between poverty, race, gender and disabilities.

Exploring inclusive methods of participation

To maximise accessibility and inclusivity for participants, a series of online art and photography workshops were organised with two local artists enabling commissioners to explore and share different aspects of their experiences of poverty.

You can find examples of some of the work produced on the SPTC home page under the “exploring poverty through creativity” link.

As themes emerged the group were able to begin identifying who they would like to join as “Civic and Business Commissioners” to form the full commission.

Over the same period, Community Commissioners had one-to-one sessions with the facilitation team to begin deciding what they would like to share at the commission launch and how they were going to convey their experiences.  

A series of meetings were organised with Swansea Music, Art and Digital to explore a multimedia approach to the launch, as initially it was necessary to plan for a virtual setting.  As restrictions started to lift however, an in-person event became a more viable option.

Swansea Poverty Truth Commission Launch

After overcoming the unique challenges associated with the Covid 19 pandemic, Swansea Poverty Truth Commission launched in October 2022 at the Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea University. 

The speakers were absolutely fantastic - powerful, insightful, articulate. A huge well done to everyone involved in organising, promoting and speaking at the event. Very worthwhile. Diolch o galon.

During the evening event, eleven Community Commissioners shared their lived experiences of poverty to an audience of invited guests, including Civic and Business Commissioners from the public, private and third sectors who had been invited to join the Commission.

Excellent event. Very important that people learn, understand and appreciate the value of those with lived experience. They truly are experts by experience and should be given kudos for being courageous enough to share their views on what can be a traumatic subject-matter.

Through poetry, rap, story-telling and live performances, the complex challenges and daily struggle of living and being trapped in poverty were laid bare. Recurring themes included insecure and unfit for purpose housing, food and fuel poverty, poverty of opportunity and identity, barriers to support, isolation and the enduring impact of poverty on physical and mental health.

Watch the live recording of the launch event below.

You can also watch the individual stories of the eleven commissioners by visiting the ‘Community Commissioners’ stories section here.

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