Action on Poverty: The Need to Collaborate

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Thu Oct 12 2023

Author: Guest contributor

Sarah Page, Associate Professor of Social Justice and Social Learning at Staffordshire University and one of the editors of Action on Poverty in the UK, explores the need to collaborate across sectors to tackle poverty.

In the UK, there is a current cost of living crisis and we are in post-global pandemic recovery. Government austerity measures have stripped services and health and social care delivery is significantly stretched. We are seeing increases in food, fuel and period poverty across the UK, with fuel and food prices increasing at rate that is not paralleled with national rises in people’s employment income or statutory benefits. The UK is supposedly a wealthy nation with robust infrastructure; however, the inequalities gap seems to be widening and politicians and many policymakers are seemingly out of touch with the reality that many people experiencing poverty and hardship are facing. We need the lived experience of those experiencing hardship to be heard, understood and for relevant amendments to policy and practice to occur. People need to more cognisant of the poverty and hardship issues that people are facing. There also needs to be appreciation for the swathes of volunteers, including from the faith sector who assist others at personal cost. Such activism is literally saving lives.

Food poverty

In our recent Action on Poverty in the UK book, several chapter authors (Stephanie Denning and Chris Shannahan, Ryan Fox et al, Hollie Louise Walsh and Sophie Pagett and Emily Fay) talk about food poverty and the challenges in deprived neighbourhoods and in rural areas. Quite simply, the cost of living and insufficient benefits is problematic, alongside low wages. Food poverty projects are essentially needed because of systematic failures and rising food and fuel prices. Whilst education to families on how to purchase more affordable healthy foods and how to prepare and cook them is important, placing the blame on people in need is unhelpful. An example is shared in our book by Sophie Padgett and Emily Fay from Shropshire of how an alliance of organisations are working to reduce child food poverty in rural areas that are often more hidden than inner city poverty (refer to the chapter entitled ‘addressing children’s food poverty in Shropshire: five years of learning from a rural food-poverty alliance’). Government funding can fail to reach such areas in need. An important take away from this chapter is that partnership working across the voluntary and public sectors is essential in attempting to meet child hunger needs and championing for policy change. There needs to be a whole-systems approach where stakeholders connect, share information and jointly problem solve and work together.

Partnership working

The importance of partnership working to address poverty is also picked up in the final chapter ‘a different kind of growth to end poverty’ from Barry Knight and myself. Co-produced solutions are needed and bringing together people with lived experience of poverty, academics, the voluntary and public sectors can be powerful in informing successful place-based approaches to addressing poverty. We need these collaborations to influence the national agenda too. Ultimately, success will be determined by those affected by poverty in their experience of positive change. Andy Meakin in his chapter entitled ‘Insight through experience: who decides what positive practice looks like’ reminds us of this and of the benefits of lived experience experts shaping policy and practice. Several authors pick up on this important theme of grass roots activism and participatory practice (Ryan Fox et al., Gill Hughes, Dana Jundi and Nic Gratton).

Judicial reviews and campaigns

Other ways that people can come together to influence change is by engaging in judicial reviews. In my chapter on ‘seeking asylum and refuge: poverty, destitution and unemployment’, I talk about how judicial review has been used to challenge asylum seeker policy and practice in the UK. Whilst there have been some recent rises in benefits to asylum seekers to acknowledge the cost in living rise, the financial situation is still bleak. Parents go without food to pay for travel to attend various required appointments and purchasing children’s school uniform and meeting their needs is a challenge. In my research, I have heard stories of children and adults’ feet bleeding from poorly fitting shoes and insufficient funds to buy footwear that fits. Action on poverty can look like taking the Home Office to court to challenge policy and practice. Such actions have occurred as the sector has come together and gathered evidence that change is needed. More change is needed and joining in campaigning for a ‘lift the ban’ on employment for asylum seekers being led by Asylum Matters, is another way that people can partner to be a force for good.


Stigma is also a perpetuating factor in people accessing support services and we can all partner to reduce stigma. Sharing stories and addressing myths is important. Asylum seekers experience racism and hostility in the UK due to the narratives in the media, and we need to partner with media outlets to change the story. Additionally, when people commit crime in order to survive, stigmatisation increases. Rosie Brindle-Wilkinson reminds us in her chapter on ‘experience of employment barriers on release from custody and the impact of this on a cycle of poverty and reoffending’ of the additional support that people leaving prison need for gaining employment. A chapter I co-authored with Simon Bratt and Sophie Oldfield on ‘drug and alcohol addictions, sexual exploitation and poverty’ remind us that poverty increases vulnerability to crime exploitation and women who are sexually exploited are often further stigmatised. Those rough sleeping and homeless are also stigmatised and Professor Chris Gidlow highlight the value of projects like Housing First (refer to his chapter called ‘Housing First for People Experiencing Multiple Disadvantage in England’). Stephanie Denning in her chapter on ‘responding to poverty in the UK: the impact on volunteers’ provides evidence to suggest that volunteering can help people to reframe their thinking on poverty. Mindset adjustments happen when we engage in listening to people’s stories and experiences – both the lived and learned experiences.  

There is a historical and political narrative that we need to be mindful of as we collaborate for change. Stewart Lansley, Martin Coates and Liam Miles all provide a national and global perspective in our book. Ultimately, poverty is having huge impact on people’s health and wellbeing (which is referred to in Katy Goldstraw and my chapter on ‘poverty as a public health concern’. Put bluntly, people die early due to effects of poverty on health and well-being. A healthy society is a society that address this inequalities gap and gives people dignity and worth.


Our hope is that the Action on Poverty in the UK book helps people to better understand the poverty issues that people face and to think about different ways of working to address the issues. We are pleased that Palgrave (Springer Nature) is now offering a significant discount to charities to obtain copies of our book and we hope more can be done by publishers and media outlets to help share stories of lived experience of poverty and shared learning on what works to address issues. People working for charities can contact Palgrave directly to access the discounted rate. Companies being civically minded can assist in the mission to irradicate poverty and inequalities.

For more content on SDG1 and related topics in celebration of the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, visit the campaign page here.

About the authors

Sarah Page is an Associate Professor of Social Justice and Social Learning at Staffordshire University. Her research centres around social justice issues relating to poverty, health and social inequalities and crime and prior to working for the University she was a partnership manager for a Health Action Zone, helping partnerships to work more effectively together to tackle poverty, inequalities, and crime-related issues. 


Author: Guest contributor

Guest Contributors include Springer Nature staff and authors, industry experts, society partners, and many others. If you are interested in being a Guest Contributor, please contact us via email: