What can we do about poverty in the Reading area? Come along and have your say on Tuesday

Reading Town Hall is the venue for a poverty conference Reading Tom/flickr.com

Organisations, residents, community groups and charities from across the Reading borough are all being invited to attend a special conference next week and play their part in helping to develop a strategy to tackle poverty in Reading.

Held at the Town Hall on Tuesday, November 19, the event will explore issues creating hardship for many residents today, including welfare reforms, reducing public sector expenditure and the slow economic recovery.

The Local Government Association estimates that welfare reforms will see working people whose wages are so low that they have to claim some benefit in order to keep a roof over their head, lose an average of £1,660 per year.

In Reading nearly 11,000 working people will be affected. For 7,693 people out of work, the loss of income figure is higher at £1,671 a year.

The Tackling Poverty event  will be chaired by Professor Gavin Brooks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning), University of Reading, and include an introduction by Reading Borough Council Leader Cllr Jo Lovelock.

A keynote address will be given by Alison Garnham, CEO, Child Poverty Action Group, and include key facts and figures from the organisations that work everyday with people in poverty, and testimonies of real-life experiences of poverty in Reading.

The proposed schedule is:

6pm: Welcome by Reading Borough Council Leader Jo Lovelock

6.10pm: Key note address – Alison Garnham, CEO, Child Poverty Action Group

6.30pm: What does poverty look like in Reading – Christian Community Action Reading / Citizens Advice Bureau Reading / Reading CIC / Welfare Rights

6.45pm: What does poverty feel like in Reading – First hand testimonies (video and short play by ‘Spotlight on Diversity’)

From 7pm the event will split into a series of workshops, all based around the theme of poverty, which are aimed at discussing, exploring and developing practical actions to deliver a plan to tackle poverty. The workshops will be facilitated by a variety of different groups and organisations and the 10 themes will be:

• Advice on tax credits and benefits

• Affordable Credit

• Support into Work

• Best start in life

• Tackling In work poverty

• Affording Basic Needs

• Disabled People

• Older People

• Tackling poverty in a multi-cultural community

• Health and Wellbeing

Groups or residents who would like to take part in a specific themes workshop are asked to book ahead and register at http://tacklingpoverty.eventbrite.co.uk/. Alternatively people can just turn up on the night and decide which workshops suits them best.

The workshops will then be followed by pledges of action and the outline of a way forward, before finishing at 8pm.

Reading Borough Council Leader Jo Lovelock said: “Five years on, the economic downturn has shown us that Reading continues to perform well in comparison to other places. We also know very well that there remain a great many people out there in Reading who continue to struggle financially as a consequence of the increased cost of living and the reforms and changes that are being made.

“Many of the people affected are working long hours and still having to choose between heating and eating; the need for foodbanks in Reading has increased by 400%; 1 in 5 children in Reading are officially living in poverty. The theme of Tackling Poverty is therefore the right one for this year’s conference.

“The event will include real life experiences of poverty in Reading. I hope organisations including public services, businesses, schools, voluntary and community organisations, charities or faith organisations, will want to make their own pledges on the night that will go towards helping us to develop a plan for tackling this key issue in Reading.

“The event on November 19th is open to anyone in our community who is concerned about poverty and who has any ideas about how we can help tackle it.”

Supporting the poorest in our society is an important issue for the Green Party. Reading East parliamentary candidate for the Green party and Reading councillor Rob White said: “People in Reading have seen their wages stagnate, their benefits cut and their cost of living soar. The Government must get a handle on things by increasing the minimum wage to a living wage and ensuring people’s access to social security is adequate to meet their needs.”

To book a place, log on to http://tacklingpoverty.eventbrite.co.uk/