South Lakeland Poverty Truth Commission

Amplifying the voices of people in poverty

What is a Poverty Truth Commission?

Poverty Truth Commissions seek to answer the question ‘what if people who struggled against poverty were involved in making decisions about tackling it?’

The members (or commissioners) for each Commission come from two groups of people. Around half are people with a lived experience of the struggle against poverty. The other half are decision-makers and influencers within the city or region. Collectively they work to understand the underlying issues and causes of poverty and explore creative ways of addressing them.

PTN What is a Commission film v2.mp4 from Poverty Truth Network on Vimeo.


Why South Lakeland?

There are pockets of poverty right across South Lakeland in the towns and in the rural areas, including a shocking percentage of children living in poverty. The disparity between different areas is also shocking: life expectancy in Staveley is 16 years more than life expectancy in the most deprived area of Kendal, and the disparity in ‘healthy life expectancy’ is even starker.

In October 2020 South Lakeland District Council declared a Poverty Emergency and soon after that a group of local partners came together to work towards establishing a Poverty Truth Commission – to find out the real issues of people at the sharp end of poverty and use their experience to change things for the better.


How does it work?

The project is funded for just over two years.

The first phase has been about meeting and listening to people in poverty and helping them develop the confidence (where needed) to share their stories, at first in small groups and eventually at a public launch meeting. Those first Community Commissioners then identified who they would like to talk to – in local government and other organisations – and those people were among those invited to the launch meeting on 13 October 2023 in Windermere to hear the presentations.

We are now well into the second year of the project. We have been meeting monthly as a Full Commission since October 2024 and, in parallel, since the beginning of March, as four Working Groups on:

  • Poverty and Community Hubs
  • Poverty and Mental Health
  • Poverty and Domestic Abuse and Violence
  • Poverty and Person-Centred Services

In these, Commissioners have been working on practical steps that can be taken now, in South Lakeland, to improve the experience of people living in, or on the edge of, poverty, including speaking to key decision-makers and developing reports, training and guidance on poverty and related issues.

We are now beginning to focus on how to make sure that everything we’ve learned from working in this way is shared and helping organisations to use that learning to make the services they offer more effective.

The Commission’s findings will be also shared with other commissions and policymakers regionally and nationally, so that nobody’s experience goes to waste.


What is CVS’ role in the project?

We are one of the founding members of the PTC Support Group and the fund holders, responsible for recruiting and managing the two original members of staff – Stella Sukram, our Facilitator, and Lois Sparling, our Coordinator, – and, from 2024, bringing on board professional evaluation from Liverpool World Centre and facilitation from CDEC (Cumbria Development Education Centre).

Other members of our original Support Group have helped with publicity and recruitment to the project and now over 300 stakeholders and supporters continue to receive and share the project’s progress and findings. The project is largely funded by Westmorland & Furness Council, with additional funding from NHS Population Health and the National Lottery Community Fund.


How can you get involved?

If you are interested in finding out how your services can serve people with lived experience of poverty better, please get in touch. We’d love to meet you and share our wisdom!


Please get in touch!

If you can help in any way – or would just like to find out more – please contact Lois on or ring on 07458 058536.

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