Contribution to the ESN 2016 workshop: “Combatting poverty by tackling householddebt” on Wednesday, 22 June 2016
Daar ging ik dan. Gevraagd als commentator bij een workshop. Geen inleiding, geen eigen workshop mogen doen als European Anti Poverty Network, dat was afgewezen, maar wel welkom om te reageren op wat ik in een andere workshop zou horen. Nou, die kans heb ik met beide handen gegrepen. Zo goed als mogelijk de grote groep ervaringsdeskundigen die weten hoe het is om met schaarste te moeten leven vertegenwoordigend. Hieronder vinden julie wat ik heb gezeg op de ESN 2016 conferentie, wat ook te lezen is op de website www.effectiefarmoedebeleid.nl.
First of all, thanks for the opportunity to speak from the perspective of people experiencing poverty
(PEP). When I started this grass roots lobby work, some 15 years ago, and visited this kind of conferences, I was one out of a few individuals present with Poverty Experience. We were the ones who said: please listen to us. Your policy may be OK in intention, but we can’t eat paper, we are more than our troubles. Try it yourself, how it is to live in poverty circumstances. Address us as human beings, with talents. Hear us out.. Come to our level… and see us in the whole picture of our lives.. We are not numbers, we are humans with partners, with children, with fears and happiness. Don’t smother us, but don’t leave us if we do need help.. take us seriously.. let us participate.. give us the means to be able to participate… learn from us..
And now I sit here. In 2016 and in the last two years I hear – more or less – the same words, but from the professional perspective, from you.. I don’t have to say anything anymore, the professionals are saying it now! I listen to a Mayor (Ahmed Aboutaleb of the municipality of Rotterdam) who invites people to experience some poverty circumstances. Listening to professionals who say that collecting stories, not for the purpose of collecting, but to really listen to the stories.. that has an huge impact. I have listened to examples, like the mellow dads approach, that tells me, that we were right in saying that being generally interested in humans, is already making the difference and creates big positive changes. All the things we, the former activists, the people with poverty experience, the grass roots organizations, from so long ago, were asking for.
And we used to be the only ones who asked for it, and were saying this, over and over again.
So my heart is lifted with joy, by this change of policy.. we are going local.. we (as professionals and policy makers) started to listen.. and we are learning how tailor made approaches are making more impact on human dignity and the quality of life, than the one size fits all programs.
But…. There is still some co-learning to do..cause I still have to say.. in these conferences… where are the people themselves?
- Who of you knows how it is to have debts in difficult circumstances? (one shown hand and mine)
- Who of you knows how it is to live from a benefit minimum income? (two shown hands and mine)
- Who of you knows how it is to see your children needing better clothing and better food, and things for school and wishing to join sport or other clubs, but you can’t because lack of money? (only me)
- Who of you know what’s like to have a handicap.. not a disability.. because that word is a negative label.. (only me)
- Who of you realize that we all, in one way or another, are experience expert and there is no us and them? Only we?
Do you realize this? Do you really realize this?
We are all one way or another experience experts, therefore we are the same.
And there is still lack of consciousness and acknowledgement that a big part of our economic system is in fact creating ‘fall outs’ and misery, and that we are still addressing and helping the social weak ones from the point of view that it is their fault, and only theirs, that they are poor..
And not able to climb out.. therefore, I was really glad to hear the acknowledgement in the
presentation of UWV, on the fact that the rules of unemployment benefit are partly responsible for causing debts. But this system creating poverty and misery ‘thing’ is bigger than just that acknowledged part. But it’s a start.
Because we are talking about increasing numbers of families with dangerous amount of debts, at risk of losing all they have.. of increasing number of suicides among the social weak, and with special attention for the young ones. of human beings with depressions, anxiety and loneliness problems. Growing into bigger numbers… as we speak.
We are talking about violence in public and violence in (intimate) relationships. And there is more.
This can not only be their fault? Is it? Can you really look at that and them and still say, that’s their individual problem and it’s their fault that they are poor and are staying poor?
This can happen to you to.. do you realise that? The increasing numbers of poor and poverty related problems proving that it can happen to you, just like it can’t be only their fault. And what about participation? Participation of the social weak, the people experiencing poverty.
Have you ever thought about giving PEP’s a logical place within an evaluation cycle of increasing the quality of policy making and policy executing methods? I’m talking about improvements on the micro level, through the meso-, up to the macro level.
Just as it is very normal for commercial businesses to ask their customers for feedback, they are asked to tell what should be improved.. or what’s done wrong.. so they can improve themselves and their service. But this is still not a normal procedure within the social domain. Why is that?
To give an example. In the municipality of Deventer, we are working in co-creating process with an organisation helping persons in debt. Working to realise participation of PEP’s to improve not only their ways of helping, but also for giving as an experience expert support to newcomers with debt problems so they can benefit from their experience and own found solutions. They are starting to see the benefits of working together with experience experts to improve their total organisation and trying to realise a board of (ex)clients. A big step forwards! So I’m hopeful, although there is still a lot to do.
And I believe that there will be a time when I will be asked again for some participating in this kind of conference, the participants I’ll meet will be a mix of professionals, and experience experts working in co-creation to change society to a better place for all our kids to live in. With fair and equal opportunities for all to grow into their full potential.
That I truly believe.. seeing the progress already made..
So the question now is.. are we conscious enough to see the things still needed to be changed?
And what are they?
President of European Anti Poverty Network Netherlands (EAPN)
[yep... dat doe ik ook]