Using a collective local voice to call for change
Updated: May 11
There’s lots of change we can effect at a local level. Communities and local organisations know their area well, they understand the challenges they face and the solutions which would work best in that particular context. There is however, undeniably, a limit to the impact they can have when they are operating within wider systems which fail to meet the most basic of requirements: keeping people from falling into deep poverty and destitution.
The past few years have been tough, and local organisations and community groups have been operating against the backdrop of austerity for over a decade. They are already overburdened, under resourced and deeply concerned about the scale and depth of the challenge presented by the cost-of-living crisis (The Joseph Roundtree Foundation has recently released data showing that 7 million low-income households, the equivalent of twice the number of households in greater London, or the whole of the North of England (North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber) have either gone without enough food in the previous 30 days, or gone without at least one essential such as a warm enough home or basic toiletries.) We cannot get away from the fact that we need systemic, structural change to the way our systems support people if we are to meaningfully address the challenges we are facing. That’s why in Shropshire we have written an open letter, expressing our concern and calling for more action from central Government.
At a time of such far reaching challenges, it can be difficult to try and see where there are opportunities for progress and hope. However, one positive we have seen here in Shropshire is that people from all walks of life, professional backgrounds and from across the political spectrum, are engaging with the issue of the cost-of-living crisis and what they can do to help their communities. The media is also paying attention and there is a growing sense of injustice that in one of the largest economies in the world, such a large percentage of the population is struggling to cover the cost of life’s essentials. There has been public backlash against some of the unhelpful, yet sadly still common, narratives that surround those on low incomes in the UK.
That is why now, more than ever, it’s important to bring collective voices together to speak out on the wider issues, and the long term, structural changes we need to see to enable local level organisations to make meaningful change, rather than continually firefighting.
We have had coverage of the letter in the local media, it has been sent out to all the MPs in the county and town and parish councils will be using it as a tool in their upcoming talks with MPs. Bringing together the voices of 39 organisations and communities together around a common cause is a small action, but a powerful one. It is important that while we strive for change, we do not let the larger, systemic issues at play go unquestioned. It is also vitally important that we continue to capture and record what we are seeing on the ground at a local level, and to make sure it does not go ignored.