United to Reduce Poverty
United to Reduce Poverty is a national community engagement initiative led by United Way Centraide. It is designed to identify transformative solutions for reducing poverty in our communities, and positively influence the development of Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. Locally, United Way is facilitating the Central Okanagan Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Poverty is bad for people’s health, corrosive to our communities, and hurts Canada’s economy. United Way Centraide welcomes the commitment by the federal government to create a national Poverty Reduction Strategy, and the opportunity to contribute to its development. The factors contributing to poverty are varied and complex, and effectively tackling these requires action by many stakeholders – governments, non-profit agencies, labour, business, faith groups, people with lived experience, and individual community champions.
The Liberal government, headed by Justin Trudeau, was elected in October 2015 on a platform that included a pledge to “lift Canadians out of poverty starting immediately after the next election.” The Prime Minister’s mandate letter to Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, stated that “all Canadian children deserve a real and fair chance to succeed, and all Canadians should be able to live with dignity.”
United to Reduce Poverty aims to achieve the following objectives:
- Leverage the strengths of United Way Centraides, including our capacity to convene diverse stakeholders to tackle complex challenges, deep knowledge and experience in understanding and addressing the needs of vulnerable community members, and ability to identify issues and formulate effective solutions for strong communities
- Demonstrate the Movement’s leadership on important matters of public policy
- Build public awareness about the nature of poverty and garner support for action on poverty reduction.
What’s happening in our region to address poverty?
One of United Way’s strategic priorities is to focus on the root causes of poverty and the systemic issues that contribute to individuals and families living in poverty. Partnering with local service providers, the United Way is facilitating a community driven poverty reduction strategy.
In the past year, the committee carried out community consultations to increase the understanding of the key issues related to poverty and how individuals and families in the Central Okanagan are experiencing poverty. Priority areas were identified:
- Safe and affordable housing
- Safe and affordable childcare
- Livable income and employment
- Affordable and accessible transportation
- Food security
- Public awareness about poverty
In the next year, we will be working to develop local strategies to address these issues.
United to Reduce Poverty FAQ
U2RP is designed to tie directly into the federal government’s consultation process, and support the development of Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. U2RP will help focus public attention on poverty and solutions, encourage input into the consultation process, and inform UWCC’s response and policy recommendations to the government. UWCs can also use U2RP community conversations to inform local poverty reduction work.
Each community is unique and local UWCs will have the best feel for who needs to be at the table. Reflecting the diversity of the community is always an important consideration. Many UWCs will also draw on their relationships with other community leaders to invite conversation participants, including people from the private and public sectors, organized labour, government, faith groups, and frontline service agencies.
It will also be important to include the voices of people with lived experience of poverty. In doing this, efforts will be required to help overcome barriers to participation and avoid stigma.
Some people will be comfortable speaking publically about their challenges and experiences, while others will not despite having valuable insights to contribute. Maytree Foundation’s guide for engaging people with lived experience was very successful when used during recent housing consultation. Key teachings from the guide are included below:
Considerations for Engagement
The following are issues and suggestions to consider for inclusive and accessible events.
- Choose a barrier-free venue located in or near the lived experience community
- Compensate participants for their time; ensure that compensation will not impede the income source of a person with lived experience of poverty
- Choose a time of day that works best for participants (for example, seniors often prefer meeting during the day; try to avoid conflicts with drop-in programs or other activities)
- Provide food and drinks – refreshments are a welcome addition to most community events, and in some cases, might be the only nutritious food people have that day
- Cover transit costs or provide alternate transportation as appropriate
- Consider anonymity – some participants may feel more comfortable using a fictitious name
- Other types of supports to reduce barriers include child minding, attendant care, translation or interpretation (including for ASL), and scribes to help participants provide written feedback
Much will depend on the community and the number of participants. It is important to organize the discussion to ensure that everyone has an opportunity and is encouraged to contribute. Smaller groups may work well as facilitated roundtable discussions. Larger numbers may be better suited to break-out sessions that allow people to dig into specific topics or questions. Whatever format is selected, please make sure that someone is tasked with recording and reporting back.
Tackling Poverty Together
To help inform the new national Poverty Reduction Strategy, in August 2016, the federal government launched Tackling Poverty Together, an engagement and research initiative focusing on six Canadian communities – Saint John Trois-Rivieres, Regent Park in Toronto, Winnipeg, Tisdale, and Yellowknife.
The goal was to hear from people living in poverty and organizations that work with them, learn about the challenges, assess how federal programs help, and determine where additional support is required.
A number of local United Ways and Centraides participated directly, as did many partner organizations.
The resulting report – What it is Like to Live in Poverty in Canada and How the Federal Government Can Help – was recently released at the National Poverty Conference hosted by the federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos.
The report documents the struggles and describes Canadians living in poverty as “survivors”, but notes they need more support to improve their lives. The research also found some federal initiatives, like the new Canada Child Benefit, are making a big difference, but low levels of awareness about help and how to find it are problematic, and program design and delivery sometimes compromise access.
These findings mirror those from the local Community Conversation United Ways and Centraides independently hosted in the spring, which helped frame UWCC’s Consultation Response on Poverty.
For more information, please contact Bill Morris, National Director of 211 Canada and Public Policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.