An end to austerity, expanding free school meals to all children in school, increasing peoples’ incomes and urgent social housing reforms are some of the recommendations some keynote speakers made at the first ever cost of Living crisis (COL) conference organised by the Liverpool Hope university in its Shaw Street Campus on Wednesday June 28 2023. The conference title was “rethinking poverty, insecurity and the cost of living crisis in the North West and Beyond” and brought together local politicians, academics and a cross section of regional, national and international third sector organisations. Dr Natalija Atas and Dr Vicki Dabrowski of the School of Social Sciences of the Liverpool Hope University coordinated the workshop and were the main organisers.
According to the organisers, the conference was necessary because of the inequality, disparity and hardship the COL crisis was causing especially to people living in the north of England where the university and most of the participants came from.
Drs Vicki Dabrowski & Dr Natalija Atas meeting organisations at the conference marketplace
Creation of Poverty Network
During the conference, one of the organisers Dr Vicki Dabrowski announced the creation of a poverty advocacy network known as “the Poverty research and advocacy network” which will bring together researchers, organisations and other stakeholders to “… create a knowledge-sharing platform on the broad issues of poverty and inequality…conduct collaborative research and advocate to change popular and stigmatising discourses on poverty and exclusion that hinder social progress”. Organisations and other stakeholders willing to join the network could email info.pran.org.uk. A website and podcast for the advocacy network will be launch in the autumn while the first online meeting will hold on July 28 2023. The advocacy conference, according to organisers will hopefully advance the “fight against poverty and injustice” suffered by mainly people on low incomes, most of them from minority communities.
Shocking poverty figures in Liverpool and the NW
The figures are staggering. About 18000 children in Liverpool do not have their own bed. They are sleeping on hard flooring, uncomfortable sofas, and air mattresses or sharing with other family members. 34% of children in the north (approximately 900.000 children) live in poverty compared to 20% in the rest of England. Research carried out by Liverpool city council indicated people with poor health are almost twice as unlikely to be able to afford an adequate standard of living, a £1000 fall in household income is associated with a 0.7 % year fall in female healthy life expectancy while 58% of people with problem debt have either medium or high anxiety.
These and other statistics showed the COL crisis was affecting people much negatively in the poor north than in the rich south of England.
Engaging discussions and marketplace
Topics presented during the one day conference included the cost of living crisis in context, rethinking food security and food access and understanding the cost of living crisis.
Speakers and panellists of the conference included Cllr Liam Robinson, Heather Jessop from Citizen Advice Liverpool, Dr Alison Briggs from University of Manchester and Cllr Rahima Farah. They all presented different papers on a wide range of issues of how the COL crisis was affecting people in Liverpool, the North West and across the UK.
Organisations including Save the Children, Women and Digital inclusion, Energy Project Plus, Citizen Outreach Coalition, Feeding Liverpool and Liverpool Homeless football team had stalls and tables in the conference marketplace where there they displaced their services , made connections and spoke to conference delegates.
Conference organiser Dr Natalija Atas is encouraging organisations and other stakeholders supporting people across the region with managing the rising cost of Living crisis to join the newly created Poverty Research network. Anyone wishing to join the network should email [email protected]