Josh Nicholson, Researcher – State of the Nation, Centre for Social Justice
“They are trying to give people a way out, they give you the space to make a change”.
The Social Justice Commission was impressed by the consistent impact of CSJ Alliance charities, and this account is just one of many we heard during the tour of the North East region. Accompanied by our North East Regional Manager, Mark Libby, three CSJ staff members travelled across the region, from Teesside to Tyneside, Stockton to South Shields, speaking to 35 people across 6 charities.
During the tour of the North East region, we visited the Moses Project in Stockton-on-Tees, where we learned about the life-changing impact that dedicated staff are having on men recovering from drug and alcohol addictions by building relationships and fostering a sense of community. We also visited Clean Slate Solutions in Middlesbrough, where we saw how this charity is leveraging the transformative power of work to connect ex-prisoners with stable employment through a network of local employers.
We heard many stories about how the welfare system can create “cliff-edges” that discourage people from moving into work. That’s why the Commission is thrilled that the government has taken action to implement Universal Support, which the CSJ has been campaigning for over the course of several years. When delivered properly, Universal Support has the potential to help hundreds of thousands of people benefit from employment.
In Cowgate we spoke to the North of Tyne Poverty Truth Commission to hear first-hand about challenges facing residents in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. Commissioners told us about their frustrations with childcare provision and how often it is the ‘hidden’ childcare from family members and friends that isn’t supported and recognised by the Government.
After travelling south across the iconic Tyne Bridge, the Commission spoke to service users of the Young Women’s Outreach Project in Gateshead. The young women told us of their experiences at school and the impact of severe absence. Many had fallen through the cracks of the education system but found the pastoral and educational support they needed through the effort of committed staff at the Project.
We spoke with service users of Family Gateway in Howdon, who spoke candidly and passionately about the toll that multiple lockdowns have taken on their mental health, education, and community life. They also expressed their frustration with the cost-of-living crisis and the stagnant wages that many families are facing. However, the service users we spoke with also credited Family Gateway with offering a vital lifeline, providing them with the skills and confidence needed to make a positive difference in their everyday lives.
In South Shields, we heard from Key Community about the impact of crime and anti-social behaviour in their community. The blame was laid at a lack of youth provision, job opportunities and visible policing. Despite these challenges, Key Community is offering a safe and stable home to young people, while working with families to address the underlying causes of youth homelessness.
Over the course of the next year, The Social Justice Commission will travel across England and Wales to better understand what life is really like for those who are struggling most. The Commission will report its findings in early 2024.