Commissioner Reflections

In the run up to the closing of the third Leeds Poverty Truth Commission, (see here for the invitation to join our closing event on the 15th of January 2021), we will be posting daily reflections from Commissioners on the experience and individual impact of being part of the Commission. Some Commissioners have written some words, some provided a picture, others recorded a video message or interview. This first post is a letter from Fiona to her fellow Commissioners…

Dear Commissioners,

It has been a great privilege and a pleasure being part of this commission. My only regret is that we have not been able to spend time together and have needed to communicate via Zoom.

When the commission began, I wasn’t sure how outcomes would emerge, but the team who support the commission are very skilled in creating a safe and facilitative space, where issues have emerged very organically. Through the mutual trust and safety created, people have talked, with great courage and generosity, about their experience of having children removed from them, or being in care themselves. These are issues with stigma and shame attached and it is testimony to the atmosphere created (even on Zoom) that people felt able to openly discuss these issues.

As a direct result of this, I have gained insight into the experience of parents who struggled to see their children, who are in care, during lockdown. it has also led to me taking a very concrete task away from the group to look at creating better support for people who have children removed from them.

The key message I would wish to convey from my experience of the groups is that people deserve to be treated with warmth, kindness and respect. When commissioners talk about experiences such as encounters with the job centre; their distress isn’t only about being in poverty and unemployed – it’s about how badly they were treated. The importance of small encounters –  humanity, warmth and listening to people always informed and underpinned my work in front line mental health crisis services and are the key message I am taking from the commission.

With love, thanks and warm wishes,


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