Charlotte Spring on behalf of ATD Fourth World
2010 has been designated the European Year to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion and, all year, events across the country have been organised to explore the issues facing people experiencing poverty in the UK today.
London is both a city of great wealth and great inequality where people experiencing deep poverty and exclusion are confronted on a daily basis by huge differences, not only in income, but also in opportunity and life chances.
At the same time, it is a city with a vibrant voluntary and community sector that is both innovative and active in providing support and pushing for change.
In this period of political change and economic crisis it is crucial to listen to the voices and experience of those on the frontline of reform and cuts in public spending.
Now more than ever it is vital to pool knowledge and expertise to ensure that the most vulnerable continue to be supported and that everyone plays their part in building a fairer future for all.
ATD Fourth World is a campaigning organisation leading the fight against poverty. It engages with individuals and institutions to find solutions to eradicate extreme disadvantage.
Working in partnership with people affected by poverty, ATD Fourth World's work focuses on supporting families and influencing policies. We envisage a society freed from poverty, where the human right of respect for every person will be honoured.
To do this, we aim to:
- Raise self-awareness in those most excluded from society to be able to speak out to those in power about their situation, and to demand the rights to education, work and family that they deserve.
- Improve public awareness of extreme poverty and its link to family break-up, and to challenge negative perceptions in the media and more broadly in society of people experiencing poverty.
- Emphasise the importance of families staying together and fight for a system of welfare and social care that supports people in their wider contexts of family and community.
- Ensure those experiencing poverty are included in the organisation and running of our projects and campaigns
- Work in partnership with our network of anti-poverty organisations, individuals and Friends of ATD Fourth World.
Our main office is in London, where our team of long-term volunteers live and work together to organise campaigns, outreach support programmes for families throughout the region and other projects to engage disadvantaged communities. We help all those who wish to give their time to volunteer with us, whatever their skills or background, volunteering being a cornerstone of ATD Fourth World’s philosophy both in the UK and within our International movement (we work in 28 countries throughout the world).
Our other main facility is Frimhurst Family House in Surrey, where we organise special weekend breaks for families affected by poverty and social exclusion to relax, enjoy time with one another and learn about topics such as budgeting. Often referred by social services, the families usually see Frimhurst as a place where their children can play safely and they can enjoy the trusting company of the volunteers who dedicate themselves to working alongside those living in poverty.
Recent projects have included a doorstep library service in poorer neighbourhoods in Fulham, a summer community arts project, a travelling exhibition entitled ‘The Roles We Play’ that features some of the people we work with and aims to alter perceptions of people in poverty.
Social events are also an important part of bringing people together, including a weekly free lunch and skill-sharing workshop, annual Christmas Party and Summer Festival. We have also been involved in training social workers to understand the broader context of the families they work with.