How can local areas ‘design out’ severe hardship? A new framework

May 10, 2023  

Action is urgently needed to respond to the growing number of people across the UK experiencing the most severe forms of hardship.

Between 2002/03 and 2019/20, the number of people in very deep poverty (those with below 40% of median income after housing costs) rose by a fifth, from 4.7 million to 6.5 million.

New Local has been working with The Joseph Rowntree Foundation to explore local approaches to tackling poverty and to understand what would be needed to galvanise and deliver on a mission to ‘design out’ the most severe forms of hardship in a local area. The idea of ‘designing out’ poverty may sound ambitious, but it is a statement of intent – asking what it would look like for a local area to do everything it can to ensure no one experiences the most severe forms of hardship.

Drawing on the insights and experiences of everyone who participated in this project, we have developed a framework to support local areas to make progress towards designing out the most severe forms of hardship.

Building a strategy and coalition

  1. Build learning and reflection into the heart of local action

Creating opportunities for learning and reflection should be a key principle guiding local partners in their work to design out the most severe forms of hardship. While this principle is important in the early stages of building a shared agenda for action, it is also valuable to develop the infrastructure for sharing insight, learning and reflection on an ongoing basis. There should also be a focus on ensuring communities are central to local action on severe hardship, for example through forums that bring together local partners and communities.

  1. Develop a galvanising shared agenda to connect and grow local action on the root causes of poverty

A clear shared agenda is a useful way to catalyse local action and identify practical ways to bring partners together to tackle the root causes of poverty. While this agenda might be championed by a particular organisation, it should still be co-produced with a wide range of partners and communities.

 Shifting power and redesigning the system

  1. Shift power to people and communities with experience of poverty

A commitment to transferring power to people and communities with experience of poverty should be a core principle for local approaches aiming to design out the most severe forms of hardship. This is important for beginning to address the disempowerment people in poverty can experience. Working with communities can also help to strengthen the design and delivery of services as well as identify and grow solutions outside of services.

  1. Redesign services and support to make sure people get the right help at the right time

It’s important to build a strong network of services and support – across the public and VCSE sectors – to ensure people get the right help at the right time. There needs to be a clear focus on a person- and community-centred local system capable of responding to the multiple challenges that those in poverty often face. This system needs to be underpinned by a strong focus on people and communities’ experiences and on shared values, knowledge, learning and relationships.

Creating the conditions for sustainable change

  1. Unlock more stable and long-term funding that incentivises collaborative and coordinated action on poverty

Secure funding would help create the conditions for partners to collaborate to focus not just on mitigating poverty, but also tackling its root causes. Dedicated long-term funding would help to avoid short-termism, build trust, and create the time and capacity to genuinely work with communities. In large part, unlocking this funding requires dialogue between national government and local partners. But local partners can also work to overcome some challenges around building collaborative and coordinated action.

  1. Seek to inform and influence the national policy conversation on poverty

Feedback loops between national policymakers and local areas need to be strengthened. In particular, national policymakers need to recognise and support the existing knowledge, ambition and opportunities in local areas to tackle poverty. While action is clearly needed from the centre, local partners should look to design in opportunities to inform and influence national policy for example through focusing on building the case for change or shining a light on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

Read the full report to explore the framework in more detail. The report shares insights to amplify and grow the brilliant work already happening in local areas, as well as key questions for further consideration and exploration – for local partners, national charities, trusts, foundations and national policymakers. The report is also full of examples which ground each of the framework’s six areas of action in practice.

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