An Update on Our Last Disrupting Poverty Event

We thought you might like a progress report on our efforts to disrupt poverty in Leeds.

What happened at the April Results Factory to Disrupt Poverty in Leeds?

Once again about 40 people from across the city came together because we are concerned about the impact of poverty in Leeds; because we know that:

we cannot claim to be a good city, never mind a great one, while 1 in 5 of our children live in poverty.

The group included university students and staff, people from private, public and third sector backgrounds and individuals of ‘no sector.’ We came together not just to talk about the problem, and to learn about it, but to see what practical actions we might be able to do that would help, and to have some fun.

We started off with some introductions and then some of the projects that had started work took a few minutes to tell us about their progress:

Nick Morgan – Benefit Testing

Nick told us of a project that had been developed by a Disrupting Poverty Group to take 50 of Leeds City Council’s lowest paid employees through a benefits checking process to see whether they are claiming all of their entitlements. As well as helping them to claim all that they are entitled too it is hoped that this project will give us further information about the extent of ‘underclaiming’ in the city and allow further work to be done to turn the curve on unclaimed benefits.

Sharon Ward – Creativity in West Leeds

Sharon told us about the work that several West Leeds creative types Logistik, Interplay and Feature Media were collaborating on to ensure that recent cuts to the I Love West Leeds Festival budget did not mean less access to cultural activities in West Leeds. The project is busy making wooden figures for children to paint in advance of the festival that will be displayed in public places to show support for the festival , and Interplay will be filming with kids on the festival day.

 Ben Fisher – Fuel Poverty

Ben told us that there were already some student groups working on the politics of fuel poverty, but he was interested in working in more practical ways too, for example by using students to take the word about programmes such as Wrap-up Leeds into communities that could really benefit from it. We also invited Mike Shamash from The Peoples Power to come and talk to us about how switching and reverse auctions could be used to negotiate better deals en masse with utility companies.

Anything new…?

We also explored the possibility of a new project focusing on how primary schools might be used as local hub from which to start practical work on Disrupting Poverty. From what I can make out there was a lot of enthusiasm for this idea and so watch this space with interest.

If you would like to learn more about any of these projects – or to get involved then please do get in touch….

Looking Forward & Keeping In Touch

We plan to hold similar events every quarter where we will develop our existing projects work and where there is an opportunity and passion start new ones.

The next Results Factory on Disrupting Poverty will be held in July. We are currently fixing a venue and date, so if you fancy hosting us please do get in touch!

We have set up a facebook page where we can carry on the conversations. Please do have a look, give us a like and encourage others to join.

We have also set up a discussion list so we call all keep in touch about new projects and ideas needing our involvement, support or advice. If you join this list you will be able to contact, and be contacted by all other list members, so it will really help you to keep in touch.

We hope to build a movement in the city of people who want to act in a coordinated and organised way to disrupt poverty in Leeds. Anyone is welcome, to work on any project that has a ‘reasoned chance’ of disrupting poverty, of making a positive difference. So, please think about joining us if you haven’t already and think about who else you know who might want to get involved.

With thanks to Logistik, Leeds University Students Union and Leeds City Council for their support and to Michael Knapp for designing the Disrupting Poverty Logo!

Best wishes from the Disrupting Poverty Leeds team: Mike, Sharon, Ben and Nicola

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John Sentamu on Tackling Poverty

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The Peoples Power

Come and meet them at Disrupting Poverty in Leeds

What’s all about?

In a few words – Collective Energy Purchasing.

To sign-up (it’s free and there’s no obligation):

We think the relationship between energy suppliers and household consumers is skewed. And it’s a costly skew too; collectively we over-spend £4 billion a year because we’re on the wrong energy tariff. What’s worse this costs lives, the fuel poverty epidemic contributes to the 27,000 excess winter deaths that occur each year.

You could join dozens, hundreds or even thousands, of other little people to become a real force. Group bargaining’s an old idea, but it’s still a good one, and with the advent of mass internet access the possibilities are endless.

And that’s what are all about- empowering UK households to get a fairer deal on their energy. The concept is simple: consumers group together in large numbers and negotiates a better deal based on their stronger combined purchasing power. The balance shifts: customers and suppliers have a relationship which is fairer and more sustainable.

As much as we love to demonise the Big Six, they’re not the devil incarnate, just organisations that are focused on profit margins. And getting a manageable chunk of new custom in one go is of great value for them.   We know it is and can see the high referral fees they pay for new customers and the amount they spend on advertising.

This model has been tried and tested already. In the Netherlands it’s helped households save around 10-20 per cent on their bills.

What’s in it for thePeoplesPower?

  • a good question … where there are profits to be made, people’s motives need to be clear.
  • is set up as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (http://
  • We charge a £2 referral fee per household switch (charged to the energy company to cover our costs (we don’t advertise and our four person team all work as volunteers).
  • We want to help people who are struggling with their energy bills

What’s different about thePeoplesPower?

  • We want to help people in fuel poverty and open collective switching to the non switching classes (as well as anyone else) – so we have started collaborations with Housing Associations and other not-for-profit organisations (
  • Our not for profit motive and low referral fee £2 allows us to pass on more savings to households and offer something more attractive to energy companies than the standard switching site (who charge energy companies somewhere between £30 and £70 per switch).
  • Green energy option
  • Cap on the number of people we switch in one go.  (By keeping the numbers small and capping it at 20,000 per switch, we ensure that all energy companies can participate, big and small. This way we don’t compound the problem of an uncompetitive market place. Also having a cap avoids switching chaos, energy companies will struggle to smoothly switch 50,000+ people in one go.

In this way, we think we’ve found a collective switching model which can work for both consumer and provider, thus restoring the balance, and in turn, our confidence in an essential industry.

To sign-up (it’s free and there’s no obligation):
Follow us on Twitter:!/thePeoplesPower

Like us on Facebook :

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How can a primary school be a vehicle for disrupting poverty?

I’m a governor at an inner city Leeds primary school. Over 60 per cent of the children who attend the school are eligible for free school meals, and a very high proportion of children are considered by the official statistics to be suffering deprivation on multiple fronts, with all the individual stories of poverty and its associated problems that lie behind those statistics.

Broadly speaking the pupils can be divided into two groups – a white working class group whose families have lived in the area served by the school for generations. We also have a very diverse group of migrant children, from different African countries, from Eastern Europe and from Asia. Over 30 languages are spoken by children who attend the school. Children often enter school unable to speak English, and have to learn with us. We sometimes struggle to communicate with parents, particularly the mums because they don’t have much English themselves.

We really want to encourage greater engagement from parents, to get them more involved in their children’s learning and to help us to teach their children that education is something that is valuable to them. But when we have tried to engage with parents beyond a small, committed group who are involved in the governing body, we have struggled. Parents are happy to attend assemblies and concerts where they can see their children perform, but when we have tried to organise informal coffee mornings where parents can come and talk to us after they’ve dropped their children off, attendance has been minimal.

We also want to use the school as a vehicle to help the community. We have worked with specialist providers like the Workers Educational Association to run courses in computers skills and in English as a foreign language, but attendance of these courses has been low, and has tailed off as the courses have progressed. We think that the school could be used as a base for all sorts of activities that could enhance the skills and therefore the economic prospects of the parents, but given our limited success at this so far, we don’t know where or how to start.

We know that are in the main English, middle class professionals – our values and culture are not those of all the families that attend the school and the vocabulary we use and the way we think about the world is different.

  • Is there anybody out there who has skills or experience of community development and engagement in the sort of area we serve who is interested in working with us?
  • Does anyone else have any constructive ideas or suggestions for things we could do to disrupt poverty for our children and their families?
  • If you do, please drop me an email and/or come and talk to me on Friday.

Guest Post from Andy Charlwood

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Uptake of Free School Meals

Nice work from the Children’s Society.  This is a big issue in Leeds where some 4000 children a day entitled to free school meals who don’t take them up.

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Update from Sharon at Logisitik on ‘I Love West Leeds’

Having attended the last Disrupting Poverty event Feature Media, Interplay and Logistik decided to get together and try and disrupt poverty on their doorstep in the only way we know how – by being creative. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

I Love West Leeds Project

As 3 creative businesses/organisations in West Leeds we wanted to see what we could do to make a difference in our immediate area. To make a start Sharon from Logistik knew Jane Earnshaw the I Love West Leeds festival organiser, which is a community based arts festival and we invited her to our next meeting.

We discovered from her that her funding had been cut and that she was going to struggle to put on aspects of the festival at all. It may not necessarily seem like a ‘disrupting poverty’ issue but when we questioned Jane about the impact that it would have on the community if the festival was unable to go ahead, it was clear that we could not let this happen.

West Leeds covers, the Armley, Pudsey, Bramley, Farsley, Farnely, Stanningley and Calverley region primarily – a diverse community with some areas of prosperity and some of extreme poverty. It is also an area which is made of a variety of different cultures, languages and religions. I love West Leeds festival is an opportunity for everyone to come together to experience lots of different arts and also to raise awareness of what’s going on. Some families affected by poverty particularly don’t have a garden and will not get any sort of holiday or access to clubs…arts or otherwise. The festival could be the one opportunity to a family to have a wonderful and memorable day out, at no cost to them.

So Logistik, Feature Media and Interplay have volunteered our services to gather an army of volunteers to make the festival a real success:

  1. Sharon has contacted Leeds University and is mobilising volunteers to help us deliver flyers about the event the week before. We wanted to engage with the student community because they’re a large and willing group of people but also because they don’t really get to experience what West Leeds has to offer and we think this might encourage a few more to engage with this particular community in Leeds, perhaps even staying on to work here, buy homes in the area or just buy things from local businesses, putting more money into the economy.
  2. We have come up with an idea for a wooden ‘terracotta inspired army’, which we will send out to school, libraries, churches and temples and local businesses to paint up as they see fit. Logistik are using their mammoth cutter. It could be of them or a representation of them, with information about the music or films they love or their hobbies. These will then be displayed around West Leeds in homes and shop fronts. In addition to creating a buzz in the community, we’re also hoping that it will attract visitors from outside West Leeds.
  3. Interplay will be making some films about what it’s like living in West Leeds, with local young people.

We have put together a schedule of activity and are looking forward to getting started…everyone welcome to the festival in July – will let you know the date when we meet on the 27th April.

Sharon Ward

Corporate Responsibility Manager

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Update from Ben Fisher on The Fuel Poverty Project

At the last Dispov Leeds, Fuel Poverty was my big issue: if you’re spending a large proportion of your income on energy bills, a reduction will allow you a bit more financial flexibility.

With schemes such as “Wrap Up Leeds” offering free home insulation, I thought it could be as simple as gathering volunteers to take these schemes to areas that would really see the benefit. After several conversations with Nick Morgan from C.A.B we’ve set off trying to find the best way to make it happen. The focus will be on getting information about free home insulation to the homes that need it, and encouraging people to take up the offer.

We are investigating two possibilities:

  1. Providing volunteer support for existing schemes operating in Leeds – for this, it is just a case of assessing the demand.
  2. Setting up short-term collaborations in specific areas with other interested groups – this is what we’re currently looking at, getting advice from schemes that have done similar work in the past to see how it would work.

So far the main barrier, as always it seems, is time. Initially I looked into setting up a new project through LUU, with training provided by Leeds City Council’s “Hotspots” scheme, but this is currently on hold until we find more capacity to look into it properly. For now, though, I think at least one of the two actions above could be very fruitful.”

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