Members spotlight: Toynbee Hall

Date Posted: 31 July 2018

Members spotlight

This week we are highlighting the work of our members, Toynbee Hall and spoke to their CEO, Jim Minton. 

Tell us a little about you…

Since 1884, Toynbee Hall has fought against poverty and inequality in East London and beyond, and today remains an even more vital resource for families and the community.

We put people and communities at the heart of everything we do, from shaping our services to building our evidence base; from co-creating new ideas to speaking truth to power.

We enable people to tackle the things that stop them from taking opportunities and fulfilling their potential: whether that is debt, their wellbeing, financial exclusion or other injustices; and we use our learning to influence essential social policy and practice, challenging the systemic barriers that hold people and communities back and coming up with new solutions to age old problems.

How are you helping to tackle child poverty in London?

We help families to tackle the causes and overcome the impacts of poverty through a range of different services. Our advice services and learning programmes help people and communities to understand and exercise their rights. We provide support, advocacy and offer people the skills to open up new opportunities for them and their families.

Our debt and legal advice services offer help in times of crisis and tackle ongoing financial challenges. Many families are hugely affected by debt, money worries and navigating a complex financial landscape. By supporting them and giving them practical help and a voice to call out unfairness, we help them achieve better outcomes for children and the wider community. Our financial training programmes help people to better manage their money and find ways to save. They then pass this knowledge onto their families and to the community to widely improve financial health.

We also do specific work aimed at young people, supporting a wide range of young teenagers to be better equipped to make positive choices. Research has shown that during the ages of 11 to 14 years children form expectations about their abilities and their future. This age group therefore provides a crucial opportunity to elevate aspirations and improve future outcomes. Our projects aims to encourage young people to challenge themselves and develop a greater sense of community. We’ve seen that through the mentoring, group work and community projects, the young people have become more involved in their communities, have increased their participation in school, improve social relations and taken more responsibility.

What concerns you currently about child poverty in London?

Our part of East London has two of only four constituencies in the country where more than half the children live in poverty.  So as well as being an urgent problem across the capital, it is a real, pressing and critical barrier to families who live and work around us, and who we see every day.

We can see that the challenges of poverty in childhood lead to worse outcomes for families, and critically these inequalities become entrenched, creating barriers which prevent whole communities from making the most of opportunities. It is even more problematic that in many ways, London has so much wealth and potentially offers so much. We urgently need to see a focus which prioritizes better security, more and better housing choice and deals with the overall drivers of poverty so that all can take advantage of what London offers.

Share with our members something positive about your organisation’s achievement or service 

We can’t emphasis enough the importance of listening to our clients and working alongside them to co-design new projects. Recently we put together the Fairer Finance Panel. This is group of people who have experienced debt and previously sought advice, who have been working over recent months to inform us and our debt advice partners as to how we can keep improving our services. They place a real emphasis on the importance of trust, and have developed seven principles which feel should underpin all debt advice services.

The panel then presented the principles themselves to 28 of our debt advice partners and issued them each with a set of principles. The advice providers will now embed these principles to offer advice that understands clients at a deeper level than ever before. We hope more people will benefit from the advice and support they need, to ease their debt and money problems and build better financial futures for their families.  We think this is a great example of using lived experience to expand the breadth of service offer and improve our current services.

What can other network members learn from you or find out more about through you? 

We want to share our insights and learning from working with families, young people and others within the community every day. To make better solutions, it is really essential to understand the lived experience of people facing poverty  - or living in communities where it creates such barriers. We know that we will only support families better if we share our learning and develop partnerships and real engagement within the community and with others. Specifically, we have very strong understanding of the impact of debt, and challenges of high cost credit; of how to shape systemic approaches to financial exclusion; of engaging people in designing solutions; and of partnerships to support better outcomes for young people from diverse communities.

Why did you join 4in10? What do you enjoy about being part of the 4in10 network?

Simply, it is the chance to be part of a shared community of organisations with the same goals – to tackle the causes and impact of child poverty in London. We’re keen to use all mechanisms we can to share and learn – the barriers children and families face are complex, and one organisation alone can’t change them. But we strongly believe that together, we can.