The Wheatley Group, a Scotland-based housing, care and property-management group, signed up to the Poverty Alliance’s Stick Your Labels campaign in 2015. Since signing the organisational pledge, the Wheatley Group has carried out a number of activities with their staff and volunteers in the spirit of the campaign.
We met with Ann-Marie Kite, from the Wheatley recently to discuss what they’d been doing to meet the pledges since signing it and how their organisation has benefitted from signing up to the campaign.
The first Stick Your Labels pledge focuses on setting out your organisation’s contribution to tackling poverty in Scotland. For Wheatley they began this process by surveying staff. Ann-Marie explained that the survey provided an insight into what staff’s attitudes were regarding poverty.
“We started with an actual staff survey as the kind of baseline to find out what people’s attitudes were. Following on from that, the kind of comments that people made and the answers gave us a picture of the misconceptions that are out there and what people believed”
From there, the Wheatley Group began to lead the Challenging Negatives Attitudes campaign. They decided to focus on staff as they felt they could have a lot of influence on them, and this in turn would also affect a lot of services. From there they had a launch programme, gave presentations focusing on myth busting and have produced a whole online awareness course with all of their partners. This includes the fire brigade, police and the NHS. Anne-Marie highlighted the enthusiasm and hard work from everyone, “There’s a lot ongoing!”
The second pledge of the campaign focuses on the importance of language in relation to discussing poverty. Anne-Marie highlighted the influence that volunteers have had on the work of the Wheatley Group. She said, “From the start we’ve involved volunteers who have direct experience of poverty, and this has really led us in the right direction”. Anne-Marie also highlighted the influence Stick Your Labels has had on them, “Stick Your Labels has really opened people’s eyes to what the media will make you believe, and the negative impact this has … We are very careful on the wording of things and it all goes through the panel before we put anything out there. We don’t want our messages to be misconstrued so language is very important”.
The third and final pledge is about actions changing attitudes towards people experiencing poverty. Ann-Marie highlighted the success of their online course, “I think the biggest thing we have done to tackle that is the online course, there’s quiz’s in there, there’s myth busting on there, there’s a video, we have done quite a lot around that”. She also mentioned the success of the mutual mentoring programme, “We’ve also got our mutual mentoring programme which has participants from all different organisations, we’ve got one of the Chief Executives from Scottish Power, a manager from Wheatley Group, there’s people from the council, there’s managers from the NHS, the feedback from that is just brilliant.” Alongside this, the Wheatley Group have made posters for staff to think about the language they use. Ann-Marie stressed the importance of staff putting themselves in their service users shoes, “I think you definitely have to put yourself in your customers shoes, you need to relate to how you treat someone and what you might say to them and how that affects them”. This is a theme which has shined through in their work to meet the pledges.
While the Wheatley Group pride themselves on having positive relationships with their staff and service users, since signing up to the Stick Your Labels campaign this has only increased. As Ann-Marie explained, “I think as an organisation we have to show that we won’t accept negative attitudes, it’s not acceptable and then as an organisation once you are signed up that message filters through the whole service that we provide”. The work they have done has impacted positively on both staff and service users, with feedback coming from service users speaking about the importance of being treated with dignity and respect.
In addition to the impact it’s had on the staff and service users, the Wheatley Group even won the Scotland-wide CIH award for campaign of the year, due to their “People Make Glasgow Fairer” campaign.
As Ann-Marie said herself, “We all need to stick together to try and tackle poverty.”