The Truth About Poverty Webinar

6th November 2020

Our webinar, ‘The Truth About Poverty’ 

was part of our Hidden in Plain Sight series, bringing together local people and sector experts to find meaningful solutions to Surrey’s prevalent, but hidden issues.

What we heard

Destitution* can affect anyone. We can at any time fall into poverty due to a series of unfortunate events.

The Goal – to close the Epsom & Ewell Foodbank, so that there is no one in our communities needing to access it.

‘Surrey Stats’ – Source, Surrey County Council

16% of households in Surrey are classified as living in Poverty compared to 21% nationally.

Research shows that family income impacts on children’s lives and development in a number of ways. Living on a low income can increase parents stress levels, in turn affecting relationships and family dynamics.

8.3% of children in the county are living in relative low-income families. There are 3 wards in Surrey that have nearly 30% of under 16’s living in relative low-income families.

9.5% of all school children in Surrey were eligible for Free School Meals in the 2019-20 academic year.

Over 6,000 people in Surrey live in the 10-20% most deprived areas nationally – mostly in Reigate and Banstead, Woking and Guildford.

Research shows that many people are seeking support for the first time, due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of people claiming Universal Credit or Job Seekers Allowance has increased by over 300% in some areas of Surrey.

East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission

brings together those with lived experience of the issue (Community Commissioners), with those in positions of influence (Business, Health and Civic Commissioners) to explore the root causes of poverty, with the object of transforming systems and cultures.

Poverty is a complex issue – “It should not be that luck is the key factor in accessing the right information and advice.” Poverty Truth Commission Report, soon to be released.

The Poverty Truth Commission (ESPTC) provides the opportunity for people to come together and build understanding of the lives of others within their communities. They work together to change the culture of organisations, giving people with lived experience a voice to share the impact that decisions from Government and other strategies have on their lives.

Epsom and Ewell Foodbank – the impact of Covid

In 2020 the foodbank has so far fed 9,801 people, compared to just over 5,000 in the whole 2019.

Over 8 months, the foodbank has seen an average 268% increase.

Trussell researcher has warned food banks with the network that they will have to give out a parcel every nine seconds this winter to meet demand.

The ESPTC are addressing poverty longer-term by contributing in a number of ways to ensure people do not return to the foodbank. They offer various levels of support – providing furniture and access to IT equipment, counselling services, meat vouchers, baby supplies, signposting services, to name a few.

It is vital we work together to ensure people do not become dependant on access to food supplies. Through supporting each other and teaching wider skillsets such as budgeting, and support with finding employment opportunities, we can give local people back their independence and a sense of optimism. These steps will go towards not needing to rely on access to food.

Penny, ESPTC Support Work Lead shares several stories of local people and families facing poverty.


Q. If you had more funds, would having more support officers like Penny help make a difference?

A. Yes, absolutely. We would greatly benefit from whole team! We do believe it makes a huge difference. 

Q. How do you see the role of Food Pantries or Social Supermarkets in the fight against poverty and the provision of wrap around support?

A. These are great ideas. Next year it is on our agenda to explore. The challenge in Surrey is the cost of a premise to deliver the work from. A social supermarket is another great idea that we would be interested in.

Q. How can we help get the learnings from the PTC out to the community and businesses of every size?

A. When we launch our PTC ‘End of Phase One’ Report, please do circulate it as wide as possible. We will be looking to develop the work so would love to be able to present the information to business and civic groups moving forward.

The Community Foundation for Surrey will be circulating this report once it is available. Please check back to this page to find it here in due course. 

A recording of our webinar is available.

Thank you to our inspiring speakers

  • Jonathan Lees, Founder, East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission

Jonathan has worked in the faith and community sector for the last 30 years. Whilst leading the church in Surrey they were exploring about what they could do in the community, and people going hungry was raised. In July 2012, Jonathan launched the Epsom & Ewell Foodbank which has today fed thousands of people and developed its services to include support, furniture, counselling, IT, energy and many other schemes. In 2019, Jonathan launched the East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission due to huge concerns about the rising numbers of food demand. The key goal – to close Epsom & Ewell Foodbank as no one should need food support. A big challenge, but one it is felt in Surrey is achievable.

  • Penny Griffiths, Support Work Lead, East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission

Penny has worked for Epsom and Ewell Foodbank for two and half years, working in depth with clients and their families – helping them to access benefits, manage their money, provide advocacy and emotional support, among many other things. She helped Launch the East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission in April 2019, working with the clients who were directly affected by poverty. Prior to working for the foodbank, Penny worked as a support worker for unpaid carers and with adults with learning disabilities.

  • Nicola Kilvington, Director of Insight, Analytics and Intelligence, Surrey County Council


Further advice and support is available.

Please visit the Surrey County Council webpage

or call their Community Helpline number: 0300 200 1008

Support is also available through Citizens Advice Surrey

Find out more about our Hidden in Plain Sight webinar series here!

*People are defined as destitute if they lack two or more of the absolute essentials that are needed to
live; shelter, food, heating, lighting, clothing/footwear, basic toiletries or if their income is too low to
cover the cost of these bare essentials – The State of Hunger, The Trussell Trust

The Community Foundation for Surrey is committed to supporting East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission to drive sustained change and help bring hope to the lives of local people within our county affected by poverty. Together we can.


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Pitstop Fund launched to relieve poverty in Mole Valley

30th September 2016

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The newly established Pitstop Fund aims to relieve poverty among people in Mole Valley and advance education by the provision of training in basic life skills and health matters to help them become independent.

The fund will make grants of up to £5,000 available to support a wide range of activities addressing social isolation and mental health issues.

If you have a project we could help, complete an Expression of Interest today.