THERE is a perception in some quarters that people living in relative poverty – defined as a household with an income below 60 per cent of the national median – are doing so because they are either too feckless or too lazy to improve their lot.

This week’s special report between The Northern Echo and Church Action on Poverty should firmly dispel those notions.

It is clear that those who find themselves in sudden crisis due to circumstances beyond their control face a postcode lottery as to whether or not they will get help. The support network is fragmented, with charities being left to pick up the slack when councils or government departments will not, or can not.

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On Thursday we will set out the stark facts which reveal 22 per cent of North-East residents are classed as being in relative poverty – more than a fifth of the population. Those statistics make plain that working – full time, part time or being self-employed – does not preclude people from living on the breadline.

We will also tell the stories of people in our communities who regularly go without eating, or survive by selling their possessions.

Projects are under way to provide more help, and crucially, these do not involve outside third parties coming in and telling people how to live their lives. The leaders have first hand experience of poverty and want to empower others to make positive changes.

These are welcome, but a bigger, national shift is needed. If the first stage is helping to change attitudes towards people in poverty, we hope this investigation plays its part.