Innovation Exchange

Poverty Sensitive Practice Training


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


Further information

As part of implementing the Dundee Partnership’s Fairness Strategy, Dundee City Council’s Equally Well and Welfare Rights teams have drawn on their respective skills and expertise to develop a new training session to promote poverty sensitive practice across services. The interactive and thought provoking session has achieved all learning outcomes, supporting frontline staff to offer positive, non-judgemental, holistic services for Dundee’s citizens who live in poverty. Evaluation showed that the session has helped change negative attitudes and perceptions about people in poverty. Reported outcomes include increased awareness of stigma, greater motivation to work in a poverty

sensitive manner, and more confidence to signpost people in poverty to sources of support.

Theme: Workforce Planning and Management

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The poverty sensitive practice training session has the following learning outcomes:


  • Raise awareness of poverty
  • Reduce poverty related stigma
  • Support poverty sensitive practice
  • Raise awareness of how to signpost people to sources of support


The training was pursued as part of the implementation of Dundee’s Fairness Strategy. Much had been done to raise awareness of the impact of welfare reform but little work had been undertaken focusing on the negative attitudes towards people in poverty that can sometimes be demonstrated by service providers and perpetuated by the media. Local engagement showed that how people are treated by services affects their likelihood of using them, meaning that people in poverty can be inadvertently discriminated against or find it difficult to get the support they need. Service providers have requested support to develop skills to deal with disadvantaged people sensitively and appropriately, and to assist them to signpost people to other services that can improve wellbeing and life circumstances.


In developing the training session, the Equally Well and Welfare Rights teams worked closely with the Dundee Partnership team and Organisational Development to ensure strategic fit, appropriate targeting and additionality.


The teams met frequently to plan the session and drew on their training experience to design exercises that focused on:

  • exploring what poverty means and attitudes towards poverty
  • using evidence in an interactive and creative way
  • helping participants to put themselves in the shoes of people in poverty, exploring what it feels like to have limited choices and be treated unfairly
  • using the My Wellbeing web pages as a route to information about services
  • video clips of people affected by poverty and discrimination


The teams piloted the session and continue to refine delivery and materials based on feedback. There have been barriers in attracting those people who would benefit most from the training and discussions have taken place with senior managers on how to target priority service providers. As the session was heavily oversubscribed in 2015, a greater number of training sessions will be delivered in 2016. A new development is the design of a workshop to support others to use and adapt the materials in order to roll out the training with their own colleagues and clients. Interested parties so far are Education, Dundee and

Angus College and the Directorate of Public Health.

8 poverty sensitive practice sessions were delivered in 2015 attended by 88 practitioners and a further 4 in 2016 attended by 48. The 2015 sessions have been fully evaluated to measure the extent to which learning outcomes have been achieved and to assess quality of delivery and findings show:

  • Over 90% increased their awareness of poverty, including in-work poverty
  • 75% increased their awareness of the stigma associated with living in poverty
  • 78% felt they would work with people in a more poverty sensitive manner
  • 91% increased their awareness of how to signpost people in poverty to sources of support


Responses showed that participants thought the exercises were appropriate and that facilitators were skilled in their delivery.  The vast majority thought that participating in the training was enjoyable and that they would recommend the session to others. Feedback from participants has helped trainers make adjustments to the programme, including more time for discussion and distributing information on sources of further evidence and statistics. Attendees make pledges on what they will do differently as a result of participating in the training and the following clear themes emerged:

  • Try to debunk the myths that others voice
  • Be less judgemental and pay less attention to the media
  • Do more signposting to address issues of poverty
  • Realise the extent of poverty within those in work
  • Be more aware of people’s vulnerability


Analysis of the services that attended the sessions in 2015 highlighted to trainers that they need to work harder to ensure they are attracting the right people to the training and not preaching to the converted. Discussions took place with Learning and Organisational Development, the Dundee Partnership Team and a range of service managers, to try to identify and target priority services to enrol for the training. This has resulted in places being guarded for representatives from the Housing and Education Departments.


A follow-up survey was carried out with participants in the 2015 sessions to assess the longer term impact of participating in the training session. Responses were received from 16 practitioners and findings showed that the biggest impacts were:

  • increased awareness of poverty, in-work poverty and stigma, which practitioners translated into their daily practice by adopting a poverty sensitive lens to their interactions with service users (69%)
  • The same proportion (69%) reported that their attitude and approach towards people experiencing poverty had changed. Examples included being more empathetic, more confident to challenge discrimination and signposting people in need to sources of support


In order to respond to the high level of interest in the training, the teams are developing a workshop to support others to use and adapt the training resources and materials relevant to the needs of their own particular client groups. 2 workshops will be delivered in 2016 as well 10 poverty sensitive practice sessions. A successful proposal for Integrated Care Funds has provided resources for a co-ordinator to extend the training across the system and develop and deliver bespoke training for specific staff groups. This post has now been filled and discussions are underway with service managers in the Integrated Health and Social Care Partnership and beyond to roll out poverty sensitive practice further.

Existing training tended to focus on information rather than attitudes towards people in poverty. Changing attitudes is notoriously difficult; people form views and opinions based on their own upbringing, the attitudes of peers, their life circumstances, what they hear and see on a daily basis, and whether they have personally experienced the situation at hand. Research shows that attitudes can be changed but this needs to be done carefully. People can be protective of their beliefs and are more likely to defend them if challenged too dogmatically.


The poverty sensitive practice sessions developed in Dundee have shown that using innovative techniques and excellent facilitation skills to support participants to reflect on and explore why they hold certain opinions, and to present them with alternative arguments and evidence, can indeed change the way they think about people affected by poverty.


Participants reported changes in awareness and attitudes, made pledges about what they will do differently, and stated that participation in the session was a positive experience. Resultant changes ensure that the biggest resource available to people in poverty, the public sector workforce, is well equipped, skilled and motivated to deliver the best service possible to people in need. In the context of diminishing  services this ensures best value from existing resources, particularly through encouraging accessibility and effective targeting, enhancing customer experience, and going the extra mile to signpost people to other services, thus supporting the  prevention/early intervention agendas. This is better than conventional approaches which often tell people what to do or provide information, with limited evidence of impact.


Our innovative training approach allows participants to   ‘own’ changes and arrive at their own conclusions and solutions. It complements other approaches such as e-learning modules and briefings and is benefiting staff across a range of council services and beyond.

Another version of this case study with video interviews with the staff involved is available on the Improvement Service website at

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Sheila Allan

Dundee Healthy Living Initiative / Equally Well Manager

Dundee City Council

01382 435852

Case study added to site: June 2016

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