Child Poverty

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Getting child poverty back on the national agenda
By Graham Whitham  Director, GMPA

End Child Poverty logo
Last Thursday GMPA joined other End Child Poverty Coalition (ECP) members on a Zoom call with Angela Raynor MP (Deputy Leader of the Labour Party), Jonathan Reynolds MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) and Kate Green MP (Shadow Minister for Child Poverty, and now also Shadow Secretary of State for Education) to discuss the opposition’s policy approach to tackling child poverty. In light of that conversation and the government’s recent U-turn on Free School Meal (FSM) vouchers during the summer holidays, it feels like child poverty is back on the national agenda for the first time in years.

  • FSM meal provision during the school holidays is just one of the many things that needs to happen to drive down child poverty across the country. There have been several calls on government in recent months to do more on poverty, as well as research reports highlighting the scale of the challenge facing the UK. For example, Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have issued a joint call for a £20 weekly increase in the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit to help stave off millions of families falling into financial hardship over the coming months. This would support up to 4 million families and 8 million children at a time when, according to research published by Save the Children, 70% of families have had to cut back on food and other essentials, while half have fallen behind on rent or other household bills, sparking fears of more hardship ahead if unemployment rises further.
  • Child Poverty Action Group’s The cost of learning in lockdown report details results of a survey of 3600 parents and carers and 1300 children and young people. The survey found that Covid-19 magnified some of the factors that contribute to negative outcomes associated with children growing up in poverty. The low-income parents and carers responding to the survey were just as likely to be concerned with helping their children to continue learning through lockdown. However, they reported facing significantly more stress and worry around home learning and household finances than parents and carers in better off homes.
  • Data released by Citizens Advice shows the nature of the issues for which people are seeking support. Citizens Advice is warning that its data shows people are becoming increasingly concerned about redundancy, as the nation moves into a new phase where government support packages are scaled back. For 66 days straight, the charity’s page on being furloughed was the most viewed on its website. On June 5th, the numbers of visitors to the charity’s main redundancy webpage took the number one spot from being furloughed.
Graham Whitham, Director GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, Director GMPA

You’ll note that all three shadow ministers that ECP met with are MPs for Greater Manchester constituencies, and it is a helpful link for GMPA as we seek to ensure poverty is central to the local recovery from the pandemic. In our last newsletter we discussed what a local framework for tackling poverty could look like. We followed this up with a webinar last week – Poverty and the recovery – which many of you attended. Please keep an eye on our newsletter and website as we develop this work further.

 

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Stockport integrated support

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By Cllr Amanda Peers, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Neighbourhoods , Stockport MBC

As many of you will be aware, and has been covered in depth by GMPA, responsibility for crisis loans and financial assistance for those experiencing difficulties was transferred from DWP to local authorities in April 2013 in the form of local welfare assistance schemes. You are also probably aware that since 2010 the  government has continued to reduce budgets for essential services to local authorities year on year. In Stockport this reduction has amounted to around £110 million in total (i.e. over 60% of the overall budget).

Over the last 4 years in Stockport we have been working hard to deliver a balanced budget without making  excessive cuts and reductions in services. As you can imagine this is virtually impossible with increasing costs and reducing funds. We have tried where possible to do things differently, to do more with less and to work efficiently and effectively with partners to maximise resources and avoid duplication.

The Stockport Local Assistance Scheme was reviewed over 2019/20, and from this review, which included 2 pieces of consultation, a proposal to change to Stockport Integrated Support was agreed for the 20/21 budget.

Under the new proposals a number of funding streams that are used to support people in financial crisis are to be administered under one system, a ‘one door entry system’. On initial contact residents will be advised what funding is available to them, plus additional support through a variety of partners including CAB, Age UK, Signpost for Carers etc, who will all offer specialist advice and services. This could include money management, debt advice, employment support and housing support.

As a large proportion of the applications to the Stockport Local Assistance Scheme were for white goods and furnishing for new tenancies we have worked with our Social Housing partners to look at how we can support people with these needs. Our housing partners are able to offer furnished tenancies, providing a good start for those with little or no means, enabling and supporting  sustainable tenancies, the costs of which can be met through housing benefit, which then comes back into the system to support others.

We have also worked with our local Credit Union who have developed flexible loan packages in response to residents’ needs.

The administration team behind the new process will be trained to seek and secure additional external funding streams from specialist charities and organisations to meet the needs of the individuals, this in effect will bring more funding into the borough for the benefit of local residents.

This holistic person-centred approach will ultimately offer our most vulnerable residents a hand up rather than a handout, with advice and support empowering people and enabling them to move onto a pathway out of poverty.  As an experienced community worker by profession, I know this is preferable to so many people who like to maintain their independence and are often finding it difficult to accept help.

With  Brexit and other political and funding uncertainties facing Stockport Council, it was felt that there were many unknowns that may adversely affect our residents so we have set aside some reserves to meet the needs of our residents over time.

Stockport Cllr Amanda Peers article for GM Poverty Action

Cllr Amanda Peers

The new scheme was due to be implemented at the start of the new financial year. However, with the impact of Covid-19 we have deferred the implementation until a later date and in parallel provided a small grant pot through our Stockport Local Fund to support the voluntary and community sector, charities and mutual aid groups in our neighbourhoods who have been providing direct support to those vulnerable residents adversely affected by Covid.

Stockport MBC Community webpage

 

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Poverty Truth Commissions

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By Tom Skinner, Director, GMPA

Poverty Truth Commissions (PTC) are built on a principle of collective and participatory decision-making to tackle poverty, in which people with lived experience of poverty build relationships with those in positions of influence. Working together, they co-create meaningful and longer-term solutions and change.

GMPA has supported many of the six Poverty Truth Commissions in Greater Manchester that have either been completed, are taking place, or are being set up. In particular we are taking the lead on the Poverty Truth Commission in Tameside, which is in its early stages and not yet publicly launched. We are pleased to introduce Beatrice Smith who has joined the GMPA team to start recruiting commissioners, seek funding, and help launch the Commission next year.


Beatrice Smith

Poverty Truth Commission Facilitator article for GM Poverty Action

Beatrice Smith

Beatrice was born in Rwanda and grew up there until the genocide of 1994 forced her and her family to flee to the UK. She spent her teenage years in London and moved to Manchester in 2002 to study at University. On graduating, she spent nearly a decade working as a policy coordinator for the DWP until 2015.

Since then, Beatrice has worked to help build a network of grassroots projects and charities within Manchester and Tameside, where she lives.

Beatrice is passionate about social justice and in April 2020, she came on board as a Facilitator for the Tameside Poverty Truth Commission.

Outside of her role with the PTC, she is a speaker and author of The Search for Home, which chronicles hers and her family’s journey from Rwanda to the UK as refugees.


West Cheshire has just completed its second Poverty Truth Commission (WCPTC2) and published its evaluation, showing the material impact that PTCs can have, including:

  • Individual changes: 100% of Community Commissioners reported more/much more respect, motivation, inspiration, hope, friendship, and understanding of others, and 100% of Civic & Business Leaders reported more/much more understanding of others.
  • Organisational changes: A 75% reduction in evictions in a housing association, improved access to food in schools, improved ‘pick lists’ at food banks, and increased socio-economic inclusion awareness across 7 organisations.
  • Policy and future changes: Through influencing the Housing Allocation Policy and Homelessness Strategy, The Place Plan 2019-2024, the Mental Health Partnership Board, and many more.

Using a Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology, it is estimated that for each £1 spent on WCPTC2, there was a return of £9.17 (which almost doubles to £18.51 once the changes made to a single social housing provider are rolled out further).

 

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Out-of-hours Citizens Advice helpline service

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By Rachel Howley, Director – Citizens Advice Greater Manchester

Citizens Advice Greater Manchester (CAGM) is a consortium of all 10 GM local Citizens Advice services. In March they escalated plans with GMCA to launch a new helpline service to all GM residents in direct response to the critical situation we faced with the Coronavirus Pandemic. In the space of 4 just weeks they set up an Out of Hours Emergency Support Service for vulnerable people facing crisis or emergency across GM via a clear, single point of contact. On April 19th, they officially launched their new Helpline to all residents of Greater Manchester, funded by a £100,000 grant from the GMCA.

The Helpline is available for all GM residents to call Monday to Sunday from 7pm to 10pm on 0161 850 5053. Calls are charged at local rates. This service will increase access to generalist and specialist advice: Debt and Money, Welfare Rights and access to Benefits, Housing and Mortgage, Employment.

In addition, the service will also increase access to specialist support from a joined up, comprehensive network of Greater Manchester agencies. Initially through the GMVCSE Leadership Group, CAGM will build up a strong holistic network of external partners to signpost clients to support for mental health and suicide prevention, employment, foodbanks, domestic violence, young people older, people, family, and immigration,

Through the suspension of most face to face services as a result of Covid-19, they are particularly interested to explore how they can support the most vulnerable and hard to reach clients through new technology.

A further objective of the project is to improve the strategic partnerships with Foodbanks. CAGM will work together with local Foodbanks across GM to develop a better understanding of how the services can work more seamlessly together. This will include a dedicated CAGM Campaign to highlight, combat and alleviate food poverty, linking into the current GM Food Poverty Action Plan.

CAGM will work closely with GMCA to spot occurring trends across GM as a direct result of the pandemic including: welfare reform including Universal Credit; debt; employment including furlough, redundancy and discrimination; unemployment, particularly 16-24 year olds; housing including mortgage and rent and landlord tenant issues.

Citizens Advice Greater Manchester website

 

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Welfare at a (social) distance

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Welfare at a (Social) Distance: Accessing social security and employment support during the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath

By Lisa Scullion, University of Salford; Daniel Edmiston, University of Leeds; and Kate Summers, London School of Economics.

The Sustainable Housing & Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU) at the University of Salford, working with the universities of Leeds, Kent and the London School of Economics, is leading a large-scale national research project to understand how the working-age benefits system responds to the coronavirus crisis. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19, this project will rapidly produce large-scale evidence to inform policymaking in the coming months.

As newsletter readers will know, the benefits system is crucial to supporting people during, and after, the COVID-19 crisis. With a growing number of new claimants, it faces two challenges. Firstly, to ensure people quickly get the money they need. And afterwards, that people are helped to quickly return to work or supported further if unable to work. This project will provide vital information on how we are meeting these challenges and where the system is struggling in order to help develop rapid solutions.

The project has three main components. We are conducting an online survey of 8,000 new and existing claimants, to provide a nationally representative picture of what is happening. Second, we are conducting four local area case studies in Leeds, Newham, Salford and Thanet, to identify how local support systems, including local authorities, third sector providers, and others, support claimants. Third, we are interviewing 80 claimants twice over the next year. These in-depth interviews will help us understand the details of claimants’ experiences.

This project is particularly important because of the ongoing and new challenges that the benefit system is facing. The coronavirus crisis has created a group of ‘new’ claimants, who might not have prior experience of the social security system: we need to understand how their experiences compare to those of existing claimants. Specifically, we need understand if support and income is reaching all claimants in a timely way, when the wave of new applications has put higher levels of strain on DWP processes. COVID-19 has also accelerated the shift to a digitalised benefits system – navigating this ‘virtual’ system often depends on in-person help for some claimants (from e.g. advice agencies) and the extent to which claimants can access support remotely is unknown. Later, claimants will need support to quickly return to work, while those who remain out of work will need ongoing
security.

Can you help us?

We are looking to speak to current benefit recipients from across England about their experiences. If you can help put us in touch with anyone currently in receipt of Universal Credit, JSA, ESA, or Tax Credits we would be grateful to hear from you. Interviews are treated confidentially and participants receive a voucher as a thank them for their time.

We would also like to hear from organisations in the Salford area who are currently supporting benefit claimants and are able to share their experiences of providing support during this time.

For further information about the project, or if you would like to be added to our project dissemination list to receive updates from the project, please contact:

Professor Lisa Scullion (University of Salford)
Dr Daniel Edmiston (University of Leeds)
Dr Kate Summers (London School of Economics)Welfare at a distance article logos for GM Poverty Action

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Is now the time to be fighting for a Real Living Wage in Bolton?

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By Amy Rothwell, Business Development Lead for Boo Coaching & Consulting, Bolton

An increase in wages for the lowest paid workers in Bolton. An hourly rate calculated according to what employees and their families need to live. How does the case for that stand, now, with recession looming?

1 Capture the Impetus
There are actually strong opportunities while the public feeling is that something needs to change, when social value no longer just a concept to most of us.

Julie Ralph, Policy and Public Affairs Analyst for Bolton at Home, says “Now seems like the right time to join up with other Community Wealth Building initiatives, such as Strength in Places, and Build Back Better. The Living Wage campaign doesn’t need to be a standalone voice.”

One of the common themes of such strategies is a call to keep money local;  to spend within our communities and
support those local businesses that have kept us supplied us through these challenging times.

2 Shop Wisely
John Hacking, Campaign Coordinator at the Greater Manchester Living Wage campaign says that the current crisis very quickly divided businesses into those that did the right thing, and those that didn’t. “Companies are now being judged on how they instinctively reacted – whether in their treatment of staff, or whether they honoured payments to suppliers. People are now considering more than ever what it means to be a good employer.”

If we, the public, remember this when we make our choices as consumers and services users, we have the power to influence positive change in workplaces. Ensuring that all employees are paid fairly for the work they do seems a natural part of this.

3 Honour our key workers
There has been wide recognition of the burden that ‘key workers’ have shouldered during this pandemic. No more so than in the notoriously undervalued care industry. Adrian Nottingham, Social Value, Quality and Impact Officer at Bolton CVS  says “There’s a momentum that cannot be ignored. We’ve been clapping, but now there is a demand for our care workers to be respected in a meaningful way.”

Amy Rothwell for GM Poverty Action

Amy Rothwell

It’s time to strike while the iron is hot. Harness the goodwill of the people – who are customers, services users, decision makers – and fly the flag for fair pay.

How do we Build Bolton Back Better?

By making the Real Living Wage one of the cornerstones. 

 

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Covid-19: The impact on food support providers in GM

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Update July 1st 2020:

Your participation is very important, and to thank you for taking part, a donation to a charity of your choice will be made.

If you would like to participate please either:

  • Click here and fill in a 20 minute survey (£10 donation)
  • or get in touch with Filippo Oncini by email or via whatsapp on 07340 483318 and schedule a longer interview via Zoom or Skype (£30 donation)

A new study on the impact of Covid-19 on food support providers in Greater Manchester is being conducted by Filippo Oncini, a researcher based at the University of Manchester.

Filippo Oncini research - Covid-19 article for GM Poverty Action

Filippo Oncini

The research aims to explore in depth the obstacles, the needs and the prospects of the food providers active in Greater Manchester. The findings will be used to increase awareness of the many challenges met by these organisations, to shed light on their needs and to gather a picture on the general situation. Teamsearch, a research agency hired to collect the data, will call each food provider based in Greater Manchester starting from next week to ask permission to conduct an anonymous phone survey. If they agree, the director or a spokesperson of the organisation will respond to a questionnaire on the characteristics of the organisation and on the impact of Covid-19. In addition, the interviewer will also ask if the respondent would like to participate in an hour-long digital interview with Filippo to better explore some aspects of this crisis.

You can find the participant information sheet with detailed information regarding the survey here. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact Filippo by email.

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Tackling poverty in the aftermath of the pandemic

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How can we go about tackling poverty in the aftermath of the pandemic?

By Graham Whitham, Director GMPA

Although the future spread of COVID-19 in the UK is uncertain, with concerns about further waves of the virus, minds are turning to how we recover economically and socially from the pandemic. Of importance will be understanding how we support the recovery in areas and communities hit hardest by the virus. To do this, the country can’t simply return to doing things in the same way as they were being done prior to the lockdown. The way the UK economy has functioned, and the way public services have been delivered and funded over the last ten years has reinforced longstanding inequalities and left some places and communities more prone to the pandemic than others.

How places shape the recovery is going to be crucial in the fight against poverty. How our local economies function, how localities use what powers they do have over the welfare, health and social care systems and how services shift away from crisis responses (necessary over the last 12 weeks) and towards prevention and early intervention, will all dictate the scale and nature the issue at a local level over the next ten years.

A common challenge for local decision makers is that many of the main drivers of poverty lie with central government. This can sap energy from responses to the problem and result in councils and their partners picking up the pieces; dealing with the consequences of poverty as opposed to dealing with the root causes. Spending cuts over the last ten years have exacerbated this challenge. In places up and down the UK we have seen many preventative services, the results of which may be harder to evaluate or not understood for years, withdrawn as local authorities and their partners are forced into making short-term budgetary decisions.

The consequence of this is a strong focus on mitigation, often dependent on crisis response services such as foodbanks delivered by the voluntary and community sector or food and energy vouchers delivered through local welfare assistance schemes. These responses deliver easily quantifiable short-term results at relatively low-cost, but don’t offer people a pathway out of poverty. It is perhaps not surprising that the number of foodbanks in Greater Manchester has rocketed from an estimated 11 in 2012 to 133 today (with a further 49 food pantries/ clubs and 38 meal providers focusing on supporting people on low incomes identified by GMPA) at a time when the capacity of welfare rights teams and funding for financial inclusion work has reduced.

A way forward in Greater Manchester

These issues will come into sharper focus in Greater Manchester over the coming months and years. The city region is home to 620,000 people living below the low-income poverty line and is beset by strong economic, health and other inequalities. Universal Credit claimant data since the onset of the lockdown has shown an increased level of need, and all ten boroughs are facing higher costs and reductions in income.

There are already some good examples of strategic approaches to dealing with poverty in Greater Manchester, but all areas will need to prioritise the issue if we are to ensure it doesn’t become more entrenched. GMPA believes each locality should adopt a strategic framework that would make tackling poverty a strategic priority and that it is taken into account in all areas of decision making, policy development and service design. This latter point is of heightened importance in light of the severe financial pressures public bodies will be facing over the coming months and years. As difficult decisions about budgets are made, it will be vital to consider the impact of all spending decisions on those on low incomes and we must get the balance right between focussing resources on reduction and prevention of poverty and mitigation.

A draft framework for tackling poverty                                                                           

Figure 1 sets out the draft framework developed by GMPA. It is based on our work over recent years, from work in Scotland (where localities are required to develop Local Child Poverty Action Reports) and from existing and past local poverty strategies developed in places across the UK.

Figure 1: GMPA – Draft framework for tackling poverty at a local level version 1.0 (June 2020)

Framework Diagram for Covid 19 article June 10 for GM Poverty Action

The framework should be adopted by relevant public bodies in each locality. Whilst councils will always be central to poverty strategy development, this is a crosscutting agenda that can only be successfully addressed through partnership working. The Scottish Child Poverty Act recognises the important role health has to play in this agenda, and as such, the requirement on localities north of the border to report annually on what they are doing to reduce child poverty falls on both local authorities and health boards. The framework could also be applied at a combined authority level.

The key elements of the framework

The history of successfully implementing local poverty strategies in the UK is mixed. There is much to learn from what has and hasn’t been effective. Strategies are only successful if they are supported by the other elements identified in the framework. All of these elements are complementary and interdependent. A strategy will only be successfully developed and implemented if it is informed by people who have experienced poverty, is built around strong partnership working, is ‘owned’ and championed by strategic leads with the necessary seniority within their organisation/s and only if progress is tracked against metrics relevant to the nature and scale of poverty in the area.

Strategies can only be successful if all decisions being taken, policies being implemented and services being designed by an organisation share the aims of the strategy and are considered against their impact on poverty.
Local socio-economic duties, like the one adopted by Newcastle City Council, can help enable this to happen in a systematic way and would complement existing legal duties on public bodies equalities legislation.

Graham Whitham, Director GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, Director GMPA

Next steps

To develop the discussion about tackling poverty in the aftermath of the pandemic further, we are holding a webinar at 10.30am on Thursday 25th June. At the event we will consider a number of the issues discussed in this article. You can register for the Webinar here (the full agenda will be released shortly). We will publish an updated version of the framework on the GMPA website in July. Subsequent webinars in July will focus in on the key policy areas of decent work and local socio-economic duties.

 

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Co-production under Covid-19

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By Tom Skinner, Director GMPA

Last month Greater Manchester Poverty Action and the GM Health & Social Care Partnership organised a webinar, looking at positive examples of co-production during the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim in highlighting these examples was to explore how other authorities and agencies may be able to co-produce more of their existing activities and their recovery plans. We heard from GM Homelessness Action Network (GMHAN), the Manchester Poverty Truth Commission and 10GM, and explored how to overcome some common challenges.


GMHAN
have been involving homeless people in regular conference calls with the GM Combined Authority and with their whole network. They are speaking to those on the frontline and feeding their thoughts in and acting on their ideas. They are reaching people through fliers going into hotels where homeless people are staying, with options for people to respond through text messages, phone calls or writing. The value of local community organising and personal relationships has been clear as the people who have been most engaged were generally already connected in some way e.g. through another charity or a Housing First key worker.

GMHAN have been maintaining a collaborative through Convergent Facilitation which makes sure no one needs to compromise on the things that matter most to them, and Ulab – a process which gives space and permission to collectively process and sense make with depth. They have been encouraging similar ways of working in other homelessness programmes across GM.They are also supporting Lockdown Lives, in which people share their experiences through videos, pictures or poems. You can follow these each week online.

The Manchester Poverty Truth Commission, though disrupted by the pandemic, has been linking Commissioners who have experience of poverty into various local authority teams. In this way they are helping the city to co-produce its Covid-19 response. They have also co-produced a community-led shopping scheme for sick and disabled people.

They said there should be a wider shared understanding of poverty and inequality as a frame for experiencing covid-19, sharing this article about framing but added that it takes changes in behaviour and structure to make the changes in language effective. Meaningful conversations with people experiencing poverty draw on all the assets and resources available in a locality – there is huge capacity, skills, insight and willingness in our communities. Sometimes agencies need to “get out of the way” and amplify the voices of those speaking their truth to power.

They concluded with a similar point to that where co-production is currently working well, it is based on relationships built up over time.

Finally we heard from 10GM, who talked about the importance of grassroots VCSE and VCSE infrastructure organisations in supporting and facilitating co-production, but they need to be valued and properly resourced. They also spoke about the communications and decision-making/facilitation methods that create the space for co-production.

They also made the offer that if any authorities or agencies want to speak with VCSE sector organisations who do have relationships with people experiencing poverty, to explore co-productive partnerships, 10GM could help make these connections.

Discussion

The speakers joined a panel and discussed challenges that we may face in co-producing GM’s Covid-19 response, including:

  • Digital exclusion/technology – IT equipment can be provided for people who have experience of poverty to participate digitally, however we should not assume that video conference calls are accessible even if the equipment is there, and should explore creative ways around this challenge and GMHAN have
  • The need to understand and respect that Covid-19 may have affected people’s lives in complex ways and they may not feel able to contribute at this time. However this should not stop us from creating the opportunities for participation
  • Building relationships – VCSE sector organisations who have relationships with people in poverty are often needed to make introductions, but their ongoing support may also be needed to ensure participants feel secure and able to be vulnerable
Tom Skinner, GMPA Director writes editorial for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner

Over all it was a very positive workshop with over 60 participants, and we were very grateful to our speakers and all participants. I would encourage people and organisations across GM to keep working at this – look out for regular meetings of the GM Co-Production Network by subscribing to the fortnightly Health and Social Care eBulletin.

 

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LockdownLIVEs

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LockdownLIVEs: Co-Production and Creative Advocacy during Covid-19

By Katy Rubin, LockdownLIVEs

When the pandemic hit, the first priority for the Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network and the GMCA was to ensure that GM residents in hostels or rough sleeping would be able to self-isolate and stay safe. The next priority has been to direct food, health care and other essential services to these emergency accommodations. While this urgent work has been underway, the needs for creative expression, co-produced research, and a sense of connection were also increasingly pressing.

In mid-April, the LockdownLIVEs project was born, in collaboration with the GMHAN and Street Support Network. LockdownLIVEs is a docu-series co-created by GM residents in emergency and temporary accommodation during the pandemic. The project aims to creatively connect people who are self-isolating in emergency accommodation; and help the broader public understand how this crisis affects those who don’t have their own homes. All GM residents experiencing homelessness are invited to submit 1-minute videos, poems, drawings, and photos about what life is like right now. The submissions are edited into twice-weekly, themed episodes that air on social media (@StreetSupportUK and @LockdownLIVES) on Tuesdays and Fridays at 3pm. LockdownLIVEs aims to offer an opportunity for viewing and discussion online, to help build community over the weeks and months that the lockdown continues.

LockdownLIVEs video screen grab for GM Poverty Action

In the first three weeks, five episodes have been released addressing the challenges of communicating with GPs and support workers over the phone, and the resulting feelings of isolation and anxiety; the experience of food insecurity, and not having choice about your own diet; the frustration when those around aren’t observing social distancing; and the added anxiety when the government is unclear about their response. There have also been examples of collaboration, beauty and hope: residents in hotels bringing music back to the lockdown; working together (with masks and gloves) to build planters for flowers; and sharing humorous poems about what to watch (or not watch) on TV.

Project coordinators have heard from staff at front-line organisations that watching these videos at the end of a workday has been both emotional and encouraging; overall, the project has been received with enthusiasm from staff and residents. Some residents don’t have access to devices or data to send content, so staff are helping to coordinate the submissions; additionally, the Mayor’s Charity and other groups are endeavouring to distribute more devices and data, as internet access is crucial in the current moment.

The LockdownLIVEs team is working with other groups conducting research, so that co-produced reporting and artistic expression can support more formal evaluation efforts.  A final video product will tie various themes together, to be used as an advocacy tool. Upcoming episodes will dive deeper into the experience and help shed light on what’s working in the GM response to covid-19; what’s not working; and what GM residents experiencing homelessness hope will happen next.

Katy Rubin, LockdownLIVEs article for GM Poverty Action

Katy Rubin

Currently, the team, consisting of Jez Green of Mustard Tree, Katy Rubin, an arts-and-policy strategist, and Alex Bower, video editor, are working to spread the word to include a diversity of voices in the project. Any organisation supporting emergency or temporary accommodation is very welcome to participate: new prompts go out on Tuesdays and Fridays, and staff or residents can send any content – videos, images, poems – via WhatsApp or text message to Katy at 07926 358983, or email. Watch and share past videos via Vimeo.com/lockdownlives, and reach out with any other inquiries or suggestions.

 

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