Devolved approaches to social security

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Devolved approaches to social security in the UK – lessons for Greater Manchester
By Graham Whitham

We are pleased to be launching, in partnership with the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU – University of Salford), a series of short essays exploring approaches to social security at a devolved level in the UK. The aim is to understand what lessons there are for Greater Manchester (GM) from approaches taken in the devolved nations, and to consider what COVID-19 means for the future of local welfare provision.

Dr Mark Simpson (Reflections on Northern Ireland’s mirror image approach to devolved social security) highlights the different payment arrangements for Universal Credit (UC) in Northern Ireland (the only part of the UK where welfare policy is wholly devolved). In contrast to England, UC payments in Northern Ireland are made twice monthly by default and the housing element is paid automatically to landlords.

Despite the different levels of social security powers that exists in Northern Ireland and Scotland, both nations have sought to mitigate against some of the worst aspects of UK policy. Professor Sharon Wright (Social security in Scotland) explains that in 2018/19 the Scottish Government spent approximately £125 million mitigating UK cuts. According to Professor Wright, Scotland’s approach shows the value of listening to those with lived experience of social security and enabling local people to feed into the design of policies and practices.

An approach that responds to the needs of service users was at the heart of the DWP and Oxfam Livelihoods Training Project in Wales. Professor Lisa Scullion (to whom we are grateful for bringing this series of essays together) and Dr Katy Jones (Taking an assets-based approach to Jobcentre Plus support: Lessons from Wales) discuss how the project took a person-centred approach to tackling poverty, embedding understandings of poverty within DWP across Wales. Findings from this project could inform the development of labour market programmes in GM.

Dr Daniel Edmiston, Dr David Robertshaw and Dr Andrea Gibbons explore the impact of COVID-19 on local responses to welfare provision (What can local responses to COVID-19 tell us about the potential and challenges for devolved ‘welfare’?). Whilst recognising the incredible local cross-sector working that has happened during the pandemic, they warn of the risks presented by local welfare support operating in a context of diminishing resources. In this context, increased autonomy that a devolved approach to welfare may bring would need to be accompanied by mechanisms of accountability for local citizens to articulate their needs and preferences about local provision.

There are two aspects to approaching social security policy in GM. The first is to consider what can be done with existing powers. The second is to consider whether GM should seek devolution of aspects of the system and, if it were to do so, what powers it should seek and how it should use those powers. GMPA is currently undertaking research on the first of these considerations, exploring local welfare schemes, with a view to developing policy and a good practice guide for local authorities and their partners. This will be published later in the year.

On the second consideration, these essays encourage further discussion about how devolution of social security system could help strengthen the fight against poverty in GM.

What comes through strongly in the essays is the need to for a person-centred approach to welfare policy that ensures people with experience of using the social security are involved in service design. Also important to recognise is that regardless of the levels of power over the system that exist, what can be done locally, as Dr Mark Simpson says, to support people accessing the welfare system depends on the interaction of available powers, available budget and political will.
                               

To read the essays click here

 

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Focusing on the causes of poverty

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End Child Poverty Campaign, Marcus Rashford and focusing on the causes of poverty
By Graham Whitham

The End Child Poverty Campaign (ECP), of which GMPA is a steering group member, has written to Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to congratulate him on drawing attention to the problem of food poverty among families with children. Marcus is backing calls in the National Food Strategy for expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent legacy benefit, expanding the school holiday food and activities programme and increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers.

It’s brilliant that Marcus has been able to generate such positive coverage for the issue of child food poverty and we fully support his call for an extension of free school meals to all children whose families are in receipt of Universal Credit. However, it is important that we don’t see food provision as a solution to poverty, whether that be poverty effecting children or other groups of the population.

It is imperative that the Government puts tackling child poverty at the heart of its post-pandemic economic recovery if we are to see an end to families having to rely on food handouts and vouchers to feed their children.

That is why GMPA supports ECP’s call for Government to set out a comprehensive and ambitious child poverty strategy that looks not just at ensuring children have enough to eat, but tackling the causes of low income and the reason families can’t afford adequate food in the first place. This would include strengthening the social security system by increasing child benefit by £10 a week; and ending the benefit cap, the two-child limit and the five week wait for Universal Credit. As well as taking action to ensure that companies pay a real living wage; addressing high rents and the cost of childcare; and reinvesting in children’s services.

Sian (GMPA’s recently appointed Food Poverty Programme Coordinator) set out GMPA’s response to the National Food Strategy in our last newsletter. Whilst a national conversation about food poverty is welcome (and necessary), the strategy recommendations do not focus enough on fixing these underlying causes of poverty.

GMPA Director Graham Whitham for GM Poverty ActionIn Greater Manchester it is important that we use what resources and powers we do have to support people in a way that prevents and reduces poverty, and that gives people maximum dignity, choice and control in the way support is provided. This should involve identifying opportunities to boost household income by increasing benefit take-up and widespread adoption of the Real Living Wage, as well as providing people with access to money rather than in-kind support such as food parcels and vouchers (see our ‘Cash First’ briefing for further discussion about the benefits of this approach).

Graham Whitham
GMPA Director

 

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Keep the lifeline

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Joseph Rowntree Foundation campaign: Keep the lifeline
By Graham Whitham

GMPA is supporting the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s (JRF) call to maintain the £20 uplift for Universal Credit (UC) and legacy benefits introduced during the lockdown. The current indications from Government are that they still consider this to be a temporary measure, and as yet are not persuaded of the need to keep it in the autumn Budget. However, we know that many low incomes families were struggling financially prior to the pandemic and that many will be struggling following the lockdown period as the economic consequences of COVID-19 become clearer. Those needs are not likely to go away anytime soon and the £20 uplift needs to become permanent.

For more details on JRF’s ‘Keeping the lifeline’ campaign please take a look at this blog  from JRF’s Acting Director Helen Barnard.

Please get in touch with us if you would like to support this campaign.

 

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GM Living Wage Campaign update

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As Greater Manchester (GM) emerges from the lockdown, we will need to work to make sure the coming recession doesn’t mean a race to the bottom for workers in GM.  We need to work together to ensure that we deliver the ‘Better’ in the #BuildBackBetter strategy and build back in a way that protects and improves the conditions and pay of our lowest paid workers. We need to support the key workers who have supported us all through this crisis and campaign to make sure that at the very least, they are paid the Real Living Wage. We need to ensure that we do not retreat in terms of numbers of already accredited Living Wage Employers and that we seek to protect the most vulnerable workers in those sectors that have traditionally paid people low wages.

What does this mean for the campaign for decent work for all workers in GM in general, and the campaign for a Real Living Wage in particular? These themes were discussed at a webinar on July 8th organised by the GM Living Wage Campaign on the topic of decent work, the Real Living Wage and the post lockdown GM economy.  Follow this link to see discussion and hear from our panel made up of Jenny Martin from Unison NW, Amy Rothwell from Boo Consulting and Graham Whitham from GMPA.  We were also joined in the discussion by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

Following on from the webinar, we are continuing the discussion and debate and in the coming weeks we will be publishing a series of podcasts of our conversations with people involved in these key issues. The first of this series of three is a discussion I had with Andy Burnham, where we covered a range of topics that will be interest to those supporting the living wage campaign in GM but also to a much wider audience.

Best Wishes and Stay Safe.

GM Living Wage Campaign Coordinator
John Hacking

Twitter : @GMlivingwage  Facebook: www.facebook.com/gmlivingwage

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The National Food Strategy

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The National Food Strategy: What does it do for food poverty?
By Sian Mullen

Part one of the National Food Strategy, an independent review supported by a team of experts across the food system, was published last month. It aims to make, “urgent recommendations to support the country through the turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to prepare for the end of the EU exit transition period”.

Initially, the strategy does a good job of steering the conversation towards the relationship between food and economics. It highlights some of the factors that cause food poverty: sudden unemployment, the housing benefit cap, and delay in receiving universal credit. Equally, it recognises that the lack of a “financial buffer”, experienced by those in low paid jobs, means they are less likely to be able to cope with the shock of a loss of income. Thus, it correctly determines that food poverty is not caused by a lack of food, it is caused by a lack of funds to buy it.

However, the strategy recommendations do not focus on fixing these underlying causes of poverty. Aside from a brief note to continue to measure food poverty (an important factor in ensuring the right work is done in the right place), the focus is directed towards free meals and voucher support. It predominantly focuses on children, presumably based on the slightly misleading assertion that, “new food bank users are overwhelmingly children and young people”. A closer look at the statistics relating to this claim reveal that while 21% of users during COVID-19 were families with dependent children and 5% did not have dependent children, the other 74% of respondents ‘preferred not to answer’. It is questionable to draw any conclusions around the age of users from such statistics. Equally, 22% of new food bank users (over the age of 16), were aged between 16-24; a significant, but not overwhelming proportion of the population.

This is not to detract from the importance of ensuring that children have access to nutritious food. However, this singular emphasis on children runs the risk of a strategic focus that concentrates on food handouts and vouchers as opposed to changes in welfare and employment policies to ensure adults have access to a decent and reliable income in order to feed themselves and their children.

One of the key recommendations is an increase in the value of Healthy Start vouchers. Whilst valuing initiatives aimed at ensuring children are nutritionally healthy, there are flaws to this approach. Firstly, if people do not have enough money to provide for their children, then they should receive more money. Cash assistance avoids issues surrounding accessing vouchers, issues around accessing shops where you can spend vouchers, and provides the recipient with dignity and equality when buying products (for an interesting perspective on the relegation of those on benefits to a world outside of money see: Williams (2013)). Critics argue that vouchers are necessary to ensure funds are spent as intended, however evidence suggests that cash schemes are successful in meeting project aims (Bailey (2013); DFID (2017)) and the level of control provided by vouchers is unreasonable and promotes
dependence on handouts,

“One of the principles of universal credit is to encourage personal responsibility.
It’s inconsistent … to say a benefit claimant should be trusted to pay their rent,
but we shouldn’t trust them to buy food…”
(CPAG)

Secondly, the uptake of Healthy Start vouchers is low with the current rate at only 48%. If vouchers are going to be the temporary answer, then there needs to be a focus on maximising take-up through proper promotion of the support that’s available, reducing complexity and stigma and measures to ensure vouchers can be accessed easily.’

Sian Mullen Food Poverty Programme Coordinator for GM Poverty ActionUltimately, if we are going to end food poverty then we need to address the problems that lead to food poverty. What we really need in Greater Manchester is a strategy that focuses on ensuring everyone has access to a decent and reliable income (Caraher & Furey (2017); Garnham (2020); Macleod (2019); Tait (2015)). Yes, we need some short-term fixes to the symptoms, but without a strategy that has a clear long-term goal of a decent and reliable income for all, the problem of food poverty will remain.

Sian Mullen
GMPA Food Poverty Programme Coordinator

 

 

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Food poverty programme

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GMPA’s Food Poverty Programme Update, and Introducing Sian Mullen
By Tom Skinner

Addressing the underlying causes of food poverty has been a major focus of GMPA’s work over the last three years. Many of you have contributed to it, including through the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance project which co-produced the GM Food Poverty Action Plan, published last year.

Since then, we have pushed for many of the actions in the plan to happen. This includes:

  • The GM Combined Authority collating information about poverty levels, access to food, Healthy Start voucher uptake and more, and sharing this with Local Authorities.
  • A greater recognition of the Combined and Local Authorities’ roles in reducing poverty as a means of tackling food poverty, and elected members and officers being tasked with this.
  • Increasingly joined up thinking about food provision during the school holidays. (Although we eventually want to reach a state where the need for charitable food aid is significantly reduced.)
  • More recently we have been very involved in helping to support and shape GM’s response to Covid-19, particularly addressing the extra impact that the pandemic has had on people in poverty.

To build on this work we recently recruited to a new post – Food Poverty Programme Coordinator – that will focus on implementing the action plan and support measures that address the underlying causes of food poverty.  This work will include piloting place-based partnership approaches to reducing food poverty in different localities across Greater Manchester. We were delighted to have appointed Sian Mullen to the role.


Sian Mullen

Sian Mullen Food Poverty Programme Coordinator for GM Poverty ActionSian has worked in the development and humanitarian sectors both in the UK and abroad for many years. She is passionate about working to alleviate poverty to create a more equal society, and is excited to be focusing on reducing food poverty in Greater Manchester.

Sian has lived in Manchester since 2012 when she came to complete her PhD in Humanitarianism.

Prior to joining GMPA she worked as a programme manager with Oxfam, coordinating their poverty alleviation programme across Greater Manchester. She has also been an active volunteer with several charities involved in food provision including during the Covid-19 response.


Tom for GMFPA article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Co-Director

At GMPA we are excited about working with Sian and many of our partners over the coming years as we work towards our vision of a Greater Manchester free from poverty. Linked to this is the need for national action on food poverty. Part one of the National Food Strategy, an independent  review supported by a team of experts across the food  system, was published last month. You can read GMPA’s comments in response to the strategy in a separate article on the news page.

 

 

 

Tom Skinner
Director, GMPA

 

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Local Welfare Assistance

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Ensure Local Welfare Assistance is the lifeline it needs to be, during this crisis and in the future
By Gareth Duffield, Area Manager – Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, Trussell Trust

During the pandemic we have seen a soaring rise in need. The number of food parcels provided by food banks in the Trussell Trust food network increased by 89% in April compared to last year, with a staggering 107% rise in parcels for families with dependent children.

Over the past few months, we’ve heard lots of suggestions that focus on getting food to people who can’t afford it. But food isn’t the answer to people needing food banks.  We are working towards a society where everyone has enough to buy food for their family, cover their housing costs, heat and light their homes, and to be able to buy all the other essentials we all need to get by.

During this crisis, we have been working in coalition with other anti-poverty charities to call for lifelines to help us all weather this storm, such as through suspending the repayment of Universal Credit advance payments, and increasing benefits that go towards the cost of raising children.

One important safety net is local welfare assistance schemes (LWA) which can provide cash grants to keep households afloat in times of financial crisis. When properly run, they get money to people quickly and can reduce the likelihood that people will become homeless or need to turn to a food bank.

It was heartening that the Prime Minister has announced a £63 million fund for these schemes; and of this, councils in Greater Manchester have received an allocation of £3.9m. Now this money has been allocated, it is absolutely crucial that these funds are administered properly if these schemes are to be the lifeline we so desperately need at this time. We are asking local authorities to:

•  Spend the money as intended: We recognise that local authorities are under huge amounts of pressure in many areas of their budgets, but we must ensure this money is not swallowed up by the growing holes in local authority budgets.

•  Build awareness of Local Welfare Assistance and the new funding: We know awareness of LWA can be extremely low. Poor publicity, unclear application processes and onerous application forms can limit uptake and leave people turning to food banks instead. Local authorities should promote and publicise the existence and purpose of schemes and agree an approach to signposting and support pathways with food banks.

•  Ensure people in need can access Local Welfare Assistance: Given the scale of present hardship, local schemes should consider relaxing their qualifying criteria to ensure those most in need get support. For example, considering applications from low income working families or those with no recourse to public funds.

•  Ensure people get the right kind of support: There must be a flexible, tailored approach to the kinds of support people receive, including the option for cash payments, rather than just food vouchers or other in-kind benefits, so people can buy food and other essentials like gas and electricity like anyone else. We know that GMPA have also been advising councils to adopt this approach.

It will also be important for local authorities to monitor the impact of this new funding, so that we can build the case for long-term investment in local welfare assistance.

We are calling on the UK Government to allocate £250m a year in funding for local welfare assistance, which would bring spending in England in line with equivalent schemes in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. We need to ensure that the £63m fund is not a one-off, but instead local authorities can continue to provide this vital funding during the challenging times ahead.

Gareth Duffield TT article for GM Poverty ActionThank you to all our campaigners, food banks, and partners such as The Children’s Society, who helped make the changes we’ve seen so far happen. Please continue to join our calls for long-term investment into this crucial local lifeline.

No one should be forced to use a food bank. When we stand together, we can make a real impact – we hope this new money is an important first step in doing just that.

 

Gareth Duffield

 

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Food support provision through Covid-19

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Food support provision through Covid-19
by Filippo Oncini, University of Manchester

In June, a mixed method study was launched to understand the obstacles, needs, and prospects of the food support providers active in Greater Manchester immediately after the Covid-19 peak. Food support providers were invited to fill out a questionnaire and to participate in a longer interview online. Of the organisations that responded, 55 completed the questionnaire and 33 agreed to a follow up conversation. Five additional interviews were conducted with sector experts not primarily involved in frontline support, to gain additional insight into some of the findings. Although the sample is mostly composed of food banks, it also includes several responses from food pantries, food clubs and meal providers. Preliminary analyses of the data should be taken with a pinch of salt, as respondents are likely to be self-selecting on certain characteristics of the organisations, which may produce biased responses. Nonetheless the data is useful as a starting point to reflect on the emergency responses put in place, the most common difficulties and the expectations food providers have for the near future.

Let us start with some good news: respondents have not been turning eligible people away due to lack of volunteer and staff capacity, or because of a shortage of food in stock. Despite most organisations declaring that the number of volunteers has decreased during the crisis, the capacity to improvise and quickly adapt to the new circumstances, coupled with the great generosity shown by individuals and companies, has allowed them to respond promptly to the increasing requests of people in need. For instance, many of them shifted logistics operations from food pick up to food delivery to help people that were shielding. It is not by chance that a striking majority claimed to be resilient against the challenges posed by the crisis, talking about a rise in monetary and food donations (Figures 1 and 2). Interestingly, despite many food support providers being forced to shut down after the lockdown due to a lack of volunteers and/or funds, the ‘parallel welfare’ provided by the charities and by mutual aid groups (MAGs) apparently absorbed many needs that emerged after the lockdown.

Figures 1 and 2. “Thinking about the following aspects of your organisation, how have each of them changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak?”

Figs 1 and 2 for Oncini artcle for GM Poverty Action

Yet the necessity to maintain the supply of food at all costs came with some drawbacks. The lockdown measures that followed Covid-19 not only affected the financial stability (Figure 3) and the management of the organisations, but actually undermined the influential ways in which food support providers used to operate – i.e. the “social atmosphere” (see Figure 4). Before the lockdown, a whole series of services were offered in addition to food support that were as important as the food parcels themselves. With 40 of the respondents reporting an increase in the number of clients (Figure 5), due to physical distancing measures in place, other forms of support such as financial advice, empathic listening and human connection were partially or totally lost, just when they were likely to be needed the most.

Figures 3 and 4. “On a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is “Not at all” and 5 is “Very much so”, to what extent would you say COVID-19 has affected the following?”

Figs 3 and 4 for Oncini article for GM Poverty Action

Figure 5. “Thinking about the following aspects of your organisation, how have each of them changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak?”  

Fig 5 for Oncini article for GM Poverty Action

This leads us to another consideration. The exceptional nature of the first Covid-19 wave provoked the exceptional response of charities and public services alike. The sudden growth of MAGs all over the country is probably the most evident sign of this collective effort. Yet many food providers do not know how to project food poverty relief in the future. Especially during the interviews, respondents wondered whether food and monetary donations would increase again should a second lockdown occur, and stressed that the end of the furlough scheme, winter hardships, and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, will exacerbate the situation for many people that already struggle to make ends meet and increase the number of people in need of food aid. This, in turn, could affect the response capacity of many organisations, some of which have less than two months’ worth of food or cash reserves at current levels of demands (Figures 6 and 7). Hence request of food support providers is the conception of a strategy at both the national and the local level that considers the potential scenarios and responses to a second crisis, to keep the sector afloat regardless of the severity of the upcoming crisis.

Figures 6 and 7. “Roughly, how many weeks will your existing food stocks/cash reserves last at current levels of demand?” 

Figs 6 and 7 for Oncini article for GM Poverty Action

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

Filippo Oncini

While highlighting the fragility of the UK welfare system, the Covid-19 crisis has also shed light on the resilience of many food support providers, as well as on their complementarity. From more formal organisations, to less structured and extremely agile ones, food support providers have played a central role in the first phase of this major crisis. Yet the solidity of a social contract between the state, businesses and social groups cannot rely on a sector of the economy, no matter how well organised, intentioned and funded, for shielding the most vulnerable from poverty, precisely because food aid should be a very last resort, and not the central backbone of the social welfare.

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Impact of poverty on BAME communities

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The disproportionate impact of poverty on BAME communities
By Graham Whitham

Many of you will have seen the recent Social Metrics Commission report highlighting the shocking extent to which certain parts of our community are at much greater risk of poverty. The report found that nearly half of BAME UK households live in poverty and many in deep poverty, and BAME families are between two to three times more likely to be experiencing persistent poverty.

The pandemic has highlighted many of the inequalities we were already aware of. The virus has sought out and disproportionately affected some of the most vulnerable in our society. Those who said at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak that the virus was a ‘great leveller’ and that the consequences would be felt by rich and poor alike were talking nonsense.

We invited a number of leading figures from the VCSE sector in Greater Manchester, who have been at the forefront of tackling poverty and inequalities across the city region to provide their comments on the Social Metrics Commission figures and what they mean for the fight against poverty in light of the pandemic.


Miranda Kaunang FareShareGM for GM Poverty Action

Miranda Kaunang,
Head of Development, FareShare GM

“We were in no doubt that thousands of families were struggling to get by before the lockdown, and that hundreds of organisations want to help them. The lockdown, and the Greater Manchester humanitarian response, confirmed that even more. The FareShare GM team has worked very hard to respond to the need for food aid for years.

To see these statistics, and have confirmed once again the scale of the problem, particularly among certain BAME communities, compared to the scale of our response, is daunting. Without further action from government to address the root causes of poverty, the work of FareShare GM will continue to be needed.

One challenge we face is being able to bring more certainty to our attempts to reach those in most need. To do that we need better data and a more tailored reach, and we need to think about how the intelligence we gather can inform policy and practice in a way that reduces the need for food aid. Like many other practical responders, we will keep on providing important support but the systemic landscape has to change. This really matters.”


Elizabeth Dotun for GM Poverty Action

Elizabeth Dotun  
Project Director ,
Rehoboth for families

“The majority of BAME people in the UK are migrants. Many lack the knowledge of how things work in their new environment and need support to help them settle. Many have suffered poverty because they do not understand the system and the operation of the country, they lack awareness of rights and entitlement. Many, for lack of knowledge of housing rights, have endured living in accommodation which are not suitable for living, examples being damp ceilings, condensation and overcrowding.

In situations where BAME people educate themselves on their environment and the system, they quickly realise that the system is rigged, and a lot of things are out of their control. Some service providers at different levels who are biased or prejudiced or are point blank racist have not always given the right advice or support when a member of the BAME community have asked for help.

Those who migrate to Britain without a degree find it hard to get employment of their choice and are often put in the ‘unskilled labour’ bracket. This makes it hard for members of the BAME community to progress.”


Atiha Chaudry for GM Poverty Action

Atiha Chaudry
Chair
GM BAME Network

“These figures show huge disparities for BAME communities and these are figures before COVID -19’s  big hit on BAME communities. It is shocking and frightening to think what the figures in coming years will say about the huge disparities and persistent inequalities in our western, modern and rich society.

The Social Metrics Commission report should be a must-read for all of us concerned with levels of poverty in our country. It headlines some disturbing and worrying figures for 2018-19 levels of poverty showing some shocking facts.

Greater Manchester is home to a significant BAME population with many districts like Manchester approaching fifty percent ethnic diversity. We should be very concerned locally about what this means for us now and as we begin to understand the aftermath and ongoing impact of COVID on our BAME communities. We need some serious action now!”


Charles Kawku-Odoi for GM Poverty Action

Charles Kwaku-Odoi,
Chief Officer,
Caribbean & African
Health Network

“It is shaming that there is growing inequality for BAME households in a rich country like the United Kingdom. There are structural issues including unfair immigration policies that drive BAME households further into poverty depriving hard working people of a level playing field.

Tackling the structural issues driving BAME households into deeper poverty requires a listening exercise for Government to understand the issues with a commitment to right the wrongs. The Government’s commitment to levelling up must be reflected in proportionate investment for communities that have been marginalised for decades and an internal soul searching within institutions like the Home Office that charges BAME households exorbitant fees when they want to remain legally in the UK. Please don’t give with one hand and collect with two hands!

Employers including the NHS also have a crucial responsibility to deal with the race pay gap where there are hardworking BAME people who continued to be under paid and not valued equally like their White counterparts.”


Beatrice Smith for GM Poverty Action

Beatrice Smith,
Facilitator,
Tameside PTC, GMPA

“These findings highlight once again the disparity of outcomes for BAME communities in comparison with the rest of the UK population. The tragedy of Grenfell 3 years ago, coupled with the adverse effect of COVID-19 on BAME people, provide alarming evidence of the failure of systems and institutions for non-white UK residents.

As it stands, BAME communities’ health remains adversely affected by COVID-19; the majority of frontline workers during the pandemic have been those from BAME backgrounds. These findings, therefore, paint a grim picture of the lived experience of BAME people in the UK and deeper work is needed to establish the causes behind these harrowing findings. As Bryan Stevenson, Author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative said: “the opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is justice”. Justice work is therefore needed to address the often systemic injustice that exists behind these statistics and to establish long-term and sustainable solutions with and for BAME communities.”

 

 

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Ten years of the Austerity Crisis

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Ten Years of the Austerity Crisis

By Marcus Johns, IPPR North

On June 22nd, 2010, the then Chancellor delivered his first budget. He said: “we are all in this together.” He said his Government would “protect the most vulnerable in our society.” That budget started the imposition of a decade of austerity. On June 22nd 2020, IPPR North published new research into the impact that ten years of austerity has had. It highlights the damage that the austerity programme, pursued by successive governments, has done to our region and our resilience to face today’s challenges.

IPPR has previously comprehensively argued that austerity has been a failure: economically, fiscally and socially. And, IPPR North has pointed to its disproportionate impact on the North and the role it has played in holding back our region, taking in the North West, North East, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

In our new research, we reveal that despite promises, we were not all in this together. Many of the cuts and impacts of the cuts were felt unequally between different people and different places. There are stark regional differences.

Despite promises, the most vulnerable in our society were not protected. For example, 5,165 households in the North now live in temporary accommodation because of homelessness. This includes bed & breakfasts, the quality of which has been found severely lacking in many cases.

Over half of these households include children, who are growing up in dire conditions. In the North West alone, the number of children living in temporary accommodation skyrocketed from 910 in 2009 to 4,580 in 2019. From welfare reform to an undersupply of social housing – austerity has created a generationally significant
homelessness crisis.

Another example of austerity’s impact is the growing dysfunction of adult social care. Many of our most vulnerable older people are trapped in hospital beds ready to move into more appropriate settings. This is a symptom of the near permanent social care crisis, arising from squeezed council budgets while demand for many social care
services has risen.

From education to health, many people’s life chances, especially in the North and especially our most vulnerable, have been damaged. For ten years, opportunities were missed to improve people’s lives. In fact, these were ten years of a programme that actively undermined them.

Much noise, until Covid-19’s scale became clear, was made of a booming economy. But, the reality is that benefits of growth did not flow to normal people.

As their public services and their social safety net were pummelled, people’s pay stagnated and their job quality came under pressure. Work diminished as a route out of poverty as the institutional capacity to relieve poverty was withdrawn by central government decisions.

Austerity is a decade-long crisis, it has caused many decade-long crises including in council funding, and it has undermined our region’s resilience.

We now find ourselves in another, acute crisis with Covid-19. As the disease spread and the country locked down, our public services and local councils responded, admirably. But their foundations are weak following these ten years; they lack financial stability, have hundreds of thousands fewer staff, and Westminster continues to hoard the power and resources they need to handle this crisis and build back better.

Marcus Johns, IPPR North for GM Poverty Action

Marcus Johns

Whatever the policy rhetoric around ‘Levelling up’ means to Government, the North and its people’s potential cannot be realised until the true scale of the challenges created by austerity are understood, unpicked, and undone.

A recovery from the crisis caused by Covid-19 to the status quo would remain a social, economic, and environmental crisis. We need a sustained long-term investment – not just in infrastructure but in our people too, to rebuild people’s life chances and allow them to flourish. And through real devolution, our people must be given the powers across the towns, cities and regions of England to decide how building back from 10 years of austerity and the Covid-19 crisis will serve them and their futures.

 

i3oz9sTen years of the Austerity Crisis
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