GMPA

Cost of a child 2018

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CPAG’s 2018 Cost of a Child report shows what it costs to raise a child to age 18, based on what the public thinks is a minimum standard of living.

The overall cost of a child (including rent and childcare) is £150,753 for a couple and £183,335 for a lone parent.

A combination of rising prices, benefits and tax credits freezes, the benefit cap and two-child limit, cuts to housing benefits, bedroom tax and the rolling out of universal credit have hit family budgets hard. Life has been getting progressively tougher for families on low or modest incomes over the past ten years, with families on in-work and out-of-work benefits hardest hit.

Even families with two parents currently working full time on the ‘national living wage’ are 11% (£49 per week) short of the income the public defines as an acceptable, no-frills living standard.  For lone parents, even with a reasonably paid job (on median earnings) will be 15% (£56 per week) short of an adequate income because of the high cost of childcare.

Many families – both in and out of work – get support from the social security system to help free them from the worst effects of poverty. Next year universal credit will be rolled out to everyone claiming one or more of the benefits it will replace. But the way the government plans to do this risks increasing hardship.

For a start, the way the government wants the 3 million people affected to move onto universal credit puts all the risk on to the shoulders of claimants – many of whom are vulnerable.

CPAG are asking MPs to persuade the government to change their plans. You can help by writing to your MP.

CPAG have proposed an alternative system which puts the needs of claimants at the heart of the process, and greatly reduces the risk of families facing destitution. You can help them make the case for this approach by asking your MP to push for changes. MPs will have chance to debate these rules and vote on them, but they can’t make changes once they’ve reached parliament. So the time to act is now.

Half of all children in the UK live in families who will receive universal credit when the rollout is complete. Can we ensure that these children don’t face hardship in the process of moving on to universal credit?

The full CPAG Cost of a Child 2018 report is available on their website

 

i3oz9sCost of a child 2018
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Your Local Pantry

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“It’s more than just a full tummy, it’s a massive link in the community”
Stockport Homes Pantry article for GM Poverty Action

Stockport Homes opened the doors to its first pantry in 2014. This was a time of welfare reform and the surge in food bank vouchers allocated in Stockport made it apparent that there needed to be another option available, one that would help and support people before they reached crisis point.  It was hoped that the pantry model could help relieve financial pressure in people’s lives, and be a sustainable resource that would bring communities together.

Stockport Homes Pantry article for GM Poverty Action The pantry is a volunteer led, community food resource with local residents signing up as members and paying a small weekly subscription fee (£3.50 in Stockport). In return for this, members can visit the pantry once a week and select their own items from a wide variety of goods. This includes chilled, frozen, dairy, fresh meat and fish, fresh fruit and veg and all the usual store cupboard favourites. These items are often worth in excess of £15.00 at retail value.

The ethos of the pantry is to offer dignity and choice:
•  Offers a hand up not a hand down – we are not a foodbank or crisis provision, we aim to prevent people from reaching this point.

•  Provide access to holistic, wrap around support linked to areas such as money advice, housing, health and employment and skills

•  Community led – members and volunteers keep our shelves stocked and our pantries open and as such must be at the heart of pantry development empowering themselves and their local communities by co-running their own Pantries.

•  The volunteer scheme supports people back in to paid employment

Stockport Homes Pantry article for GM Poverty Action

Stockport Homes Brinnington Pantry.

All money raised is reinvested straight back in to the project, paying for the day-to-day costs as well as raising a small surplus. This surplus allows the pantry to buy additional stock and essential equipment where required. The majority of our stock comes from FareShare, a national charity who redistribute surplus stock from large supermarkets and food manufacturers to projects like ourselves.

As at September 2018, four pantries were open in Stockport, with a further one scheduled before the end of the financial year.

The pantry network has a significant impact on local communities, with 9266 individual visits to the four pantries in 2017/2018 generating a collective saving of £115,825.

Its 25-30 strong group of volunteers from the local community and Stockport Homes’ staff have donated 4,735 hours during 2017-2018, covering everything from the cash office, supporting customers with their pantry shopping, behind the scenes administration and receiving/sorting deliveries.

Many other social landlords and community groups are now interested in replicating our model through the Your Local Pantry social franchise. Over 30 pantry style schemes are now operating in Greater Manchester with many more coming on board from across the UK.

The package includes help and support setting up from a dedicated officer, bespoke software, volunteer hand book and a full operations guide. To find out more about this exciting opportunity contact Anna Jones  0161 474 4760

Church Action on Poverty (CAP) manage the social franchise on behalf of Stockport Homes, to help people to set up community cooperative food stores nationwide. To discuss what is included in the package of support and costs, please contact CAP via laura@church-poverty.org.uk or telephone 0161 872-9294.

For more information about all food providers across Greater Manchester please visit GMPA’s map.

 

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Update from GMPA’s Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance

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Following a successful launch and empowerment evening, the real work of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance has begun.  The work of the Alliance is now being coordinated across several subgroups who will co-produce a Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester.

The Action Plan, to be launched early next year, will be co-produced by people from each borough of Greater Manchester, including experts by experience – people who have lived experience of food poverty. It will set ambitious but achievable aims for Greater Manchester to tackle food poverty, and a clear set of actions needed to achieve these aims. As we identify people and organisations whose support will be needed, we will ask them to work with us now in developing solutions, rather than simply presenting a set of actions to them at the end of the year.

Six themed sub-groups have been tasked with developing their own sections of the Plan – this table shows some of the themes that they will cover, and information on how to get involved. Everyone who receives this newsletter will be welcome to any or all of these meetings, even if you are not on the Alliance or sub-group’s mailing list, but please do email the chairperson(s), copying in GMPA at food@gmpovertyaction.org so they know to expect you, and so they can include you in future communications.

Themed sub-group:  Place-based access to food:
Topics include:  Research into areas of GM that lack healthy and affordable food options
Chair:    Graham Whitham
Meetings: Has met twice, next meeting to be confirmed (TBC)

Themed sub-group:  Children experiencing food poverty
Topics include:  Access to fresh, sustainable healthy food during both term times and holidays. Food education both inside and outside schools
Chair:    Dominic Coleman   Letitia Rose
Meetings: Has met twice, next meeting 21st July

Themed sub-group:  Causes of food poverty
Topics include:  Benefits, support, advice and in-work poverty.  The food system and food supply chain mechanisms
Chair:    Dr Mags Adams;    Secretary:  Nayan Joshi
Meetings:  Has met twice, next meeting October 2nd 11am – 1pm Church House:

Themed sub-group:  Food banks and beyond
Topics include:  Coordination between social food and food aid providers. Sharing good practise and exploring new models
Chair:    Lily Axworthy
Meetings:Has met twice, next meeting TBC

Themed sub-group:  Measuring and monitoring food poverty
Topics include:  Measuring food poverty. Monitoring actions taken to reduce food poverty
Chair:    Charlie Spring
Meetings:  Has met once. Next meeting 6 – 8pm, Monday July 9th, MMU

Themed sub-group:  Skills and training for people in poverty
Topics include:  Cooking skills; Access to food/skills; Employment;  Food production
Chair:    Adele Jordan    Maggie Lister    Helen Walker
Meetings:  Has met twice, next meeting TBC

Tom for GMFPA article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director

There is also the Driver Group which coordinates the process, the Reference Group for people in positions of power and influence who can help to address any issues that the sub-groups identify, and the Diversity Group, which will advise the other sub-groups about how to address food poverty for everyone (please email Atiha Chaudry, to join this group).

It is clear that there is a great appetite for action on hunger, so please join us in this coordinated and strategic work to tackle food poverty together.

The Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance is hosted by GMPA. The project will develop a Food Poverty Strategy for Greater Manchester which will be published early next year. 

 

 

i3oz9sUpdate from GMPA’s Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance
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Darryl’s Story

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Darryl’s story shows us the links between childhood poverty and crime, and the importance of positive rehabilitation.

Darryl grew up in Oldham. His mum left home when he was just 4 weeks old, “She just lost interest and stopped coming to see us not long after that. Grandma told me it was because Mum wanted a girl, and I was a boy”, he remembers. “I hardly ever saw her after that. Never at all in my teenage years”. His father had to bring up Darryl and his two older sisters on his own, and although there was always food on the table, it was a struggle to buy anything extra with his dad’s wages from packing in a warehouse.

Darryl had a rough and hard youth. “I was excluded loads of times from school, getting into trouble for stuff like fighting and verbally abusing staff. I did it all to get attention. To prove I could do things”. Darryl was eventually expelled. “Behind all of this was money.

I’ve always known poverty from looking at all those things I never had. Having money, and everything you want. We didn’t live like that. We were in a situation where we had nothing.”

“I always wanted money. To buy things I didn’t have. It started off petty, thieving a CD from the shop. Trespass and probably some criminal damage too”. But then he fell into company with people who just drank and did drugs all day. “We ended up doing a lot of drugs, drinking, and getting caught in drug dealing. It made me even more desperate for money. And the crimes started getting more serious.” Darryl got involved in a spat with other lads in town, and was sent to prison for three and a half years.

Darryl was in prison for a year and a half, before being released.

However, he broke his curfew by returning to drinking, and was sent back to prison for a further year and a half. But he says, “It’s not that everyone in prison was poor, or grew up without much, there was a wide range of us. But in prison there was poverty of spirit. I got worse in there. It didn’t help me. My mental health got worse. I was angry. Looking back, I wasn’t ready to come out.” Darryl then spent several years in a secure psychiatric hospital, where he “picked up a lot of skills from psychology and psychotherapy which have helped me enormously to return to a normal life.”

Darryl thinks about what poverty means for him. “Nowadays people who have no money are homeless. I guess it’s a change in society. In my time, it was crime. You would just turn to crime to get money.”

“I’m happy I did those 5 years in hospital. If I was just in there for a couple of years, I wouldn’t have learnt all that I have. I picked up skills from the psychology and psychotherapy classes. People might think I’m daft, but I picked up a lot.”

Everyone in hospital said to me ‘you’re never getting out’, meaning that I would never turn my life around.  But I did and if I can do it, anyone can. Now I want to help others.

Darryl has made a success of his life since leaving hospital. He moved from 24/7 supervision, to being supported from a distance, for just 6 hours a week. He spent a long time volunteering in the kitchen at Back on Track, a Manchester charity that enables disadvantaged adults to make lasting, positive changes in their lives.

Darryl has a passion for cooking and performing arts, and has been singing with Streetwise Opera, a choir that works with individuals with experience of homelessness. He is now studying performing arts at college, and will soon start as a volunteer with Neshomo, befriending long term mentally ill people in the Greater Manchester Jewish community.

Some studies find a strong and direct relationship between socioeconomic status and offending, particularly in respect of the impact of childhood poverty and the effects of growing up poor on persistent youth offending (Braithwaite, 1981; Jarjoura et al 2002; Hay and Forrest, 2009; Bjerk, 2007). 

Interview carried out by Peter Cruickshank for Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s Beyond Poverty report 

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Help with your water bill

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Don’t suffer in silence – that’s the message from United Utilities if you’re struggling to pay your water bill.

United Utilities water bill helping hand article for GM Poverty Action“If you’re going through a tough financial patch and are finding it hard to pay your water bill, please get in touch with us on 0800 072 6765. We’re easy to talk to and the sooner you call, the quicker we can get you the right support to prevent you falling further into debt,” says Jane Haymes from United Utilities.

“We’re already helping more than 100,000 customers in this way so it’s well worth picking up the phone.”

One scheme, called Payment Matching Plus, promises to make you debt free within two years.

Jane adds “If you’ve built up a lot of debt, our Payment Matching Plus scheme will get you back on track. For every £1 you pay we’ll put in £1 too and after six months we’ll increase our contribution to £2. We’ll then clear any remaining debt if you continue to make regular payments for two years.”

If you’re receiving Pension Credit and struggling to make payments, you can apply to United Utilities for their Help to Pay scheme. This caps your bill at a reduced amount based on your income and outgoings.

If you’re struggling to make water bill payments due to losing your job or having to pay out for an unexpected emergency, the company’s Payment Break scheme can help by delaying your payments for an agreed period. Any delayed payments are then spread over a longer period of time.

United Utilities can also help if you’re applying for Universal Credit by delaying your water bill payments for up to eight weeks while you wait for your first UC payment to arrive.

Jane also commented “If your home has more bedrooms than people, it’s also worth considering a water meter as it’s one of the easiest ways to make a big saving on your bill. We fit them for free and you can even switch back to your old bill within two years if for whatever reason you’re not making a saving.”

The United Utilities affordability team can be contacted on 0800 072 6765.

You can find more information about all of the company’s schemes on their website. A form is also available on this webpage for customers who would prefer to submit their details online rather than calling and United Utilities’ affordability team will give you a call back.

GMPA has been working to shine a light on different types of non-statutory support available to people on low incomes. We regularly feature different organisations working to support people experiencing poverty across Greater Manchester in our newsletter and our maps detail different types of support across the city region. If you’d like to feature in our newsletter please get in touch.

 

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Sarah’s Story

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Sarah’s medical conditions forced her to give up work. Now she is a disability activist and a champion for people with housing needs in Greater Manchester.

Sarah grew up in South Manchester, her mother was abusive and had mental health problems. “She would batter us, beat the devil out of us. Nobody tapped me on the shoulder, and said ‘it’s not you kid, it’s her’. My dad was a battered husband for 20 years. He was hospitalised one time. Once, my mum locked him in the cellar for a week, didn’t give him food, all he had was water. Dad worked in hospitality, Mum didn’t work, so we didn’t have much money. We weren’t starving poor, but only because Dad always used to divert the delivery van on the way to the restaurant – things would go missing on the way”, Sarah laughs. “But it was the 70s. Everybody was dirt poor. So you couldn’t really tell.

“When I turned 16, and I knew I was not legally required to live there anymore and be a punchbag. I packed my bag with my O-level books, and out I went, followed by my sister. We were homeless for a few months. First we spent a few nights in a greenhouse shed, in someone’s back garden, of a house that was empty.

“Then we headed to Hulme, and told the Council, “we’ll take anything you’ve got”. Before that came through, we lived in the old Crescent squats. It was a hard, tough, awful, derelict place. And dangerous. There was a dark side to the Hulme Crescent squats because you were living outside the law, outside the rules, outside of protection. You took your chances. The squats were basically run by the gangs. They were the enforcers. There were murders. The police stopped policing it, it was a no-go zone. For squats in general, you might not pay rent, but it extracts a price. It takes something from your head. The lack of security. Being seen as beyond respectable, worthy society. The way people look at homeless people, with disdain.

“We were there for several months before we got a council flat, just up the road. It had dust falling from the ceiling, rotting walls, and holes in the windows. The heating didn’t work, and there was mould everywhere – it was just as bad as the squats. But it was a start. And we were so poor we just lived on tins of spaghetti hoops.

“It was cold, hard and hungry. I worked nights in a bakery, and then I started an early morning office cleaning job too. I was also trying to do my O levels. I didn’t know at the time that I could have claimed child benefit for my sister. Nobody told me. There’s so much I didn’t know then, I suffered for not knowing”

“After a few months, my sister got pregnant and moved to north Manchester with her boyfriend. When she had her baby, I promised him that he would not suffer like we did, and he would have a better life. But I felt trapped, and I thought, “how am I going to do this?” At the age of 20 I stood on the balcony of my flat. I thought, I could jump, or I could fill out the PCAS form for polytechnic. I filled it in and applied for a degree in London, never in a million years expecting to be offered a place. And I got a letter back offering me a place to study Media and Cultural Studies, at what later became Westminster University.

“That was my escape and I grabbed it. I couldn’t afford to enjoy London on my student loan, but anything was better than what I’d come from. I ended up in a grotty room in West Hampstead, for £35 a week.   After my degree, I realised Manchester was my soul. So I came back, wanting to make things better. I loved cultural stuff, and I ended up doing ASDAMs (an award scheme a bit like Duke of Edinburgh) in Museums with young people. I loved it, realised that’s what I wanted to do.”

But then, about 8 years ago, Sarah started to become ill, bed-bound with severe pain and reduced mobility. After several years of tests Sarah was diagnosed with Hashimoto disease. “The insurance that I had through my trade union saved me from real poverty”, she says. “It paid me the equivalent of benefits while the medical tests were ongoing. After my diagnosis, and given how seriously my condition had deteriorated, I was moved onto Personal Independence Payments.

“I started to stabilise, from being very badly ill and I wanted to re-evaluate my life, and be useful. Young people and housing, especially with my background, was something I’ve always been passionate about. I realised things hadn’t improved since I had been in that position when I was young. Things had got worse. I met people from Unite the Union who were interested in campaigning. With the support of Unite and TUC, we decided we would set up an organisation to make policy changes in a devolved Greater Manchester.”

Sarah now does outreach with young people in squats across Greater Manchester, working to keep them off the streets. “Things have changed since the dangers of the old gang-filled Hulme squats, they are now better organised. They are viewed with prejudice, and ignored by most homeless organisations, but homeless squatters still deserve help.”

I’ll fight for them like hell, because nobody came to rescue me when I was younger. I try to be the person who I wish had turned up when I was that age. To save others from the traumas I went through.”

“I am really proud of the work I do on housing with some awesome, super-committed activists. We see Section 106, the Council’s own target for affordable housing of 20% in each development, being waived repeatedly, so we look at the big picture and make policy submissions. We want root and branch change, not just getting involved in a little bit of charity and giving people some sandwiches. We’ve developed a lot of good relationships with the media. I am most proud of the fact we are credible, and taken seriously.”

Sarah asked us to keep her identity private, so this has been written under a different name.

Interview carried out by Peter Cruickshank for Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s Beyond Poverty report 

 

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Good Mentor Hunting

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Good Mentor Hunting

BLGC article for GM Poverty Action

Mentor Darren Knight with Corey

The Mentoring Service at Bolton Lads and Girls Club has been matching adults and young people for well over 20 years. The young people who are referred to the Service are identified as particularly vulnerable – they could be living in care, have a chaotic home and family life, and often live in poverty. The Service matches volunteer adults with young people and they then meet once a week for a year in order to spend quality time together. The Mentors’ primary function is to listen and support the young people, and very often find that their young person will want help with a specific task; for instance, homework, tackling anxieties, anger issues or to become more confident. We get great results from our matches and find that the young people improve their self-confidence, self-expression and resilience. The Service aims to empower and equip young people with the skills and confidence they need to lead more positive and successful lives, and to ultimately help towards tackling the negative effects of the poverty in their lives.

BLGC for GM Poverty Action

Mentor Jackie Lord with Lincoln

Daniel and Paul have been taking part in the Mentor service for 18 months. Paul signed up to become a Mentor in 2016 to Daniel, 16, who has learning difficulties and lives in foster care. Paul tells us a bit about his story: “You offer an independent support to youngsters that doesn’t report to schools, social workers, parents – it can be amazing how the relationship can flourish and grow.  The fact that you are an unpaid volunteer is very important to these youngsters – the fact that you are there for them because you want to be … not because you are paid to be is very significant. BLGC are desperate for mentors but particularly male mentors. So all you guys out there PLEASE give it some serious thought – its just a few hours a week but you can make a huge difference to a young person …and really for doing nothing more than offering a pair of ears that are for your young person only.”

BLGC for GM Poverty Action

Mentor David Quilliam with Lewis

If you are keen to donate your time to one of Bolton’s vulnerable young people, please get in touch with Gemma today by email or call 01204 504111

 

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Warm Homes Fund

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New scheme offers free central heating for local residents

500 homes across Greater Manchester will get a new central heating system fitted for free thanks to the Warm Homes Fund. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has secured £1.8 million from a national fund £150 million established by National Grid and administered by Affordable Warmth Solutions. It offers a helping hand to households in fuel poverty or vulnerable to the cold as
modern central heating offers greater warmth and lower bills than old electric heaters or solid fuel fires.

To be eligible for the Warm Homes Fund scheme a household must:

• Qualify for one of the affordable warmth schemes in Greater Manchester (see below for details) and receive a home visit from a trained energy advisor

• Never have had central heating before (i.e. it currently has electric storage heaters, room heaters or open fires)

• Live in a property that is suitable for the safe and economical installation and operation of a central heating system.

Both homeowners and tenants are eligible, subject to a landlord’s permission.

The scheme covers the cost of everything that’s required: the boiler, radiators and pipework. Eligible households won’t have to contribute anything towards the cost.  Where necessary we will also seek to support a household to get connected to the mains gas grid.

The affordable warmth visit will also provide advice on saving energy, switching energy tariffs, install small energy saving measures and identify any other opportunities for a household to reduce their bills, such as insulation and income maximisation.   The scheme is being managed by AgilityEco on behalf of the Greater Manchester authorities. The systems are being installed by Engie, formerly Keepmoat Regeneration.

How to apply

To apply for yourself or for someone else please contact the relevant affordable warmth scheme for your area. They will arrange a home visit and check whether you are eligible for the Warm Homes Fund. The contact details are as follows:

Bolton:  Bolton Care 01204 328178 website
Oldham: Warm Homes Oldham 0800 019 1084  website
Wigan:  Awarm Plus  01942 239360  website
All other areas:  LEAP  0800 0607567  website

If you are an organisation or landlord and would like more information about how the scheme can benefit your clients or tenants, please contact James Sommerville

 

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Penny’s Story

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Penny’s story demonstrates the importance of sustainable work as opposed to precarious work. Her community work also demonstrates how much people have to offer despite being in poverty.

Beyond Poverty: Penny's Story for GM Poverty ActionPenny was born in Salford, and describes her early days, “We had no cots, the babies slept in wooden drawers. It was a big old Victorian house, which had half a roof, and the windows were missing. It was so cold you might have well been outside. We would burn anything we could just to keep warm. How we didn’t set ourselves on fire I don’t know.”

Her family moved to Reddish in Stockport and she attended Reddish Vale High School. She didn’t go to college, “Higher qualifications were never a thing for us. Going to college was unheard of unless you were wealthy”, she says. Instead, Penny went into work straight from school. She packed cornflakes in “a big old Victorian mill, just by the Reddish bridge. A big local employer. My first wage packet was £43 after a week’s work. I felt so rich it was unbelievable. But like much else, the factory doesn’t exist anymore.” She then worked for Adidas in another local factory, overlocking (sewing and cutting clothes). “I pushed myself really hard six days a week, fired up because we had grown up with nothing.” Penny became Head Overlocker, training others and managing the apprenticeships.

Penny has a big smile, remembering her life at 30, when she had never had it so good. Money was plentiful, work was secure, and she was good at her job, respected and valued by her local working community. But then the Adidas warehouse closed and production moved to China. “Everything started unravelling for me. The Adidas warehouse was my home, and when it closed we all lost our livelihoods. When you’re young you don’t think of it like that. You think you’ll walk into another job. But I never felt I belonged in any of them. They were all short term. And there was a lot of local competition for work, what with factories closing.”

Penny, now back living in Salford,  had started a family when at the Adidas factory, but when the work dried up, and with two children, she had to turn to the social security system to survive. “I was struggling day to day existing, never really living. I was just trying to keep my children safe, having them do well in their education was my major struggle. With minimum wage and zero hours contracts jobs, half the people in Salford who are working have to have their wages topped up by benefits. This is dark age Britain, and so many people are struggling, it’s not fair. They hide behind doors, afraid to come out of the house.”

“In Salford we’ve got big companies with zero hours contracts. They say, ‘we’ll employ you for a bit, and then you’ll have 8 or 9 weeks with no work.’ I still have to go to the Jobcentre every fortnight, and sit there, feeling degraded. Maybe I could go to McDonalds and get work, but they’d give me a zero hours contract. The problem is if for 2 weeks I don’t get paid, 2 months down the line I’m out on the streets with the kids. That’s the reality of it. You might get a job so the Jobcentre can tick the boxes, but they don’t look at the deeper situation. You will be thrown out of your house.” Penny is also critical of housing policies. “When you’re made homeless, you go to housing at the town hall. Because you’ve got kids, you get put straight away in a B&B or a hostel. So the DWP are paying you to be there instead of helping to pay your rent arrears off. How does that make sense?”

Penny, as well as being a commissioner in the Salford Poverty Truth Commission, now does a lot of community work to support those in her local area. “A lot of it is to help the homeless” she explains. “I’m starting a social enterprise, called Street Support Salford, we want the community involved, supported with money for bus fares and dinners. It’s made me more of a whole person. Seeing people suffer and even dying could send a person over the edge, and it nearly did for me, but I carry on regardless, helping the homeless and my community with no conditions. I wish I could do more, but I take comfort in the small things that do make a big difference to people’s lives – it’s not always about money. Caring, love and trust is what people need, and hope in all its forms. There’s a lot of families around here who don’t have enough to live off, and I want to help them to live instead of just existing.”

“People on “zero-hour contracts” are more likely to be young, part-time, women, and/or in full time education. Around 1 in 3 people (31%) on a zero-hours contract want more hours, with most wanting them in their current job, as opposed to a different job which offers more hours.”Source: ONS Paper “Contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours: September 2016”

Interview carried out, and photo taken, by Peter Cruickshank for Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s Beyond Poverty report 

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Charlotte’s Story

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Charlotte, a domestic abuse survivor and anti-poverty campaigner, talks about the impact of national policies on the lives of people in poverty.

Beyond Poverty: Charlotte's Story for GM Poverty ActionCharlotte is in her forties and has four children. “I was born and bred in Ashton”, she says, “my Dad was an engineer, he worked at a factory in Oldham, and Mum stayed at home to look after us. When Thatcher got elected, Dad’s factory got shut down, and he had to go and sign on at the Labour exchange on Scotland Street. I remember the queues were massive. When Dad lost his job, it put the family into poverty. We had holes in our shoes, and the family couldn’t afford much. They hid a lot of it from us as kids. But it wasn’t as bad as now. At least then we had a sense community.”

Charlotte became a nursery nurse and started a family in her 20s. “But it was such a bad relationship. He was violent, beat me up. I spent over a year in a woman’s refuge, and then was moved several times, because he kept finding me. He started taking drugs after we met, and it sent him crazy. He nearly killed me twice. I met another man later on, and he became violent too when I got pregnant. I had to go back to women’s shelters, taking my family with me. It was a nightmare. There were no staff on at night, and people were shrieking, and hitting others. We had to lock ourselves in the room, the children were crying. I couldn’t work at this time, what with everything I was going through and two young babies”, says Charlotte. “Tony Blair brought in child tax credits, which was great, I could provide for my young babies. Life wasn’t a struggle then. I knew I wouldn’t have to look for work until my children were older, too.”

But things got worse for Charlotte with changes to the benefit system. “Governments slowly took that safety net away, little tweaks. The first thing they touched was us single parents. The money went down slowly, we had less and less each week. It’s horrendous now. Poverty is being deprived of the basics other people take for granted. Putting your heating on. Buying clothes. I eat once a day – I skip my meals to feed the kids. When my youngest daughter is not at home, the heating doesn’t go on, I can’t afford it.” Charlotte has £80 a week after she’s paid her rent, much of which is needed to cover bills.

Beyond Poverty: Charlotte's Story for GM Poverty ActionCharlotte feels especially strongly about benefit sanctions. “There should not be punishment, there should be guidance. In the old days you were given lots of chances, guidance and courses. You weren’t sanctioned unless you just went in and said ‘I’ve done nothing’. It was a very last resort, they would try everything with you before that. Now, if your face fits, they will try it on. It’s not a last resort any more, it’s a first resort. People don’t often get the sanction letter. Your money just stops and people can’t cope and just end it – we know people who have come out of the job centre and committed suicide.”

Charlotte sees these issues all around her community in Ashton, and spends a lot of her time supporting people who suffer as a result. She writes a blog, “the Poor Side of Life”, and organises a weekly protest outside Ashton Jobcentre, challenging sanctions, and informing people of their rights – so they can empower themselves, to prevent sanctions, or if they do get a sanction, to know what to do afterwards. “People think you’re loaded when you do the stuff I do. People ask me for money. But I’m in the same position as them.”

 

Interview carried out by Peter Cruickshank for Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s Beyond Poverty report 

 

i3oz9sCharlotte’s Story
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