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Poverty Monitor- new pages

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Worrying national trends detailed on GMPA’s Poverty Monitor

By Graham Whitham

We have added two new pages to the Greater Manchester Poverty Monitor. The first details some worrying national poverty trends, showing that poverty was growing among ‘at risk’ groups in the years leading up to the pandemic.

The National Poverty Data page uses data from the government’s Households Below Average Income data series. This provides data on UK poverty levels, broken down by a range of different family types and characteristics. The most recent data takes us up to the eve of the pandemic. Children in lone parent households, households containing a disabled person and families with three or more children have always been at greater risk of poverty. That risk has been growing in recent years as illustrated in the charts below. This is why it is so important that the Government retains to £20 Universal Credit uplift.

Chart 4 Poverty rate by number of children in the family for GM Poverty Action Poverty Monitor 2020

Chart 2 Poverty rate by family type for GM Poverty Action Poverty Monitor 2020

The National Poverty data page also includes a range of other selected data, including poverty rates by ethnicity and English region. For those of us working locally, it can be useful to look at national poverty data, particularly trend data, to understand what is happening to poverty over time. Many of the national trends are likely to be replicated in Greater Manchester. It can help us think about how policy and practice can respond to the changing nature of poverty among residents in our city region.

A second new page provides Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) data at ward level. The IMD combines information from seven domains to produce an overall relative measure of deprivation for small areas in England. The domains are: Income; Employment; Education; Skills and Training; Health and Disability; Crime; Barriers to Housing Services; Living Environment. The more deprived is an area, the higher the IMD score but the lower the rank. The IMD is published every four years and was most recently published in 2019.

There are two subsets to the IMD. The Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) subset measures the proportion of all children aged 0 to 15 living in income deprived families. The Income Deprivation Affecting Older People Index (IDAOPI) subset measures the proportion of all those aged 60 or over who experience income deprivation.

IMD produces data for small geographic areas know as Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs). LSOAs aren’t coterminous with electoral wards, but ‘best fit analysis’ can provide a deprivation score and ranking for electoral wards in England using IMD.

You can download the IMD score, the average score by domain and the IDACI and IDAOPI scores for best-fit LSOAs in each electoral ward in Greater Manchester by visiting this page.

We are working to a full update of the Poverty Monitor in spring 2022. If you make use the Monitor we’d be really grateful if you could complete this survey. The information we gather will help us evidence the impact and usefulness of the Monitor to stakeholders and potential funders.

 

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#KeepTheLifeline

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The National #KeepTheLifeline Campaign

As you are no doubt aware, in October the Government plans to cut the £20 a week (£1040 a year) uplift paid to those in receipt of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit introduced at the beginning of the pandemic. For years before the pandemic, cuts and freezes to social security had already left many families living with constant financial insecurity.

This cut will have a huge impact on six million families and will be the biggest cut to the basic rate of social security since the modern welfare state began, more than 70 years ago.

Many charities, think tanks and leading organisations plus six former Conservative work and pensions secretaries   are urging the Government not to go ahead with this cut, which will further weaken social security support, cause severe hardship for families who are already struggling to stay afloat and generate a surge of people being pulled into poverty.

There is also an ongoing call on the Government not to discriminate against families receiving ‘legacy benefits’ such as Employment Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support by not giving them this uplift.

Since signing a joint open letter to the Chancellor last September, an ongoing campaign led by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), together with many organisations including GMPA, determined to prevent this cut, has been active.  If this is something you feel strongly about, there are many ways to get involved.

JRF have produced some very helpful tools.  You can read more about the campaign here and why this lifeline must be kept. 

•  There is a web page with information for Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit claimants including a template for writing to their MP.  A separate web page with information for legacy benefit claimants, again with a template for writing to their MP and a web page for supporters with write to MP instructions.

•  A ‘Campaign guide’ – for small organisations or leaders who are keen to get involved. It has details of the campaign, links to assets, write to MP guidance and suggested tweets.

•  A ‘Stakeholder toolkit’ – for larger organisations with networks.

What you can do to help

If you do one thing, write to your MP and/or request a meeting (see the helpful guide from the End Child Poverty Coalition for how to prepare). It is so important that MPs hear from as many different voices as possible about the impact of the cut – from charities, local leaders, claimants and supporters. We need them to know that this is a huge risk for families and communities, and for them politically.

Tell your network about the cut

Sadly, despite the severe impact this cut is likely to have on families, the complexity of the system and lack of communications means that too few recipients are aware it is due to happen and that it will affect them.

Raise the issue on your social media

Use the #KeepTheLifeline and help to keep this issue trending.

There are plans for a national day of action on August 17th.  Keep an eye on social media #KeepTheLifeline for more information. 

 

 

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New guide for local authorities on socio-economic duty implementation

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By Graham Whitham

At GMPA we are delighted to have published a new guide for local and combined authorities on voluntary adoption and implementation of the socio-economic duty. The guide is for use by organisations across England, including here in Greater Manchester.

We believe the socio-economic duty is a central element of the framework that localities seeking to address poverty should adopt. The duty ensures that local authorities assess the impact of policy and practice on socio-economic disadvantage. Adoption of the duty should be done meaningfully. The guide provides detail and advice on how to ensure that is the case, working closely with people with lived experience of poverty.

There’s a lot of interest in the duty in Greater Manchester following GMPA’s advocacy work on it over the last year or so. Wigan are applying the duty locally, and Salford and Trafford have committed to doing so. The Independent Inequalities Commission recommended adoption of the duty by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in their recent report.

The scale of socio-economic inequalities in the UK have been highlighted by the pandemic. In spite of this, the UK government continues to choose not to enact the socio-economic duty nationally (the duty is contained in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010). If enacted, the duty would legally require public authorities to actively consider the way in which their decisions increase or decrease the inequalities that result from socio-economic disadvantage.

As the duty hasn’t been enacted, some areas have taken matters into their own hands. The duty is now in force in Scotland (‘Fairer Scotland Duty’) (and is also being taken forward in Wales), and some combined and local authorities in England are voluntarily implementing it.

The need to formally recognise and address socio-economic disadvantage alongside other forms of inequality has never been more clear, as those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds have experienced some of the most severe health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

We believe that, if implemented, the socio-economic duty would provide a powerful foundation for the fairer society we all want to see. In the absence of action at a national level, we need to identify what we can do locally. Voluntary adoption of the duty can bring a number of benefits including:

  • Improving outcomes for local people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage.
  • Supporting cross organisational and cross departmental working.
  • Raising awareness of socio-economic inequalities within organisations and among partners.
  • Ensuring widespread organisational commitment to, and consideration of, socio-economic inequalities.
  • Supporting the participation of low-income residents in decisions that affect them, especially in the context of (proposed) cuts to services.
  • Achieving greater consistency in practice – and an increased likelihood of maintaining such consistent practice across political administrations and between changes of individual leadership and turnover of staff.
  • Improving systematic approaches to equality impact assessments and assessment of policy and practice more broadly.
  • Strengthening systematic data gathering and analysis, especially in the conduct of equality impact assessments, thereby strengthening accountability.
  • Supporting the effective and efficient allocation of resources.

The guide is broken down into six sections:

  1. Meaningful impact assessments to understand the consequences of socio-economic disadvantage
  2. Using data effectively as a tool for decision-making and accountability
  3. Encouraging strong and visible leadership
  4. Principles of working in partnership with people with lived experience of socio-economic disadvantage
  5. Engaging with residents, civil society, and voluntary and community sector organisations
  6. Ensuring access to justice, and monitoring impact and compliance

GMPA Director Graham Whitham for GM Poverty ActionThe Guide has been developed by GMPA in partnership with Amnesty, Compassion in Politics, Equally Ours, Just Fair, Runnymede, Shelter, The Equality Trust and Thrive Teeside. It is available here.

Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA

 

 

 

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Real Living Wage City Region

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Greater Manchester Real Living Wage Campaign Update

By John Hacking, Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Co-ordinator.

May 12th was a very significant date for the campaign to make Greater Manchester a Real Living Wage City Region as it saw the first meeting of the City Region Living Wage Action Group chaired by the newly elected Mayor of GM, Andy Burnham.

Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign (GMLWC) has been working towards the goal of making GM a Real Living Wage City Region for a number of years and the announcement in November 2020 by the  Mayor that it was his intention to make this vision a reality, was a massive step forward for our campaign to see a real improvement in the lives of thousands of low paid workers in our area.

Since the announcement I have (as reported in previous newsletters) been working with partners and stakeholders across GM to create the Living Wage Action Plan which was unveiled on May 12th. The Living Wage Action Plan Group will now work to outline a clear path towards the goal of all employers in the city-region paying the living wage and offering living hours by 2030, as recommended by the Independent Inequalities Commission in its report published earlier this year.

I have been, and will continue, to work on the Plan to ensure that there are ambitious targets and that there is the widest and most diverse possible involvement from all sectors and communities across GM.

The Action Plan Group will be chaired by Lou Cordwell, Chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and is made up of businesses, unions, local authorities, civil society, faith groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations.  The Plan will focus on key sectors of the GM economy: ‘anchor institutions’, including large public sector organisations; local authorities; health and social care; hospitality and leisure; large employers; small and medium enterprises; and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

GMLWC along with GM Citizens will lead on the campaigns sub-group  focussing on using our local networks of Real Living Wage activists and advocates to target employers across GM working with local and national campaigns.

As part of the work to involve a wide and diverse group of people and organisations in the Campaign Subgroup, we will be holding a meeting of the GMLWC group in June. If you are on the database you will receive more information in the next couple of weeks. If you aren’t but want to be then please send your name, organisation (if applicable) and email address to me.

John Hacking GM Living Wage coordinator for GM Poverty Action

Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Coordinator John Hacking

In addition to this, we continue to work with partners across GM on a range of local campaigns. One of the activities we promote, and support, is to encourage more local authorities to become Real Living Wage Employers. As reported previously Bury Council recently made a commitment to become a Real Living Wage Employer. In the latest in our series of podcasts we spoke to Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, Leader of Bury Council about a range of issues related to the fight against poverty and in particular the plans to make Bury Council the 4th local authority in GM to become a Living Wage Employer. You can listen the podcast on our website here

John Hacking, Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Co-ordinator
Twitter: @GMlivingwage     Facebook: facebook.com/gmlivingwage

The Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign is a Greater Manchester Poverty Action programme.

 

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New End Child Poverty statistics

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New local child poverty figures show worrying trends

By Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA

Last week the End Child Poverty Coalition released new analysis showing child poverty rates across the UK by local authority area over the six years leading up to the pandemic. Even before the economy was hit by the pandemic, child poverty was becoming more entrenched in areas with already high levels of poverty and deprivation.

Of particular concern is the increase in child poverty in the North East, with the largest increases in child poverty between 2015/16 and 2019/20 happening in Newcastle upon Tyne (up 12.8%), Gateshead (up 11.2%), Redcar and Cleveland (up 10.6%) and County Durham (up 10.5%).

Whilst the increases in Greater Manchester haven’t been as sharp as in parts of the North East, there have been significant increases in Manchester (up 6.4%), Oldham (up 5.1%) and Bolton (4.1%). Across Greater Manchester as a whole, only one of our ten boroughs (Trafford) saw child poverty fall over this period – as shown in the table
below:End Child Poverty 2021 table

Nationally, the highest rates of child poverty remain concentrated in large conurbations like London and Birmingham.

In response to these concerning figures, the End Child Poverty Coalition is calling on the UK Government to recognise the scale of the problem and its impact on children’s lives and to create a credible plan to end child poverty which must include a commitment to increase child benefits. Given the extent to which families are already struggling, the planned £20 per week cut to Universal Credit in October 2021 should be revoked. The support should also be extended to those still receiving financial assistance from the old benefit system, referred to as ‘legacy benefits’, before they are switched to Universal Credit.

End Child Poverty infographic 2021

To read the full report please visit the End Child Poverty Coalition website.

GMPA is a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition steering group.

 

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Time for a step change in how we address socio-economic disadvantage

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by Graham Whitham

It was good to see the launch of the Greater Manchester Independent Inequalities Commission report last month. The Commission was launched in October 2020 with a six-month mission to examine inequalities across the city region, consider how they should be tackled and outline some specific and hard-hitting recommendations. The Commission viewed inequalities within a framework that considers how interacting and intersecting inequalities create barriers that stop people from living the good lives that they want.

COVID-19 has exposed the extent of these inequalities in Greater Manchester. To address this, the Commission’s report calls on everyone in the city-region to work towards an agreed set of wellbeing and equality targets that aim to leave no-one behind. Alongside this are a series of recommendations under the themes of People Power, Good Jobs and Decent Pay, Building Wealth and Services for a Good Life. You can read more about the recommendations here.

GMPA supported the work of the Commission by bringing together a ‘Poverty Reference Group’. The group was made up of people with lived experience of poverty who have been involved in engagement and co-production projects across Greater Manchester (including poverty truth commissions, the Elephants Project, Creative Inclusion, the BME Network, GM Coalition of Disabled People, Migrant Help, Support & Action Women’s Network, and Legislative Theatre). The aim of the group was to inform and reflect on the work of the commission, complementing other engagement work (including engaging with the Equalities Panels). The meetings generated a range of innovative recommendations that were grounded in real world experience of poverty, including how to:

•  Reduce barriers to employment, and tackle stigma and bias in recruitment and in the workplace;
•  Improve job quality, and increase access to education and training;
•  Listen meaningfully to communities;
•  Give communities the power to tackle for themselves the problems that affect them.

A number of key areas that GMPA has been working on are included in the report, including a call for the Combined Authority to adopt the socio-economic duty and, building on the Poverty Reference Group, the establishment of a new Panel for people with lived experience of poverty to inform and shape policy.

GMPA wants to see a city-region where we put tackling socio-economic disadvantage at the heart of what we do. We have more councils (working with partners) with poverty strategies in place and examples of good practice and innovation in tackling poverty across Greater Manchester. The Real Living Wage is become more embedded, with plans to create a Living Wage City Region. GMPA is working hard to create a stronger focus on preventing and reducing poverty.

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA

We need to go further and embed a focus on poverty and socio-economic disadvantage in everything we do. It is helpful therefore, that the Commission has articulated a clear framework for understanding the intersection between socio-economic disadvantage and poverty and other inequalities.

Next week Greater Manchester goes to the polls for the Mayoral Election. It is important that together with whoever wins, we implement the recommendations of the Commission.

 

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Latest poverty stats

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Latest official poverty stats illustrate scale of inequality in the UK pre-pandemic

By Graham Whitham

At the end of March, the Government released the latest official statistics detailing levels of poverty in the UK. This data covers 2019/20, therefore providing us with a snapshot of poverty levels right up to the eve of the pandemic.

The data shows that 14.5m people were living below the poverty line in the UK in 2019/20. Of concern is the rise
in child and pensioner poverty, with the percentage of children and pensioners living in poverty now back at
pre-financial crisis levels (as illustrated in figure 1).Figure 1 latest official poverty stats April 2021 for GM Poverty Action

Looking at child poverty data specifically, we are starting to see the impact of the policy to restrict benefits to the first two children in a family that was introduced in 2017. As shown in figure 2, whilst children in families with three or more children have always been at greater risk of poverty, the gap had narrowed significantly in the years up to 2012/13. In the year from 2018/19nto 2019/20 the poverty rate for families containing 3 or more children shot up from 42% to 47%, whilst it remained stable for families with one or two children.Figure 2 latest official poverty stats April 2021 for GM Poverty Action

The data highlights a number of other disparities between different groups of the population. In 2019/20:

• Lone parent families were nearly twice as likely to be in poverty than couple families.

• 51% of all children in poverty were in families with a youngest child aged under five.

• Poverty rates were highest for people in households where the head of the household is from the Pakistani or Bangladeshi ethnic groups and lowest for those from White ethnic groups.

• 46% of social renters and 33% of private renters were in poverty, compared to 12% of owner occupiers.

• The proportion of people in poverty was 35% for families where someone is disabled, compared to 28% for people living in families where no one is disabled.

• The proportion of children in poverty living in households where at least one person was in work was 75%.

What can be done?

These inequalities between different groups of the population aren’t inevitable. An increase in Child Benefit of
just £10 per week would cut child poverty by 450,000. Scrapping the two-child limit would stem increases in child poverty. Addressing low pay would drive down in-work poverty. Reforming Universal Credit so it provides a proper safety net would stop people being plunged into hardship when they lose their job or have their hours cut.
Increasing the availability of social housing and improving the rights of tenants in the private rented sector would address the link between poverty and housing tenure. Further improving the availability of childcare support would help address poverty among lone parents families and families with young children. This data should be driving the national responses to poverty and, in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we have a coherent national play for tackling the issue.

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA

NB: The data presented in this article is for poverty measured as those household living below 60% of median income after housing costs have been taken into account. This is the main measure of poverty used by campaigners. There is a wealth of additional data, using both the main measure and other measures of poverty detailed in the Households Below Average Income report.

 

 

 

 

 

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Impact Report 2017 – 2020

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 By Graham Whitham

Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA) was incorporated in May 2016. The organisation was established to combat growing levels of poverty across the city region through policy and systems change. Initially GMPA’s work was delivered through a voluntary network. Since 2017, we have grown the organisation’s staff team and begun to develop and deliver several outputs that have enabled us to shape the way Greater Manchester responds to poverty.

We’re really pleased to be publishing an Impact Report covering the three years from 2017 up to the end of 2020. It details GMPA’s achievements during that period as we work towards our vision of a Greater Manchester free from poverty where all residents can realise their potential and access the benefits of living in a diverse and vibrant city region.

Our achievements to date include growing the number of Real Living Wage accredited employers, supporting local authorities in establishing anti-poverty strategies and initiatives, building a network of nearly 1400 stakeholders committed to addressing poverty and bringing together organisations from across the public, private and VCSE sectors to take collective action on food insecurity.

We have been able to evidence the value of our work through stakeholder feedback via annual surveys in 2019 and 2020, the results from the latter being detailed in this report. Feedback from the 2020 survey found that among GMPA’s network:

• 97% believe that GMPA’s policy and research reports are either very useful or useful for their work.

• 96% believe that the work of GMPA to help raise awareness of the effects of poverty and its causes is very
important or important.

• 92% strongly agree or agree that GMPA is a vital source of information about how poverty can be tackled in
Greater Manchester.

• 84% say that the work of GMPA has had a strong positive impact or positive impact on the extent to which their
own work focuses on addressing the causes of poverty.

We are really proud of the contribution we’ve made to getting poverty higher up the agenda in Greater Manchester. This work wouldn’t have been possible without support from members of our network and funders. Please take some time to look through the report. We look forward to having an even greater impact over the coming years.

 

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Strengthening local welfare provision

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Next steps

By Graham Whitham

In December, GMPA launched our Strengthening the role of local welfare assistance report. The report identifies good practice and recommendations from across the country and considers how these can be applied to local welfare assistance schemes here in Greater Manchester.

Local welfare assistance schemes are an important means through which local authorities can respond to the needs of residents facing a financial crisis. Relatively small interventions delivered through these schemes can help meet a person’s immediate needs and prevent them from falling deeper into hardship. However, national research has found that there’s often a lack of awareness of schemes, that they are poorly advertised and difficult to access.

In Greater Manchester, where all local councils have schemes in place, there is some existing good practice and a real opportunity to strengthen support in each of our boroughs. Taking the recommendations detailed in the report, GMPA has developed a checklist for local authorities and their partners to use to assess their schemes and understand what further improvements could be made. Importantly, at a time when local authority finances are coming under even greater pressure, most of the recommendations come at no extra cost.

We are pleased with the engagement we’ve had on the report to date. This month we held events for elected members, council officers and other stakeholders from across GM, and we’ll continue to work with councils and their partners over the course of this year.

Of particular relevance as we (hopefully) begin to recover from the pandemic, is the focus in the report on taking a ‘cash first’ approach to supporting people. This means that the default way in which someone facing hardship is supported is through a monetary payment rather than in-kind support such as a fuel voucher or food parcel.

Local welfare assistance schemes represent an obvious opportunity for local authorities to adopt this approach as a key role of schemes is to support residents with essential living costs for those in financial crisis, such as buying food or heating their home. Whilst most of the schemes in Greater Manchester offer this support, it is usually in the form of vouchers.

There has been a range of research highlighting the benefits of cash payments over any other form of support for those in financial crisis due to its:

a) Flexibility, choice, speed and convenience – vouchers have to be used with certain companies or certain locations or for certain products; cash can be used anywhere and if issued electronically, is available immediately. Vouchers may mean someone having to travel a distance to buy food, costing them money and time, when they could have used their local shop if they had access to cash, benefiting the local economy. There is a much greater risk that vouchers won’t be used compared to money.

b) Preservation of dignity – having to use vouchers can be stigmatising and may reduce access to the support that residents desperately need.

c) Administrative efficiency (when processed electronically) – once an electronic system is set up to pay cash it can be processed quickly and remotely, without the need for face-to-face visits. This approach removes the need to make arrangements with third parties (e.g. voucher providers) further reducing administrative pressures.

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA

Adoption of a ‘cash first’ approach by local welfare assistance schemes across Greater Manchester would help contribute to addressing the atomisation of poverty that we’ve seen over the last ten years. You can read more about the importance of this approach in our ‘Cash first’ briefing and in the Strengthening the role of local welfare assistance report.

 

 

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Strengthening local welfare provision

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Events in March will explore strengthening local welfare provision

Local welfare assistance schemes can play a central role in the local safety net, meeting people’s immediate needs and averting deepening hardship and deprivation.

Lack of government guidance and support on how schemes should operate means that they have evolved differently in each locality and not everywhere in England has a scheme in place. All ten of our Greater Manchester boroughs have worked hard to retain local provision and there are some examples of good practice locally. However, we also know that more needs to be done to scale up that good practice across the city region, raise awareness of schemes and ensure local support best meets the needs of low-income residents.

Research by GMPA has found that the type of support, how support is accessed, knowledge of schemes and the level of funding that goes into them varies considerably from one borough to the next.

As we enter a period that will lay bare the economic damage of COVID-19, Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s latest report (published in December) – Strengthening the role of local welfare assistance – provides a series of recommendations to improve schemes.

The recommendations include taking a ‘cash first’ approach to supporting people, simplifying the application process, taking a case worker approach to supporting residents that helps prevent future financial hardship and ensuring schemes can be accessed by different population subgroups.

LWAS report infographic for GM Poverty Action

Most of the recommendations in the report come at no-cost. Where there are cost implications, upfront investments are suggested that will deliver savings in the long run by improving outcomes for residents and reducing pressure on other services.

Local authority delivered local welfare schemes need to be joined up with other help in each locality, enabling councils, housing providers and VCSE sector organisations to coordinate support.

Alongside the report, GMPA has produced tools for local authorities and their partners to use to enhance schemes and measure their effectiveness.

GMPA will be holding an event on Tuesday March 23rd, from 10am using Zoom to explore the findings and recommendations from the report.  This event is aimed at people working for local authorities, housing providers, VCSE sector organisations and other stakeholders. To book your place click here.

At the event you’ll hear from report author Simon Watts and Graham Whitham, GMPA Chief Executive. There will be opportunity for questions and presentations will take attendees through the support tools developed alongside the report.

 

i3oz9sStrengthening local welfare provision
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