GMPA

Feeding the city

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Feeding the City: Greater Manchester

Saturday January 19th, 2019

The Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester will propose many actions for businesses seeking to benefit and improve access to good food in their local communities,so it is great timing to be able to share this opportunity.

Impact Hub are putting on a free workshop to help you develop ideas for sustainable food businesses to benefit your local community. Funding, training and advice will be available for new businesses through the Feeding the City program, and this workshop will help you to develop your ideas, ready to apply for this funding – please note that the deadline for funding applications following the workshop is Sunday January 27th, 2019.

When: 1:30pm – 5pm, Saturday January 19th 2019

Where:
 Bridge 5 Mill, 22A Beswick Street, Manchester, M4 7HR

How to book: Places are limited, so please book for free using this link

Our city region is growing and we’re struggling to feed ourselves sustainably. We want to support you to make change! What food problems would you like to solve for your community?

Do you play with the idea of starting a social business, or already have an idea in mind?

Feeding the City is a fully funded 12 month programme that will support sustainable food start-ups across all of the UK. Successful applicants will receive bursaries, and have access to business and food expert advice and training throughout 2019. At this Idea-Generating Workshop you will be supported to develop an idea for your own social business, get to know others working in similar areas and have a chance to learn more about Feeding the City. Using concrete tools, you will be helped to think through important elements of your idea in a structured way and to identify blind spots. Furthermore, you will receive valuable feedback and also learn which criteria are important in the funding application. Even those who have no concrete or only a vague idea are welcome.

Please note, any queries about the Feeding the City program should be directed to Impact Hub, while you can find out more about the Greater Manchester workshop through the booking form.

 

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IKEA – Introducing the Living Wage

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IKEA – Introducing the Living Wage is an investment we are incredibly proud of
By Katarina Verdon Olsson, Store Manager at IKEA Manchester (Ashton-Under-Lyne)

Since IKEA became the largest accredited Real Living Wage employer in retail  in 2016, the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign has worked with the local store in Ashton-Under-Lyne to promote their good work, and to encourage other employers to follow in their footsteps. Here the local store manager Katarina Verdon Olsson writes about the benefits to co-workers and the business as a whole.

As a values-driven organisation, we believe in providing a meaningful wage to our co-workers that supports the cost of living and this is why we were the first large retail employer to commit to paying the Living Wage and becoming an accredited member of the Living Wage Foundation.

On 1 April 2016, IKEA UK introduced the Living Wage – as defined by the Living Wage Foundation – for all of our co-workers. Today 9,000+ co-workers of all ages across the UK benefit from earning above the statutory National Living Wage. On a local level this has impacted the lives of 300+ co-workers living and working in the Greater Manchester area at the IKEA Manchester store in Ashton-Under-Lyne.

This move was part of a wider transformation of basic co-worker conditions introduced globally by IKEA to ensure that co-workers have the right level of pay, the right contract and an appropriate schedule.

Introducing the Living Wage is an investment we are incredibly proud of, particularly as our co-workers have told us about the positive benefits this has had on their lives. Below are some stories from our co-workers working at the IKEA Manchester store who have shared how the Living Wage increase has impacted them:

“My daughter loves to dance and is passionate about many different types of dance such as ballet, tap and modern. The increase in the living wage meant that we could afford more lessons and the cost involved with performances. The extra money also meant that I could take my family on weekends away more often within the UK.”
Tim (Recovery Co-worker)

“The increase in the living wage meant I could save more money for my dream wedding in Disneyland in Florida. I had also been secretly saving for a honeymoon in the Caribbean which I surprised my girlfriend with the news before we jetted off to the US for our wedding in November last year.”
Danielle (Kitchens co-worker)

Living Wage week photo for GM Poverty Action

IKEA workers front and centre at our 2016 Living Wage Week event

Implementing the Living Wage Foundation’s recommended rates of pay is not only the right thing to do by our co-workers and our values but it also makes good business sense. As we continue to grow in the UK, motivating and retaining our co-workers, as well as attracting new co-workers, becomes increasingly important. We also believe that a team with good compensation and working conditions is in a better position to provide a great experience to our customers.

Katarina Verdon Olsson IKEA article for GM Poverty Action

Katarina Verdon Olsson

As well as being good for society, we have also seen business benefits to paying the real Living Wage. At IKEA Manchester, since adopting the Living Wage in 2016 we have not only seen a decrease in staff turnover by -12%, we have also seen the improvement in the co-worker engagement survey (+3.7%) and customer experience key performance indicators.

We encourage other businesses to explore what the benefits of paying the real Living Wage would mean for their staff, business and the Greater Manchester area.

 

 


Can you become an accredited Real Living Wage Employer? It’s easier than you may think –
please fill out this form to start the process and join over 150 Greater Manchester-based employers in committing to paying your workers enough to live on.

 

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Better Buses for GM

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Our Buses in Greater Manchester aren’t working

Article written for GMPA by Pascale Robinson

Right now, bus operators can’t be forced to run any service, and they set the fares, but in the next year, we have a huge opportunity to change this wild west scenario.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is deciding now whether to pick a better way of running the bus network, re-regulating it, which puts buses back into public control.

37% of Greater Manchester’s job seekers said that lack of access to transport is a key barrier to getting work, backed up by JRF research in low-income neighbourhoods in Manchester. This is in one of the UK’s biggest and best city regions.

Better Buses campaign for GM Poverty Action

Taking the campaign on to the buses

People from the poorest fifth of households catch nearly 10 times as many buses as trains. For lots of us, without a bus we’re stuck. Across Greater Manchester, many reported that cars and trains are simply out the question in terms of price. However, with buses their last option, they highlighted how expensive fares and unreliable services prevent them from taking up positions, and how the un-joined network can mean commutes of over three hours a day (over Jobcentre Plus’ limit for reasonable travel).

Our bus network is not serving us. Instead people are being locked out of opportunities for work. With re-regulation, or franchising as it’s known, a fully integrated and planned network across GM’s 10 local authorities could connect us to our work places, our loved ones and the services we need at affordable fares, as we see in London.

What does this mean? Re-regulation means companies are told by local authorities what services to run, when, and how to set the fares. It also means local authorities can:

  • Plan and expand the network – Profits from busy routes could subsidise less busy but needed services. Right  now, bus companies cherry pick only profitable routes and make a killing, but local authorities could use profits to give everyone a better service.
  • Make buses affordable – Income could be used to lower fares, which have increased 55% above inflation in the last ten years.
  • Make buses reliable – Bus companies would have to share data – meaning buses don’t disappear from the time table or app.
  • Make buses frequent – Income could also be used to provide evening and weekend services, like we had before.

This would transform buses for a lot of us. Re-regulating in GM would set a precedent across the UK for a bus network that serves people, not profit. We’ve launched a petition calling for re-regulation and it already has over 5,000 signatures, but we want twice as many so please sign and share the petition to join the call for better buses.

Right now, we have a postcode lottery and a poverty premium, with richer areas often getting the better routes and cheaper fares, at least during commuter hours. Public money is used wherever possible, to plug gaps where there is need, however this is an inefficient use of public money. Better Buses for Greater Manchester found that on average £18 million a year is going to shareholder pay outs in the North West region.

Pascale Robinson Better Buses campagin for GM Poverty Action

Pascale Robinson

Re-regulating our bus network would mean that Greater Manchester could have publicly controlled buses which connect communities to where they need to be.

Join the campaign by signing the petition now: www.betterbusesgm.org.uk

We’d also love to hear from you. We need organisations, businesses and groups to pledge their support for the campaign. Whether you can offer your logo to show support, as GMPA have, or your time, or both, we need as many people speaking out for better buses as possible.

To find out more about the campaign, please say hello at Pascale@betterbusesgm.org.uk

 

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Hidden young people

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New research explores why young unemployed people are turning their backs on the benefit system
by Dr Katy Jones, University of Salford

There is growing concern about so-called ‘hidden young people’ – those young people who are neither in employment, education or training, nor claiming the benefits they are entitled to. There are approximately 21,890 hidden young people in Greater Manchester. Recognising the issue, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), in its strategy ‘Our People, Our Place’, commits to ‘ensuring that fewer young people are ‘hidden’ from the essential support and services they need’. However, the evidence base relating to this group is incredibly limited – this is the case both locally and nationally.

In response to this, and as part of the Salford Anti-Poverty Taskforce, Salford City Council commissioned researchers at the University of Salford to undertake a qualitative study exploring the experiences of ‘hidden young people’. From interviews with 14 young people with experience of being both ‘not in employment, education or training’ and ‘Hidden’, and a series of focus groups involving 25 stakeholders from across the city, this research has uncovered some of the stories behind the statistics – and a range of reasons why many young people are shunning the benefits system.

The research shows that a lack of knowledge about benefit entitlements is widespread. As one young woman explained:

            “I didn’t know that I could claim… until I was told by the people from [accommodation provider]… If not, I
wouldn’t have known. You hardly hear it from anywhere, these things.”

Others are deterred by the ‘stigma’ associated with the Jobcentre. In the words of one young person:

            “Like if someone said to me, ‘Where do you get your money from?’ I think I’d be a bit embarrassed to tell
them.”

However for others, an increasingly ‘conditional’ welfare system, combined with poor experiences of the Jobcentre, made them reluctant to engage with the benefits system. As one stakeholder explained:

            “Why would you continue to engage with a system that treats you so overtly badly and has all the power in
that situation? You would just withdraw from it.”

Negative perceptions of Jobcentre Plus services were widespread amongst both young people and practitioners involved in the research.

Whether or not young people need or want to claim benefits, not engaging with the social security system excludes them from mainstream support and service provision – as most youth unemployment interventions are routed through the Jobcentre and related contracted providers.

Katy Jones Hidden young people article for GM Poverty Action

Dr Katy Jones

The report makes a series of recommendations for policy and practice, some of which apply at a Greater Manchester level – namely – that the GMCA should continue to monitor the issue, updating and measuring progress in meeting its strategic commitment against the estimated number of hidden young people in the sub-region (currently 21,890). Furthermore, in line with its commitment in the Greater Manchester strategy, we call on the GMCA to outline the steps it is taking to ensure effective support is provided to all hidden young people across Greater Manchester.

The report was launched at the University of Salford on 31st October, with a presentation from lead author Dr Katy Jones, followed by a response from Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett, and representatives from Salford City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Greater Manchester Talent Match Youth Panel. A copy of the report can be accessed here.

 

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Social Investment Fund

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Trafford Housing Trust invests £1m to tackle poverty

Trafford Housing Trust has just celebrated the first year of their new Social Investment Fund (SIF) which aims to reduce poverty and inequality in the borough. The Trust’s Social Investment Team and Board were joined by a range of colleagues, stakeholders and some of the organisations who’ve received support from the team.

Held at the Trust’s flagship health and wellbeing hub – Limelight, the event was a chance to recognise the people who dedicate their time and effort to help others and marked the achievements of the first year of the Social Investment Fund and looked to the work ahead.

Chair of the Social Investment Board – Steve Hughes, talked through aims of the SIF which are based on a ‘5-step plan’ produced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation study – ‘We can solve poverty in the UK’. By offering a mix of micro, mid-sized and large grants and capacity building support the SIF aims to support existing organisations and new projects in Trafford to:

  • Strengthen families and communities
  • Boost incomes and reduce costs
  • Improve education standards and raise skills
  • Promote long-term economic growth benefitting everyone.

Since its launch in September 2017, the SIF has awarded 109 grants totalling £1,101,836 (estimated to benefit over 90,000 people) and capacity building support to local groups such as:

  • The Golden Centre of Opportunities who work with the Somali Community providing employment and skills support. You can find out how this vital support has helped them in this video
  • The Cyril Flint Befriending Service who provide support and companionship for people living on their own which you can see in this moving video

The day highlighted how well the Social Investment Team are thought of by the people they support which is apparent from the great feedback received on the day:

“Huge thanks to you and all the team. Wish all funders understood ‘life on the ground’ as well as you do.”

“We had a great evening, it was lovely to speak to people and chat about what we do.  The evening was very inspiring and I think what you are all doing is amazing.”

“Really impressed with the work that THT are doing in Trafford. It would be great to share your good practise across GM.”

Trafford Housing Trust article for GM Poverty Action

Trafford Housing Trust’s Social Investment Team with Chair of the Social Investment Board – Steve Hughes

Manager of the Social Investment Team – Tom Wilde says: “It was fantastic to have so many people join us to celebrate one year of the Social Investment Service.  We have committed over £1m in grant funding since launching 12 months ago, supporting over 100 projects which provide a range of much needed services for people across Trafford, including THT’s customers.  We also have a strong pipeline of projects coming through, and expect to be investing even more than this next year! The success of the event and the feedback we have already received is a credit to the whole team and the excellent work they do.

If you know anyone who may be able to help reduce poverty and inequality in Trafford point them in the direction of the social investment website

You can follow the work of the team, and the organisations they support, on social media on Facebook or Twitter

 

 

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Right time, right place

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With One Voice Director Matt Peacock explains why Manchester is the perfect place to host the inaugural International Arts and Homelessness Summit & Festival

I always arrive into Manchester the same way, leaving Piccadilly Station and walking down into the heart of the city past high street shops, criss-crossing tram lines, to the open space of Piccadilly Gardens.  Over the last decade it has been a sobering experience since this is the stretch of Manchester where most of the people who are sleeping on the streets congregate. As in many cities, not everyone who is street homeless is begging and not everyone who is begging is homeless but the visible homeless situation is chronic.

Street homelessness has steadily risen year on year, 1,100% since 2010 and more recently, the situation has become increasingly worse with a noticeable increase in drug use on the streets. Addressing the homelessness situation is so urgently important that it became Andy Burnham’s main election pledge when he was running for Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Fantastic work is already being done. Manchester can boast one of the most innovative homelessness strategies both nationally and internationally. And crucially, one where the voice of people who are or have been homeless is central to decision-making. The Manchester Homelessness Charter was set up in 2016 to create a collaborative and combined approach between all sectors, alongside people who are or have been homeless. A consultation was also recently announced on providing a bed for every person sleeping on the streets between November and March – and Greater Manchester was announced as a ‘Vanguard City’ by the Institute of Global Homelessness.

With one voice summit and festival for GM Poverty ActionAnd this is the context where social movement With One Voice is preparing the first International Arts and Homelessness Summit & Festival in November throughout Greater Manchester.

The people of Manchester would be forgiven for thinking there are more pressing concerns than putting on a set of arts events. The question, ‘why arts?’ has often been asked when it comes to homelessness and other social issues but perhaps it is even more vital to talk about this in Manchester when the situation is so severe.

The new strategy in Manchester recognises that homelessness is often the result of multiple issues coming together – poverty, employment, mental and physical health issues, relationship breakdowns, substance issues and more. The strategy argues that multiple issues call for multiple solutions with healthcare, housing, recovery, community building, investment in people’s well-being and self-esteem coming together to help people who are or have been homeless move forward more successfully long-term. Combining practical care with personal empowerment is key. Manchester and Greater Manchester will be the first authorities in the UK to integrate the arts into homelessness strategies – this is through With One Voice’s Jigsaw of Homelessness Support a model where interventions come together to create a whole picture of support. It is a bold and important step for Manchester to recognise the power of arts and creativity in the homelessness sector.

With one voice festival for GM Poverty ActionAs well as this holistic approach, Greater Manchester is adopting a ‘whole-society’ approach where every sector from business, to faith and culture are coming together to help solve homelessness in the Charter through pledges. With this background, Manchester is exactly the right place to hold the world’s first International Arts and Homelessness Summit & Festival.

And the cultural and homeless sectors have really stepped up to make this happen. We will shortly be releasing details of the brilliantly diverse programme of art and photography exhibitions, poetry projects, a public mural, and many more events.  The Festival culminates in a four-day Summit and conference at The Whitworth where an estimated 300 delegates from at least 15 countries will assemble to discuss arts and homelessness around five main themes: Practice, Policy, Performance, Partnerships and People. We are committed to making this the first fully integrated homelessness event in history with 50% of delegate passes being given to people who are or have been homeless.

We estimate around 20,000 people will see an arts and homelessness project during the week, creating huge exposure for artists and creatives who are or have been homeless.

As with many events of this nature, we are putting a lot of energy into what happens afterwards. This cannot be a flash-in-the-pan and must result in lasting positive change. We will talk more about legacy and long-reaching impact in the coming weeks.

I will make many more walks from Piccadilly Station through Manchester in the lead up to and following the Summit & Festival this November. I am certain the homeless situation in general, including visible homelessness will improve as nowhere else in the world have I seen all elements of the city pull together to tackle homelessness. The cultural sector is standing by to do its part and I am confident that once the world sees how arts and creativity is part of the homelessness solution in Manchester – enriching the lives of people, building their well-being and voice – more cities and regions will follow suit

With One Voice is an international arts and homelessness movement that seeks to connect and strengthen the sector worldwide and is produced by Streetwise Opera. More information about the Festival and Summit is available below.

International Arts and Homelessness Summit and Festival

As cities around the world struggle to solve homelessness, delegates from 15 countries will come together for a Summit and Festival at The Whitworth in Manchester from November 12th – 18th, 2018  to explore and celebrate the role the arts can play in tackling homelessness.

Homelessness is not just about housing, and people who are homeless can suffer from a multitude of challenges from practical ‘house-lessness’ to low well-being, social isolation and stigma. The arts are being used effectively around the world to reduce social isolation by building social networks and increasing both physical and mental health, improve public attitudes, promote understanding towards homeless people and enable homeless people to express themselves so their voice can be heard.

Tickets for all Festival events are free and delegate passes can be purchased for the Summit (November 15th – 18th) here. 50% of delegate passes will be given free to people who are or have been homeless – get in touch for more info.  More information

 

 

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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

 

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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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What difference does my vote make?

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Making the difference!

By Chris Smallwood, Director, Anchor RemovalsAnchor Removals - Chris Smallwood for GM Poverty Action

It is one of the most frustrating statements politicians hear from their electorate – “What difference does my vote make?”

I don’t agree with the sentiment or the statement, but I do share the sense of disenfranchisement. Let’s face it, when you have a family – mum, dad and two little infants running around, you are struggling to pay a bill or don’t know where your next earnings are coming from – why would you feel politics has any value to you?

Poverty isn’t new but according to Joseph Rowntree Foundation, after 20 years of falling poverty rates we are now seeing a trend upwards. Whilst I am no statistician and I am certainly not an academic, I am an employer and I can see around me in Salford more people on the streets living rough and more families struggling to survive. I wasn’t happy just dropping the odd tin of beans in for the foodbank at my local supermarket. As an employer I knew I had the power to change things even in my business of just 10 employees.

So, what can a small business like mine do to make a difference? Since 2016 we have paid the real living wage as a minimum and we don’t operate zero hours contracts. In effect all our team are salaried with the minimum 40-hour week currently earning £18,200 per year. It’s not a lot but when you compare it with the widely feted “gig” economy – it is a game changer!

So, what is the “gig” economic model? It is companies employing people as sub-contractors, so they are not directly employed by the company, therefore any equipment, resources, holidays, National Insurance contributions and taxes are managed by the employee not the employer. The terms of any Service Level Agreement (SLA) will often have punitive measures for the employee in the event of a failure to deliver the SLA, this can be as basic as a day off sick. It is also fair to say that many of these sub-contractors (whilst bright and effective operators in their specialist trade) are not trained or equipped as business owners and very often fail to understand the hidden costs of keeping account of the business expenses, tax and other requirements. This often drives people into poor health and welfare (long hours, no holidays and barely seeing the family) or debt and the employee must wait for work to come in, which can mean no income at all. You can’t claim benefits if you are classed as working or self-employed and this is getting much worse thanks to the welfare and reform work act 2016 where the benefits cap has been substantially reduced (but it is a commonly held belief that there are a large number of “gig” workers on less than the minimum wage).

The current government see the new ways of employing as “entrepreneurial” but as an entrepreneur myself, I object to the comparison. It is a dereliction of duty for employers when they know they can employ on a full-time basis but choose not to. The government instead of encouraging better wages and a more stable working environment for employees, chooses to use the stick of reduced benefits, forcing people into impossible life choices.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy being a good employer and it doesn’t guarantee you good employees. But it is no coincidence that in a small business like ours, staff turnover is very low.  They love the company and they are proud of what we do!

The public and our customers want to see good practices like “fair trade”, and in our case fair employment terms. Overall, it produces happier staff and better customer service, society benefits with more people in the community employed, the government benefits from more taxes and the families of our employees benefit from less financial stress and regular working hours.  The idea that you can’t make money is refuted by the fact that we have been a socially responsible, profit making business for 3 years now! Having spoken to many employers, they do see the benefits of what we are achieving but they look at what the bigger organisations in our industry are doing and they want to be competitive.  However, it is worth noting that in 2017 small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) employed 16.1 million people; that is 60% of all private sector employment in the UK* and they constitute over half of all accredited Living Wage employers**

*https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/663235/bpe_2017_statistical_release.pdf

** https://www.livingwage.org.uk/sites/default/files/University-of-Middlesex-Putting-the-Living-Wage-to-Work-October-2016.pdf

 

 

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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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