GM Living Wage Campaign update

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

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

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

Best Wishes and Stay Safe.

GM Living Wage Campaign Coordinator
John Hacking

Twitter : @GMlivingwage  Facebook:

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The National Food Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sian Mullen
GMPA Food Poverty Programme Coordinator



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Food poverty programme

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

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

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

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

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

Sian Mullen

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

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

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

Tom for GMFPA article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Co-Director

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


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Impact of poverty on BAME communities

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The disproportionate impact of poverty on BAME communities
By Graham Whitham

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

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

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

Miranda Kaunang FareShareGM for GM Poverty Action

Miranda Kaunang,
Head of Development, FareShare GM

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

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

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

Elizabeth Dotun for GM Poverty Action

Elizabeth Dotun  
Project Director ,
Rehoboth for families

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

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

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

Atiha Chaudry for GM Poverty Action

Atiha Chaudry
GM BAME Network

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

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

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

Charles Kawku-Odoi for GM Poverty Action

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

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

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

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

Beatrice Smith for GM Poverty Action

Beatrice Smith,
Tameside PTC, GMPA

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

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



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Child Poverty

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

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

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

Graham Whitham, Director GMPA

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


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Poverty Truth Commissions

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By Tom Skinner, Director, GMPA

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

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

Beatrice Smith

Poverty Truth Commission Facilitator article for GM Poverty Action

Beatrice Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tackling poverty in the aftermath of the pandemic

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

By Graham Whitham, Director GMPA

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

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

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

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

A way forward in Greater Manchester

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

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

A draft framework for tackling poverty                                                                           

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

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

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

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

The key elements of the framework

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

Strategies can only be successful if all decisions being taken, policies being implemented and services being designed by an organisation share the aims of the strategy and are considered against their impact on poverty.

Local socio-economic duties, like the one adopted by Newcastle City Council, can help enable this to happen in a systematic way and would complement existing legal duties on public bodies equalities legislation.

Graham Whitham, Director GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, Director GMPA

Next steps

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


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Co-production under Covid-19

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By Tom Skinner, Director GMPA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tom Skinner, GMPA Co-Director

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


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Child Poverty

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GMPA joins calls for national action on poverty

By Graham Whitham

Even before the devastating impact of Covid-19 on household incomes, child poverty has been rising rapidly in some of the poorest communities in Britain, leaving growing numbers of children cut adrift and ill equipped to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

As a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition, GMPA is joining calls on the Government to take seriously the four year rise in child poverty and to commit to an ambitious and comprehensive strategy to end child poverty in the UK as it plans the nation’s recovery from Coronavirus.

New analysis of government poverty data undertaken by Loughborough University, on behalf of the End Child Poverty Coalition (ECP), tracks four years of child poverty across Britain before housing costs are taken into account (2014/15 – 2018/19). The analysis highlights those parts of the country where children are most likely to have been swept into poverty since 2014.

The research shows that the North West of England experienced the third highest increase in child poverty between 2014/15 to 2018/19 (see table 1), and that the largest increases in child poverty happened in already deprived areas. Among Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities, Oldham saw the largest increases in child poverty as it rose from 28.7% to 38% (see table 2). Stockport and Trafford were the only Greater Manchester boroughs to experiences increases in child poverty lower than the increase across the country as a whole.

Table 1 Change in child poverty by region 2014/15 to 2018/19

RegionChild poverty rate 2014/15Child poverty rate 2018/19% point increase
NORTH EAST17.3%23.7%6.5%
WEST MIDLANDS19.1%23.8%4.7%
NORTH WEST18.5%23.0%4.5%
SOUTH EAST10.8%13.7%2.9%
EAST MIDLANDS16.6%16.6%0.0%
SOUTH WEST15.0%13.4%-1.6%

The pandemic has underlined the need for urgent action to address child poverty. Recent ONS analysis, carried out 17-27 April 2020, found that 23% of adults said the coronavirus was affecting their household finances. The most common impact in this group was reduced income (70%), and nearly half saying they had needed to use savings or borrow to cover living costs. A number of announcements over the last month or so will be helping some people. The government’s furlough scheme and increase in support through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit will help. Although welcome, these measures are unlikely to be enough to stop the pandemic pushing many households into financial hardship, either in the short or long-term.

There are additional measures GMPA would like to see, and we have been adding our voice to national campaigns calling for changes which include:

  • Substantially increasing Child Benefit. This is the quickest and most efficient means of getting extra money into the pockets of families;
  • Ending the two-child limit that restricts benefit payments to the first two children in the household;
  • Scrapping the benefit cap that limits the total amount of support a household can receive through the benefit system; and
  • Providing extra funding towards council’s local welfare assistance schemes so that they can meet the extra demand for support over the coming weeks and months.

Table 2 Percent of children in households below 60% median, before housing costs,
by local authority 2014/15 to 2018/19

2014/152018/19Percentage point increase,
2014/15 to 2018/19
GB Total15.6%18.4%2.8%


For the full report from ECP, please go to the website

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Assessing the Government’s Food Measures During COVID-19

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By Tom Skinner

A Parliament inquiry last week called for evidence on COVID-19 and food supply. I was asked to help Greater Manchester’s response to this call, answering the question, “Are the Government and food industry doing enough to support people to access sufficient healthy food; and are any groups not having their needs met? If not, what further steps should the Government and food industry take?” Here is what I wrote:

Central Government efforts to provide food for up to 1.5m extremely vulnerable people shielding from COVID 19 is welcome, although there have been challenges around ensuring local authorities are fully aware of who is  in receipt of support from the government’s scheme. This has made it difficult to ensure local responses are coordinated and complementary to the national scheme.

The biggest concern however is that the number of people in need far exceeds that list, both because the criteria exclude some people who have serious health conditions (there should be a larger semi-shielded list of people who, even if they turn down or are ineligible for food packages from the Government, are still prioritised for other services and access to supermarkets), and because they don’t consider low income or other related socioeconomic factors. More than three million people reported going hungry in the first three weeks of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown alone. Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s own survey of food support providers early in the COVID-19 crisis showed increased demand for their services, but concerns about the food supply and a major decrease in volunteer capacity that will have worsened further since the lockdown started.

The £3.25m grant for redistributing surplus food has helped to allay some of the worst fears about food supply to public sector and VCSE food providers, but food banks in several areas of Greater Manchester have still been running dangerously low on supplies and have had to buy food in, either depleting their own cash reserves or relying on bailouts from their local authorities. This financial hit compounds the impact of austerity in which those councils with the most financially vulnerable populations also experienced the harshest cuts, and there is significant concern that the “Fair Funding Review” could continue or even accelerate that trend. These concerns about local authority and voluntary and community and social enterprise (VCSE) finances in Greater Manchester risk undermining the city region’s determination to provide for all of its citizens and to transition out of this crisis with a shared approach to reducing food poverty. A commitment to bolster funding for councils in the future, to meet the needs of their low-income and other vulnerable households (including but not limited to ring-fenced and better funded Local Welfare Assistance Schemes) is a missing pillar of the Government’s COVID-19 response.

Household income itself remains a barrier to accessing food, despite many welcome moves from the Government – the furlough scheme, the end of the benefits freeze, the increase in support through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit and the extra funding to councils to meet increased demand for support with paying council tax. The removal of the requirement for Healthy Start applications to have a signature from a health worker is welcome, and we encourage the Government to move as quickly as possible to launching the system for online applications, as well as setting targets to increase uptake.

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director writes editorial for GM Poverty Action

However the 5 week wait for Universal Credit continues to increase household food insecurity, as does the 2-child limit. We also advocate substantially increasing Child Benefit and scrapping the benefit cap that limits the total amount of support a household can receive through the benefit system.

Tom Skinner
Director, GM Poverty Action


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