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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Good Mentor Hunting

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Good Mentor Hunting

BLGC article for GM Poverty Action

Mentor Darren Knight with Corey

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

BLGC for GM Poverty Action

Mentor Jackie Lord with Lincoln

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

BLGC for GM Poverty Action

Mentor David Quilliam with Lewis

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


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Warm Homes Fund

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New scheme offers free central heating for local residents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to apply

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

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

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


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Rethinking Poverty

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Report from Rethinking Poverty Event

Graham Whitham at GM Poverty Action Rethinking Poverty event

Graham Whitham


The event started with GMPA’s Directors Graham Whitham and Tom Skinner talking about GMPA, what we seek to do, some highlights from the last year (which regular readers of the newsletter will be aware of), and our hopes for the year ahead. Graham also talked about Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s UK Poverty 2017 report which had been published that morning, and that highlighted 14 million people living in poverty in the UK – over one in five of the population.

Our first guest speaker was Barry Knight, Director of the Webb Memorial Trust and author of Rethinking Poverty. He outlined the challenge that our society faces in reducing poverty through existing paradigms, and invoked Beatrice Webb in his insistence that poverty is a function of social structure and economic mismanagement, not individual character failings. The two decades immediately after WW2 were characterised by full employment and a comprehensive welfare state safety net but we now face threats from the likes of automation, low wages and low public spending. He said that policies should not focus on economic growth, but ensuring a basic standard of living, allowing people to participate in and contribute to society, and characterised by intergenerational fairness. In particular, it’s critically important that young people and poorer people work together and make their voices heard; change will only come from the bottom up.

Barry Knight of Webb MT at Rethinking Poverty for GM Poverty Action

Barry Knight

He concluded by calling for triple devolution: power should be shared by national government, regional and local government, and communities themselves. Local authorities should devolve power to local organisations which have a broad base of community engagement, especially involving young people. A good society, without poverty, will not come from top-down redistribution, but through new transformational relationships based on mutuality.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, spoke next, and said that devolution offers major new opportunities to rethink politics and poverty. He agreed that real change will come from the bottom up, not from Westminster, so Greater Manchester has the opportunity to make changes and inspire others to do the same. He shared a tragic story about the death of a young homeless man whom he had known. Society is now deeply unequal, not just in relation to income/pay but also in experiences of insecurity. The rise in demand for mental health services reflects this increased insecurity.

Andy Burnham at GM Poverty Action Rethinking Poverty event

Andy Burnham

He urged us to question high pay as well as low pay, and inequalities within organisations, as well as between individuals. He said that he is committed to ensuring that the cynicism that people feel about Westminster politics should not be replicated locally; indeed, devolution offers an opportunity to correct the problems created by Westminster. We therefore need to demonstrate new approaches, and show that change is possible.

Andy outlined his plans to end rough sleeping in GM by 2020, citing the introduction of a Social Impact Bond to provide accommodation for 200 rough sleepers, and to address in-work poverty through the Good Employment Charter and the Living Wage. He said that we need to work together to improve school readiness, with 13,000 children in GM starting school without the necessary skills to develop. Free bus passes for 16 –18 year olds and a ‘Curriculum for Life’ will help young people after school to get the start that they need as they approach the world of work. Andy then took questions on issues including:

• The need for leadership on food poverty – Andy is organising a Green Summit in March 2018 and will consider appointing someone to lead on food policy in particular

• Universal Credit – Andy said that some of the DWP budget should be devolved to GM. A suggestion was also made from the audience that credit unions could play a role in helping to address the long wait for UC to come through that is putting many people into rent arrears, and Andy expressed a willingness to explore this possibility.

• Involving the private sector more in poverty reduction – Andy talked about those who are supporting the Mayor’s Homelessness Fund, and the role that the Good Employment Charter could play in improving job quality in many businesses

• Universal Basic Income – Andy said that evidence from the pilot in Finland will be important, and said that as well as income, other issues need to be factored in for real poverty reduction, e.g. in housing, security of tenure, quality of housing and rent controls for people in private rented sector.

• The need to channel more resources into affordable housing – Andy has appointed Paul Dennett as GM lead on housing, and with 85,000 people on the waiting list, we do need to increase supply of affordable housing

We then welcomed Young Manchester, two of whom gave powerful speeches about the impact of poverty on young people, told us about their Poverty Speaks Volumes work and presented their video: watch it here.

Young Manchester at Rethinking Poverty GM Poverty Action Event

Representatives of Young Manchester

Finally we had a panel discussion with Jayne Gosnall, Salford Poverty Truth Commissioner, Dr Carolyn Wilkins, Chief Executive of Oldham Council, Barry Knight who had spoken earlier, and Paul Dennett, City Mayor of Salford Jayne, Carolyn and Paul each gave short speeches reflecting on the other talks and presentations.

Panel for Rethinking Poverty at GM Poverty Action Rethinking Poverty event

Left to right:Jayne Gosnall, Dr Carolyn Wilkins, Barry Knight and Paul Dennett

Jayne talked about the principles behind the Salford Poverty Truth Commission and the outcomes, such as making council tax bills easier to understand, information about what to do if struggling to pay the bill, and free replacement birth certificates for homeless people. Carolyn said that Oldham has been working differently for some years, after rethinking its fundamental purpose: not just service delivery but also economic development, listening to people’s lived experiences. Paul said that poverty is a systemic issue and a symptom of the failure of neoliberalism, and that we need more progressive taxation. Poverty cannot be addressed just through local actions, but devolution presents an opportunity to challenge the highly centralised UK government. He said that we need to campaign for social justice, further devolution and local democracy. There was then a lively discussion with questions from the audience.

We finished with some final thoughts from Graham, and “I don’t want to live in poverty”, another powerful song from Young Manchester. All of the speakers, and the audience who asked questions, complemented each other well and we explored many challenging questions and innovative approaches through the afternoon. It really was an event in which we rethought how to address poverty here, and how Greater Manchester can lead the way in the UK.

Andy Burnham and Young Manchester at GM Poverty Action Rethinking Poverty event

Andy Burnham with representatives from Young Manchester



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I am a poverty truth commissioner

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Patrick Philpott is a commissioner on Salford Poverty Truth Commission.

I left prison with £4.20 and did not receive my first benefits for 16 weeks. I went to a food bank and a breakfast drop in centre, and there I came across a project involving Church Action on Poverty, and that’s when I heard about Salford Poverty Truth Commission.

At the moment there are nine poverty truth commissions running or being set up in the UK, and I am a commissioner on the Salford one. Poverty truth commissions, to me, are the missing link. They are about real people, who can make a difference, and who have the right values and they look at the source of poverty not just the outcome.

The first meeting I went to was at Salford University and as an ex-offender I just didn’t feel worthy of even being there. But I saw an opportunity to make lifestyle changes and by being engaged with a diverse group of good-living people, I knew there was an opportunity to maintain a bit of consistency.

The commission had 15 people who have been in poverty and 15 people who are in what we call public life. To me, it was an absolute privilege to be in a room full of such normal people and good-living people. I was made very welcome and I think I was an addition to the diversity of the group. In a way, it was easy for me because I had nothing else to be doing. The meetings were a highlight for me, a day out.

The thing that impressed me was the whole thing had the support of the Bishop and the Mayor of Salford. That’s my two biggest interests, faith and politics, I am committed to both. From the outset, for everything we achieved, we were blending a bit of faith and a bit of politics.

We have assembly meetings once a month and between that there are little activities. My first one was when I was invited to speak at St Clement’s Church in Salford. I went to speak at the church with a GP on the group and frankly I felt out of place, but there was nothing but encouragement and support and they valued my experience of having lived in abject poverty for quite a long time.

It certainly brought down stigma and barriers for me. The doctor drove me back to my bail hostel and I felt ashamed of my past, but there was no judgment. I was made to feel part of something, and it was the first time in my life I felt part of something worthwhile and meaningful.  It’s the most talented group of people I have ever met in my life. It’s not party political or religious, it’s just about people understanding that people care and need help.

I had been out of mainstream society for a long time, and I was watching the approach the group took. I saw a group that had potential to have an influence in different areas of society, and they started knocking on doors gently. Personally, at times, I would have been inclined to kick the door down, but this helped me make the adjustments I needed to make for myself, and the simple approach worked.

You can feel the love growing in the group, and see people’s commitment. It’s very simple and it’s what’s lacking, not just in relation to poverty but in British society – simple love and understanding.

I have been in Salford on and off since 1974, and the day we met Salford council was unbelievable. Now there has been a change in ethics. They have changed the way they do debt collection and we can meet people face to face again. They have waived charges when people who are homeless need a copy of their birth certificate, and we have produced a guide for people who are sleeping on the streets. There’s some tremendous help out there but some charities have almost become industries. Our approach is about individuals. We care for people’s lives, and where people have been broken or are in despair, we care as individuals and as a group.

Patrick Philpott, Salford Poverty Truth Commissioner for GM Poverty Action article

Patrick Philpott

I honestly believe social care is just about Christian values – not theology or doctrine, but just unconditional love, kindness, compassion and humility. We can’t all have ten jobs and four careers. The truth is, people in poverty must be understood and respected and we have a moral obligation as human beings, if we see someone less fortunate, to say ‘I can lend a hand’.

I am not naïvely thinking we can change the world overnight, but if anybody anywhere else needed motivation, just look at what we have achieved in Salford.

My association in Salford covers five decades, and some of the changes I have seen have been a gradual race to the bottom. But this is something that works and it can bring tremendous hope. And people, not just in Salford, should watch this space.


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