GMPA

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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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.

 

i3oz9sI am a poverty truth commissioner
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