Decent Work and The Real Living Wage Post Covid

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By John Hacking

Greater Manchester (GM) went into the Covid-19 crisis as one of the fastest growing economies in the UK and will most likely come out of it in recession.

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?

It is likely that the economic impact on the GM economy will not be uniform across sectors.

The health and care sector in particular will continue to have a huge focus placed on it and there is clearly an increased sense of social solidarity and support for key workers in this sector and others such as transport and  local municipal services across the wider population. This will provide opportunities to protect the progress that has been made in tackling low pay amongst these workers and to press for improved job quality and pay.

There are, however, other sectors where low pay has traditionally been a problem in Greater Manchester.

Businesses in the ‘foundational economy’ and  particularly those in retail and hospitality will be very adversely affected, with knock on consequences for their employees, most of whom are unlikely to have earned the Real Living Wage even before the Covid-19 crisis. This will not be uniform across the conurbation, as areas that have a larger number of workers in these types of businesses will be more heavily affected.

The response that we make as the Greater Manchester Poverty Action and as the GM Living Wage Campaign will be affected by these changing circumstances. We will need to work with our partners in the Trade Unions, the Local Authorities and other public sector bodies and the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector to ensure that ‘we hold what we have’ in terms of gains made in the past. In addition, we will need to find ways of working together to ensure that we meet the challenges ahead with a well-formed strategy and a sense of common purpose and energy.

GM Mayor Andy Burnham has said that government support for business should be linked to the introduction of better employment standards, including a Real Living Wage. ThisBuild Back Better approach is one that needs to shape the economic response across GM and nationally.

The timing and nature of the emergence from the crisis is unknown. The full scale and nature of the economic impact is unknown. The toll on wellbeing and mental health conditions of workers is unknown.

Even given all these unknowns we should start to think and plan for the challenges and opportunities ahead for our campaign and the aspirations of our partners and supporters.

With this in mind GM Living Wage Campaign will be holding a 1 hour online Think Session at 2pm on Wednesday May 13th, 2020. The session will be informal and will focus on thoughts and ideas for the post Covid-19 period both short and long term. If you want to take part please contact me

John Hacking GM Living Wage coordinator for GM Poverty Action

Best Wishes and Stay Safe.

John Hacking,
Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Coordinator


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Supporting food provision

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Supporting coordination of food provision during COVID-19
By Tom Skinner

I represent GMPA on the GM Food Response Core Team*, taking the lead (with 10GM) on understanding VCSE sector food providers’ response to COVID-19, and helping them and local authorities to work together more closely and effectively. GMPA ran a survey of VCSE food providers at the start of the lockdown, providing valuable intelligence to shape each borough’s response systems.

*The Core Team, established last month, includes representatives from the NHS, GM Combined Authority, 10GM, Food Sync, One Manchester and others. Its role is to support the boroughs’ food provision activities, providing intelligence and helping them to learn from each other (and the VCSE sector), and to join up and share resources. It brings Local Authority Food Leads and VCSE infrastructure organisations together in a weekly Food Leads meeting, which feeds into Greater Manchester’s Humanitarian Assistance Group.

At the start of this month I wrote a paper for the Humanitarian Assistance Group recommending actions to support VCSE food providers during the COVID-19 crisis, including:

  1. Assuring a robust supply of food;
  2. Helping to provide access to facilities for storing and distributing chilled and frozen food;
  3. Funding and in-kind resource to maintain and expand activities;
  4. Additional volunteer capacity;
  5. Reliable health and safety guidelines and measures;
  6. Coordination between public services and VCSE food providers.

Half of these recommendations have already been agreed for action, and the others set aside for more detailed discussions in the Food Leads meetings.

I have also been connecting VCSE food providers with local authorities and offers of support such as food, volunteering and equipment.

This role is essential in helping Greater Manchester to make use of the food that is on offer to people in need of support, and I am pleased that our work coordinating the GM Food Poverty Alliance has put us in a position to do this.

However there is much more to be done here, including facilitating meaningful open conversations about the desired long-term set-up, how to tackle the underlying causes of food poverty, and the sustainable roles of local government, VCSE sector food providers, and other stakeholders including people who have experience of food poverty (the 7th recommendation in my paper). I am therefore delighted to be able to share a job opportunity for a Food Poverty Coordinator who will join GMPA’s team and work with me to help Greater Manchester develop an effective response to food poverty, now and in the long-term.

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director writes editorial for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner

Tom Skinner
Director, Greater Manchester Poverty Action


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Could you support GMPA to continue the fight against poverty?

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Principal Partner: Great Places  “Great Places is proud to act as a Principal Partner for GMPA and support the excellent work the group is doing in Manchester. As a housing association with social value at its core, we strive to improve the lives of those living in our communities – whether that’s through financial advice, training and skills support, or helping our customers into employment. We believe that by working together, we can do more – collaboration is key to building a better future for those living in poverty across our city.”

Greater Manchester Poverty Action relies on financial support from our Principal Partners and through funding for project work, such as our work on food poverty and the GM Living Wage Campaign.

With a lot of VCSE sector resource now being redeployed to directly address the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, funding opportunities for organisations undertaking strategic policy and influencing work are likely to be limited in the short term. This has already had an impact on GMPA’s funding position, and we are using the frontpage of today’s newsletter to call for organisations and individuals to support us financially so that we can continue the fight against poverty.

The economic impact of the lockdown is likely to be felt most by those places already experiencing poverty, and more households across the city region will be facing financial insecurity over the coming months. As with all economic shocks, the effects of this current crisis will be felt for years. Addressing this will require a renewed effort and focus on tackling poverty, not just by the government in Westminster but by local decision makers across Greater Manchester.

That’s why we believe the work of GMPA has never been more important. It is vital that we are able to continue supporting stakeholders to tackle poverty, whether its supporting local authorities to develop effective anti-poverty strategies, networking food banks and food clubs or identifying good practice that can be replicated across the whole of the Greater Manchester. We can only continue with this work by growing our Principal Partner  and Supporter schemes.

Our Principal Partners Scheme involves larger financial pledges of support. If this is something you would like to discuss further, please contact us . Principal Partners join the GMPA Advisory Group alongside people with lived experience of poverty. Organisations who sign up as Principal Partners will be listed on our website and will be sent a “Greater Manchester Poverty Action Principal Partner” image for use in their own publicity.

Our Supporters Scheme involves smaller donations and you can sign up by completing this form. Organisations who sign up as supporters will be listed on our website, and will be sent a “Greater Manchester Poverty Action Supporter” image for use in their own publicity.

Graham Whitham
Director, GMPA

Principal Partner: Oxfam  “Tackling poverty and inequality, wherever we find it, is the central mission of Oxfam, including in the UK, so we are very pleased to support the work of GMPA as a lead and convener, working in partnership to challenge policy and practice and make Greater Manchester a fairer place for all, placing the views and experiences of people in poverty at it’s heart”






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Low income families support

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Low income families need more support from the government
By Graham Whitham

At a time of great uncertainly for households up and down the country, GMPA has been supporting calls for the government to do more to protect families from poverty. This includes adding our support to calls from national charities, and through campaigns like the End Child Poverty and End Hunger UK.

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. The government has provided extra funding to councils to meet increased demand for support with paying council tax. April also sees the end of the benefits freeze, with benefits uprated by 1.7%.

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 will be adding our voice to national campaigns calling for changes which will 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.


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GMPA’s work in light of the Coronavirus outbreak

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We are living through one of the biggest global health crises of the last 100 years. There is not a single person unaffected by the threat of Coronavirus infection and the measures that have been put in place to keep the virus at bay.

This will be a particularly challenging time for people experiencing poverty, and those at risk of falling into poverty as many of the support services they rely on come under strain and have to adapt to growing levels of need.

At Greater Manchester Poverty Action we are looking to support local authorities and other stakeholders in the city region with responses to the virus, ensuring poverty is taken into account so that people on low incomes are supported as much as possible. We are part of the core team for Greater Manchester’s food response, which is working to support coordinated action on food across GM during the crisis.

Like many organisations, much of our normal work will progress at a slower pace, and all pre-arranged meetings including the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign group have either been postponed or moved to online conference calls. We will endeavour to maintain our regular newsletter, with the next edition after Easter on April 22nd (copy deadline April 15th) and as such we would welcome any articles and links to useful resources that we can include. Please let us have information about your own organisation’s response or situation but especially any positive stories or successes that we can share and that we all need to read at this very difficult time. We have also created a page on our website to help keep people up to date with the work that we are doing and to link through to up to date information and advice.

As we are only a small team with limited resources and capacity, we may not be as responsive to enquiries about other aspects of our work at this time. Additionally, it may not be possible to keep other parts of our website as up to date as we usually would over the coming months. We will do our best.

The government have stepped in with several measures to help people on low incomes and those who face a drop in income. There is more that will need to be done, and we will be supporting national campaigns and policy changes including through the End Child Poverty Coalition and End Hunger UK, to help add our voice to calls to increase support for people facing hardship.

Many thanks to all the people who have completed the two surveys we have been running. The results from the food providers survey have been sent through to a range of stakeholders, including the Combined Authority and the ten local authorities. We are also linking up with the VCSE infrastructure organisations so that they can make best use of the information being gathered.

Please take every possible care and thank you for all that you are doing,

Tom, Graham, John and Chris

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