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2020 Training dates

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2020 training dates for GMPA’s network

We are pleased to be launching our 2020 training course programme, with discounted rates for people who book prior to November 1st, 2019. We are delighted to be offering an expanded series of dates and topics for 2020, with our Understanding poverty measurement, definitions and data course taking place in Oldham and Wigan for the first time. Bookings can be made by visiting the training page of the GMPA website.

A new course – Maximising support for people on low incomes – has been developed. This course is for VCSE and public sector organisations who work with people experiencing poverty and who wish to understand how to maximise support for their service users and those involved in service design and delivery. It will also be of interest to researchers seeking to understand current social security provision.

The Maximising support for people on low incomes course will be held in central Manchester and run on the
following dates.

  • Thursday January 30th, 2020 (only 4 places remaining)
  • Friday February 28th, 2020
  • Tuesday April 28th, 2020
  • Thursday October 8th, 2020

Bookings for this course can be made here.

The popular Understanding poverty measurement, definitions and data course will be held on the following dates:

  • Thursday February 6th, 2020 (Oldham)
  • Thursday March 12th, 2020 (Manchester city centre)
  • Wednesday November 18th, 2020 (Wigan)

This course is for organisations who wish to strengthen the case for their work by presenting accurate and relevant data about poverty to funders, supporters and policy and decision makers. By the end of this one-day course participants will have developed an understanding of what key poverty datasets tell us, how best to access data sources and how to use this knowledge to support the work that they do. Book here to secure your place.

We will also be delivering our half-day Exploring the Poverty Premium course on:

  • Wednesday March 18th, 2020

Course attendees will be able to better understand the poverty premium, the way it affects customers, clients and consumers and how they can amend and ‘poverty proof’ their practices. Bookings for this course can be made here.

The aim of all of our training is to respond to the needs of our network and to generate income for GMPA. The training is delivered through Policy North Training. Policy North Training has been established to increase the amount of training offered by GMPA in Greater Manchester in 2020. Beyond 2020, Policy North Training will look to deliver training courses in other parts of the country to help increase the amount of revenue raised to support GMPA’s activities.

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham
GMPA Director

For full details of all our course, including downloadable course overviews, please visit the training page of our website.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support.

Graham

 

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National Action needed to end food poverty

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by Tom Skinner

As regular readers of this newsletter will know, GMPA coordinates the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance, and launched the Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester earlier this year. The Action Plan describes how we should work together (and in many cases, already are working together) at the local level to help address food poverty.

However, the Plan recognises that the power we have to address poverty at the local level is limited, and that many of the levers such as the welfare system, minimum wages, pensions, and funding for local authorities and public health, are held at the national level. We need wholehearted and strategic support at the national level for ending food insecurity, by addressing the underlying causes of poverty as well as improving access to good food.

We were therefore pleased to have the chance to submit evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment.

We shared insights from across the Alliance, academics and people experiencing poverty, and pointed to a great deal of good practice being carried out by councils and other organisations across Greater Manchester. On the role of the UK Government we said,

“Things need to change. Wages and benefits haven’t kept up with living costs while essential public services
have been cut, so hard-stretched communities are picking up the pieces with responses that are well-intentioned
and vital, but inadequate. The burden of mitigating food insecurity is falling on the wrong sector, with food
banks struggling to retain volunteers (many of whom are older), and unable to meet the overwhelming need
of so many people in their communities. While efforts are made in some cases to offer “wrap-around support”
such as debt and welfare advice alongside food provision, these efforts are undermined by cuts to those
(and other) services. At a time when the Government should take responsibility for ensuring a right to food, it has stepped
back and left the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to take on an impossible task.”

We called on the Government to enshrine a right to food in UK law by embedding the Sustainable Development Goal “zero hunger by 2030” into domestic legislation, and appointing a minister responsible for meeting this goal. We also listed a number of other actions that could be taken at the national level, including:

  • Raising the minimum wage to the Real Living Wage for all workers over 18. In the interim, or if this is not possible for all sectors/employers, full support should be given to the Real Living Wage as a voluntary scheme for employers to sign up to, while ending exploitative practices associated with zero hours contracts.
  • Ensuring that the welfare system, including pensions, provides enough for people and families to live on. The system should engage with claimants to understand their needs and build support around them. Reinstate ring-fenced and increased budgets for Local Welfare Assistance Schemes for when people fall through the gaps in the welfare system.
  • Increasing levels of social and affordable housing.
  • Requiring local authorities to have poverty strategies in place (co-produced with people experiencing poverty, the VCSE sector and other partners), and to appoint lead members who will take responsibility for the implementation of these strategies.
  • Action to address food deserts and the poverty premium
  • More support and emphasis on the Healthy Start scheme, targets for each area to increase uptake.
  • Measuring food insecurity at the national and local level
  • Involving people experiencing poverty, and the public, VCSE and private sectors in an “exit strategy” for over-reliance on food banks
Tom Skinner editorial article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director

You can see the full submission here and comment here by signing up to the Greater Manchester Food Forum – we would welcome your feedback as we continue to learn together.

 


    
                                            

 

 

You may have noticed the new Food Poverty Alliance logo – we hope you like it!
The Food Poverty Alliance is a Greater Manchester Poverty Action project

 

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Tackling economic inequality

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by Graham Whitham

As part of Oxfam’s Inequality Hearings project, GMPA recently worked with Oxfam to bring together Greater Manchester’s
citizens, service providers and decision makers to discuss economic inequality in the region and the impact it has on people’s lives.
Inequality Hearings are a new project by Oxfam being delivered in 10 locations around the UK to engage its citizens in conversation and influence decision makers, encouraging them to take action to reduce economic inequality.

Oxfam is campaigning to tackle economic inequality because apart from it being fundamentally unfair, it undermines their fight against poverty. The drive for growth and profit means millions of people around the world are being left behind despite the vast amount of wealth, resources and opportunities that exist. At GMPA we were keen to understand what economic inequality means to people in our network, people experiencing poverty and how it relates to efforts to tackle poverty. At a well-attended Inequality Hearing in central Manchester in June, people came together to discuss the issues and challenges and chose to focus particularly on employment opportunities. The Hearing built on two ‘prep sessions’ we held in Oldham and Wigan in May. Attendees from those sessions were joined at the Hearing by other stakeholders and citizens, including influential local leaders and decision makers.

We heard from attendees about their personal experiences struggling to make ends meet, as well as their thoughts and opinions about what needs to change in order to really make a difference. One of the common themes that emerged was that economic inequality often hits women harder than men, as they try to balance caring responsibilities and paid employment. High childcare costs mean that families are struggling to afford a basic standard of living. Among the delegates, married mum of two, Emma, talked about having to pay £50 per day for her childcare. Emma works part time and looks after her children, but the family doesn’t have much money. She told us “By the time childcare and travel costs are paid, it hardly seems worth it. I stay in work for the future not because it is financially beneficial. I know when both my children are older, it will help that I have continued to work. Its just a struggle trying to make ends meet now.”

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham
Director of GMPA

The feedback from the hearing was extremely positive, with people appreciating the space for conversation and expressing an urgent need for change. Some of the ideas to reduce inequality that emerged were the need to revaluate what we see as valuable in society, for citizens to have a stronger voice in decision making processes and for greater opportunities for people to retrain and enhance their skills. The outcomes have been shared with Greater Manchester’s MPs.

You can keep in touch with Oxfam’s campaign to tackle global economic inequality by following them at @oxfamcampaigns

If you would like more information about the Inequality Hearings Project, please contact Kelly Mundy

 

You can also watch a short Oxfam video here

 

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Fighting together for free access to justice

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By Tom Skinner

Under austerity, welfare reform and cuts to essential services have resulted in not only financial hardship but also confusion about how to access support, disproportionately affecting people in poverty who rely more on those services. In that context, reliable accessible to advice and justice can be a crucial lifeline to millions of people in need of support, advice and information to help them maximise their incomes, minimise their exposure to financial shocks, and navigate the changing support services available to them.

Unfortunately, this type of support has come under huge pressure in recent years. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) removed more than £350m from the Legal Aid budget and ended the right to legal representation in many areas of the law. Funding for Citizens Advice Bureaux from cash-strapped local authorities and from other agencies was significantly reduced, and law centres closed at an astonishing rate  – Greater Manchester, which once had nine law centres, now has only three, in Bury, Rochdale and Manchester.

This is why Greater Manchester Poverty Action endorses Greater Manchester Law Centre’s manifesto, “Fighting Together for Free Access to Justice”, a vision of a fairer society in which everyone has a part to play. It calls for:

  • Law Centres to enforce the legal rights of individuals and campaign with others for change.
  • The restoration of a fully funded legal aid system to sit alongside publicly funded and accountable health, social security, transport and housing services.
  • A supportive social security system.
  • A new generation of social welfare lawyers, developing and retaining legal expertise in social welfare law.
  • The right to a secure home and the protection of renters’ rights.
  • An end to the hostile environment for claimants and migrants, including adequate compensation for those
    affected by the Windrush scandal.
  • Collaboration between legal and advice services, community groups and campaigning organisations to launch strategic legal challenges to injustice

 

Free access to Justice editorial article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Co-Director

By working together we can build towards a country and a city region that ensures access to justice, so we encourage you to read the manifesto to see what role you could play.

 

 

 

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GMPA launches new Mini Poverty Monitor resource

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By Graham Whitham

At GMPA we have developed a new page on our website detailing some of the key statistics about poverty and people’s experiences of living in Greater Manchester. The aim of the ‘Mini Poverty Monitor’ is to support people to access data about poverty quickly and easily. Data is provided either at a Greater Manchester level and/or a local authority level (detailing statistics for each of the ten GM boroughs).

The page is broken down into seven sections: Child poverty, Housing, The labour market, Social security, Education, Health and Fuel poverty, food poverty and the poverty premium. The monitor does not present an exhaustive list of statistics relating to poverty in Greater Manchester, but it is a snapshot of key indicators that we know are of interest to members of our network.

The poverty monitor highlights the stark differences in the experiences of people living in different parts of Greater Manchester. Drawing on a range of existing datasets the monitor shows that:

  • Child poverty is highest in Manchester at 45% and lowest in Trafford at 19%.
  • Workers living in Oldham are paid on average £5 less per hour than workers in Trafford.
  • A third of adults (33%) in Oldham lack level 3 (equivalent to A-level) qualifications compared to 18% of adults in Trafford.
  • People working in Rochdale are nearly three times more likely to be in jobs paying at or below the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage than people working in Salford.
  • Men born in Stockport can expect to live to 80 compared to 76 in Manchester, whilst women born in Trafford can expect to live 4 years longer than their counterparts in Manchester.
  • School readiness among girls is highest in Trafford at 81.5% and lowest in Oldham at 68.7%. For boys it is highest in Trafford at 67.3% and lowest in Oldham at 54.3%.

The data masks some of the huge inequalities within boroughs, including those local authority areas that are often perceived as more affluent. For example, in Trafford the ward with the highest rate of child poverty is Clifford ward where nearly half (48.2%) of children are in poverty. This contrasts with Timperley ward which has the lowest child poverty rate in the borough (15.2%).

GMPA is calling on each of the ten local authorities and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to develop robust anti-poverty strategies and appoint a lead for tackling poverty. This would ensure that poverty doesn’t ‘fall between the cracks’ of different local authority agendas, that effective local efforts to tackle poverty are scaled up and replicated more quickly and help create a unified voice against poverty across Greater Manchester.

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham Director, GM Poverty Action

We know from our network that there are some exciting initiatives in different parts of Greater Manchester seeking to address poverty and give everyone a fair chance in life.

If you have any comments about the Mini Poverty Monitor please contact us by email.  GMPA is keen on developing a more comprehensive poverty monitor in the future. Please contact us if this is something you could support us with.

 

 

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Food Power Conference

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Reflections on the 2019 Food Power conference

By Rebecca St. Clair and Megan Blake

Last month, Food Power, an initiative that helps local communities and alliances work collaboratively to reduce food poverty, held their second annual conference in Newcastle. We went to represent the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance, and as it so closely followed the launch of the GM Food Poverty Action Plan, the conference provided the ideal opportunity for us to hear from groups at a more advanced stage of action plan implementation, and to share our experiences with those just beginning on the journey of forming alliances or partnerships.

The event kicked-off on the Tuesday evening with a get-together at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. The venue reflected an integral theme of the conference, around sharing experiences, learning from one another and telling stories. The Men’s Pie Club, a project that brings people together to cook while combatting social isolation and mental and physical health problems, provided delicious pies for everyone. After our meal, we heard about the Darwen Gets Hangry campaign and Edgelands, a film made by young people, about young people and food poverty.

Wednesday was structured around a series of parallel workshops and key themes from our perspective included:

  • Local knowledge and a place-based approach
  • Action plans and advocacy informed by research and collaboration
  • Inclusivity

In a workshop discussing the role of networks and national programmes, questions raised included:  Can national campaigns effectively support experts in localities while being aware of local sensitivities and avoiding the duplication of efforts? How can national programmes ensure they communicate with all the relevant local people/community groups, particularly when landscapes shift so frequently? Conversely, where can local groups go to find out about national campaigns? It seems that there is a need for easily accessible information about national and local initiatives and while the Sustainable Food Cities website details numerous campaigns and food partnerships, the lists are by no means an exhaustive. As Kath Dalmeny of Sustain observed, navigating networks and activities can be a messy process, but this often seems unavoidable.

In a workshop on the development of alliances and action plans, Moray Foodbank spoke about their food poverty action plan and the research carried out to support its development. During focus groups and interviews, the group learnt that people experiencing food poverty were often exposed to judgemental attitudes from professional service providers and it became clear there is still a desperate need to remove the stigma around food poverty. As a result, Moray included this as the top priority of their action plan. Others seeking guidance on framing conversations about food poverty may find the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Project Twist a useful point of reference.

Regarding the need for partnerships and alliances to be inclusive, ideas raised included varying the location of meetings to give everyone the best chance of attending; identifying common aims and ensuring participation is mutually beneficial; recruiting experts by experience first (Oxford used this approach and reported that it has worked well).

Rebecca St Clair Food power confernece article for GM Poverty Action

Rebecca St. Clair

One workshop focused on the Healthy Start voucher scheme, designed to support families with young children and pregnant mothers on low incomes to buy fruit, vegetables and milk. The vouchers, which must be signed-off by health professionals, are allocated per child/per week and distributed on a monthly basis. Currently only 64% of eligible households claim their vouchers, so Food Power is working to raise awareness and increase uptake. Sustain’s Healthy Start toolkit outlines actions that can be taken on a range of levels.

Megan Blake Food power article for GM Poverty Action

Megan Blake

The conference gave us a real sense of the pride that Newcastle has in its history, its reputation for hospitality and community spirit and its food heritage. As with many areas, Newcastle has suffered sustained cuts to local services and witnessed the all-too-familiar trends of more people accessing food banks, finding themselves at the mercy of precarious employment, low wages and a weakened welfare system. A message that featured throughout the event was that while organisations and individuals are rightly proud of their communities coming together and supporting those most in need, they are simultaneously outraged by the very existence of food poverty. Clearly, local action should take place alongside campaigns for national-scale structural adjustments and longer-term planning to ensure the continuation of place-based forms of support that help to restore and strengthen our communities.

 

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MCC and the Living Wage

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Manchester City Council sets out its ambition to be an accredited Living Wage Employer

The Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign launched in 2013, and within months a supporter of the campaign, who was also a councillor, proposed a resolution for Manchester City Council to pay at least the Real Living Wage. The Campaign played an active role in the Task & Finish Group that followed, and the Council resolved to also attempt to roll out the Living Wage to the Council’s contracted workers.

One of our first successes was therefore with Manchester City Council, resulting in a pay rise for over a thousand workers. However, the Council was reticent at the time to make this a public long-term commitment by becoming accredited with the Living Wage Foundation. So while we celebrated the success and the resulting increases in take-home pay, we maintained that the job was incomplete.

Accreditation is the best platform from which to engage other employers and encourage them to implement the Real Living Wage. It commits employers to making a clear plan for the rollout of the Real Living Wage to their contracted and sub-contracted workers, and enables the Living Wage Foundation to support the employer to do so. Accredited by an independent organisation, it gives employers the right to use the Living Wage kite mark and to promote their credentials as a Living Wage Employer.

The Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign affirms the importance of accreditation, and has a vision of a Living Wage City Region in which all councils and other major employers accredit, and take action to bring other employers on board. We have raised this consistently in several subsequent meetings with the Council.

Tom Skinner editorial article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director

For this reason we are delighted to share that Manchester City Council has set out its ambition to be an accredited Living Wage Employer. They join Oldham in making this announcement, and seek to join Salford as fully accredited Living Wage Employers. We will support these Councils with this process, and call on the remaining seven GM join to join them as accredited Living Wage Employers.

If you would like to join us in action on the Real Living Wage but are not yet signed up to receive updates directly from the Campaign please email: livingwage@gmpovertyaction.org  with ‘Sign Up’ in the subject line.

 

 

 

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GM Housing Providers Poverty Pledges

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GMFPA logo

GM Housing Providers report regularly on their attempts to tackle poverty (GM Housing Providers Spring 2019 Anti-Poverty Newsletter), and this month their pledges have been revamped to include many specific commitments to make the Food Poverty Action Plan a reality.  These include:

Action to reduce the “poverty premium”. We have pledged to work in partnership locally to identify the best deals for our customers on services such as access to technology, broadband and essentials such as white goods, furniture and clothing and to actively market these lower cost options.

Increase fuel vouchers provision and affordable white goods to ensure people have the fuel and equipment needed to cook meals. We have pledged to promote initiatives designed to reduce energy bills  and to improve access to financial advice and services for existing and prospective tenants

Establish more food clubs/food pantries, especially in areas that lack affordable healthy food. Housing providers already work with and support many of the Pantry type projects in GM and we have pledged to support the expansion of models that divert food waste.  We will also coordinate an effort which will support the expansion of bulk buy food and support further coordination of food banks and the development of food co-ops.

Open up unused land for food to be grown for community use and help to grow food for community use. We have pledged to increase initiatives to grow and access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables.

Show leadership in tackling low pay, insecure work, and unemployment – become accredited Real Living Wage employers – We have pledged to do this with over half of GM housing providers now accredited.

Develop and implement local procurement policies to source supplies locally, including but not limited to food. We have pledged to adopt a consistent approach to maximising the value of our procurement and supply chain by adopting and implementing the principles in the GMCA Social Value Policy.

All Local Authorities and Housing Associations should pledge to invest in new social housing. We have pledged to work collaboratively on development sites and schemes to maximise impact and reduce costs and continue to prioritise the delivery of low cost rented housing.

 

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New child poverty figures

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New local child poverty figures show worrying rises in poorest parts of the UK
By Graham Whitham

Today the End Child Poverty coalition launched updated local child poverty figures. With around three in ten children living in relative poverty in the UK, the local figures allow us to understand what those numbers mean at a local authority, parliamentary constituency and ward level. Not surprisingly there are huge variations across the country. Worryingly the figures show that child poverty is rising particularly rapidly in the most disadvantaged parts of major cities, especially London, Birmingham and Greater Manchester.Child poverty figures for GM Poverty Action

We are used to seeing figures that show Greater Manchester is home to some of the highest levels of poverty and deprivation in the country. These figures show that in some wards in our city region more than 50% of children are living below the poverty line.

The figures also details huge variations within Greater Manchester. A staggering 62% of children are living below the poverty line in Werneth in Oldham, compared to 13.4% in Worsley in Salford.Child Poverty nfographic for GM Poverty Action

There are also major variations within individual boroughs. The ward with the highest level of child poverty in Bolton is Great Lever, with a child poverty rate of 55%. The ward with the lowest rate in the same borough is Bromley Cross at 18.5%. Despite these variations, all ten boroughs in Greater Manchester are home to thousands of children living in poverty. The main figures are detailed at the end of this article.

The increases in child poverty seen across the UK in recent years are largely the result of cuts to working age benefits. Parents have seen the value of tax credits, Child Benefit and other support cut in recent years. The figures also underline how seemingly positive employment figures – low unemployment and record employment levels – aren’t translating into reductions in poverty and improved living standards. Too many people are trapped in low paying jobs or unable to get sufficient hours to work their way out of poverty.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond recently hinted at another significant increase in the minimum wage. This would be welcome but must sit alongside reversals in cuts to benefits and measures that increase in-work progression.

Alongside launching the local child poverty figures, End Child Poverty is calling on the Government to set out an ambitious and credible child poverty-reduction strategy, including:

  • Restoring the link between benefits (including housing support) and inflation, and then making up for the loss in the real value in children’s benefits as a result of the 4-year freeze and previous sub-inflation increases in benefit rates.
  • Ending the two-child limit on child allowances in tax credits and universal credit and reforming Universal Credit;
  • Reversing the cuts and investing in children’s services such as mental health, education, childcare and social care.
Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham

As a member of End Child Poverty, Greater Manchester Poverty Action these calls.  We would also like to see the Government provide more support for local stakeholders to tackle poverty in their area. A national poverty strategy could help create a framework and provide guidance for local authorities and their partners to address child poverty  locally.

Mapping of anti-poverty strategies in 209 top-tier local authority areas in England and Wales by GMPA in 2018 found that 31 of the 209 have a child or family poverty strategy in place (for example Manchester) and a further 80 incorporate a focus on child and family poverty within a broader strategy (for example Salford) or set of strategies (for example Wigan). Whilst many local areas are pushing ahead with their own strategic approaches, the lack of poverty strategies in many areas highlights the need for greater leadership on this issue by central government.


Key findings*

ECP table 1 2019 for GM Poverty ActionECP Table 2.1 for GM Poverty Action

*Please note the figures we have shown here are for poverty after housing costs (AHC) are taken into account.

End Child Poverty have also published before housing costs (BHC) figures. The data for each Ward, Constituency and Local Authority is available in full at  http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/poverty-in-your-area-2019/

 

 

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Rise in Child Poverty

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Latest government data shows a worrying rise in child poverty
By Graham Whitham

At the end of last month the government released the latest UK poverty statistics. The child poverty figures gained the most attention with the data showing a rise in the number of children living in deep or ‘severe’ poverty. This means that of the 4.1 million children in relative poverty, 2.8 million are in ‘severe’ poverty. There are 3.7 million children in poverty under the alternative absolute poverty measure.

Whilst pensioner poverty has remained low over recent year, there are signs that this is also starting to increase. The graph below shows how the poverty rate varies for different household types:UK Poverty Rates April 2019 for GM Poverty Action

Many readers will be aware of the rise in in-work poverty in recent years. An incredible 70% of children living in poverty are now in households where at least one adult is in work. Whilst children in households where no one is in work are still at greater risk of poverty, the rise of in-work poverty is a sign that employment is not an effective route out of poverty for many families.

The figures also showed a rise in inequality, with the incomes of the rich growing at a faster rate than those on lower incomes.

Some are projecting that the child poverty rate will reach a record 37% by 2022, breaking the record high of 34% set in the early 90s, unless action is taken. In response to the figures being published, End Child Poverty (ECP) called on all the major political parties to develop an ambitious and coherent child poverty reduction strategy ahead of the next General Election. ECP also wants to see an end to the benefit freeze and a full reversal of the two-child limit in his November budget.

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, Director of GMPA

GMPA is a member of End Child Poverty and supports these calls. We are highly concerned about the impact of ongoing welfare cuts in Greater Manchester, where an estimated 620,000 residents are living in poverty.

ECP logo for GM Poverty Action

 

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