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Benefit Sanctions

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Study highlights the negative impact of benefit sanctions

by Graham Whitham

A major study launched last week confirmed what many of us already knew, benefit sanctions are an ineffective means of getting people into work and can have severe negative consequences for those they are used against. The study, which brought together academics and researchers from several universities, tracked claimants over a five-year period and found that sanctions reduce people’s motivation to search for work and hurt people mentally, physically and financially.

The findings run counter to government rhetoric which has argued greater conditionality has helped to push benefit claimants into employment. The study argues that where people have moved into work over recent years, it is much more likely to be the result of personalised employment support than sanctions. For people with complex needs or in particularly difficult situations (people with addictions or experiencing homelessness), sanctions act to push people out of the benefits system (‘dropping out’). The consequence is people resorting to crime as a means of getting by and leaves them further removed from the help and support they need to move into employment and out of poverty.

The UK’s social security system has long had elements of compliance and conditionality, but the intensity of these elements has increased considerably over the last six years. The use of sanctions has fallen from a peak in 2013/14 perhaps because of the growing realisation of the damaging impact of their use. However, despite the findings of the ESRC funded study, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) continues to argue that sanctions are an effective means of moving people into employment.

Many anti-poverty campaigners argued strongly against social security reforms during the first few years of this decade and have continued to do so. Campaigners warned of the consequences of an increasingly punitive and pernicious benefit sanctions regime.

Graham Whitham, Director of GMPA and author of report on economy for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham

Those warnings weren’t heeded by government, unfairly dismissed as the usual suspects making the same old arguments. As unresponsive as government may choose to be to the calls of campaigners, policy must be much more responsive to research and evidence. Now this study, sitting along other pieces of work, hammers home the failings of current policy and its findings must be responded to if the long-term goal is to support people into suitable and decent work and onto sustainable pathways out of poverty.

It is often said the UK leads the way when it comes to evidence and data about the population and our universities lead the way on various aspects of social policy. We have no shortage of knowledge and evidence, but for the potential of this expertise to be realised, central government policy needs to be much more evidence based and responsive when research findings highlight policy failings. If central government in Westminster won’t heed this call, then we need think about what opportunities there are in Greater Manchester to develop evidence based social policy at a city regional level.

 

 

 

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GM Good Employment Charter – Have your say

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Article by Graham Whitham

GMPA is delighted to see Andy Burnham taking forward the idea of an employment charter for Greater Manchester. This is something we’ve been working on for some time through our joint paper with the Inclusive Growth Unit, our Work and Wages Special Interest Group (SIG) and through the GMPA hosted Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign.

An employment charter can both celebrate and promote existing good employers and encourage the adoption of positive employment practices by other employers. As a tool it has a role to play in helping to create a more inclusive economy where people are valued and secure in the job that they do.

Getting the charter right from the outset will be crucial in determining the impact it has. The scope and operation of the charter is something Andy Burnham’s team have been exploring and the Mayor has opened a consultation on what the proposed charter should look like. GMPA and the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign will be submitting a response (the deadline for responses is April 13th) and we’re encouraging members of our network to do the same, both from the perspective of being employers and as advocates for a more inclusive economy.

An evidence paper published to support the consultation recognises some of the challenges we face in Greater Manchester, around things like low pay and productivity. (The evidence paper can be downloaded from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority website here).  There are other areas where we fare worse than the national average, including employment rates for people aged 50 to 64 and people with learning disabilities. It also recognises some of the city region’s strengths and the potential for economic growth to be more closely linked to positive outcomes for individuals and communities.

The Charter will aim to complement existing initiatives at a local authority level, such as employer pledges and charters in Bolton, Oldham and Salford, and will be co-designed by local employers, employees and residents. It will also sit among a series of other policies that are focussed on creating a more inclusive economy.

Graham Whitham, Director of GMPA and author of report on economy for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham

During Living Wage Week in November, the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign hosted a series of workshops across GM looking at how an employment charter could work and what it might include. A number of key themes emerged from those workshops, including the need for clear standards for what ‘good employment’ means in Greater Manchester, a ‘good employment toolkit’ to support employers to amend and improve working practices and the active involvement of trade unions in workplaces. These themes will help inform our response.

Please make sure you take the opportunity to feed into this process.

 

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The language of food

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Capitalism has coopted the language of food – costing the world millions of meals

Article by Megan Blake, Director of the MA Food Security and Food Justice, University of Sheffield

Hardly a day goes by when food is not in the news. We are at once encouraged to eat healthily, buy locally, and reduce food waste. Meanwhile, stories about the various groups of people going hungry are also on the rise – malnourished elderly people, children’s holiday hunger, and rising food insecurity. Increases in these rates have been linked to government policies such as welfare reform and commercial protections that give rise to zero-hours contracts. But in my view the problem is deeper than this – it is embedded in the way we talk about food. The language we use is confusing – it creates feelings of guilt and enhances social divisions.

Most people in economically developed countries purchase at least some of their food from a supermarket, where food is sold to make a profit, usually for a large corporation. We tend to think of this as ordinary food. Food acquired through other means – for example, from local allotments, supermarket surpluses, digital food sharing appscommunity refrigerators, community food programmes, or gleaning – is considered alternative food.

By thinking of food in this way we imply value judgements on the consumers. Finding a new language could enable a more healthy, pleasurable and sustainable relationship with the food that is available to all of us, whoever we are.

Surplus food is food intended for supermarkets, but for a variety of reasons is no longer able to be exchanged commercially.

One recent example is a chicken production plant closed for poor hygiene and mislabelling practices, not because the food, prior to reaching the plant, was inherently bad. Thousands of chickens were wasted but if the producer had been able to move quickly to a charity or discounter who could collect, package, and distribute the meat, it would not have been wasted. None could be found in time.

Other examples include packaging malfunctions, over-supply due to favourable growing conditions, unexpected changes in demand or when food is oddly shaped and therefore deemed unsaleable by supermarkets.  If such food is rescued it is sometimes sold to discount retailers who sell the surplus more cheaply and are one of the largest growing sectors in the UK. Food  may also become animal feed, be composted, or turned into biofuel.

Surplus food or social food article by Megan Blake for GM Poverty Action

A very sociable meal using surplus food

Increasingly, this surplus food is donated to organisations such as FareShareFood CycleReal Junk Food Projects, and others in the UK but also in other countries. Donated surplus is distributed to eaters through cafescommunity pantriessocial eatingcooking lessons and the like, or indirectly through charities and third sector organisations who then feed people in many ways – often not as emergency food providers (foodbanks).

We don’t really know how much surplus food is rescued and donated. But in 2017 FareShare helped distribute the equivalent of 28.6m meals to nearly 7,000 organisations. Food from the Community Shop network provided almost 4m meals, and City Harvest delivered just shy of 1m meals to organisations in London. Despite this, figures suggest that considerably more could be rescued. Wrap (Waste and Resources Action Programme ), estimates that nearly 2m tons of food is wasted annually from the UK commercial sector (one ton is approximately 2,380 meals), much of which could have been eaten.

Megan Blake Food article for GM Poverty Action

Megan Blake

Shared, social, sustainable food

The links that surplus food has with waste and commercial loss cause us to see surplus food as inferior food, despite its edibility. While I agree that austerity and welfare policies are causing great harm to families and communities, I also know that donated surplus food is a resource that supports the resilience of organisations aiming to help struggling communities and households.

The effect of framing surplus food as second class dismisses the positive social, cultural, environmental and economic values of this food, complicates how organisations aiming to help communities can do so while still preserving dignity, and for eaters, comes to signify a failure to engage with the commercial supply chain. All while giving the commercial sector a pass.

Access to free or low cost surplus food is a means for expanding tight budgets, enabling community interactions, and enhancing personal and household well-being through social cooking and eating activities. It also brings people together.

So, what if we referred to surplus food as shared or social food? This language would reflect the social role this food plays and we would associate it more closely with the care of self, family, community and planet that this food enables.

 

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Is having a job the single most important way out of poverty?

Last year GMPA Director Tom Skinner launched a series of articles on in-work poverty, asking “Is work the best route out of poverty?” Here Bolton Councillor Sue Haworth unpicks that question by exploring the changes in evidence over the last ten years.

The Prime Minister often declares at the despatch box that the best solution to poverty is for people to have jobs. But there are two stand out issues pertaining to this that we must address in Greater Manchester. The first is the fact that not all our citizens here in GM are able to take up paid employment. Mostly these are people with long term ill health problems and / or disability. Under devolution we have a responsibility to prevent worsening poverty in these people’s lives and to encourage them to volunteer and to stay included in communities in GM. The new Work and Health programme in GM can act to prevent all the dimensions of poverty in non-working people’s lives and seek tangible benefits for people and their families.

Secondly, we must unpick what the Prime Minister means by her statement. Work is a source of income and it is also a source of all round economic wellbeing, while poverty has many facets, for example relative and absolute poverty, and poverty of self determination and equality.

There is growing evidence in GM of a tipping point regarding these effects; make work too insecure, make the income stream from the work too variable or too low, and the benefit rapidly starts to wane. If the experience of work is low pay, persistent stress and poor working conditions, again a tipping point is exceeded, where the benefit of work becomes overshadowed by the daily negative experience of poor quality work.

Only five to ten years ago I was persuaded by the public health knowledge base in England that work was likely the number one factor that contributed to a person’s health and wellbeing. But this evidence is now under the microscope by today’s generation of academics, building the knowledge base on inclusive growth, work and poverty here in GM. Reports are already warning us of the tipping point effect that poor quality work is having in people’s lives in GM.

Work is no longer the poverty panacea we were working towards five or ten years ago. Reports from The Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit at The University of Manchester make it clear that we must address the quality of work with as much vigour here as we do tackling unemployment. Pay, terms, working conditions and underemployment are vital components of the work and poverty agenda in GM today.

 

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How do we tackle poverty in Greater Manchester? An article by Mary Robinson MP for Cheadle

Mary Robinson MP for Cheadle for GM Poverty Action

Mary Robinson MP

There is no simple answer to tackling poverty. However I want to talk about aspects of tackling poverty which I have direct experience of from my work as a Member of Parliament: The role of jobcentres, homelessness and housing. The Government recognises that the best route out of poverty is work, and I am encouraged by consistently good employment figures which show that more people are in work, more jobs are being created, and that the majority are full time.

Encouragingly, when I recently visited Stockport Jobcentre staff told me that they are reaching vulnerable people who they wouldn’t have reached in the past, meaning that long-term issues relating to poverty can begin to be addressed. In addition to this, the Jobcentre is able to offer a wider service, with work coaches being able to help people with housing and other issues by working with Stockport Homes and the Council. Making sure that people are confident enough to seek help and advice is a massive step towards tackling poverty.

Turning to homelessness, it is concerning to hear of rises in rough sleeping in recent years, which is why I was proud to co-sponsor the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, and I am confident that it will play a big part in tackling homelessness in Greater Manchester as time goes on. Helping every homeless person, not just those in ‘priority’ need should mean that nobody is refused help if they seek it. In the budget last year the Government announced the first step in eliminating rough sleeping altogether by 2027. A £28 million investment by the Government in three ‘Housing First’ pilots, one of which I’m pleased to see has been launched in Manchester, will provide 270 homes and support rough sleepers with the most complex needs to turn their lives around.

However, tackling homelessness is as much about preventing it as it is about relieving it, and I am glad that the Act recognises this. It is wrong to leave people to fall into homelessness when we know they are already at risk, so people will now be offered help as soon as they are 56 days away from being homeless, rather than at the very brink.

Ultimately, any strategy designed to tackle homelessness and poverty is dependent on having a housing strategy to match, and as a member of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee I have helped to scrutinise this. Last year, the Prime Minister announced an extra £2 billion for social and affordable housing, and committed to building 300,000 homes a year. These are bold measures, and if done right, will ensure that more people have a home and a defence against poverty.

Poverty is inextricably linked to mental health, and housing is also important when it comes to protecting people who are even more vulnerable. Supported housing offers vital support to vulnerable people, and I was pleased that recently the Government announced that the local housing allowance cap will not be applied to socially rented homes, and that a new approach to funding for supported housing will end the ‘top up’ which local Councils currently have to pay. This will make supported housing more accessible and prevent more vulnerable people from falling into poverty.

Good jobs, good homes, and an accessible support system for when people fall on hard times are the best defences against poverty. While we have a way to go, it is important that we continue to address the underlying causes of poverty and tackle it for the long term.

 

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Coming up in 2018

Mike Wild, Chief Executive of Macc, looks ahead at issues and opportunities for the voluntary sector and all who are working to tackle poverty. This is an abridged version of his update in Macc’s newsletter that some may have seen.

The Office for Civil Society will start consultation on a Civil Society Strategy and will provide an opportunity for a new conversation about the role of our sector in shaping places that people live in, not just an abstract national strategy

Welfare Reform: the rollout of Universal Credit is going to continue to put pressure on local support organisations. We need to keep campaigning and sharing stories of the impact this is having on people’s lives. Partly to challenge media stories of ‘benefit scroungers’ which have created a whole set of urban myths and prejudices but also to identify possible legal challenges to this system. (there’s more comment and information on UC on the following page)

The Greater Manchester Devolution experiment could be at risk of becoming less daring as time passes but only bold solutions will work on housing, planning, inclusive growth and so on. Andy Burnham’s big theme this year is transport so expect attention on buses, cycling and a possible rethink of Manchester’s ‘Oyster Card’. We need the conversation to be inclusive to avoid social isolation, barriers to employment and the exclusion of people with physical and learning disabilities.

Homelessness will continue to be a highly visible issue, politically and practically. There’s attention on emergency support and getting people off the streets but there are harder conversations ahead about ongoing support for people with complex needs, collaboration between agencies and some honest discussions about economic priorities.

I am hoping to see plenty of discussion about how the GM Mayor’s Accord with the VCSE sector will be implemented, as we build collaboration and understanding of why it’s important and how it can practically be done.

There’s no sign of the Government doing anything to tackle the financial pressures faced by Local Authorities and with the national political agenda hypnotised by the fast approaching headlights of Brexit, that’s unlikely to shift any time soon. Remember also there are Local Elections in May so it’s a good time to be talking to candidates about local issues.

Social Prescribing is getting a lot of attention at GM level but still no overall agreement on what a good model looks like and still a lack of recognition that it’s not just about GP’s prescribing voluntary sector stuff, it’s the whole design and system of our sector working with public services.

Nationally and locally social care is under pressure. I think there is room to develop local social enterprises and co-operatives to provide home care but it’s hard to see where the investment in that could come from as costs are rising and the only sizeable customer (the Council) has less and less money to spend. And of course pressures on the NHS continue. I recently heard someone say that in NHS terms ‘winter’ now lasts for 12 months. We’ll be starting a conversation about how the VCSE sector and hospitals can work together.

So, I’m going to leave you with a quotation which sits on my office wall.

Mike Wild, coming up in 2018 article for GM Poverty Action

Mike Wild

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centred men have torn down, men other-centred can build up.”                   Dr. Martin Luther King

Mike Wild, Chief Executive, Macc

 

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Rethinking Poverty: Greater Manchester Can Lead the Way
Tom Skinner, Director of Greater Manchester Poverty Action

Tom Skinner speaking at Rethinking Poverty for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner

We had a fantastic time at our Rethinking Poverty event last week, and I want to thank everyone who helped to make it run so smoothly, all of our wonderful speakers, and everyone who attended and contributed to the discussions. You can read a report of the event on the website, which concludes that “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.” Here I share my personal reflections from the night.

Children and young people are not just the future, they are now. They bring fresh perspectives and ideas, hope in abundance, and they see things with a clarity that is so valuable in a complex world. You can find the two videos that Young Manchester made in the report on the next page – please do watch them and share widely as they deserve to be seen by many people.

Barry Knight, author of the Rethinking Poverty book around which our event was based, is definitely on to something. His book poses questions as much as it provides answers, and I believe he is asking the right questions. Beatrice Webb laid down the intellectual foundations of the welfare state more than 30 years before it was implemented – we will strive to ensure that it does not take so long for Barry’s vision to be realised. You can read more comprehensive reviews and responses from the likes of Gerry Salole, Chief Executive of the European Foundation Centre, and Greater Manchester’s own Kate Green MP, or even better, buy the book and see for yourself!

Despite the challenges facing Greater Manchester, we can and must be ambitious in developing a vision of a good society here without poverty, and working towards it. We have some great leaders and public servants, a varied, determined and engaged third sector, many businesses who want to be part of the solution, and most importantly, millions of people with incredible passion and potential. Greater Manchester Poverty Action will help unlock this potential through encouraging cross-sector and cross-boundary collaboration for years to come, with your help…

 

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Allot of help!
By Kal Gill-Faci, Senior Architect at Levitt Bernstein

Allotment article for GM Poverty Action

Kal Gill-Faci

Since the start of this summer, I have been making weekly donations of organic fruit and vegetables grown on my allotment to a homeless day centre in south Manchester. I live in Urmston and have an allotment at Humphrey Park Allotments in Stretford, a sizeable self-managed site with 80 or so plots in total. I grow all sorts – plenty to sustain my family – and the idea of donating surplus produce was sparked after I received a free polytunnel (essentially a lo-fi greenhouse), which has allowed me to extend the growing season and increase the amount I can produce.

I have persuaded a number of my fellow allotment owners to donate too, and I collect the produce every week and deliver it to the Cornerstone Day Centre in Moss Side. I also plan to donate to Stretford Food Bank on Barton Road next year, as the growing season has now slowed down. This work has begun to spread more widely too – most recently to 36 other allotment sites across Trafford through the Allotment Officer, Janet Long, who has very kindly circulated my details and raised the idea at a recent allotment forum meeting. Through Janet, I have met with the Chairman and Secretary of Moss Park Allotments, Lesley Road, who wants to get involved next year.

Cornerstone Day centre in Allotment article for GM Poverty Action

Cornerstone Day Centre

My personal efforts are mirrored in my professional life. Levitt Bernstein, comprised of architects, landscape architects and urban designers, was founded 50 years ago in the midst of the housing crisis, and the Practice continues to have a strong sense of social responsibility. I am involved with a business support group aligned to the Manchester Homelessness Partnership (MHP), where I share my work with a network of like-minded and influential contacts. I have spoken to Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, about the work I’m doing with food donations and MHP, which in turn led to a meeting with Beth Knowles, the Councillor leading on rough sleeping/homelessness, to discuss further ideas for how design professionals can support this increasingly important issue.

I am very keen to find out if there are opportunities to work with other allotment sites in Greater Manchester, who would consider donating to charitable organisations or food banks. If you know someone or a community that can help, please contact me by email or call me on 07958 513 828.

 

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University of Manchester’s Big Change Society – a personal journey and Love for the Streets
By Lily Fothergill

Walking around the streets of central Manchester over the last five years, it has been impossible to not notice the ever-growing number of people sleeping on the streets. Equally distressing is the amount of people walking past, nonchalant and not even engaging in eye contact with anyone sleeping rough. An invisible but almost tangible barrier separates walkers from sitters, creating social divides between the housed and the homeless.

This also used to be me; a white middle class girl brought up in London, I was almost ashamed to talk to homeless people, afraid that I represented everything in the system that had failed them. But after moving to Manchester and witnessing the devastating impacts of slashes to social services and housing, I found this division unbearable. There are a few regulars who sit outside a local Sainsbury’s, and I began to introduce myself, ask their names and have a chat. These chats would sometimes last half an hour or so, getting deep into conversations about social inequality and the state of current affairs, or laughing about shared interests. I came away from every chat wondering why I’d taken so long to initiate that conversation, as it led to a connection which we both enjoyed. I realised there was probably a huge student body who had the same inclinations but felt as awkward as I first had.

Following these interactions, I attended a talk called ‘Honest Discussions About Homelessness’ which featured speakers from a variety of homeless charities in Manchester, namely the Big Change Society, Barnabas and Street Support. I was inspired by this conference and introduced myself to the curator, a chemical engineering student called Jonah. We shared a passion to fight social injustice and we both had a desire to change the stigma around homelessness, particularly around students’ participation and interaction with homeless issues.

It’s easy to assume that it will ‘never be me’; an assumption which many people at university can afford to have, as we all know it’s no cheap privilege. However it is the senseless dehumanisation of homeless people which is excruciating: the ability for some to ignore another person and degrade their basic human needs

A frenzied conversation with Jonah led to planning a campaign to encourage students and young people to engage with issues about homelessness at a deeper, more compassionate level, thus the concept of ‘Love for the Streets’ was born. We wanted to bridge the gap between young peoples’ love for partying with a desire to make a meaningful social impact, and sought to facilitate a deeper network between students and homeless charities. Hence two main tenants of the campaign emerged: events to establish the LFTS brand as a reputably fun night amongst young people, which would also raise revenue through ticket sales; and secondly events which facilitate conversation about the prevalent issue. This would be in the style of conferences, discussions and talks highlighting the issues local charities face to empower youth action and make information about volunteering more accessible.

Big Change Society for GM Poverty Action articleFollowing my conversation with Jonah, I joined the University of Manchester Big Change Society, and began volunteering at Barnabas’ drop-in breakfast centre. I was amazed at how easy this process was, and I went from an intrigued student who felt helpless in the face of such a huge problem, to a regular volunteer at a centre which provides support and basic necessities to people in dire situations. I have now graduated, and have returned to Manchester to ensure this campaign grows and delivers its goal of ensuring like-minded individuals can access volunteering services and make a change they deem meaningful. The response to this campaign has been unprecedented – we now have a team of over 40 people who are willing to contribute their time to this cause, and we have a executive team working tirelessly to ensure we deliver promises to local charities. Essentially, we want young people to immerse themselves in charity endeavours and to break down those barriers which separate ‘us’ and ‘them’, and  challenge the presumption that this issue is too large for individuals to make a difference.

Lily Fothergill article on homelessness for GM Poverty Action

Lily Fothergill

The collective student population of Manchester is roughly 100,000 people, so even if we could encourage just 1% of these to participate in volunteering services, this would increase the number by at least a thousand engaged and passionate individuals supporting charities – there is a huge potential for a very significant impact here which Love for the Streets aims to tap into to help end homelessness in Manchester!

 

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Response to the Budget by Kate Green MP

Last week’s budget was a do-little effort from a government which, like the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition before it, has effectively dismantled Labour successes in ending child poverty and in homelessness  reduction. It was a miserable offer to low income families, doing little to deal with the government’s self-inflicted policy failures.

Rough sleeping and Temporary Accommodation: 

One of the most obvious and stark examples of these failures is the growth in rough sleeping and people living in temporary accommodation. The number of households in temporary accommodation in Greater Manchester has more than tripled since 2010. That’s an appalling situation for families unable to settle and put down roots in the community, it’s especially damaging for children whose education faces disruption, and it’s shockingly expensive for the taxpayer. But, while the chancellor did announce money for a rough sleeping pilot in Manchester to help those already on the streets, there was little beyond a consultation on longer tenancies in the private rented sector to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

While I applaud the Chancellor’s aim of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it by 2027, even halving it over the next 5 years would still not bring the number down to the position in 2010. What’s more, this is not a new pledge , but simply a repetition of the Conservatives’ election manifesto commitment – it’s clear the government are running out of ideas

Andy Burnham has taken a lead in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping, but without concerted and sustained support from the party that caused the problem, and as cuts to social security continue, and work increasingly doesn’t pay enough to maintain a decent standard of living, growing in-work poverty will push more working families and individuals into perilous positions.

Child Poverty:

So it was also disappointing that there was so little in the budget in the way of efforts to address the effects of benefits and tax changes that threaten to reverse all the progress made in cutting child poverty in the last decade. Cuts to universal credit – which originally promised to lift 350,000 children out of poverty – are now predicted to push a million children into poverty, and 900,000 into severe poverty, by the end of the decade.

Families with children lose most from universal credit cuts. A couple with children stand to lose almost £1000 a year; single parents lose £2380, according to the Child Poverty Action Group. Working families stand to lose £420 a year on average from cuts to Universal Credit. The Resolution Foundation says the poorest third of households are set for an average loss of £715 a year by the end of the parliament.

I’m pleased the secretary of state for work and pensions made some additional announcements on Thursday that will help those on universal credit: cutting the waiting time by one week, delaying the introduction of the so-called ‘2-child’ policy, and allowing a run-on for existing claimants of housing benefit. But the bigger problem with universal credit is the cuts to the taper and work allowance, which mean you keep less of your earnings as your pay starts to increase – hardly a great work incentive. And all this sits alongside freezes and cuts to other benefits for children, which are also contributing to rising child poverty. There was no sign the Chancellor intends to do anything about that.

Paying the bills:

There wasn’t much help for families battling the rising cost of living either. Rising inflation and the fall in the value of the pound have forced the price of essential items like food and clothing to rocket, but there was no sign of the promised cap on energy bills, and in particular, nothing to help disabled people who face additional costs (such as for equipment, extra laundry or turning up the heating because they have to spend more time at home). As we approach the winter months, many will be worrying about the bills – but they too got nothing from the Chancellor.

If anyone expected the budget to bring an early Christmas present to those on the lowest incomes, they’ll have been sorely disappointed by Wednesday’s Scrooge budget.

Kate Green is the MP for Stretford and Urmston.  More information.

 

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