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“Is it OK to invest public money in building a multi-million-pound conference centre while the A&E down the road is crumbling?” written by Victoria Bettany from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES)

This question for me highlights the glaring errors in the mainstream economic model. For decades, it has been an accepted wisdom that investment in big shiny things will eventually trickle down to the masses. In some instances, investments of this type have brought new jobs to a failing economy. But time and again, this kind of investment fails to create good local economies where wealth is truly dispersed and broadly held, with local roots.

A flawed economic model operating alongside prolonged austerity has pushed much of the public sector into damage limitation mode, where innovation is considered a risk, too complex and costly to contemplate. This view is disastrous for public services and the economy at large.

Poverty, low wages and inequality are just a handful of myriad issues proliferated by the old economic model. Progressive economics promotes a system where the distribution of wealth extends to many more than the privileged few. Businesses, the social sector, the public sector, pension funds and more are the change agents required to embrace and further the movement from the old way to the new way, where prosperity, Living wages and equality are enjoyed by all.

If we want to create good local economies, we really need to think differently, and be bolder and more ambitious than ever.

In early July, an event took place at the Nishkam Centre in Birmingham, an audience of Policy makers, Think tanks and Enterprise networks gathered to hear how five cities have rejected the accepted wisdom of the old way and became part of a movement centred around progressive local economics.

Funded by the Friends Provident foundation, CLES and NEF have worked with Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and Leeds to develop and action innovative approaches to tackling the issues affecting real people that remain largely unchanged through the old economic model. This has not involved throwing up shiny new buildings or an obsessive focus on GDP. Instead they are spending their time embedding anchor institutions in the local economy to repatriate leaking wealth, engaging their community in creating a community economic plan with real outcomes, and shifting the narrative around the foundational economy specifically for sectors such as social care.

For CLES article for GM Poverty Action

A community taking charge of new housing in their area

As well as working intensively with these five cities, we also created an online handbook to help community groups and local
government to create good city economies across the rest of the UK. The handbook details all of the existing powers and tools
available for each of these actors to help them take the first step towards creating better housing, procuring and commissioning for good, offering and accessing finance that works for people and places, creating affordable renewable energy and a thriving local economy. Alongside every existing power or tool we have showcased a local example of where the use of that particular tool or power has been a force for positive change.

But this is just the beginning.

The five cities we worked with and this brand new handbook are part of a bigger movement, operating outside the auspices of the existing neoliberal economic model, with a drive to grow sustainable, liveable, and connected good local economies.

Find out more here:  Creating Good City Economies in the UK, Five Cities Five Good Local Economies and Building a Good Local Economy:  What do you want to do?

 

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Tackling Poverty

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Tackling poverty – a view from Salford’s City Mayor

Paul Dennett, Salford City Mayor for GM Poverty Action

Paul Dennett

Recently Salford City Council and NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group announced a 10.7% pay rise for Salford’s care workers, boosting their pay to £8.30 per hour. The move will cost Salford about £725,000 annually and I believe that the city’s vital care workers are worth every penny. In Salford, we have a long standing commitment to tackling the pernicious effects of low pay and campaigning for all Salford employers to pay a decent wage. Salford remains the only council in Greater Manchester accredited as a living wage employer; in April 2018, we will once again refresh our pay policy to take account of the increase in the living wage recommended by the Living Wage Foundation.

Our leadership in this area is a good example of how Salford offers an alternative to the dogma of austerity that has dominated national politics since 2010. We have melded a highly successful approach to economic development with a deep commitment to social justice; this is seeing Salford become a high growth economy that creates well paid jobs whilst prioritising the public services that are vital to tackling poverty. At the same time as emerging as the best performing area nationally for business start up rates, we have invested £3million in measures to tackle poverty, including: £170,000 invested in Salford’s credit union; £300,000 invested in Salford Discretionary Support scheme for residents in crisis and £75,000 for a food crisis support service.

I am both proud of our achievements and determined to go further in developing a local economy where wealth serves people and communities, as opposed to the other way round. Yet, it is deeply frustrating that misguided national policies – in welfare reform, housing, and local government finance – at best impede the council and at worst completely fetter our ability to act.

The government’s record in Salford is long:

•  Since 2010, it has cut 47% of the council’s revenue funding, starving our public services of vital resources

•  we have also seen one off hits such as a £2.3million raid on Salford’s new homes bonus this year; money normally received for creating new housing has been taken to prop up the chronically under funded adult social care system

•  Welfare reform and benefits conditionality policies have penalised poor people and undermined the welfare state, leading to reliance on food banks and other forms of emergency support

•  The national planning policy framework allows for a 20% profit margin for developers  before the need for affordable housing can be considered

•  National rules mean that Salford faces restrictions in borrowing to build the social housing that we need to address the chronic shortage of homes in the city, forcing people into expensive, insecure private rented accommodation.

In Salford, we are succeeding in spite of these national failings, yet we will continue to campaign hard for the government to do the right thing: to provide adequate funding for public services and discontinue the welfare reform and housing policies that damage lives and entrench poverty.

More information about Salford’s No One Left Behind Anti-Poverty Strategy

 

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Impact of debt by Mike Kane MP

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Debt and its impact on our communities
by Mike Kane MP for Wythenshawe & Sale East

Mike Kane debt article for GM Poverty Action

Mike Kane MP

There​ ​is​ ​a​ ​wealth​ ​of​ ​evidence​ ​around​ ​the​ ​issue​ ​of​ ​problem​ ​debt​ ​and​ ​its​ ​impact​ ​on​ ​our communities. ​ ​​ ​In​ ​my​ ​constituency​ ​alone​ ​there​ ​are​ ​more​ ​than​ ​16,000​ ​people​ ​who​ ​are​ ​‘over​ ​indebted’​*.​​  ​Yet​ ​we​ ​have​ ​seen​ ​little​ ​action​ ​from​ ​Government​ ​to​ ​address​ ​the​ ​multiple​ ​and complex​ ​issues​ ​which​ ​cause​ ​it.

A​ ​recent​ ​report​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Money​ ​Advice​ ​Service​ ​revealed​ ​that​ ​renting​ ​a​ ​property​ ​indicates​ ​that you​ ​are​ ​twice​ ​as​ ​likely​ ​to​ ​be​ ​over-indebted​ ​as​ ​those​ ​owning​ ​their​ ​home. ​ With​ ​1​ ​in​ ​4​ ​people renting​ ​being​ ​over​ ​indebted. ​ ​For​ ​those​ ​renting​ ​a​ ​social​ ​housing​ ​property​ ​this​ ​increases​ ​to nearly​ ​1​ ​in​ ​3.

Debt​ ​has​ ​become​ ​a​ ​‘significant​ ​problem’​ ​for​ ​an​ ​estimated​ ​4,920​ ​families​ ​in​ ​my​ ​constituency. On​ ​top​ ​of​ ​this​ ​my​ ​constituency​ ​is​ ​one​ ​of​ ​those​ ​hit​ ​hardest​ ​by​ ​the​ ​bedroom​ ​tax​ ​with​ ​3038 affected​ ​tenants.   Families​ ​are​ ​facing​ ​debt,​ ​poverty​ ​and​ ​eviction​ ​and​ ​fighting​ ​this​ ​has​ ​been​ ​my​ ​main​ ​focus​ ​as​ ​an MP​ ​since​ ​I​ ​was​ ​first​ ​elected.​ ​​ ​Too​ ​many​ ​people​ ​in​ ​Wythenshawe​ ​and​ ​Sale​ ​are​ ​turning​ ​to payday​ ​loans,​ ​expensive​ ​credit​ ​cards​ ​and​ ​doorstep​ ​lenders​ ​and​ ​this​ ​all​ ​too​ ​often​ ​lands​ ​them in​ ​a​ ​cycle​ ​of​ ​debt​ ​that​ ​is​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​break.

In​ ​Westminster​ ​I​ ​have​ ​been​ ​supporting​ ​the​ ​work​ ​of​ ​the​ ​All​ ​Party​ ​Parliamentary​ ​Group​ ​on Debt​ ​and​ ​Personal​ ​Finance​ ​and​ ​the​ ​charity​ ​StepChange.​ ​Their​ ​campaign​ ​for​ ​a​ ​Breathing Space​ ​scheme​ ​for​ ​families​ ​in​ ​problem​ ​debt​ ​who​ ​need​ ​time​ ​and​ ​space​ ​to​ ​get​ ​back​ ​on​ ​their feet​ ​received​ ​cross-party​ ​support​ ​and​ ​I​ ​look​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Government​ ​putting​ ​a comprehensive​ ​Breathing​ ​Space​ ​scheme​ ​in​ ​place​ ​quickly.  By​ ​providing​ ​a​ ​period​ ​free​ ​from​ ​additional​ ​interest, charges​ ​and​ ​enforcement​ ​action schemes​ ​like​ ​this​ ​can​ ​help​ ​families​ ​recover​ ​their​ ​financial​ ​situation​ ​and​ ​put​ ​in​ ​place​ ​a​ ​plan​ ​to affordably​ ​repay​ ​their​ ​debts.

Mike Kane debt article for GM Poverty Action

Launching​ ​payroll​ ​deduction​ ​for​ ​staff​ ​with​ ​Manchester​ ​Credit​ ​Union​ ​at​ ​UHSM

Locally​ ​I​ ​have​ ​been​ ​working​ ​with​ ​Manchester​ ​Credit​ ​Union. ​ ​As​ ​an​ ​ethical​ ​lender​ ​they​ ​help​ ​to make​ ​sure​ ​people​ ​get​ ​a​ ​fair​ ​deal​ ​on​ ​a​ ​loan, ​ while​ ​also​ ​encouraging​ ​saving​ ​and​ ​keeping money​ ​in​ ​the​ ​local​ ​area.

I​ ​take​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​of​ ​any​ ​visits​ ​to​ ​employers​ ​in​ ​my​ ​constituency​ ​to​ ​encourage​ ​them​ ​to work​ ​with​ ​Manchester​ ​Credit​ ​Union​ ​to​ ​offer​ ​payroll​ ​deduction​ ​at​ ​source​ ​for​ ​their​ ​staff. Working​ ​with​ ​University​ ​Hospital​ ​South​ ​Manchester​ ​we​ ​have​ ​already​ ​secured​ ​this​ ​for​ ​5,900 employees​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Hospital.

To​ ​solve​ ​the​ ​problem​ ​in​ ​the​ ​long​ ​term​ ​however​ ​we​ ​must​ ​give​ ​our​ ​children​ ​a​ ​strong​ ​financial education​ ​from​ ​the​ ​outset. ​ ​​ ​That​ ​is​ ​why​ ​I​ ​have​ ​been​ ​working​ ​with​ ​local​ ​employers​ ​to​ ​get them​ ​into​ ​primary​ ​schools​ ​so​ ​our​ ​children​ ​understand​ ​about​ ​money, ​ ​budgeting​ ​and managing​ ​finances.

Mike Kane debt article for GM Poverty Action

Visiting​ ​Sandilands​ ​School​ ​‘numbers​ ​at​ ​work’​ ​day​ ​supported​ ​by​ ​One​ ​Advice​ ​and​ ​City in​ ​the​ ​Community

However, ​ with​ ​the​ ​roll​ ​out​ ​of​ ​Universal​ ​Credit​ ​(UC) looming​ ​I​ ​know​ ​the​ ​situation​ ​is​ ​about​ ​to become​ ​even​ ​more​ ​challenging. ​ ​The​ ​6​ ​week​ ​wait​ ​risks​ ​pushing​ ​people​ ​into​ ​debt. ​ ​Over​ ​half​ ​of the​ ​people​ ​the​ ​Citizens’ Advice Bureau​ ​(CAB) have​ ​helped​ ​who​ ​receive​ ​UC​ ​were​ ​forced​ ​to​ ​borrow​ ​money​ ​while waiting​ ​for​ ​their​ ​first​ ​payment.   People​ ​CAB​ ​have​ ​helped​ ​with​ ​debt​ ​issues​ ​who​ ​receive​ ​Universal​ ​Credit​ ​are​ ​14%​ ​more likely​ ​to​ ​have​ ​problems​ ​with​ ​priority​ ​debts​ ​like​ ​rent​ ​and​ ​council​ ​tax.

That​ ​is​ ​why​ ​we​ ​are​ ​calling​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Government​ ​to​ ​pause​ ​Universal​ ​Credit​ ​Full​ ​Service​ ​roll​ ​out, and​ ​work​ ​with​ ​us​ ​to​ ​deliver​ ​a​ ​more​ ​effective​ ​system, one​ ​which​ ​delivers​ ​on​ ​the​ ​original ambition​ ​of​ ​simplifying​ ​social​ ​security​ ​and​ ​making​ ​sure​ ​work​ ​always​ ​pays.

Ultimately​ ​to​ ​get​ ​on​ ​top​ ​of​ ​this​ ​debt​ ​crisis​ ​we​ ​need​ ​better​ ​access​ ​to​ ​fair​ ​credit​ ​for​ ​families who​ ​are​ ​struggling​ ​to​ ​make​ ​ends​ ​meet. ​ ​We​ ​need​ ​to​ make​ ​our​ ​credit​ ​unions​ ​more​ ​easily accessible​ ​and​ ​we​ ​must​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​fight​ ​the​ ​usury​ ​that​ ​is​ ​payday​ ​lending.

 

*​over-indebtedness is ​defined ​as finding ​keeping ​up with bills ​and ​commitments as a heavy burden ​and/or ​falling behind or missing payments in at least three of ​the previous ​six ​months

 

 

 

 

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Community Wealth Building – Greater Manchester and the Preston Model

Last month GMPA Director Graham Whitham wrote about the consequences of a failing economic model and how Greater Manchester can build an alternative local economy that addresses these challenges. We invited Councillor Matthew Brown to respond based on his work in Preston.

Communities in Greater Manchester and across the country must ask some quite challenging questions if we are serious about tackling inequality, with the last decade seeing the exacerbation of a systemic crisis rooted in the dysfunctional nature of corporate capitalism.

Matthew Borwn: Community Wealth Building article for GM Poverty Action

Matthew Brown

The global economic downturn which struck ten years ago saw billions of pounds of public money bail out a financial system under little form of regulation and democratic control.  Despite this injection of public wealth banks lend little to local businesses and large corporations often sit on wealth rather than invest to create jobs and growth.  As a result austerity continues to bite and inequality and insecurity continues to grow.

In this context it is not unfair to conclude the system is broke, as GMPA has recently argued, and new and radical solutions are needed to fix it.  The interest shown in what has become known as ‘The Preston Model’ or Community Wealth Building offers part of this solution by building more democratic and self sufficient local economies.  It is a strategy employing many levers to create and retain wealth in place and tackle inequality from the grassroots upwards.

In Greater Manchester, ‘anchor institutions’ such as councils, universities, hospitals and housing associations spend billions every year on goods and services as part of their everyday business.  Much more of this wealth sitting in communities already could be redirected to local suppliers, expand social outcomes like the real Living Wage and the number of democratic enterprises like cooperatives.  I know that the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and the University of Manchester, through the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit (IGAU), have already instigated a meeting earlier in the year with many anchors, and plans are afoot to explore how an anchor approach could be progressed. Furthermore, CLES are working with Oldham Council and partners on an anchor approach, and that is an excellent basis for scaling up the approach across GM, assisted by Oldham Leader Cllr Jean Stretton’s role, as GM lead on equality, fairness and cohesion.

In Preston, we have collaborated with CLES and around 10 local public sector organisations since 2013 to instigate a cultural shift that has seen a £200m investment dividend across Lancashire by the local public sector, more than triple goods and services bought from suppliers in Preston and double from Lancashire.  The amount of GVA added we calculate has supported 1500 jobs in Preston and increased the number of people receiving the real Living Wage.  We see there are significant gaps in the local supply chain and are working with our university and others to potentially fill some of these with worker led cooperatives to inject more democracy into the local economy.

Manchester City Council very successfully pioneered a similar strategy from 2007 onwards with CLES to increase their own spend in the Manchester economy from 51% to 73%.  If this was scaled up to persuade the vast majority of the local public sector in Greater Manchester to support local suppliers, expand the social economy and social value outcomes it could be transformative.

Local and public banking and energy democracy are other essential tools to tackle inequality and democratise local economies.  The extractive nature of many large banks needs to be challenged by promoting alternatives which also instil a sense of civic pride.

Preston City Council is currently exploring opportunities to establish the Lancashire Community Bank based upon the successful German Sparkassen model which ensures Germany possesses the most vibrant SME base in Europe.  Preston has also joined with another local authority to launch a not for profit local alternative to the Big 6 energy companies called Red Rose Fairerpower offering fairer, more accountable energy to Lancastrians.

Local investment by public sector pension funds, credit unions, living wage policies, municipal enterprise and employee ownership are other ideas which build new economies from the grassroots upwards creating social movements which genuinely ‘take back control’ by promoting local ownership.   The Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Mayor Andy Burnham are aware of the anchor approach and are ideally placed to bring such initiatives together in a coordinated way with many of these ideas already growing within the city region.

Despite best intentions local government has often been seen as a little too managerial when it should be transformative.  The severity of the system problem we face is arguably contributing to outcomes like the decision to leave the European Union out of a sense of misplaced anger despite the EU contributing much to our region.  That debate aside we have little choice but to seek new solutions to protect our communities.  To do this we must be brave and radical.  When the problems remain big the solutions to tackle them must be big also.  Let the movement grow in GM!

Councillor Matthew Brown is Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Inclusion & Policy on Preston City Council. You can read more about the Preston Model in context here.

 

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A real living wage for all: combatting discrimination of young people under 25
by Victoria Egerton, Citizens Advice Manchester

The government National Living Wage Policy applies to those aged 25 and over, but under 25’s do not receive a young person discount on groceries, or specific tariffs on their energy bills. Under 25’s also tend to be more likely to be subject to zero hour contracts, and to be part of the gig economy. So why are they paid less?

At Citizens Advice Manchester, we value diversity, promote equality and challenge discrimination. We have seen an increased demand for advice for young people, and in the level of in-work poverty. We are reaching out to young people to provide advice and guidance in innovative ways.

We have implemented incentives such as our WhatsApp debt project and are campaigning for change by raising awareness of the impact of in-work poverty on young people. Through our involvement in GM Living Wage Campaign, we are consulting with the public to influence the GM Combined Authority Employment Charter.

We are also conducting research to assess the impact of the National Living Wage Policy on young working people in Greater Manchester. We seek to identify if direct age discrimination of young people is justified. We will identify if there are adverse effects of low wages on young people such as difficulties budgeting, debt, increased risk of homelessness due to rent arrears and exacerbated health problems.

There must be proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim to justify direct age discrimination. This means the national living wage policy age restriction must be both appropriate and necessary. The argument that young people tend to live at home with parents is not a satisfactory reason alone to justify discrimination.

According to the 2016 Office of National Statistics data on young adults living with their parents, the likelihood that 18-24 years olds are more likely to live at home than those aged 25, is not significantly different. For example, the study found that 48% of 23 year olds lived at home compared to 30% of 25 year olds.

There are no other circumstances where pay is proportional to need, and there are numerous reasons why a young person may live with their parents. This is particularly relevant to young people on low wages, that are young carers and those with fluctuating income.

Vicky Egerton

Research conducted by the Living Wage Foundation shows that employers benefit from paying the real Living Wage of £8.45 per hour (outside London), which is based on the cost of living and applies to all workers aged 18 and over. Real living wage employers reported to have increased levels of staff retention, morale and a better business reputation.

The Paid Less, Worth Less? report by the Young Women’s Trust states that 79% of HR decision makers polled, argued that young people were as valuable to the workforce as their older colleagues.

You can find our survey here Please share this survey with young working people under 25 in Greater Manchester to help us assess the impact of the National Living Wage Policy.

More information about Citizens Advice Manchester and their free WhatsApp debt advice service.

 

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Our economy isn’t working

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Can Greater Manchester pioneer a new way of doing things?

By Graham Whitham

The UK is failing to ensure economic and jobs growth leads to higher living standards for all. GDP growth has been positive in every quarter since the end of 2012. The employment rate is at a record high and the unemployment rate at its lowest level since 1975. Yet, living standards aren’t going up and the IFS says incomes for the average family will not grow over the next couple of years.

In contrast, the richest 1% have recouped losses in income from the financial crash. That’s because the economy is configured so that wealth is increasingly captured by capital rather than workers. The richest 1% have received a quarter of the £4 trillion national increase in wealth since 2000.

Policy encourages a business culture that promotes short-term, shareholder driven approaches, at the expense of workers, who have found their position undermined. The UK has adopted this business culture and approach to its economy despite high levels of economic inequality hindering economic success, and evidence that putting money in the pockets of those on low incomes reaps greater economic rewards than concentrating wealth in the hands of the very rich. A new approach is needed.

As the birthplace of the cooperative movement, and a place with a proud tradition of doing things differently, Greater Manchester should be at the forefront of a new economy that fosters alternative business models that re-balance wealth distribution and shift power relationships. The phrase, ‘What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow’ may stem from a very different economic school of thought, but this city region should be at the vanguard of a new, more human centred economy that lights the way for the rest of the country.

Alternative structures of business are emerging that are better geared to sharing wealth more evenly. These are either mission driven or ensure that the stakeholders most impacted by the business also own the business. Such business structures are geared to not only reinvest more into their business but also work more constructively for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Employee-owned businesses, such as John Lewis, have grown significantly in multiple economies, outperforming other businesses on sales and employment growth. Studies on employee ownership show that those types of businesses generate more employment growth and lead to significantly higher pay for their employees.

Multi-stakeholder cooperative models also aim to balance the interests of various stakeholders, such as consumers and workers. These typically structure company governance to ensure that the interests of workers and consumers, or producers and buyers are balanced in key decisions, including on how profits are used. The Go-op train cooperative is one example of this model.

Fostering an alternative approach to business and the economy in our city region will require an acknowledgement across GM that ‘trickle down’ doesn’t work. Whilst the Manchester economy has remained relatively robust, the city region is home to lower than average wages, some of the highest levels of child poverty in the country and growing inequality between the south and north of the conurbation. A plan for addressing these challenges and implementing an alternative GM economy should include:

•  Adoption of human centred indicators as a means of measuring economic success.

•  Promotion of companies that adopt alternative business models through

◦  active public procurement that favours such models

◦  access to finance for such businesses through a regional/local investment bank

◦  tailored start-up and business development support

◦  trialling business rate deductions and working with central government to identify other incentives for such businesses.

•  Promotion of decent work, including the voluntary Living Wage, through

◦  Development of a Decent Work Standard and appointment of a Decent Work Commissioner

◦  Adoption of the Decent Work Standard across all public sector bodies.

◦  Introduction of a GM wide Employment Charter (based on the Standard) with real teeth

◦  Active public procurement that favours businesses that provide decent work

◦  Working with businesses to identify means of effectively measuring the business benefits (e.g. employee morale, productivity and retention) of adopting decent work employment practices.

•  Promoting positive corporate behaviour through greater transparency around business behaviour and practices.

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

Graham Whitham

The UK faces major challenges of in-work poverty, stagnating living standards, low productivity and the prevalence of poor quality work. There is widespread acknowledgement that the economy doesn’t work for all, but lack of a concerted effort to adopt a new, alternative approach at central government level. Greater Manchester should be a beacon for a new way of doing things, becoming a home for companies that do things differently.

 

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I am a poverty truth commissioner

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Patrick Philpott is a commissioner on Salford Poverty Truth Commission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrick Philpott

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

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

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

 

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School readiness

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The Mayor’s focus on school readiness highlights the need for good practice sharing and promotion

By Graham Whitham

School readiness plan by Andy Burnham for GM Poverty Action

Andy Burnham

Today is the first day at school for about 35,000 children across Greater Manchester. Last week Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, set out his plan to focus on early years and ensure that children have the skills and support they need to do well at school.

Despite improvements across Greater Manchester, the city region still lags behind the national average when it comes to the proportion of children who are ‘school ready’ (the government’s measure of whether children have certain basic skills when they start primary school).

The evidence suggests that improvements in school readiness aren’t evenly spread across different households, with children from low income households still much more likely to lack basic skills when they are four and five.

GMPA welcomes the Mayor’s focus on this agenda. A collaborative and joined up approach across GM can ensure that childcare providers, schools, parents and other stakeholders can work together to ensure children in our city region get the best start in life. There are already examples of good practice within and outside GM, and GMPA would like to see more being done to ensure local authorities and others are able to evidence and promote good practice. This extends beyond a focus on early years, to wider family and child poverty strategies and initiatives. Too often, good practice in one part of the country remains under the radar or, where there is awareness of it, can’t be replicated in other areas due to lack of funding.

Fostering a culture of good practice sharing and replication in GM would help the Mayor achieve his aim of illustrating to the rest of the country how public services delivery can be done in a more joined up and preventative way.

GMCA report 

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A roadmap for a fairer Oldham

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by Debbie Abrahams MP

There is overwhelming evidence of the effects inequality can have on how well we do at school, what types of jobs we get, and how long we will live. Even happiness and trust is enhanced in more equal societies.

Debbie Abrahams article on OFC for GM POverty Action

Oldham Fairness Commission Conference with Commissioners
and pupils from St Anne’s RC primary School

This is why I set up the Oldham Fairness Commission (OFC) in 2013. The Commission focused on identifying the causes of local inequalities in education, employment, income and population groups and to define action to address the issues.

Oldham is a wonderful place to live and work, but it is a fact that certain groups of people do better than others. I was under no illusion that 12 years after (at the time the OFC was established) the riots that hit our town, and the Cantle report identified inequalities between Asian and British heritage communities as a key factor, how sensitive this issue was. But I was determined not to shy away from the problem.

I was joined by Commissioners from a cross section of local organisations, from the public, voluntary and private sector, invited to take part based on their professional expertise and their personal commitment to helping build a fairer Oldham.

The OFC analysed evidence and data from expert witnesses at four oral hearings, as well as written evidence submissions. Following the hearings the commissioners and I produced a final report in March 2015.

The report showed that:

•  If you come from a low income household, you are less likely to do well at school, with white boys on free school meals performing the worst of all.

• If you are of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage, you are 30% less likely to be in work than someone of British heritage.

• If you are working woman you will be paid on average 20% less than a male colleague doing an equivalent job.

• If you have a disability you are 30% less likely to be in work than a non-disabled person.

• 1 in 3 jobs in Oldham pay less than the living wage.

• There’s more than an 11year life expectancy ‘gap’ between men who live in the most and least deprived borough areas.

There is no greater inequality and injustice than knowing that you are likely to die sooner just because you’re poor. What we now know is that by reducing these inequalities, particularly in income, not only do disadvantaged people do better, but the rest of society does better too. Evidence has shown that educational attainment, social mobility, crime levels as well as life expectancy all improve in more equal societies.

Following the publication of the report, I hosted a conference at Mahdlo, in January 2016 to look at how we could put the recommendations from the OFC report into action. The Oldham Fairness Commission hearings and conference were open to everyone to attend and it was great to see so many people get involved. This included experts, the public and young people including school pupils from a local primary school who had us sweating with their tough questions!

The conference was a culmination of months of hard work by the commissioners, and their chance to share with the public the ‘roadmaps’ they had produced which was the first steps towards us all working together to build a fairer Oldham.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams for Oldham Fairness Commission article for GM Poverty Action

Debbie Abrahams MP

We are now following up on those first steps and actions. I was proud that during the recent general election, Jim McMahon (MP for Oldham West and Royton), Angela Rayner (MP for Ashton), Oldham Council Leader, Jean Stretton and I pledged to work together to make Oldham a Real Living Wage borough – a key pledge of the OFC.

It’s only by working together that local agencies will be able to pinpoint the best use of scarce resources to tackle some of the most ingrained inequalities in our borough. Fairer more equal societies benefit us all and that is what the OFC set out to do.

Read more about the Oldham Fairness Commission on my website here.
Debbie Abrahams MP
Member of Parliament for Oldham East and Saddleworth
Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions

 

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World suicide prevention day

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We all have a role to play

By Christine Raiswell

Suicide is a huge public health concern and in England around 13 people take their own lives every day. This has a devastating impact on family, friends, colleagues and communities.

Suicide is also an issue of poverty and inequality.

People in the lowest socioeconomic group and living in the most deprived geographical areas are 10 times more at risk of suicide than those in the highest socio-economic group living in the most affluent areas. Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women and most people who die by suicide are not in touch with Mental Health Services. There are specific factors too that may increase the risk of suicide including previous self harm, alcohol and drug use, financial difficulties or having experienced abuse. There is growing evidence too of increased risk amongst specific groups such as LGBT and refugees and asylum seekers.

World Suicide Prevention Day for GM Poverty Action

Men are three times more likely to take their own lives

Suicide prevention can be achieved but it needs everyone to play their part and for it not to be seen as just an issue for mental health services. e.g. Network Rail has being making a significant contribution to suicide prevention in Manchester and across the country both through physical measures such as preventing access to tracks and bridges and working in partnership with Samaritans to train their staff to offer emotional support to people in distress who they may come across.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th, we want to raise awareness about suicide and what people can do to support those who are struggling to cope.

Often people lack confidence to talk to people about suicidal thoughts because they don’t know what to say, or may be afraid that asking about it or mentioning may make it more likely that someone will complete suicide. This is not the case. Providing an opportunity for someone to explore suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life. It is common and perfectly normal for people to have suicidal thoughts.

Here are some tips about supporting someone who you suspect may be suicidal

Ask if they are thinking about suicide – be direct in a caring and supportive way

Listen and let them know you care – let the person talk about their feelings and listen carefully to what they have to say. Try to understand why they are feeling this way.

Encourage them to get help – there is help for people to move forwards with hope. Encourage the person to make an appointment with their GP, call Samaritans on 123 116 (free to call) or contact the Sanctuary 0300 003 7029 (Mental Health support for adults in a crisis or those experiencing anxiety, panic attacks, depression or suicidal thoughts – for residents of Manchester, Trafford, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Glossop, Wigan and Leigh and Bolton)

Right now – if the person is at immediate risk of harm do not leave them alone call 999 or take them to the nearest hospital Accident and Emergency department

Christine Raiswell World Suicide Prevent Day article for GM Poverty Action

Christine Raiswell

Take care of yourself – supporting someone who is suicidal can be distressing and draining. Look after your own physical and mental wellbeing and talk to a friend or family member

Click on the link to see Manchester’s suicide prevention plan

For more information about suicide prevention in Manchester contact Christine Raiswell, Population Health and Wellbeing Team, Manchester Health and Social Care Commissioning.

If you are struggling to cope, help is available in Manchester here.

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