Trafford Poverty Truth Commissions – closing report

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By Claire Vibert and Kate Harding, the facilitation team for the Trafford PTC

Over the last 18 months, Trafford Poverty Truth Commission has been working hard to empower the voices of local residents living in poverty, inform those whose work has an impact on people experiencing poverty, and create ideas for tackling poverty locally that are truly led by the voices of lived experience. The Commission formally came to an end on March 10th in an event held at Stretford Public Hall.

In brief, a Poverty Truth Commission brings together a group of ‘Community Commissioners’ – or local residents with lived experience of poverty – with a group of ‘Civic Commissioners’ – these are senior leaders who, through their roles, have the ability to shape policies and services that affect people living in poverty. Through a process that focuses on relationship-building and centres individuals’ experiences, the Commissioners come together as one group, with no ‘us and them’, to work collectively to develop ideas and solutions to poverty locally.

As the facilitation team, it has been our privilege to work with our Community Commissioners, who are a group of inspirational people who have courageously shared their own stories, given up their time and worked together in the hope of a better future for everyone in Trafford. And we’ve also been encouraged by the openness, willingness to learn and readiness to implement change that our Civic Commissioners have shown throughout.

At the event on March 10th, we shared our full report for the first time. We’re really proud of this piece of work that the Commissioners developed over a number of months. Our recommendations focus on four key areas:

• Improve how Trafford residents access services.

• Continue to use the voice of lived experience in the development of policy and services in Trafford.

• Make public transport truly accessible for everyone.

• Tackle mental health and isolation.

Trafford PTC speech bubble for GM Poverty ActionPlease take a look at the report to read more about the detail below the headlines: we’ve tried to come up with practical solutions that will make a real tangible difference.

We’re thrilled that the Commission has already had some positive outcomes. From one of our Community Commissioners, Lorenza, setting up cookery classes to tackle food poverty and share her knowledge and love of home cooked, nutritious food, to Trafford Leisure engaging with our Community Commissioners to help them develop their offer and make leisure facilities accessible to all residents. In addition, our Civic Commissioners have all made a pledge and we’ll be bringing the Commissioners back together regularly to hear about the progress they’re making in their own organisations.

Trafford PTC speech bubble for GM Poverty ActionEveryone involved in the Commission is determined that the end result of our work isn’t to simply produce a report, but to put the ideas we’ve developed into practice. Therefore we’re really pleased that Trafford Council have shown their commitment to tackling poverty by funding work to embed the report’s recommendations. Initially this will involve setting up an expert panel of residents with lived experience of poverty, who will be able to work with, and advise teams across the council and beyond who are developing policies and services. We’ll  also be developing a training offer to help those whose work impacts residents living in poverty have a better understanding of how poverty affects every aspect of someone’s life. So, watch this space!

Trafford PTC facilitators for GM Poverty Action

Claire Vibert and Kate Harding

If you’d like to know more about our work, or think your organisation could be involved, just get in touch with Claire Vibert or Kate Harding.


i3oz9sTrafford Poverty Truth Commissions – closing report
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Deduction lending – does it add up for low income borrowers?

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By Mick McAteer and Gareth Evans, Financial Inclusion Centre

Millions of people are not served by the mainstream lending market and need alternative fair and affordable credit options. Recently, FairAll Finance published a report carried out by the Financial Inclusion Centre (FIC) and the Swoboda Research Centre on the benefits and risks associated with deduction lending products provided by credit unions. With deduction based loans, repayments are automatically deducted from wages (in the case of payroll savings loans) or from non means tested benefits (benefit loans). Importantly, the products have a savings element attached to the loan repayment.

The findings were very positive for both types of deduction loan – especially benefit loans. The majority of borrowers found the loans: easy to manage, reported the loan was affordable, helped them become more confident at managing their finances, and improved their financial wellbeing. Few benefit loan borrowers raised concerns about transferring benefits to their credit union. Similarly, few payroll savings loan borrowers were concerned about their employer knowing about their finances. People also reported that the savings element encouraged a savings habit and they intended to carry on saving once the loan had been repaid. People liked the automated element – both to help them repay the loan and save.

There are issues which need to be addressed. Around 10 percent of respondents reported difficulties in making loan repayments. A minority also said they didn’t understand they could stop payments if needed.

That’s why we developed the best practice recommendations. Good ideas can’t be left on the shelf – ideas must be turned into action. We want to expand access to affordable loans that work for people. But, that has to be done safely. As well as urging stakeholders to collaborate on promoting greater access to deduction loans, we suggested a set of best practice recommendations for credit unions to support development of these products. Credit unions should:

•  Conduct affordability assessments at the initial assessment stage and for repeat borrowing.

•  Put in place additional monitoring and communications to support borrowers who might be in financial difficulty.

•  Be proactive about embedding support packages (such as automated benefit entitlement checks, information about grants, and referrals to debt advice charities) into communications with accepted and declined borrowers.

•  Not be afraid to promote the positives of deduction lending, but don’t avoid telling borrowers about the commitments involved and how they can stop payments if they feel under pressure.

•  Make a point that anyone can be considered for a deduction loan, but be upfront that credit worthiness assessments and affordability checks will be done – this is a good thing for the borrower and the credit union. Our research suggest that acceptance rates for deduction loans were higher than for standard loans.

•  Be clear that payments can be stopped and show how, and in the case of payroll loans reassure that employers will not know about the borrower’s finances.

You might also like to check out the Greater Manchester Consortium of Community Credit Unions Soundpound article here

i3oz9sDeduction lending – does it add up for low income borrowers?
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Fare deal for those supporting passengers with a disability to access public transport

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By Austin Duxbury, Assistant Head, Piper Hill Post 16  Dept, Wythenshawe 

Piper hill logo for GM Poverty ActionStudents at Piper Hill’s Post 16 department in Wythenshawe have been experiencing first-hand the impact of rising costs and funding cuts in schools and have decided to try to do something about it.

With schools having to find funds for combined energy bills for this autumn and winter that in many cases have more than trebled on 2020-21 levels there is little left in the budget to cover the myriad of other costs schools face each term. This includes the cost of staff bus and tram fares as they support students to become confident users of public transport in Manchester.

Piper Hill is a Specialist support school and all of the students need additional support. In the Post 16 department the focus is on a curriculum centred around developing students independent living skills and readiness for life after college. Being able to confidently access public transport is an essential part of this curriculum and without the support of another adult or for some students, two adults this is not possible.

There are many reasons that students require additional support on public transport, some of these relate to managing significant mobility challenges whilst other students need to be able to rely on someone to manage the social interaction required to take a bus or tram and support them to safely navigate their journey from where they get on to their destination.

Piper Hill student on a bus with supporter for GM Poverty ActionCurrently somebody who is entitled to a disability travel pass can travel for free on public transport but anybody supporting them to access this has to pay the full ticket price. In Manchester these costs must be met by the person with the disability, and this means that despite them having free travel for themselves they are paying out for the ticket required by the people who they need to support them. In most instances travelling alone and without support is not an option for these passengers which means their right to free travel is effectively being taken away, or in the case of Piper Hill students it is paid for from very limited school funds. This is proving to be a significant barrier for our students, their families and members of our wider community with SEND in accessing local facilities, support groups and leisure opportunities.

The current much publicised bus price cap campaign has only increased the cost of travel for many Manchester residents. Before the price change a single journey from our Post 16 department to Wythenshawe town centre cost £1.50, now it costs £2. What is being promoted as a price cut is a de facto price increase for all passengers taking shorter local journeys.

A committee of Piper Hill students have met with a range of concerned community stakeholders and groups to discuss how they can work with TfGM to introduce free travel for anyone supporting somebody who is entitled to hold a disability travel pass. These organisations have pledged their support for the student’s campaign as they support people and their families who are directly impacted by this issue and are all too aware of how this limits their opportunities to fully engage with their local community.

People who rely on the support of someone else to use public transport for their wellbeing and independence could benefit hugely. It is something that is offered by other councils across the country but not currently here in Manchester. Why?

If you would like to support the Piper Hill campaign please send an email to the High School.



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MCC launches its new Anti-poverty Strategy

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On Monday February 27th, 2023 Manchester City Council launched their renewed Anti-Poverty Strategy as part of their commitment to ‘Making Manchester Fairer’. The launch event held at the People’s History Museum brought together elected members, council officers and partner organisations from across the city to discuss the new strategy. The strategy which builds on its predecessor ‘The Family Poverty Strategy’, has a strong commitment to partnership working and a recognition that collaboration with residents and organisations is key to the successful delivery of the strategy.

The Anti-Poverty Strategy draws upon evidence from residents, organisations and national research to provide recommendations to tackle poverty, its causes and its consequences.

Introducing the strategy, Councillor Bev Craig, leader of Manchester City Council, acknowledged that whilst Manchester is a thriving city, recent economic challenges have exacerbated longstanding inequalities that disproportionately impact certain communities. Cllr Craig said “We recognise that no one person or organisation holds all the levers to address poverty. It is now more important than ever that we work together across our city to take tangible actions to tackle poverty. We all have a shared responsibility to ensure no one gets left behind”.

Dr Cordelle Ofori, Deputy Director of Public Health for Manchester outlined that the strategy has four key themes: preventing poverty, mitigating poverty, pathways out of poverty and inclusive and effective delivery, and beneath these themes there are 50 specific action points the council will be taking as part of this strategy. Dr Ofori encouraged the individuals and organisations in the room to consider their own role in contributing to Making Manchester Fairer.

A panel Q&A session was held and the panel members included GMPA’s CEO Graham Whitham who contributed to a discussion on the role of the private sector in tackling poverty across the city and highlighted good examples such as Kellogg’s funding the GMPA Money Matters programme. The panel discussion focussed heavily on the importance of involving those with lived experience of poverty in the development, delivery and governance of the strategy and councillors urged attendees at the launch to apply to become part of the Making Manchester Fairer Programme Board and the Communities and Power Forum. Closing the Q&A panel, Graham Whitham raised the importance of public bodies such as Manchester City Council voluntarily adopting the socio-economic duty which would require these bodies to actively consider the way in which their decisions increase or decrease inequalities that result from socio-economic disadvantage.

In summing up the event, Deputy Leader Cllr Joanna Midgley, who is the Executive Member with responsibility for Reducing Poverty and Tackling Inequalities, looked forward to delivering this strategy across the city over the next five years. Cllr Midgley recognised the ambition of the strategy but highlighted that by taking collective action, there is much that can be done to make life easier for people experiencing poverty and emphasised the importance of a dual responsive and reactive approach.

A key theme of the launch event was collaboration and it was encouraging to see so many ambitious and optimistic organisations represented in the room. GMPA looks forward to working with Manchester City Council and its partners on delivering the Anti-Poverty Strategy over the next five years.

The report ‘Making Manchester Fairer: Anti-Poverty Strategy 2023 – 2027 can be accessed here.

We recommend that you also check out GMPA’s recently shared report “Local anti-poverty strategies: Good practice and effective approaches.”

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from a press release by The Food Foundation

New data released last week from The Food Foundation shows the number of households where children are not getting enough nutritious food has nearly doubled in the past year.

In January 2023, 21.6% of households with children reported that their children had directly experienced food insecurity in the past month, affecting an estimated 3.7 million children. This is compared with 11.6% in January 2022.

These findings come alongside the first national modelling of support for Free School Meals expansion across England’s parliamentary constituencies, which shows overwhelming support (72%) for Government action.

Expanding Free School Meals nationwide, which has been the basis of the Feed the Future campaign, has been made even more urgent following the Mayor of London’s announcement last week that he will be funding this for all primary schoolchildren in the capital as a one-year emergency measure from September 2023.

The London initiative puts further pressure on national Government to honour its levelling up commitment, given the postcode lottery of access to Free School Meals between London and the rest of England where the eligibility annual household income threshold remains at £7,400 (after tax, excluding benefits).

England also lags far behind the devolved nations. Scotland and Wales are rolling out Universal Free School Meals in primary schools, and in Northern Ireland the income threshold is double that of England (£14,000).

The Food Foundation launched a new #FeedtheFuture campaign to call on Government to extend Free School Meals to more children. You can support the campaign here.

Further information is available here.

You may also be interested in GMPA’s programme ‘Money Matters’ that is working in schools with the aim of  increasing household income by providing debt and benefit advice.  This work is funded by Kellogg’s who have been supporting school breakfast clubs in the UK since 1998. Read more.

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SoundPound loan

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Launch of SoundPound loan across Greater Manchester

By Sheenagh Young, CEO South Manchester Credit Union, Chair of SoundPound Consortium

Sound Pound logo for GM Poverty Action

February 15th was a day to celebrate a milestone for our Greater Manchester Consortium of Community Credit Unions, known as SoundPound. We stood together with Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, underneath the Abraham Lincoln statue in Manchester city centre and launched our SoundPound loan. This is the latest of our local responses to the ongoing affordability crisis and is a harmonised offer to communities across Greater Manchester (GM). This loan is for £200 -£1000 and is open to applications from people with squeezed finances who are new to credit unions.

Recent data indicates that a quarter (24%) of Greater Manchester residents are seeking information or support for the first time, reinforcing how the cost of living crisis is bringing financial concerns to those not traditionally experiencing them (source :Greater Manchester Residents Survey Wave 5). We are responsible moneylenders based in our local communities and we have gathered intelligence about the local market for personal credit.

People are trying to stretch and extend existing lines of credit. Banks are disengaged, overdraft charges are opaque and we see many trapped making minimum payments on high credit card balances. There are significant gaps in practical financial education, especially for younger people aged 18-30. The numbers of people turning to friends and family is increasing and this can include inappropriate illegal lending with all the damage that brings.

We know that a small personal loan at the right time can stabilise household finances and protect other priority payments like council tax, rent and utilities. In the last year, we have lent £28m to GM residents. We consider that we now offer the safest, cheapest option for a loan up to £1,000 here in GM. And no other lender also encourages people to kickstart a spending habit.

Credit unions have been active in Greater Manchester for more than 30 years and there are now 14 based here. Of these, the 8 community based credit unions banded together in 2016 to form our consortium which is unique in England. We joined forces in order to amplify our existing financial services offer and to work together on potential collaborations across the city region. Together we hold more than £48 m of assets which have been built up from deposits and borrowing by 66,000 GM residents. These same residents have together accumulated £6m in financial reserves in our consortium credit unions. The funds stay local, can facilitate a dividend and fuel future sustainability. We represent a proven way to build local community wealth and get capital working for the long term financial wellbeing and resilience of communities across GM.

SoundPound comprises 8 community credit unions and between us we cover Greater Manchester; CashBox Credit union (Tameside), HOOT Credit Union (Bolton), Manchester Credit Union, Oldham Credit Union, Salford Credit Union, Stockport Credit Union, South Manchester Credit Union and Unify Credit Union (Wigan)

We want to encourage more people to come and find the benefits of belonging to a credit union. Andy Burnham offered to raise our profile and he accepted our #SoundPoundchallenge which is open to everyone to enjoy taking part – find out more about this and our #Save Rave on our website and get involved.

There is a clear link between mental health and confidence with money management, especially right now. The current crisis comes on top of the impact of Covid and many are overwhelmed. Local credit unions continue to provide our service in solidarity with communities. Members tell us that belonging to their
local credit union helps make money work for them and brings the fun back into life.


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Principal Partners 2023

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Help grow and increase the impact of our work by becoming a Principal Partner of Greater Manchester Poverty Action.

Principal Partners commit to supporting the work of GMPA at an enhanced level and contributing to the sustainability of the organisation. We are delighted to currently have 25 organisations signed up for the scheme. We are always looking for new Principal Partner organisations to ensure that we can strengthen our work throughout the current cost-of-living crisis. Financially supporting Greater Manchester Poverty Action directly funds our work to prevent and reduce poverty and create a more prosperous and inclusive city region. The scheme is one of our key fundraising strands and it helps to ensure we stay financially viable and can continue to tackle poverty. If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch with Lucy.

A huge thank you to all those organisations that have already confirmed their membership of the scheme in 2023. You can see their logos here and find out more about the scheme here.

Principal Partners speech bubble 1 for GM Poverty Action Principal Partners speech bubble 2 for GM Poverty Action







GMPA is now accepting donations. Individuals and organisations can make a one-off donation or set up a monthly direct debit. Find out more here. Your voluntary contribution will support us to continue and grow our work.


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UC and employers

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Universal Credit and employers: exploring the demand side of UK active labour market policy

by Dr Calum Carson, Decent Work and Productivity Research Centre

MMU UC report for GM Poverty ActionThe findings of the Universal Credit and Employers research project were launched in Manchester last week, exploring what employers know about Universal Credit and how it impacts on them, and how Jobcentres and other employment services can work more effectively with employers. The research also touches upon a number of other important issues, including how both employers and policymakers can better promote the greater adoption of Decent Working standards both within Greater Manchester and beyond, and how individual organisations can modify their own practices to better financially protect those members of their workforce supported in part by Universal Credit.

Drawing on 124 interviews with employers and wider stakeholders, this is the first major independent research project to explore employers’ views and experiences of this important policy area. And as the cost-of-living crisis deepens and the need to support people more effectively into (and to progress in) work becomes more complex, it is important to address the critical omission of employers’ voices in this debate and demonstrate how valuable their insights are.

The full report can be found here, and do please contact project lead Dr Katy Jones if you have any more questions about the research. Thank you too to all of the many organisations across Greater Manchester who have helped support this project in some way: it is greatly appreciated, and the project could not have succeeded without you.


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Only halfway

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Families are only halfway through a two-year cost-of-living squeeze

By Lalitha Try, Resolution Foundation

Britain is in the midst of a living standards disaster. Inflation reached its highest level in 41 years in 2022 – and remains at double-digit levels. Pay packets are shrinking rapidly in real terms. The Government has stepped in with a package of cost of living support that is set to cost £58 billion over the course of this year (2022-23). But even that isn’t enough to prevent typical household incomes from falling by 3%.

To deepen our understanding of where this crisis leaves Britain, our Living Standards Outlook 2023 uses a new YouGov survey of 10,000 adults to explore how households are coping. In addition, new RF modelling helps us to understand what the latest economic developments and planned government policy mean for household incomes and poverty this year and beyond.

We find that, as of last November, 23% of adults (equivalent to 12 million people in total) said they couldn’t afford to replace or repair major electrical goods (up from 8% pre-pandemic), while 11% (equivalent to six million people) said that they were hungry but didn’t eat because of a lack of money in the past month (compared with 5% pre-pandemic).

With the crisis currently being driven by the higher cost of essentials like food and energy, lower-income families are finding it hardest to cope. Among people in the poorest fifth of working families, 32%  say they are not confident about their finances as a whole over the next three months (compared to 19% overall), while 34% say their health has been affected by the rising cost of living (compared to 21% overall). We will ask these questions again later this year, to see if people are faring any better or worse.

What about the wider outlook for living standards? We found that typical household disposable incomes for working-age families are on track to fall by 3%  this financial year, and by 4%  next year, with the two-year cost-of-living squeeze set to leave families £2,100 worse off. The scale of this fall is considerably tighter than the post-financial-crisis squeeze of 5%  between 2009-10 and 2011-12.

This outlook is bleak, but government support has responded well to the nature of the cost-of-living crisis, by rightly prioritising support at those most in need. Because of this, and with the exception of the very richest households who have seen their savings income soar, the scale of income falls will be smaller for poorer families than richer ones.

But there is still more the Government can do more to protect households from the brunt of the crisis. The Government should look at the Cold Weather Payments, and consider whether the trigger temperature should be raised, so that they are paid more often, and eligibility extended to more working-age households receiving benefits. In the medium-run, better insulation is key to reducing household energy bills and easing the transition to net zero, but this requires a greater focus on UK’s homes’ inefficient walls.

Lalitha Try, Res Fnd for GM Poverty Action

Lalitha Try

Families with three or more children are heavily affected by the two-child limit, the benefit cap (the inflation increase this year is its first nominal increase since 2013), and the post-pandemic freeze in LHA rates. All of these policies should be reviewed. And linking Cost of Living Payments to receipt of security benefits or the state pension makes it more important than ever that those entitled to those benefits claim them, and the Government (and other organisations) should be encouraging take-up of means-tested and disability benefits. The UK Government should also mandate a minimum provision of crisis support by local authorities, if necessary with ring-fenced funding.

The outlook for living standards is bleak, but uncertain. It could improve, or worsen. The government should be ready to respond to either of these outcomes.


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Socioeconomic Duty

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By Cllr Leanne Feeley Executive member for Education, Achievement and Equalities

Tameside Council has become the latest local authority in Greater Manchester to voluntarily adopt the Socioeconomic Duty, giving us a powerful new tool to understand, address and reduce inequalities in our communities.

The driving force behind choosing to adopt the Socioeconomic Duty at this time was simple. Up and down the country, local authorities and communities are grappling with an unprecedented cost of living crisis, an economic squeeze that the Bank of England predicts will be the longest in a century, and the likelihood of a new round of austerity. Tameside has not been immune to these challenges.

As with every local authority, Tameside Council has a statutory and moral obligation to our residents. We recognise that, when you look behind the economic facts and figures, poverty always carries a very real human cost that we cannot in good conscience ignore.

We were very fortunate in that we could draw upon a considerable body of existing knowledge and best practice on the Socioeconomic Duty to inform and influence the adoption in Tameside. In particular, our colleagues at Salford City Council and Greater Manchester Poverty Action were instrumental in shaping our approach, and we always found their doors to be open to us when we had further questions and enquiries. Further afield, case studies and research undertaken as part of the Fairer Scotland Duty, which was passed into law by the Scottish government back in 2018, provided us with insights from a mature and large-scale implementation of the Socioeconomic Duty.

Armed with this information, it quickly became clear that if we really want to make a difference, then simply adopting the Socioeconomic Duty by itself would not be sufficient. Therefore, as a first step, we took the time to think about what we wanted our priorities in Tameside’s fight against poverty to be, and how exactly adoption of the Socioeconomic Duty would turn focus attention and effort towards making them a reality.

This led to the creation of a series of policy recommendations that would align with, and be facilitated by, the Socioeconomic Duty.

Recognising that addressing poverty would be a years (if not decades) long effort, we wanted to ensure that commitment and consistency of practice would be maintained across political administrations and turnover of staff.

To strengthen compliance with the Socioeconomic Duty across the organisation, we proposed a number of improvements to Equality Impact Assessments and the assessment of policy and practice more broadly. Hand-in-hand with this went an effort to broaden and deepen our data gathering and analysis work, with the purpose of reinforcing accountability and giving us better insight into the unique nature of poverty in Tameside.

We also sought to leverage the power of the Socioeconomic Duty to support local residents, especially those with lived experience of poverty, to influence the decisions that affect them in a meaningful and substantive way outside of formal structures such as the Poverty Truth Commission.

Last but not least, a particular characteristic of poverty in Tameside is the prevalence of low-paid employment. At 28.5%, Tameside has the highest proportion of jobs that pay below the Living Wage in Greater Manchester. To start addressing this serious issue, we have linked adoption of the Socioeconomic Duty with promoting the uptake of the Living Wage among local employer. Both of these, we feel, are intrinsically connected as levers to promote equality and fairness.

This work culminated in the creation of an approach that we felt was ambitious but practical and, following its passage through our governance processes, the Socioeconomic Duty was formally adopted by the Executive Cabinet on 26 October 2022.

Our thanks go out to Greater Manchester Poverty Action and everybody else who helped us to get to this point. We are confident that the Socioeconomic Duty will stand as a major weapon in our arsenal as we work to help our residents through the difficult months ahead.


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