No Interest Loan Scheme

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By Sheenagh Young, CEO South Manchester Credit Union

South Manchester Credit Union has been running a proof of concept for the proposed No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) which aims to provide access to affordable credit for people on low income in England.

Our community credit union was started 21 years ago by volunteers and today we have a staff team of 10 and a high street presence on Fog Lane, Burnage. Our membership now numbers 4,500 and our combined savings are totalling nearly £5m. We are building community wealth. We are rooted in this place; our senior leadership and staff all live here and the life chances of the people of South Manchester really matter to us.

We were chosen by Fair4AllFinance to be the organisation to run the proof of concept for the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) in England which aims to test initial learnings ahead of a full pilot to be launched later this year. Fair4AllFinance has joined with Toynbee Hall and Fair By Design to scope and deliver the pilot which is funded by HM Treasury (£3.8m) and JP Morgan Chase (£1.2m).

The scheme is the first of its kind in the UK and has drawn inspiration from research conducted by London Economics. NILS aims to benefit individuals and society by providing a safe line of affordable credit to people on a low income to clear financial hurdles such as rent deposit, up front nursery fees and household equipment. Removing the burden of interest can make a difference to the ability to repay.

But isn’t it true that a loan from a credit union doesn’t carry much interest anyway? To give an example, a £300 loan repaid at £10 per week, with interest at 42.6% APR on the reducing balance, results in an interest charge of £34. We know that there are times when this can seem daunting even though we consider it a fair rate. This is why we wanted to take part in an innovative solution that could sit well alongside our current service offering.

So here is what we have found out so far about how NILS works – we have called our product a Stepping Stone Loan.

  • We knew this already but it is really tough out there right now and there is little safe help from organisations that listen and offer appropriate finance in a dignified way.
  • Stepping Stone Loan applicants have a range of unique circumstances including living with disabilities, caring responsibilities, recovering from relationship breakdown and domestic violence, returning to work, homeless, bereaved and longing to fund a decent funeral for a loved one. Our very first applicant, Lisa, has shared her story on our website.
  • 87% of applicants have poor or very poor credit scores which means it is exceptionally challenging for them to access credit they can afford to repay. People can get trapped in this cycle of exclusion.
  • Listening to a person’s needs and coming alongside to coach through financial squeezes is empowering and can kickstart a new confidence with money. Paying no interest is a boost.
  • The scheme works well to widen the gateway to credit union membership and has allowed us to approve a further third of first time loan applicants who might have otherwise been declined. This gives them an opportunity to engage with us, to start a savings habit and to build the financial resilience we know comes from belonging to a credit union.
  • The product has potential for partnership working with social housing providers, employers and other local stakeholders.
Sheenagh Young

Sheenagh Young, CEO SMCU

If you are not already switched on to credit unions this is a great time to get informed and you are lucky that we have a well developed consortium here in GM known as SoundPound

  • On a low income? – join your local credit union, save and borrow if you need to
  • Finances doing ok? – join, save and borrow if you need to – borrowing from us gets you great rates and service and you will get the satisfaction of knowing we will use all of our income to offer the inclusive financial services which are sorely needed
  • Don’t want to join in yet? – find out more about how it works
  • In a position to refer? – consider signposting to us
  • Advocate? – get involved and shout about us.



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Pension Top Up

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Greater Manchester Pension Top Up campaign 2022

By Greater Manchester Ageing Hub

People in Greater Manchester are being urged to check if they are eligible for pension top up payments after figures revealed approximately 36,000 qualifying households are missing out on around £70m in unclaimed Pension Credit.

Greater Manchester Housing Providers, a partnership of 24 social housing providers, and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, through its Ageing Hub, have launched an awareness raising campaign to encourage older people to take up pension age benefits. The Pension Top Up campaign is being is being rolled out across the city region and is supported by Independent Age, Age UK, and Citizens Advice.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “With so much pressure on household finances, it’s vital that older people are getting all the money they are entitled to. A third of those eligible for pension credit in Greater Manchester aren’t claiming, with many missing out on income from attendance allowance and housing benefit too. If you own your own home or have a private pension you could still be eligible, so please take a moment now and check – for yourself or your loved ones. It’s going to be another tough winter, and getting this top-up could make all the difference.”

Pension Top up campaign for GM Poverty Action

The main reason older people don’t claim is that they don’t think they are eligible. When it comes to finance and benefits, older people are most likely to respond to one-to-one prompting from family and friends or from trusted local contacts. The campaign encourages everyone to ask their older family, friends and customers, ‘have you topped up?’.

Jean, aged 86, from Gorton said: “Pension Credit has helped me with lots of the costs including food, clothing and bedding. My son helped me fill the forms out – I wouldn’t be able to do it without his help.”

Pension credit is designed to bring the weekly income of pensioners up to a minimum amount and could make those eligible £34 a week better off on average. In addition to the extra weekly cash, Pension Credit also unlocks other financial benefits including a free TV licence for over 75s, council tax support, and money towards green home insulation.

Karen Mitchell, Greater Manchester Housing Providers’ Ageing Well Lead and Chief Executive of Southway Housing Trust, said: “For many people that bit of extra income can make a crucial difference between struggling to pay the bills and living more comfortably”.

To check if you or someone you are close to is getting all the entitlements they are due, contact your local social housing provider or Independent Age freephone helpline 0800 319 6789  or go to the website

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Legal Advice

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Employment Legal Advice Service

By Naomi Ilagoswa, Head of Strategic Partnerships & External Projects, The Growth Company

CAB and Growth Co Legal Advice for GM Poverty ActionThe Growth Company together with Citizens Advice Manchester, Citizens Advice Bury and Bolton and a network of legal partners, have set up Employment Legal Advice – a new service to help individuals across Greater Manchester to access free employment-related legal support. The service is designed to help you access the right advice at the right time as quickly and easily as possible. They have supported people with a wide range of employment issues including discrimination, unpaid wages, dismissal, bullying, contractual issues, harassment, long term sickness, redundancy and pregnancy.

Of those who contact the service; 35% are disabled or have a health condition, 13% speak English as a second language and 17% work in a low paid industry

Hayley Hughes, Head of Business Development & Local Services, Citizen’s Advice Manchester:  “Our key reason for partnering on this project was an increase in the demand for employment advice, although this specific increase was generated by the pandemic, we have long been aware that there is a gap in access to employment (legal) advice in Manchester.  Unfortunately, when people encounter an employment issue, they are often left with nowhere else to turn other than fee paying solicitors.  Many of the people who access this service simply do not have the financial means to instruct a solicitor and therefore often they will not pursue their case.”

Stockport Homes also commented: “The free Employment Legal Advice Service provided has been exceptional.  The empathic, professional, supportive and efficient service the customers have received has not only resulted in successful outcomes but also provided reassurance, hope, clarity and direction at a time when customers are feeling most vulnerable, overwhelmed and unable to cope.”

For more information please visit the website.


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How do we end the need for food banks?

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By Zhané Edwards, Parliamentary Assistant, Child Poverty Action Group

In his spring statement, the Chancellor added £500 million to the household support fund, which started out as a pot of money given to councils to support families during the pandemic. This was an insufficient response to the challenges families are facing, given prices are rising at pace and benefits will not increase at the same rate. But what is the role of this type of support? And how should it be delivered? That was what our Ending the need for food banks project set out to answer.

Emergency support can in no way be treated as a replacement for an adequate social security system, but it does play a vital role in that system. It should help families through one-off shocks that cause a sudden drop in income or increase in costs, such as the onset of a health problem or the washing machine breaking down. In practice, however, many families are not getting the support they need when they need it. This is contributing to the rising demand for food banks.

Emergency support varies greatly across the UK. Both Scotland and Wales have a centrally coordinated emergency hardship fund: the Scottish welfare fund and discretionary assistance fund, respectively. In comparison, England puts the onus on local authorities to provide emergency support, but because provision isn’t statutory and budgets are already stretched, many local authorities simply do not run a scheme. Access to emergency support in England is therefore a postcode lottery. At least 32 local authorities, one in five, now have no scheme whatsoever. Even when there is a local welfare assistance scheme, the reach is limited due to chronic underfunding, especially in comparison to Wales and Scotland. Before the pandemic, spending in England per capita was far lower than in Scotland and Wales.

CPAG per capita copy for GM Poverty Action

The UK government did give local authorities more money to support people in the pandemic, including via the household support fund, but these pots of money have all been short term and ad hoc. They have provided no security to local authorities nor their residents who need this crucial support.

How can we improve this picture? We need a long-term funding settlement for emergency support. And we need changes to the way emergency support is delivered too.

Something that kept coming up in our research was the importance of dignity. Many people in poverty feel shame when going to a food bank. If properly funded emergency support was in place, people in crisis would be able to receive a cash grant from their local authority to give them the flexibility and agency in a financial emergency.

“People asking for emergency help have been through enough without being made to feel like we don’t trust them to choose the right baked beans.” – Citizens’ jury participant

“Choice is what gives us dignity, don’t take that choice away from people.” – Citizens’ jury participant

We are calling for a review into emergency support in England and Wales (Scotland has already commissioned a review), and for best practice to be shared among local authorities. It’s also essential that the support on offer across local authorities in England is made more consistent.

As we brace ourselves for a further rise in the cost of energy, food and other basics, we must ensure that benefits rise in line with inflation. Social security adequacy needs addressing at a fundamental level. Extending the household support fund was a completely inadequate response to the challenges low-income families are facing. But a properly funded emergency support system must also be there to help families when they face an income shock and provide them with the support they need so they don’t have to resort to a food bank.

You can read the project’s final report here.


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Be Smoke Free

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By Katie Burke, Community and Engagement Lead, Change Grow Live

With the cost of living on the rise, many people living in Greater Manchester are looking for ways to reduce their outgoings. April 1st saw the cost of electricity rise by approximately 50%, motorists are finding themselves spending more at the petrol station due to rises in fuel prices, and we’ve seen our weekly shop get gradually more expensive in recent months.

If you smoke, cutting back or quitting cigarettes can be a great way to save money. The table below illustrates the average cost per year for smoking, depending on the price and number of cigarettes smoked. The figures are startling – imagine the things that can be done with that sort of money!

We know that we’re living through stressful times, and many smokers in Greater Manchester smoke to relieve that stress. Because of this, you might be thinking ‘‘No way can I give up the fags!’’, but fear not, because free stop-smoking support is available.

Be Smoke Free for GM Poverty Action

Be Smoke Free is a specialist nurse-led tobacco addiction service powered by Change Grow Live, in partnership with Manchester Health Care Commissioning Service and Manchester City Council. Be Smoke Free’s aim is to raise awareness of the negative effects of smoking and to support individuals in quitting smoking. The service was born in April 2020, and since then has supported over 700 people to successfully quit after four weeks, and over 400 people to successfully quit over twelve weeks.

As the table demonstrates, quitters can make life-changing savings to their expenditure alongside the well publicised health benefits of going smoke free.

Be Smoke Free supports people 12 years+ who live in Manchester or are registered with a Manchester-based GP to stop smoking via evidence-based treatment. When working with Be Smoke Free the individual receives:

•  A free and direct supply of nicotine replacement therapy and medication (including vapes), without the need for a prescription or GP appointment.

•  A dedicated Tobacco Addiction Specialist Nurse who will provide ongoing behavioural support during bi-weekly appointments.

•  Treatment that typically lasts twelve weeks, with medication and nicotine replacement therapy provided free of and delivered to the individual’s home.

Our service is completely free of charge, so if you, or somebody you know, is ready to start their stop-smoking journey and save money in the process, you can contact Be Smoke Free directly on 0161 823 4157 or visit their website to access the direct self-referral form.


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Support for people from Ukraine

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Spirit of Manchester Grants 2022

Five £1,000 Spirit of Manchester grants are available to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in the city that work with refugees and asylum seekers. The aim of this fund is simply to put some much needed resources into those organisations and capture stories which will raise awareness of the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers and the work which is being done to provide support, safety and welcome. Apply here. Deadline April 28th 12pm.

Greater Manchester Community Response Fund: Ukraine Crisis

In response to the crisis in Ukraine, 10GM and partners are working together to put in place welcome and support for people arriving in Greater Manchester, working alongside local authorities and those who are offering to accommodate people arriving from Ukraine.

To help this work Macc have launched the Greater Manchester Community Response Fund: Ukraine Crisis. This fundraising campaign will raise money to create a hardship fund for people arriving from Ukraine and to provide small grants to local voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations that are playing an active, practical role in providing support.

You can help by donating here and sharing with your friends, family and colleagues.

Ukraine Support

Here are ways of providing financial support for the people of Ukraine:

DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal
: This appeal is on behalf of many organisations such as the Red Cross, ActionAid, Save the Children, Islamic Relief, Christian Aid etc. The British public raised £200 million in the first two weeks but the collection is ongoing.

UK-Med’s Ukraine Appeal: UK-Med is a humanitarian healthcare charity based out of the University of Manchester. UK-Med currently have a health assessment team in Poland, working with partners to anticipate the emergency health needs caused by the unfolding crisis. UK-Med have launched their emergency appeal which has been backed by the GM Mayor, Andy Burnham and the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. UK-Med has more than 25 years-experience responding to health emergencies around the world and drawing from a register ofnearly 1000 NHS and international health experts are ready to respond to the crisis unfolding in Europe.

Europia’s fundraiser for Ukraine: Europia is raising funds to support Ukrainians, both those in the country and refugees in Poland, Romania and Moldova. The funds raised will be divided equally between Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and Romania to support civil society organisations working on the ground.




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Cost of the school day

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The Cost of the school day in England: Pupils’ Perspectives

A report by the Child Poverty Action Group

Child Poverty Action Group’s (CPAG’s) Cost of the School Day project works with schools and local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to ensure that all children, regardless of financial background, can take part and be happy at school. ​The Cost of the School Day in England: Pupils’ Perspectives is a report focusing on the research so far in England. It highlights some of the positive work being carried out by schools to ensure that opportunities are affordable and inclusive, while also drawing attention to the multitude of ways that pupils from low-income families face exclusion and stigma.​

CPAG hopes that by listening to the issues identified by children and young people, readers of this report will take action to bring about greater equity of experience and opportunity within our education system. ​A recorded webinar was held earlier in the month to coincide with the launch of the report, including excellent presentations by pupils.  The webinar can be viewed here.CPAG Cost of a school day for GM Poverty Action

Selected Findings
•  Curriculum and learning: Pupils experiencing poverty in England are financially excluded from full participation in a wide range of school subjects and activities, including PE, music, swimming and art and design. ​
•  Stigma: Day-to-day practices in English schools often unintentionally draw attention to family incomes and make children feel embarrassed and different. These include expensive uniform policies, non-uniform days and requirements to bring in material possessions like pencil cases. ​
•  School fun: Families are borrowing money to pay for school activities like school trips, not wanting children to lose out on these valuable learning opportunities.
•  School food: Policies and practices relating to food in school often mean that children experiencing poverty don’t have the same options as their peers at lunchtime.

Key recommendations for the Government
Provide funding to schools to ensure all curriculum-related costs are removed for pupils and all children have the resources and tools they need to fully participate in school activities both at home and at school. ​
•  Provide local authorities with additional funding and a statutory responsibility to help families with school costs through targeted initiatives such as school clothing grants and subsidies for trips. Initiatives like this already exist in all other UK nations. ​
•  Provide universal free school meals to school-aged children in England so that all pupils have equitable access to food while at school. ​
•  Provide a statutory framework, strategy and additional ring-fenced funding so schools in England can provide programmes, activities and services that go beyond the core function of classroom education, such as breakfast and after-school clubs.

Key recommendations for schools
Plan all teaching, events and activities with affordability and accessibility in mind. Wherever possible, remove or
minimise charging for school-related activities. ​
•  Explore and review current school costs. Take a holistic view of the school year and determine the cost of full
participation in school life. ​
•  Ensure that all staff, including non-teaching staff, are aware of the nature, causes, extent and impact of poverty
and how to reduce the stigma that children can face in school. ​
•  Provide meaningful opportunities for pupils and families to give feedback on their experience of school with a
focus on school costs. ​


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ICM Lived Experience Podcasts

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Lived Experience Employment Podcast Series by Inspiring Change Manchester

Inspiring Change Manchester designed the GROW Traineeship programme to help break down barriers into work for people with lived experience of multiple disadvantages. The programme created paid placements to provide practical experience and the support and guidance to secure further paid employment, while drawing on their lived expertise to improve our practices as an organisation. The team worked closely with the Elephants Trail to co-produce a series of podcasts that delves into the realities of lived experience employment, both in terms raising awareness of the benefits of it for organisations and people alike, while also tackling the more challenging aspects of delivering programmes like these successfully. Details about each episode and links to listen can be found below.

Episode One – “Intro to ICM and the GROW Programme”
What the GROW programme is in more depth and what can be expected from the rest of the series.

Episode Two – “The Glass Ceiling”
Is there is a glass ceiling for people with lived experience of multiple disadvantage when wanting to further their career. This episode explores the changes that can be made in workplace practice and culture to open up opportunities for people with lived experience and enable them to progress in their career.

Episode Three – “Lose the Labels”
With more organisations wanting to employ individuals with lived experience to improve services, this episode explores how it feels to be employed in those roles and carry that ‘label’. Also discussed are how employers can better support staff with lived experience, the importance of choice and having ownership over sharing individual stories, and the recognition of the value that individuals with lived experience bring to the table.

Episode Four – “Barriers and Benefits”
The final episode is looking at the barriers and benefits of lived experience employment, as the myths and misconceptions about employing people with lived experience are explored.

Inspiring Change Manchester (ICM) article for GMPA


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Bus Transport revolution

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Andy Burnham, bus article for GM Poverty Action

Andy Burnham

Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has announced a series of major steps to move Greater Manchester towards a London-style public transport system with London-level bus fares, including the announcement that under a franchised bus network adult single journeys would cost no more than £2, and child single journeys no more than £1.

The move will be the first step towards the Greater Manchester public being able to access a more affordable public transport network.

The Mayor is also expected to set out a revised timetable for the introduction of bus
franchising, which will see:

•  Regulated buses in Bolton and Wigan as well as parts of Salford and west Manchester from autumn 2023;

•  Bury, Rochdale, Oldham and areas of north Manchester to follow in Spring 2024

•  Stockport, Trafford, Tameside, South Manchester and remaining parts of Salford to run by end of 2024

Andy Burnham said: “We will make travelling by public transport more appealing, easier and, significantly, put our people before profits.”

Transformed bus services is a key pillar of the Bee Network vision, which aims to provide real public transport and active travel choices for all; promote sustainable travel behavioural change through integrated city-region planning; support the electrification of vehicles and public transport fleets; promotes levelling up through the provision of sustainable transport connectivity to key growth locations and the provision of affordable public transport options for all our communities.

Greater Manchester will have a new Transport Commissioner, with former Transport for London (TfL) Managing Director of Customers, Communication and Technology, Vernon Everitt, set to take a leading role in the delivery of the Bee Network.

The Mayor is also set to announce a new Active Travel Commissioner at today’s New Era event.

Vernon Everitt, the Mayor’s new Transport Commissioner, said: “It is a privilege to be given the responsibility to help write the next chapter of Greater Manchester’s ambitious and truly transformational transport story. The Bee Network vision sets out a compelling plan for better transport and I will bring all my experience to the table to ensure we deliver it.

“Our integrated transport network will unlock access to opportunity and public services, and drive reduced carbon emissions and improved wellbeing, benefitting everyone who lives, works or visits here. I look forward to working with the mayor, councils, transport operators and people across Greater Manchester to deliver a world class public transport system.”

More detail is available here.


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Support for ‘in work’ families

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Tameside council offer support to ‘in work’ families to improve employment situation

By Iain Forrest Partnership and Engagement Officer, Tameside MBC

Poverty doesn’t end once people go into employment so why does employment support stop? Tameside have launched a new programme aimed at supporting Tameside residents that are in employment but need support due to low income, low hours, short term contracts, health conditions or to find something that is more suited to their skills.

Over 2 million workers across the UK are on zero hour or short-term contracts, the vast majority of whom would benefit from more stable income

Commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), the 12 month initiative is the first of its kind in Tameside. It will gather evidence around the most effective ways of supporting people who are in work on low pay to progress and increase their earnings.

150 Tameside residents, who are already in employment can volunteer to participate and receive support from the scheme.

Tameside in work support for GM Poverty ActionThe ‘in work’ trained advisers will support participants to explore their career aspirations, identify skills gaps and development opportunities within their current employment or an alternative role.   The ‘In Work’ team aim to build links with charities, community groups, training providers, housing providers, employment support providers and local employers to raise awareness and create partnerships.

Cllr Oliver Ryan, Tameside Council Executive Member for Finance and Economic Growth said: “This is a fantastic initiative for us to be involved with which will help residents grow in confidence at work and develop their skills. Helping them to grow their skills will only strengthen our local workforce and give the participants further opportunities when looking for work or changing roles with their current employer”.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We’re pleased to be working with Tameside Council to offer this exciting initiative to 150 local residents seeking to progress in work and increase their earnings. The evidence and learnings from Tameside will be valuable for informing future action as we continue to level up opportunity across the country and support people – at any age and any career stage – to maximise their potential through our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs”.

If you are working with someone that is ‘stuck in a rut’ and needs support to make changes in their career please contact Iain Forrest or the In Work team.

Tameside in work support banner


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