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Salford Fighting poverty

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Fighting poverty on all fronts in Salford

By Cllr Sharmina August, lead member for anti-poverty, inclusive economy and equalities.

Preventing poverty, supporting people and campaigning against poverty underpins Salford’s updated anti-poverty strategy which has just been published, based on insight from people who have experienced life on or below the breadline.

Salford is now recognised as a leader in Greater Manchester for its pioneering anti-poverty work, a bitter-sweet accolade for the city.

We’re proud to be recognised for the many ways we prevent residents falling into poverty such as expanding our welfare rights and debt advice service and increasing the number of Salford employers paying the real Living Wage.

We’re also proud of how we provide for residents in difficulties. At the start of the pandemic we set up the Spirit of Salford helpline in just 48 hours and recruited 800 emergency response volunteers to ensure that vulnerable people got the food, medicines and support they needed. Our Salford Assist service, which provides emergency help with food, gas, electricity and essentials helped 8,000 people, compared to 3,000 the year before.

Our big challenge now is recovering from the pandemic. Unemployment in Salford is up by 93% and claims for Universal Credit more than doubled last year. One in ten of Salford’s working age population is now registered as a benefit claimant and we know a complex system means people often don’t get the money they are entitled to or are unjustly sanctioned for breaking DWP rules.

Salford fighting poverty Cllr Sharmina August for GM Poverty Action

Councillor Sharmina August

Our anti-poverty taskforce will focus on people’s experience of the benefits system during the pandemic, including those unable to claim, to see how we can campaign to improve it. It will also carry out the first UK research on veterans’ experience of the benefits system.

We know not enough Salfordians are benefiting from the city having the fastest growing economy in Greater Manchester.

Our anti-poverty strategy, The Salford Way, is our response:

•  A focus on an inclusive economy and maximum social value from all public spending in Salford, with training and work experience opportunities built into contracts;

•  Offering personalised job-hunting support and skills development;

•  Ensuring people benefit from the digital revolution and our booming construction industry

•  And working to be England’s first Living Wage City to lift more people out of poverty pay.

Read about The Salford Way here


At GMPA we are pleased to see many of the components needed for an effective and strategic approach to tackling poverty being put in place by several of our ten Greater Manchester boroughs. This framework should include voluntary adoption of the socio-economic duty. We are holding an event with Just Fair on June 30th that will look at practical implementation of the duty. We are launching a guide to coincide with the event. Other elements of an effective local framework for tackling poverty include the development and implementation of an anti-poverty strategy, clear political and senior officer leadership within the local authority, partnership working and engagement of people with lived experience of socio-economic disadvantage. You can read more here.

 

 

 

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Employment and Skills Service

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Trafford Housing Trust

Employment and Skills service supports customers seeking training and job opportunities

Trafford Housing Trust (THT) customers seeking employment and training opportunities can find support in the organisation’s Employment and Skills service.

The service is available to all THT residents and members in their household who are unemployed or working less than 16-hours per week and over the age of sixteen.

Working with over 50 organisations, THT customers can gain access to existing employment and training support programmes and find sustainable employment that suits their ambitions.

THT residents can contact the THT specialist Employment and Skills Advisor, who will assess an individual’s employment and skills needs and provide signposting and advice. The service can be accessed for up to six months to navigate between support services and a pathway into employment.

THT residents who contact the specialist Employment and Skills Advisor will work on a personalised action plan outlining links to relevant organisations offering support based on an individual’s needs.

The service also includes goal and ambition setting, assistance sourcing and applying for training, education and job opportunities, CV writing, tips on preparing for an interview and help to navigate a pathway for a career change. Those using the service can also seek help accessing financial support for travel expenses and access to work clothes.

Since launching in late 2020, the service has helped 29% of THT residents using the service start work.  It has also assisted 73% of these residents move closer to employment and 27% have started a course.

THT customers can contact our specialist Employment and Skills Advisor, Nikki Mosley, via email or phone 0300 777 7777.   For more information visit our website.

 

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BEESMART

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Manchester Credit Union introduces BEESMART

Manchester Credit Union (MCU) has recently become a Principal Partner of GMPA and we look forward to supporting them and the fantastic work they do in Greater Manchester to tackle the root causes of poverty. We believe everyone is entitled to a secure job which pays enough to live on, without constantly struggling to make ends meet.

As a business that shares similar values as GMPA, we would like to share some information about what we do and in particular, tell you about a free benefit that local employers can offer to their staff to improve their financial wellbeing.

MCU, a financial co-operative, started life in 1991 in Beswick as part of the council’s anti-poverty strategy, and we recently celebrated our 30th anniversary of providing savings and affordable loans to people who live and work in Manchester, Bury, Rochdale, Tameside, Trafford, Stockport and the High Peak. We have grown our membership to over 32,000 and so far this year have opened 1200 saving accounts and provided over 11,000 affordable loans to people in the local community who might struggle to access a small loan elsewhere without paying extortionate rates of interest.

Over the last 12 months, we have helped hundreds of members who have been affected by the pandemic by offering payment holidays, reducing payments on loans and most importantly, keeping in touch with members so they know we are there for them to help them through this difficult time. Members who need to borrow from us are encouraged to save a small amount each week whilst they are repaying their loan, which helps them become more financially resilient for the future.

There can be no doubt that financial worries are one of the main causes of stress and it is becoming increasingly evident that this can translate into how an individual performs at work.  The impact of poor financial health can lead to a lack of productivity and absence from work. So how can responsible employers who care for their staff help them to build financial resilience?

Recent research by the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP) has found that 55% of employees would like a savings and borrowings solution provided by their employer.  Sadly, many businesses do not offer such a solution but we can help as we provide a payroll service for local businesses called BEESMART.

This is a free benefit with no risk to employers. Staff are encouraged to save regularly by having a sum of money deducted from their payroll. We will place the funds into a savings account on their behalf and also provide free life savings insurance on those savings. Saving directly through your pay is proven to make it easier to save regularly and having something put by for a rainy day can reduce financial stress which will in turn have a positive impact on the wellbeing of employees.

Staff will soon see their savings grow and have the comfort of knowing that their savings are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.  An additional benefit is that once employees are saving, we can then provide affordable loans which can often be more competitive than High Street Banks and payday or doorstep lenders.

BEESMART is a simple, safe and flexible scheme which will help people get back into a savings habit and there is no cost to an employer to set it up. We would encourage any local employer to contact us so we can help you support your staff.

We are on a mission to help our local community through the services we offer, and make people better off.

For further information on the services offered by Manchester Credit Union, please visit our website

If you are an employer in the Greater Manchester area and are interested in the BEESMART payroll service, please visit this webpage or email for further information on how to set it up free of charge.

Manchester Credit Union logo for GM Poverty Action

 

 

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End of the eviction ban

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Private sector tenants and evictions: The end of the temporary eviction ban

By Tom Togher, Chief Officer, Salford Citizens Advice Bureau

First the advice!

The special rules protecting private sector tenants – most of whom are Assured Shorthold tenants, during the Covid pandemic, ended at the beginning of this month. Over the last months the courts have not been granting permission for bailiffs to make evictions. This is changing:

• A section 21 notice must give at least 6 months’ notice at the moment.

• From 1 June, a section 21 notice must give at least 4 months’ notice.

• A landlord can only apply to court after the notice period ends.

• Bailiffs can carry out section 21 evictions from 1 June. Tenants will get at least 2 weeks’ notice of eviction from the bailiffs.

There is a backlog of cases and the eviction process takes time. A section 21 notice starts the legal process to end an assured shorthold tenancy. Most private renters have this type of tenancy. If the landlord tries to evict a tenant without going to court first, it could be an illegal eviction. Seek advice! (Where people live with a landlord then they are probably a lodger, and this does not apply.) The section 21 notice must be on Form 6A.

The landlord doesn’t need to give a reason for wanting a tenant to leave. But they must follow certain rules if they want to give a section 21 notice. For example, protect the tenant’s deposit and give a gas safety certificate. Notice periods have been temporarily extended because of coronavirus. Section 21 notices received before 26 March 2020 are no longer valid unless the landlord started court action within 4 months of the date on the notice.

Court Action: A landlord can apply for a possession order if the tenant stays past the date on the notice. They could also apply to restart a case that has been put on hold during coronavirus. The tenant will get a ‘reactivation notice’ if this happens. There may not be a hearing if the landlord uses the ‘accelerated procedure’ so it’s important to return the defence form. A judge decides if a hearing is needed by looking at the information, they have from both the tenant and the landlord. The court can only stop an eviction if there’s a problem with the section 21 notice.

If you need advice about a threatened eviction, and live in Salford, then call us on 0808 27 87 802. Our specialist private sector housing adviser will be able to check whether the notice has been drafted properly, or to give advice about an illegal eviction. We can also give you advice about what your rights are if you are evicted. For help in other parts of Greater Manchester check out our website or call or text the Citizens Advice Greater Manchester Out of Hours Service on 0161 850 5053.

Now the campaigning:

We at Citizens Advice have been campaigning for the abolition on ‘no fault evictions’ (Section 21 evictions) for many years. The system of Section 21 evictions mean that private tenants have virtually no security of tenure. When the government held a consultation on reform of this system in 2019, we at Citizens Advice Salford called for indefinite security of tenure to be created, as is the case in other countries. We believe this to be a major reform to a highly dysfunctional private sector housing market. Section 21 evictions are one of the highest reasons for people becoming homeless, and we believe it to be a major contributor to housing poverty over the longer term. You can see what we said in this consultation on our website.

There is a glimmer of hope contained in the Queen’s Speech at the beginning of May, when the government announced a plan to ‘help more people to own their own home whilst enhancing the rights of those who rent’. The Citizens Advice movement has joined the Renters Reform Coalition, where you can find out more about what you can do to support private sector renting reform and keep up to date with the campaign for change.

 

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Managing finances research

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How do those aged 30-50 in zero-hour, self-employed, or temporary work manage their finances?

Researchers at the University of Manchester are looking at how individuals have fared financially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and what impact they feel the pandemic has had on their finances.

They would like to interview individuals currently working within gig-economy roles – on self-employed, zero-hour, or temporary contracts.  Ideally, they are seeking people who work in social care, hospitality, delivery, health and fitness, or office administration (although respondents from other sectors would be welcomed). In particular, the researchers would like to speak to individuals aged 30-50 who are earning roughly between £12,000-£20,000 per annum and living in Greater Manchester or the surrounding area.

The research team is especially interested in understanding how people in this kind of work manage their financial situation in the absence of benefits from an employer such as full-time hours, sick pay, maternity pay, and pensions.  They believe that working in a more precarious situation places an increased level of personal or financial risk on people that in other kinds of work would be shared with an employer, and they want to know how people feel about that.

The research team are working in collaboration with NEST pension scheme.  They want to help contribute to raising awareness to the inequality’s workers on these contracts face, and what this means for them in terms of financing their later lives.

You can find out more information about the research here. To take part in an online Zoom or Skype interview please contact Kris Fuzi

 

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Turn2us

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Turn2us publish an Impact Report and launch a new Benefits Calculator

Turn2us, have released their first Impact report, which has a particular focus on the charity’s response to Covid.

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has had profound effects on the UK economy and caused many people to experience severe disruption to their employment and personal finances.

Since March 2020, 11.4 million people have been placed on furlough, 2.2 million more people are now claiming Universal Credit due to the pandemic and 693,000 people have been made redundant.

While certain groups have seen their income and livelihoods particularly affected – including women, single parents, younger people, and people from minoritised backgrounds – the effects of the pandemic have been felt throughout UK society.

This Impact Report tries to highlight this inequality while demonstrating the impact we’ve had on people’s lives.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with the External Affairs team  or other members of the charity’s team if you have any questions, or would like to talk about how we might work together.

Also, after two years of work with users and stakeholders from across the sector, Turn2us have launched a new Benefits Calculator in order to help millions of people every year to understand the welfare benefits they may be able to claim.

Turn to us 7 million graphic for GM poverty Action
To support the launch of our new Benefits Calculator, Turn2us undertook new research which showed that:

•    More than 7.1 million people are missing out on £15.1bn of benefits
•    45% of people have never checked to see if they can claim benefits

More information about Turn2us

 

 

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Groundwork GM: Out of bounds

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Severe inequalities in access to parks and greenspaces

Groundwork GM logo for GM Poverty ActionGroundwork Greater Manchester have published the ‘Out of Bounds: Equity in Access to Urban Nature’ report, drawing on evidence and insight from contributors across the green space, health and equalities sectors.

Key statistics brought together in the report show that:

•  Only 5% of adults say that access to nature has never been important to them or their
mental health

•  40% of people from ethnic minority backgrounds live in the most green-space deprived areas

•  29% of people living with a long-term illness or disability had not visited a natural space in the previous month.

But what does the report mean for Greater Manchester?

Michaela Howell, Head of Communities at Groundwork Greater Manchester, explores this question, drawing on three of the reports’ recommendations:

•  We must reimagine urban nature to ensure that it meets the needs and desires of communities today.

•  We must rebalance power in the management of green and blue spaces and build better partnerships.

•  We need to integrate urban nature solutions fully into efforts to tackle health inequalities, climate change and
biodiversity loss.

Read more here

 

Why Groundwork is important:

  • 89% of community groups say their work is needed more than ever, but more than half say it has got harder for them to operate in the last ten years.
  • 75% of people say they feel unable to influence decisions about what happens in their local area.
  • Nearly half of young people say they feel they don’t belong to their neighbourhood.
  • 2.69 million people do not live within a ten minute walk of a green space. Those who are at greatest risk of poor physical and mental health are more likely to miss out on the benefits of green space.
  • Around half a million young people were ‘economically inactive’ – not in learning or employment and not looking for work.
  • One in ten households in England is experiencing fuel poverty, rising to almost one in five for ethnic minority households.
  • 76% of adults say they are concerned about climate change.
  • 40% of young people admit to feeling ‘overwhelmed’ by the climate crisis.
  • 90% of SMEs said being sustainable was important for their business but more than half said they were finding it difficult to take action.

 

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Extended school provision

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By David Bradley, Child Poverty Action Group

Child Poverty Action Group press release for GM Poverty ActionSchools have a unique place within their communities. With an extended school day, schools can and do support children’s development and learning, support mental health and wellbeing, mitigate the effects of child poverty, and help prevent poverty by supporting parents to work. These activities have always been a valuable part of school life, but there is an even greater need now to support schools to deliver these services as the pandemic continues to affect the learning of children and the financial circumstances of families. Crucially, the government must provide schools with dedicated funding and a clear long-term vision for delivering these services. Read our briefing on extended schools provision

CPAG is calling on the government to:

  • Provide a statutory framework and strategy with adequate additional, ring-fenced funding so schools in England can provide programmes, activities and services that go beyond the core function of classroom education.
  • Ensure every school has the funding and resources to provide comprehensive before- and after-school care, and holiday provision which is suitable for its pupils and families.
  • Ensure every school can provide additional services that support families in their community with their wider needs eg, dedicated mental health and wellbeing practitioners, and welfare rights advisers.

CPAG estimates that it would cost the government £2.6 billion a year to fund every primary school, and £525 million a year to fund every secondary school in England to deliver core extended schools activities, and an additional £500 million to provide mental health practitioners and family support workers. We estimate that it would cost £10 million a year to fund an extended schools coordinator in each local authority across England.

Find out more about the Child Poverty Action Group and this campaign here

 

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Covid-19: Half a million miss out on UC

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Confusion and stigma: half a million people missing out on Universal Credit as COVID-19 hit

A Welfare at a (Social) Distance study, funded by the Health Foundation, highlights those who were eligible for Universal Credit at the start of COVID-19 but did not claim it – despite often having sharp falls in income and struggling financially.

The report by the University of Salford, working in collaboration with the University of Kent and the University of Leeds, the LSE and Deakin University, Australia, estimates that around half a million (an estimated 430,000-560,000) people who were eligible for Universal Credit during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic did not claim it.

There were many (an estimated 280,000-390,000) people who wrongly thought they were ineligible for Universal Credit. Some people had actively considered applying for benefits and decided they weren’t eligible, but mostly people just had a ‘sense’ that they were not eligible for anything.

There were also a quarter of a million (220,000) people who thought they were eligible for Universal Credit but didn’t want to claim it with 59% stating the perceived hassle of applying and the challenge of figuring out if they were eligible the contributing factor to not applying. A further sizeable minority (27%) didn’t claim Universal Credit because of benefits stigma.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, income had fallen amongst a majority of those not accessing Universal Credit and to make ends meet, people relied on savings, friends and family or borrowed from banks.

Nearly half reported severe financial strain – either falling behind on housing costs, not keeping up with bills and debts, or not being able to afford fresh fruit and vegetables daily. A further two-thirds were unable to deal with an unexpected expense like replacing a fridge and more than one-in-six had skipped a meal in the previous two weeks because they could not afford to eat (equivalent to 80,000 people).

Those not taking-up Universal Credit also had worse mental health on average than the general public.

Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger, lead author of the report and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent, said: “There are probably about half a million people who are entitled to Universal Credit but do not claim it. These people are largely invisible because the Department for Work and Pensions no longer estimates how many people are affected – something we recommend that they start doing for UC, just as they used to do for other benefits”.

“Some of these people say they don’t need benefits – but others don’t claim because they don’t understand that they are eligible, hope that things will get better soon, or are put off by the perceived ‘hassle’ or stigma of claiming. It is therefore no surprise that many of these people are experiencing poor mental health and financial strain, some of them severely”.

Professor Lisa Scullion on Welfare for GM Poverty Action

Professor Lisa Scullion

Professor Lisa Scullion, Co-Director of SHUSU at the University of Salford and project lead, said: “Overall, the benefits system has responded well to the unprecedented demands which a year of different lockdown measures has brought. However, historic weaknesses remain.

“It is clear that there are relatively high levels of need amongst people who do not claim the benefits that they are entitled to. The Department for Work and Pensions should publish its own ‘benefit take-up strategy’ for the UK as a whole, aiming to ensure that people can claim the rights benefits as quickly as possible, correct misperceptions about the benefits system, and attempt to address benefits stigma”.

Hardeep Aiden, Research Manager at the Health Foundation, adds: “The £20 uplift and temporary removal of sanctions have gone someway to improve the experience of many claimants during the pandemic, but more targeted support and an easing of the conditions for claiming Universal Credit must be implemented.

“This would reduce the stress and anxiety around claiming, helping to improve both mental and physical health among this financially vulnerable group and, crucially, would encourage those who need to claim to do so”.

The full report is available here

 

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Claimants to challenge DWP in the High Court

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Employment Support Allowance claimants to challenge DWP in the High Court

Excerpts from coverage by Osbornes Law and JRF

The High Court is to decide whether it was lawful of the Government not to give nearly 2million people on disability benefits the same £1040 a-year increase that it has given Universal Credit (UC) recipients.

At the beginning of the pandemic the Chancellor announced a £20 per week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit, but this vital increase to support was not extended to those on so called ‘legacy benefits’, the majority of whom are disabled, sick or carers.

Two recipients of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) have challenged this difference in treatment by way of an application to the High Court for judicial review. They argue that is it discriminatory and unjustified. The High Court has agreed it is arguably unlawful and will decide the case later this year.

Despite them having an equivalent entitlement to the ‘standard allowance’ of UC, simply because they were in a different part of the system, 1.9 million people on ESA have been without this increase, which many have called a ‘lifeline’, for the last 13 months. Claimants of Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance have also been excluded.

Universal Credit is slowly replacing ‘legacy benefits’ but the process will not be complete until 2024 at the earliest. In the meantime, those on legacy benefits face all the same financial pressures as those on UC, and yet the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions has decided not to treat them in the same way.

William Ford, Osbornes Law solicitor for the Claimants, commented: “This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost 2 million disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally.

“Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.”

Helen Barnard, Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who have been campaigning on behalf of legacy benefit claimants as part of their #KeeptheLifeline campaign said: “Everyone should have access to a strong social security system that protects them from harm when they are struggling to stay afloat.

“Disabled people and carers already face a greater risk of poverty, so there can be no justification for offering them less support than people claiming Universal Credit simply because they are in a different part of the system.

“Discrimination has no place in our social security system and every day we fail to act undermines public trust and intensifies hardship. Ministers must right this injustice by urgently extending the £20 increase to legacy benefits.”

The full press release by Osbornes Law can be read here

For further details of Universal Credit claimants in Greater Manchester, see GMPA’s Poverty Monitor page on Social Security here

 

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