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More financial support is needed for young adults struggling with debt

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By Colin Gallagher, United Utilities

Financial management is an ongoing challenge for most people, but worryingly, far too few under 25s are seeking advice when they fall into debt, a new survey has revealed.

This is the feedback United Utilities heard from the money advice community across the region who attended its Affordability Summit at St George’s Hall in Liverpool.

The event – opened by Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool – attracted debt advice charities, food banks, Credit Unions, Housing Associations and financial services to look at what more can be done to help young adults who are struggling with their finances, as well as continuing to support other people who are struggling with their bills.

Louise Beardmore, customer services and people director at United Utilities, said: “The survey showed that many young people are starting to build up debts soon after they turn 18 and very few seek expert advice on how to manage debt and borrowing.

“We’re currently helping more than 100,000 customers through our financial support schemes and since the last summit in January 2019 we have helped 13,000 people out of debt with their water charges but like others we want to do more. This includes having the right support for those under-25, building up debt now and worrying about money in their first few years of adult life.”

Iona Bain: Financial support for young adults aticle for GM Poverty Action

Iona Bain

Iona Bain, an independent financial writer, speaker, broadcaster and founder of the award-winning Young Money Blog also attended the event to emphasise how organisations could better target and engage young people on money management. She said: “Today, young people are thinking much more about their relationship with money. I have seen an explosion of financial apps, websites and books aimed at my generation since I started my blog 8 years ago. But as well as creating confusion, these resources do not always have younger people’s interests at heart, nor do they really solve the huge problem of financial inclusion.

“Responsible educators need to find a way to cut through the noise and offer balanced, independent and trustworthy advice so we can help those facing a financial crossroads. It’s by no means a given that young people who are starting work or higher education have to sink into intractable debt or start missing crucial bills.”

Louise added: “This is the third Affordability event we have organised. From our point of view, if customers, whatever age, are struggling with water bills, they are likely to be struggling to pay most of their household bills. It can be difficult for a single organisation to make a widespread difference and we believe that a collaborative regional partnership can go way beyond what any one organisation could do alone. We can learn from each other and look for other opportunities.”

Information on all the financial assistance which United Utilities can provide with water bills can be found here.

If you provide debt advice to people struggling with their household bills, please register for the Hardship Hub.  The Hub contains information on more than 500 support schemes provided by 300 organisations.

 

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Policy toolkit

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Launch of policy toolkit: poverty and inequality reduction policies
Irene Bucelli, Abigail McKnight and Kate Summers

A new online policy toolkit provides a systematic, wide-ranging and accessible assessment of a variety of policies with a potential ‘double dividend’: policies that could lead to reductions in both poverty and inequality.

toolkit: cASE and JRF for GM Poverty ActionThe selection of policies has been informed by a larger research programme, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which has explored the relationship between inequalities and poverty. This research not only identified a positive empirical relationship between poverty and inequality it also reviewed evidence on potential mechanisms that might drive this relationship. To find out more about the statistical relationship and the mechanisms you can read the Overview Report, or download the working papers from the project page.

The policy toolkit can be accessed online or a pdf of the toolkit can be accessed here.

Who is it for?
The toolkit has been designed to be a useful aid to anyone interested in policies which reduce poverty and inequality and in particular policies with the potential to have a ‘double dividend’. It has been created with a wide audience in mind, including practitioners, policy-makers, academics and students.

What will it tell me?
The toolkit presents policy options, not recommendations. It analyses policies in terms of their relationship to poverty and inequality, public and political support, type and level of intervention, evidence of effectiveness and cost to government

How do I use it?
The policies presented in this toolkit are organised in relation to the mechanisms identified in this project as well as by policy area and type of intervention. In total seven mechanisms were identified:

• Political economy and public awareness;
• Resource constraints;
• Spatial disparities;
• Housing;
• Life-cycle and intergenerational mechanisms;
• Crime and the legal system;
• Labour market mechanisms.

Each section of the toolkit examines a selection of policies in relation to drivers within each mechanism. Overall
assessments are presented in short summary tables which also provide access to the more detailed information behind each summary.

You may like to also check out our article on JRF’s UK Poverty 2019/20 report which includes a series of suggested policy solutions to help address poverty across the country.

 

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Living Without

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Millions across the UK are living without household essentials
a press release from Turn2us, a national charity helping people who are struggling financially.

Turn2us logo for GM Poverty Action articleNew research from national poverty charity Turn2us reveals over two million households are living without essential household appliances such as fridges, freezers, cookers and washing machines.

The #LivingWithout campaign report outlines the scale of appliance poverty across the UK.  It also highlights the financial, physical and emotional consequences experienced by people living without these basic essentials;
especially families and individuals affected by more complex physical and mental needs.

The analysis highlights the true scale of appliance poverty in the UK, with at least 1.9 million people living without a cooker, 900,000 without a fridge, 1.9 million people living without a washing machine and 2.8 million without a freezer.  While the national scale is staggering, certain demographics are considerably more affected than others, such as private renters, the self-employed, single adults and households on incomes below £10,000. Some regions are also worse off, including people living in London, the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber and the North East.

Between 2017-2019, Turn2us surveyed over 10,000 service users and uncovered the impact of living without
essential household appliances.

“It is expensive to buy food already cooked, [but we have] limited options at home without a stove and oven”

“My family have concerns over my weight loss, they cook me food to make sure I have eaten”

“I have incontinence because of my epilepsy and I am unable to wash my clothes like I should, I feel so embarrassed”

Tom Lawson Turn2 Us for GM Poverty Action

Thomas Lawson

The research and analysis from Turn2us shows that changes to welfare policy since 2010 has contributed significantly to the increase in appliance poverty.  The abolition of the Social Fund in 2013, which previously provided support for those living without essential household appliances, has specifically been identified as the single biggest erosion of help. Of the 100 grant giving charities Turn2us spoke to as part of this campaign, over 70% identified the abolition of this crisis fund as a turning point. As a result of this, Turn2us is campaigning to develop a new system of Local Welfare Assistance Schemes to adequately replace the Social Fund.

Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive at Turn2us, said: “Household appliances are not luxuries, they are essentials. Everyone deserves the simple right to store their own food, cook their own dinner and wash their own clothes. People who currently live without white goods face huge economic, physical and emotional penalties. We all want to live in a society where these social injustices are no longer tolerated.”

The report includes a series of recommendations including bolstering Local Welfare Assistance schemes, launching a Select Committee inquiry into Local Welfare Assistance schemes, raising awareness of alternatives to high-cost credit  and raising the Local Housing Allowance rate to meet average rents.

If you’re struggling without household appliances, such as white goods, you may be eligible for help. Find out more. The Turn2us website includes a Benefits Calculator to find out what welfare benefits and tax credits you could be entitled to, a Grants Search to find out if you might be eligible for support from almost 2,000 charitable funds, and a range of information and resources to help people struggling to get by.

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APLE Collective

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Addressing Poverty by Lived Experiences Collective
by Dr Katy Goldstraw, APLE Collective Worker

It is the start of a new decade. New starts and new opportunities are popular themes for new year conversations, so let’s make sure that we are having these conversations with the right people. Greater Manchester Poverty Action are working on the challenges of economic inequality and poverty. It’s important that the right conversations are being had with the right people to ensure these linked challenges are effectively addressed. The Addressing Poverty by Lived Experiences (APLE) Collective would like to be part of these conversations, and think we have something important to offer given our experiences and expertise on poverty and inequality.

It is easy to ask the ‘usual suspects’ how to solve poverty, but we will simply get the usual answers and consequently very little change. We are witnessing rising levels of child poverty, cuts to services, precarious job roles with zero hours contracts and people not being able to realise their potential.

We need to be honest; we won’t solve poverty in 2020 but the new government will make serious changes to policy and practice which will change the lives of people experiencing poverty. They have talked about listening to people who have felt left behind by economic growth, so now it is key to ensure any changes positively impact on people’s lives and the most effective way that we can do this is by listening, involving and responding to the voices of those of us with lived experience of poverty.

At the moment, too many people are marginalised by decision-makers and matters that affect the most vulnerable in society are made without their input. This leads to poorer decisions and policies, such as Universal Credit, and it also misses a golden opportunity to harness the commitment and insight of millions of people across our society.

Katy Goldstraw, APLE collective article for GM Poverty Action

Dr Katy Goldstraw

It doesn’t have to be this way. As organisations with lived experience of poverty, the APLE Collective are working to tackle poverty across the UK. Our aim is to create a sustainable, grassroots network to raise awareness of poverty, inform national anti-poverty debates, reduce stigma and work together with others to eradicate it.

Poverty is bad for everyone and we place value on people with direct experience of poverty, having opportunities to affect the decisions that impact on them. Solutions can be found if we share best practice, take account of local knowledge and experience and listen to people who fully understand the impact of policy changes.  It is only by working together with policy makers, practitioners and academics that solutions to addressing poverty both locally and nationally can be found. We believe meaningful change to eradicate poverty is only possible when this happens. We invite you to join us, to get involved and to contribute to our campaigning.

 

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Debt Trap

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Ending the Great British Debt Trap
by Stephen Pennells, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Manchester

Last March I shared Jubilee Debt Campaign’s Great British Debt Trap campaign which tackles the continuing debt-poverty crises that unequally impact poor people with insecure incomes.

As the campaign launched, Wonga went into administration and pay-day loans capping is now saving families £150 million every year.   In the past year the Financial Conduct Authority (the FCA), the body that regulates the financial services industry introduced a cap on rent-to-own debt businesses (like Brighthouse) as we were demanding.

Instead of a £400 washing machine costing a potential £1,600 or beyond, the maximum a firm can charge will be capped at £800; still a lot of interest, but establishing the principle is a great step forward, and one that couldn’t have happened without thousands of people taking action. The FCA estimates that the cap could save consumers £22.7 million a year.

But there’s more to do. Updated statistics from the Money Advice Service indicated about one in four facing problems with debt and in Greater Manchester 397,600 adults are classified as ‘over-indebted’.   Manchester Central is the most indebted constituency with 32,300.  Many of these are parents so the impact of choosing between heating and eating will hit thousands of children in the region.

In the past year the FCA finished a big review called the ‘high cost credit review’ – a huge opportunity to make some real changes and get a cap on interest and charges across the board. But they didn’t take it. They didn’t introduce a cap on credit cards, overdrafts loans or doorstep lending. It’s not good enough. That’s why JDC is collecting anonymous stories of debt to present to the government and are calling on it to:

• End rip-off lending by capping interest and charges for loans, credit cards, overdrafts and doorstep lending;
• Launch a government inquiry into why so little action has been taken and to put pressure on the Financial Conduct Authority to act.

JDC End the debt trepphoto of Rev P Davies for GM Poverty Action

The Reverend Patrick Davies

Politicians and leaders need to be encouraged to raise their voices, and reminded to keep on doing so.   With Debt Week 2019 falling during the General Election period, JDC set up an online action which meant hundreds of candidates were lobbied; several locally went out of their way to pledge support.

This campaign continues and JDC will gladly provide materials such as cards and petition forms.  JDC can be contacted via email or call 0207 324 4722.

 

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Salford Health Improvement Service

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Using public health delivery to address poverty in Salford
By Angela Eden, Health Improvement Manager

Salford City CouncilIntroduction

Salford Health Improvement Service is a frontline, neighbourhood-based health and wellbeing service which delivers a range of community initiatives, courses and programmes to help people make behaviour changes.  Our core areas of work most often cover topics such as stop smoking, weight support, healthy eating, physical activity and mental health. Recently the service has worked closely with our partners within the City Council and voluntary sector to develop a strategic approach to targeting the Health Improvement resource to address the impact of poverty on residents in the city. This meant thinking about innovative ways of delivering the service.

There are 30 frontline staff with the Health Improvement Service who have strong networks and trusted relationships within the local communities in which they work. These staff have a long history of working ‘with’ residents to develop community initiatives that really matter to local people, and of successfully delivering services that bring about real changes to people’s lives.

Following a series of co-production workshops with frontline staff, key actions and tasks have been built into the Health Improvement Service’s existing delivery plans, to contribute towards the Salford Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Implementation of actions

Here are some examples of the initiatives that were delivered by the Health Improvement Service to support the delivery of the Anti-poverty Agenda:

  • The service ensured that all staff and volunteers received sufficient training to be able to provide basic key
    messages and referral to Welfare Rights and Debt Advice, Salford Assist, Affordable Warmth and Salford Credit Union. Key messages were built into all HIS community programmes in order to increase financial literacy within Salford.
  • The service used marketing on social media by including key messages about anti-poverty support services to reduce stigma and encourage members of the public to get in touch. This also included the promotion of free Wi-Fi zones throughout Salford. Awareness raising road shows with partners to place on estates with the highest levels of poverty improved access to the above-mentioned schemes. In addition, Health Improvement frontline staff delivered anti-poverty brief interventions when delivering workplace health programmes, particularly focussing on lower paid workforces.
  • The service worked in partnership with the Salford Food Share Network to deliver four ‘Cooking on a Budget’ and two ‘Positive You (confidence building)’ courses specifically for residents using Food Clubs.
  • All staff within the service have been encouraged to join the Salford Credit Union in order to support this valuable resource.
  • The service continues to work to harness the strength of local communities to lead community action to tackle poverty through frontline community development, as well as delivering and promoting activities in communities that provide an opportunity to eat together’ or ‘grow your own’.
  • The service has delivered a Winter Resilience outreach programme to proactively identify and support vulnerable older people who may be at risk of fuel poverty.
  • Health Improvement has worked with partners to create the Healthy Holiday Voucher Scheme for families who are eligible for Free School Meals. These families received a £30 Aldi voucher per child. In the first year the scheme reached over 40% of eligible families.Conclusion

    Agela Eden, using public health delivery to address poverty in Salford

    Angela Eden

    This project has been a useful example of how a service and staffing resource can be flexed to respond quickly to a particular priority, in this case poverty and the growing impact of welfare reform. It has been possible to demonstrate that a public health service has been able to make small but significant contributions to the Anti-Poverty agenda in Salford. The actions delivered through the project were co-produced with the staff who would be carrying out the direct delivery, and as such resulted in a number of practical, deliverable solutions that had the potential to make a real difference to some of our most vulnerable residents. For more information please contact Angela Eden.

     

 

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The Good Food Bag

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The Good Food Bag
By Jenni Pocsai, Operations Manager, The Good Food Bag

The Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan (March 2019) calls for local partnerships to set up more food clubs, especially in areas that lack affordable healthy food.  There has been a positive increase since this plan was published and there are now 49 food clubs and pantries where at the time of the report, there were only 30.  Food clubs and pantries help those who are struggling and could end up at crisis point or relying on food banks.

There is a new venture setting out to further help this group of people. The Good Food Bag is a social enterprise partnership between Irwell Valley Homes and One Manchester dedicated to disrupting the food economy, to help those affected by the poverty premium to access good, convenient ingredients to cook great meals at home.   By providing choice with great value, we see a massive benefit for those who may be otherwise at the mercy of convenience foods.

The idea is simple, you can order a recipe kit — classic meals to feed as many or as few people as you wish — via text and pick it up at dedicated collection points close to work or home when it suits you.  We are at the start of a 12-month pilot to see where and how this idea can have the most impact.

The Good Food Bag welcomes a new Operations Manager, Jenni Pocsai.  She comes with a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm as well as a love of great food.  This appointment means we are one step closer to being ready to trade!

The plan is to be trading by March 2020 and we are looking to our partners to help this process along. If you are interested in helping us make The Good Food Bag amazing, please get in touch to let us know where you’d like to see us trading and making a difference to people’s lives.  You can get in touch via our website

 

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Poverty, Destitution and Explotation

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Understanding the vulnerabilities of people homeless and rough sleeping to modern slavery
by Tom Madden, STOP THE TRAFFIK

Exploitation is an under-reported but inextricable aspect of poverty. Traffickers are professionals at turning vulnerable peoples’ desires for a better life into profit through the most vicious kinds of exploitation. While other elements of extreme poverty have been studied in great detail in the UK and around the world, the links between chronic poverty and exploitation are less well understood.

In the media and in public conversation, trafficking and exploitation are often portrayed as crimes that mostly effect people from outside the UK. Whether recent arrests of the Czech sex trafficking ring in Levenshume and Gorton or the tragedy of the 39 Vietnamese nationals found dead in the back of a Lorry in Essex. What is often missing from the reporting is that in the UK, there are three times more minors exploited from the UK than any other nationality and UK adults are the 4th most frequently exploited demographic. Vulnerability to exploitation does not depend on the country you live in, but on the leverage traffickers can use to control and manipulate people for a profit. With the UK’s social safety net stripped in the wake of austerity since 2010, 14 million people living below the poverty line and 1.5 million destitute across the country, the number of people vulnerable to exploitation is huge.

One of the most vulnerable groups in the UK are people who are homeless or rough sleeping. Despite decreases in the numbers of people with no place of safety in Greater Manchester following the concentrated efforts of housing schemes like A Bed Every Night, the problem remains significant and the number of people who are vulnerable to exploitation remains high. Previous research has demonstrated links between homelessness, rough sleeping and a vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation. The Passage in London 2017 report found that 64% of homelessness organisations have encountered modern slavery. The Modern Slavery Helpline reports that 276 cases connect modern slavery to homelessness. In addition, the links between rough sleeping and a vulnerability to trafficking have been illustrated in numerous case studies.

Specifically, Human Trafficking Foundation and Greater Manchester Combined Authority identified attributes which increase rough sleepers’ vulnerability including:

•  A history of mental health issues
•  Alcohol and drug dependency needs
•  Former asylum seeker status
•  Having no recourse to public funds

Between January and March 2019, STOP THE TRAFFIK circulated a survey aiming to understand the experiences of being targeted for exploitation from people who were rough sleeping, homeless, or accessing homeless services across Greater Manchester. Extensive findings from the survey are presented in a full report.

The survey revealed that out of the 180 respondents:
•  29% had experienced being offered food, accommodation, drugs or alcohol in return for work
•  32% had witnessed or heard of it happening to someone else
•  21% had concerns over how safe or genuine these offers were
•  22% had warned someone, or been warned, not to take job offers from particular people or groups
•  17% had known someone go missing after taking up an offer of work
•  24% had not been paid wages that were promised to them after doing work

The report also includes quotes which viscerally characterise the exploitation taking place in the region every day:

“[People offer food, accommodation, drugs or alcohol to me] all the time – everyone who is rough sleeping gets asked to sex work or prostitute themselves”

“[I was] bullied… for not shoplifting. My feet was burnt down and I was thrown in the canal”

Tom Madden Stop the Traffik for GM Poverty Action

Tom Madden, Community Data Analyst for STOP THE TRAFFIK

Having demonstrated the existence of the problem, STOP THE TRAFFIK and GMCA are collaborating on a second stage of the research and a multi-agency response to the issue. We will build a network of organisations working to support homeless and rough sleeping people across Greater Manchester and collate their understandings of the exploitation occurring in the communities that they support. We will then disseminate this shared learning, through training, awareness campaigns and literature to transform Greater Manchester’s understanding and preventative strategy towards the exploitation to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

If you would like any more information about the report or would like to get involved in the upcoming preventative projects combatting exploitation in Greater Manchester, please get in touch by email.

More information about STOP THE TRAFFIK

 

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Growing food for community use

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By Kalwant Gill-Faci

GMPA’s Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan calls for more food to be grown in GM communities, for sharing with people in need across the city region. In this article Kal Gill-Faci shows what can be done with even a relatively small plot of land.

At the launch of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action plan in March this year, I was volunteering at the charity Pledge and I pledged to continue my work helping homeless people and those suffering food poverty through my allotment in Trafford. This year we took on another half plot which we dedicated 100% for growing exclusively to donate to charities that support those in need.

Kalwant Gill-Faci photo for GM Poverty Action

Kalwant Gill-Faci

The Plot for Poverty (Plot 7F) located at Humphrey Park Allotments in Stretford grows fruit and vegetables exclusively for donations and this year we partnered with the charity Reach out to the Community.

Weekly donations were delivered between mid-June to mid-November to the shop where food parcels are made up and handed out. A women-only hostel also received donations this year. Work on the plot is carried out all year round with the busiest months being February to August. I am ably assisted by my 2 children and my nephew’s son and their contribution has been a massive help!

This is the third year that this work has continued and each year the donations have increased. In addition, we received a grant of approximately £500 from Trafford Housing Trusts’ Social Investment Fund which was used to purchase much needed tools, materials and gardening supplies.

I also collect donations from the wider allotment community at Humphrey Park Allotments for distribution and the result is a car boot load almost every week!

This year we helped to provide an estimated 500+ food parcels during the 5-month period of donations.

I continue to share my work as much as possible through social media and speaking at conferences and events.

For any questions or enquiries about my work please send me an email

 

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Bite Back 2030

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Bite Back 2030 is building a powerful movement of young people who want everyone to be given the opportunity to be healthy, no matter where we live.

Why? We are all up against a flood of unhealthy food, pouring out from fast food outlets, supermarket shelves and school canteens.  As a result 3.3 million children are overweight and the UK has the worst childhood obesity rates in Western Europe

Bite Back 2030 want to close the floodgates but they believe we need to act now.  They want to stem the tide of unhealthy foods and improve the flow of affordable, healthy options for young people. Bite Back 2030 exists to make sure this happens.

Bite Back video image for GM Poverty ActionBite Back 2030 filmed a social experiment that highlights the deliberate tactics used by the food industry to target young people with unhealthy options.

They also held a launch event with many celebrities and potential influencers attending. Follow their campaign on Facebook and Twitter

 

About Bite Back:

We are here for young people who want to know the truth about how the food system is designed; how we can redesign it to put young people’s health first; and build a powerful alliance that will help make that redesign a reality.

At the heart of Bite Back 2030 is our Youth Board – a team of passionate teenage activists from across the UK who are campaigning for more opportunities to be healthy – and they would love you to join them!

We want to build a movement of young people who can get the big players in business and government to listen and act on a very important topic – your right to health.

We’ve been shocked at the injustices we’ve discovered so far, so we’ve teamed up with some inspirational people to do something about it.

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