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Advice for Families

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Street Support Network Greater Manchester launch new ‘Advice for Families’

By Gary Dunstan, Street Support

At the start of 2020, emphasis focused on people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester prompted us to look at how homelessness affects families. The Shared Health Foundation Gold Standard report estimated:

∙ 2,742 children were living in temporary accommodation in Greater Manchester;

∙ Two years is considered an average ‘temporary’ placement;

The number of homeless families across Greater Manchester exceeded 1,500, with evidence showing hidden homeless people and hidden households equated to 10 times higher than official statistics. It was also estimated that there are twice as many homeless families than there are rough sleepers. According to Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network (GMHAN) from May 2020, there was a 20% increase in homeless families across Greater Manchester.

In the last three years, the number of homeless families in Manchester has risen from approximately 144 to 1,250 and falls within the top 50 local authorities in England by rate of children who are homeless.

“Statistics indicate 1 in 59 children in Manchester are homeless or in temporary accommodation.”

As part of GMHAN we started to work with Shared Health Foundation to understand the issues faced by families who become homeless. It was identified that many families experiencing or at risk of homelessness are placed in emergency and temporary accommodation, both in and out of their original area. Often, they have no idea of the resources available, and the situation can be even harder to navigate when they have no local connection. This also results in making it harder for them to come out of homelessness.

It was for this reason, we decided to co-design and develop a family specific section on the Street Support website with targeted information and advice, easy ways to find relevant services and local resources near to where families are being placed.

Street Support Families for GM Poverty Action

Our idea was for the new section to be aimed at families experiencing or at risk of homelessness and anyone who might assist them, such as health workers, community volunteers and accommodation providers. Our intention was to provide advice to navigate the situation and location-specific support to resolve it.

Due to Shared Health’s knowledge in this area, they authored the content which is featured on the database. We acknowledge that we may not have captured all services at this stage, so we do encourage organisations to request to have their services featured by completing this online form.

Beth Knowles, Strategic Lead for Homeless Families, from Shared Health said “The experiences of families are largely invisible in public and policy discussions of homelessness. Families are often displaced to temporary accommodation far from their existing support networks with damaging effects on their education, health and wellbeing. We hope the new Street Support Families website will increase awareness of families’ needs and help them to rebuild vital support.”

It’s a huge concern that this problem is getting worse. If this works and families get the help they need in Greater Manchester, we hope other Street Support Network locations would be interested in implementing it for their cities and regions.

Now having a model to work from, we see that we could expand to reach more people such as women, youths and veterans across the whole of our Network. If you would like to talk about developing a new section on Street Support Network, please do get in touch with us.

 

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GaMHive

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An Introduction to GaMHive

GaMHive was launched in January 2022. Their members have been brought together through their experience with gambling-related harm. Their mission is to signpost those affected, either directly or indirectly by gambling, to organisations that could offer support with regards to counselling, education, recovery, and staying well. They aim to address the stigma associated with gambling addiction and by doing so, encourage others to seek help.  The support services which are signposted, are accessible to everyone and the support can be tailored to meet the individual’s needs.

The initiative is from the Greater Manchester area with the hope of providing a service to the community in that region. They aim to raise awareness of the negative impact of advertising to vulnerable individuals, the detrimental harm of subliminal advertising, and the easy access of gambling products to the young, in particular.

They will be working alongside other support organisations, such as NHS gambling service, Beacon counselling, Gamblers Anonymous, and GamFam, to name a few, to provide a holistic approach to the support offered so that those accessing support would find the service that is suitable for them.

For more information please visit their website.

 

GaMHive’s core aims are to:

  • Raise awareness and reduce stigma of gambling related harm in Greater Manchester
  • Collaborate and signpost those experiencing gambling related harm, either as a gambler or an affected other, towards support and guidance organisations
  • Advocate for lasting policy change locally and nationally
  • To give voices of lived experience the opportunity to contribute to the development of research, education and treatment services within Greater Manchester

 

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Post Office card accounts are closing

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Post Office card account customers to receive letters about their closure

This will affect pensions and benefit payments.

The Department for Work and Pensions has started sending letters to customers who are receiving benefits or pensions payments via their Post Office card account (POca).

People are being informed the POca service is closing and being asked for their bank account details so their benefits and pensions can be paid into this alternative account.

For those who don’t have a bank account, they will automatically be moved over to a new system called the new Payment Exception Service (PES). This will deliver benefits using a digital voucher. People can choose whether they receive the voucher via a text message, an email or a re-useable plastic card.

People moved over to the new PES can continue to use the Post Office to collect their money with the added benefit of being able to access their money from over 28,000 PayPoint outlets across the country.

The Department will look to move everyone off the Post Office card account by November 2022.

There is a dedicated DWP customer service centre helpline for those who need help and guidance. Details below:

Telephone: 0800 085 7133
Textphone: 0800 085 7146

Further information is available on the Government website here, on the Post Office website here and on the Money Helper website here.

It is important that people experiencing poverty are able to access all the financial support that is available to them. People are often missing out on financial help available through national welfare benefits, local welfare provision (such as help with paying Council Tax) or grants.  Please use the Turn2Us Benefits Checker and Grants search tools linked from our website here, and find out more about how you can access local welfare support in Greater Manchester through our directory on the same page.

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Poverty and Family Adversity – The Impact on Adolescent Health

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By Simon Watts, Public Health Registrar, Greater Manchester

A study published in the Lancet in November 2021 presented important findings for action at a local, regional and national level. It is well established that poverty has negative health implications for children. However, this study sought to understand how poverty interacted and clustered with other health risk factors, potentially exacerbating the impact of poverty on children’s health issues even further.

Data from the already-established Millennium Cohort Study was used to analyse health outcomes for a cohort of 11,564 families who had children born between September 2000 and January 2002. The children were followed up in terms of their health and living situation until their 14th birthday.

During the 14 years of follow up, questions were asked about levels of poverty in the family and about three indicators of family adversity: poor parental mental health, domestic violence/abuse and frequency of parental alcohol use. Physical and mental health outcomes for the children were measured at age 14 using well established methods. Health outcomes of interest were socioemotional behavioural problems, cognitive disability, obesity, and/or experimentation with alcohol and drugs.

More than half of the children in the study experienced one or more of the exposures to poverty. These negative exposures were associated with worse child physical, mental, cognitive and behavioural outcomes compared to those children with no exposure.

Over 40% of children were exposed to poverty and/or parental mental health problems throughout childhood. The most common exposure was poverty (34.6%) which made a child twice as likely to experience the poor health outcomes described above (except for alcohol and drug experimentation). Similarly, children who were exposed to poor parental mental health were twice as likely to experience those same poor health outcomes. The 11.1% of children who were exposed to both poor parental mental health and poverty were more than six times as likely to develop mental health problems themselves, and twice as likely to become obese or experience cognitive disability.

The paper touches on why poverty and mental health issues may both exist for some families. Some of the linkages between the two may be obvious, such as the stress of managing household finances or the depression that may be associated with losing one’s job and income. However, the paper also references that poor mental health can lead to poverty, through loss of employment for example. This is supported by other research findings which show that those with mental health illness are less likely to be employed, even more so with more severe illness.

This study provides a stark reminder of the strong link between poverty and poor health outcomes and is particularly harrowing given these poor outcomes are being evidenced in children. While there are a range of factors that impact health, the strength of the relationship between poverty and child health, and parental mental health and child health, should not be ignored.

Interventions to address poverty will have a positive health impact, and while they could cost the system money to deliver in the short term, the benefits will be seen through reduced stress on the health and social care system in the long run. Given the high proportion of children exposed to poverty and the poor health outcomes associated with this later in their life, policy makers must focus on interventions that seek to prevent and reduce poverty when aiming to improve population health.

The authors of the study highlight the critical importance of not seeing child’s health issues in isolation. To be successful, interventions to address children’s socioemotional behavioural problems, cognitive disability, obesity or alcohol/drug use need to consider more broadly the socioeconomic conditions of the family and other structural factors which may be causing the ill health, and how these wider issues can be addressed. Interventions that do this will be more effective than those that just focus on one risk or one problem.

Simon Watts Poverty and Adolescent health for GM Poverty Action

Simon Watts

The fact that health outcomes are much worse when poverty and parental mental health issues are both at play, supports a holistic approach being taken which ensures families are supported when both issues are present. This could be money management support teams offering brief intervention and signposting around mental health, or primary care practitioners ensuring that residents with mental health issues are offered income maximisation support, housing advice or other social issues that may be interacting with their poor mental health.

To read the article in full click here.

 

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Battling the Blame Game

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Exploring New Narratives On Child Poverty
Wednesday February 16th, 2022 online event from 12.30 – 2pm

Even before the pandemic, 4.3 million children were growing up experiencing poverty in the UK.  Whilst attitudes to poverty have slightly increased in sympathy over the last 10 years, support for significant policy interventions such as a more generous welfare system has been limited. The prevailing view amongst the public is the assumption that families make ‘bad choices’, rather than that a lack of money inhibits opportunities for children and families.

To create more support for children and their families we need a powerful new narrative that can help stop the blame game. One that can reduce beliefs that child poverty is simply the fault of the parents and increase the belief that families living in poverty deserve help from the state. But how do we do that?

Save the Children will be sharing findings from their new report which explores new narratives on child poverty at a webinar on Wednesday February 16th, 2022. This research developed and tested different messages with key swing voter audiences to see which have the strongest potential to create a change in thinking.

In this webinar they will be sharing the ideas that key swing audience’s currently hold on children and families in poverty and what new narrative and messaging resonates with them and could help create a change in public attitudes and they want to hear what tools and resources could help you adopt a new narrative

What’s new about this research?  This report builds on the research of Joseph Rowntree Foundation on how to talk about
poverty, with a specific child poverty focused lens. It explores how new narratives might work with all the changes the British public have experienced as a result of the COVID pandemic.

 

GMPA published information about Child Poverty Statistics across the UK in May 2021. The article is available here

 

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The British Red Cross

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Covid-19 Hardship Fund Report

The British Red Cross have published a new policy briefing on Financial Hardship and the need for cash-based assistance during emergencies. The report is available online.

The briefing draws upon insight from their internal evaluation of the British Red Covid-19 Hardship Fund, delivered in partnership with Aviva and the Aviva Foundation. The Hardship Fund was set up in response to the outbreak of the pandemic, and designed to support the most vulnerable. The fund provided cash grants of £120 a month for up to three months to help people immediately meet their essential living costs. The Hardship Fund has now closed, but between March 2020 and July 2021 the fund distributed nearly £4.5 million in cash assistance to over 18,000 people across the UK.

Reflecting on the experience of recipients of Hardship Fund support and quantitative data from the evaluation, the briefing makes recommendations to inform the future delivery on emergency cash-based assistance. Central to this is a preference for cash-based assistance during emergencies to promote dignity and choice, the need for the timely release of funds and diverse and inclusive assessment criteria, in which people with No Recourse to Public Funds are eligible.

The briefing also strongly champions the need for Local Welfare Assistance schemes, equipped with a sustainable and longer-term funding settlement.

The findings from the report echo GMPA’s call for a ‘cash first’approach to supporting people experiencing poverty. We have been pleased to work with and support a number of councils across Greater Manchester with this approach during the pandemic.

 

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Turn2us report

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Unforeseen life events plunge over 15 million into financial insecurity

A new report from national poverty charity, Turn2us, reveals how over 15 million people in the UK have experienced at least one life event in the past two years that has left them struggling to cope financially.

The research shows that women, disabled people, certain minoritised ethnic groups and young people, are the worst affected by the financial impact of life events, such as bereavement, illness, a relationship breakdown, or unemployment.

64% of women have experienced financial insecurity following a life event, compared to just over half of men (55%). In ethnic groups the figure was 76%, for disabled it was 72% and for young people aged between 25 to 34   75%.  For people aged 55 and over the figure dropped to 46%.

The publication of the charity’s report comes just weeks after the Covid-19 furlough scheme ended, and the £20 Universal Credit uplift was cut. Its findings show how life events can plunge people into financial insecurity, particularly those who are already struggling to make ends meet, and that there are barriers to people accessing the support they need.

Thomas Lawson, Turn2us Chief Executive commented: “In the absence of long-term solutions that prevent people being plunged into financial insecurity, we urge the government to mandate Local Welfare Assistance schemes, with an additional £250m of ringfenced funding each year. This will enable councils to step in and help prevent families from having to make difficult choices between putting food on the table and paying their bills, because of life events that are beyond their control.”

Karen Isaacs, a Turn2us co-production partner with lived experience of financial insecurity, comments: “After a car crash left me unable to work, I had to quickly find ways to support myself financially. My initial claim for Universal Credit was not straightforward and caused a lot of stress at a time when I was under so much pressure from all sides. With no job and no money to support myself, while also being in a lot of pain, my mental health was absolutely at breaking point. I felt completely without any dignity, especially at my age – in my 60s – when I should have been receiving my pension.

“Now over three years later, I am still struggling and still trying to get a job. Recent cuts to Universal Credit have made matters worse and it is almost impossible to get help from anywhere for people in my position. This means yet another winter and Christmas struggling for money and worrying constantly.”

The survey findings also suggest that shame and stigma are a barrier to seeking support. It also reveals the coping behaviours people use to get by: almost 50% of those surveyed relied on a credit card to cover day-to day-spending after the financial impact; 23% took out a payday loan; more than one third (36%) missed bills or debt repayments with 14% reporting missing repayments more than twice; and 9% had used a payday loan or another form of high-cost credit more than twice.

44% of the people who found it difficult or impossible to cover the costs of the life event did not seek support at all.

The life events research was undertaken by Turn2us to better understand the impact of life events on people’s finances, how they cope, and what measures they need to support them. The survey and interviews explored a broad range of events that have an impact on people’s finances in the areas of health, work, family, housing and legal circumstances. Read the full report here.

 

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Levelling up from the ground up

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by Rose Grayston, a Senior Programme Manager at the New Economics Foundation

The ‘levelling up’ agenda is frequently discussed by politicians, policy makers and public commentators, particularly in the context of economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. But what does ‘levelling up’ actually mean? A report published by the New Economics Foundation argues that ‘levelling up’ must mean investment in both people and place, and the creation of initiatives that are guided by the needs of communities, with community ownership at the heart of regeneration.

Depending on where you live in England, there can be huge differences in your quality of life. This is down to some areas’ economic decline and low incomes, but also poor urban planning and underinvestment in social infrastructure. This government has made ​‘levelling up’ deprived areas a central part of this mission, but we haven’t yet seen any concrete plans for how they are going to do this.

The final report of the No Place Left Behind Commission into Prosperity and Placemaking has been launched. It’s the culmination of more than a year of work, which the New Economics Foundation (NEF) contributed to, exploring the role of place – the built and natural environment – in this government’s levelling up agenda, through the perspective of community-led projects to transform homes, high streets, parks and streets across the country.

At 270 pages, the report is packed with evidence and policy proposals on how to improve so-called ​‘left behind’ neighbourhoods and enable local people to thrive. But in essence, the Commission’s messages are simple:

• We don’t have to choose between investing in people or in place. We need both to support the country’s most deprived communities to recover from the pandemic, 11 years of austerity, and decades of economic and political neglect.

• Communities themselves must be at the heart of this government’s levelling up plans. Only they know what makes their place special, what their community needs to make the most of itself, and how to reach the people and the places that get missed out by top-down regeneration schemes.

 Community ownership of buildings and spaces must be the glue that makes new levelling up investment stick. If the community owns its homes, shops, parks and other buildings, then local people will always have affordable and tailored places to live, work, create and gather.

For people to feel they belong, there must be something to belong to. For so many places around the country, the community doesn’t have a college, a community centre, or a single public place where neighbours can come together to discuss shared challenges and organise shared solutions. But the report also shows the difference made to people’s lives when basic social and community infrastructure is rebuilt from the ground up:

• The Good Things Collective CIC in Morecambe are working to transform an empty and neglected building in local authority ownership into a community hub, enabling and showcasing local people’s businesses and creativity with bookable storage space, equipment, training rooms and workspaces.

•  Arches Local in Chatham have used their Big Local funding to paint murals, plant trees, provide meals and activities to local children, and inspire the community around a new Neighbourhood Plan to guide development in the ways residents want to see.

•  Hastings Commons have created an enclave of community-owned assets in the White Rock neighbourhood, demonstrating what can be done when homes, workspaces, parks and even caves are owned and managed in the community’s interest.

The only way for the government to achieve its levelling up aims is for it to transfer ownership of buildings and public spaces to community-led and owned bodies on a mass scale. The report backs the campaign for a £2bn Community Wealth Fund and recommends new grant funding, powers for local authorities to pass on low-cost borrowing to community groups, powers for civic groups to purchase land and assets at fair values – plus a raft of other improvements across taxation, planning, transport, housing and more.

This breadth of political hues hasn’t prevented the commission from recommending big, bold ideas: a one-off transfer of local government debt onto the national balance sheet, a £1.3bn fund to turn run-down homes for sale on the market into not-for-profit ownership, and a community right to buy registered assets of community value at an independently assessed fair value, to name a few. Read more from NEF here.

 

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New deal for workers

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We need a new deal for workers

By Paddy Lillis, General Secretary, Usdaw

The new Real Living Wage rate announced this week reflects the struggles that workers on low pay are facing to afford what they and their families need, amidst a cost-of-living crisis, and cuts to household incomes. In-work poverty is increasingly a reality for workers in low-pay sectors such as retail, but as USDAW General Secretary outlines, a new deal for workers, including a rise in the government’s National Minimum Wage, could immediately improve the lives of so many.

The retail sector is in crisis. The most recent figures show that we are experiencing the longest continuous drop in retail sales since records began in 1996. With Christmas trading just around the corner, the Government needs to urgently deliver a retail recovery plan.

This plan must go beyond supporting business and local government and focus on the people who work in shops, warehouse and distribution settings. This will help businesses recruit and retain staff and at the same time ensure staff are appropriately rewarded for the important work they do. If we want retail to prosper, we need to make sure that retail jobs are good jobs.

For too long retail jobs have been overlooked and considered unimportant, despite the fact that retail is the largest private sector employer in the UK. All too often, retail jobs have been characterised as low paid, insecure employment.

In this context, it is unsurprising that many retail workers are struggling to make ends meet. Usdaw has recently surveyed over 2,500 low paid workers on their experiences of low pay and insecure work. The results of this survey show that:

  • 69% have struggled to pay gas and electricity bills in the last year;
  • Over 1 in 3 have missed or been late with rent/mortgage/council tax payments;
  • In the past 12 months, 71% of respondents have had to rely on unsecured borrowing to pay everyday bills, and two-thirds of these are now struggling with the repayments;
  • Three-quarters reported that financial worries are affecting their mental health.

This is not sustainable, especially when so many retail workers have been at the forefront of our response to the Coronavirus pandemic and kept our country going through challenging times. Now, everyone understands the important role retail workers play.

We need the Government to introduce a new deal for workers, to tackle in-work poverty. Usdaw is calling for:

  • An immediate increase in the National Minimum Wage to at least £10 per hour for all workers;
  • A minimum contract of 16 hours per week for everyone who wants it;
  • A right to a ‘normal hours’ contract;
  • A ban on zero-hours contracts;
  • Improved sick pay;
  • Protection at work, through legislation to protect public facing workers which makes it a specific offence to assault them;
  • A proper social security system and a fundamental overhaul of Universal Credit;
  • A voice at work for all employees, through strengthened trade union rights.

It is time for the Government, employers and the public to recognise that retail workers have been undervalued for too long. They deserve a new deal. The provisions that Usdaw are calling for will lead to a substantial improvement in life experience for millions of workers across the economy and will help tackle the growing scandal of in-work poverty that blights our country.

Usdaw logo for GM Poverty ActionMore information about Usdaw.

 

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Linklaters and the Real Living Wage

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By Matthew Sparkes, Head of Sustainability at Linklaters

Linklaters is a global corporate law firm with 5,000 people working in 31 offices across the globe. Half of our people work in the UK, either in the London head office or in a support office in Colchester, Essex. On top of the direct workforce, key suppliers to the firm – in security, catering, front of house, cleaning and so on – employ a further 300 people indirectly across both sites.

The Real Living Wage has become something of which Linklaters has become hugely proud and even a little evangelical. We started paying in 2009 and joined the movement – run by Citizens UK – as a Principle Partner in 2011. That reflects the very real passion we have for paying the Real Living Wage, not only because it is the right thing to do but also because we have seen some tangible benefits. These include the impacts on job satisfaction (higher), willingness to be flexible (much higher) and staff turnover (much lower). Many of those we indirectly employ have been with us for 5 or 10 years plus and genuinely feel recognised and rewarded as equals. This matters as those benefitting are often those individuals that visitors first meet on entering the building and the warmth of that welcome is something of which we are rightly proud.

Alongside the Real Living Wage, we also provide access to the staff restaurant, gym and other ‘perks’ equally to both directly and indirectly employed staff. We also promote the local credit union so that as well as access to a fair wage, anyone can access fair borrowing and saving. This all creates an important sense of equality across the firm no matter whether directly or indirectly employed. That was demonstrated by the way we treated indirect staff so carefully during lockdown with no furlough and all roles retained. The Real Living Wage has brought to life a culture of respect and a real sense of collegiality no matter what role is performed.

Matthew Sparkes, Linklaters for GM Poverty Action

Matthew Sparkes

We now see the Real Living Wage as indicative of the firm we aspire to be. We are supporting the movement in Hong Kong, the US and Ireland, underlining our belief in its importance and our role in advocating in its adoption by City firms like ours. As a very successful business, it is hard to justify not sharing the rewards fairly and there’s no reason why that should only apply in the UK. Wherever you are, we believe that the benefits are clear, and I would urge anyone considering adopting the Real Living Wage to take that first step and join a movement that will bring advantage to your business as well as life-changing improvements to those who need it most.

More information about Linklaters.

 

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