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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 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.


i3oz9sGroundwork GM: Out of bounds
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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


i3oz9sCovid-19: Half a million miss out on UC
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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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Here to Help Campaign

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Raising awareness of the financial and wellbeing support available from grant-giving charities – ACO’s Here to Help campaign

By Hannah Page, Marketing & Communications Manager, The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO)

ACO logo for GM Poverty ActionAs the Covid-19 pandemic continues, we sadly anticipate more people will be plunged into poverty due to the economic impacts of the crisis as we expect further job losses and redundancies once the government’s Job Retention (furlough) scheme ends. We also expect more people may need mental health and wellbeing support due to the impacts lockdown and long-term isolation has caused.

The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO), the umbrella body for benevolent funds (charities that give financial support to individuals), is therefore running the Here to Help campaign to highlight the support available from benevolent charities for those facing financial hardship, who may be struggling to afford basic essentials, or are facing mental health struggles during this challenging time.

While people tend to know the big-name charities, many are unaware there are hundreds of these benevolent funds operating throughout the UK to support individuals and their families through offering financial grants or other support services. Grants can be awarded in all kinds of circumstances, and requests are judged on a case-by-case basis, but some of the most common reasons include help paying for day-to-day essentials (food, bills etc.), furniture and white goods, disability adaptions, childcare costs, covering bankruptcy/insolvency fees and more.

Other examples of support awarded throughout the pandemic by these charities include paying for interview clothes where someone was made redundant, support with funeral costs, IT equipment so children could continue studies from home and paying for someone’s internet as libraries closed. Many benevolent funds also provide a range of holistic support services for free to those in need, from counselling services and helplines, online wellbeing materials, to sleep therapy, addiction support and advice services, such as debt or benefits advice.

In terms of finding the right benevolent fund to support someone, most have a certain group they help. Many are occupational funds, supporting those that have ever worked in a certain profession (including former employees) and their families. Many occupations have a benevolent fund, from hospitality workers, retail staff and carers through to architects, bankers and former miners.

There are also benevolent funds specifically for older people, children, disabled people, homeless people and women. Some benevolent charities help those that live in a certain region of the UK and there are general grant-giving charities that will award grants and furniture items to those that don’t fit the criteria of other benevolent funds.

To find the right benevolent fund the Turn2us Grants Search is a simple tool that helps people find support they may be eligible for. By someone filling out a few details about themselves (or behalf of someone), such as location, age and any previous jobs, the Turn2us Grants Search’s database finds all benevolent charities that person could apply for support from.

Hannah Page ACO for GM Poverty Action

Hannah Page

The ACO has also made a short guide to support available from benevolent charities, which is available on its website  to download. The ACO is encouraging organisations working closely with the public to share this guide with individuals that approach them looking for help.

For more information about the Here to Help campaign or the ACO please visit our website or contact Hannah Page (Marketing & Communications Manager) by email or call 020 7255 4496.


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Cash Perks

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Innovative solution getting cash to hardship grant beneficiaries

By Gareth Evans, Director, GRE Consulting

The pandemic has focused attention on the importance of local safety-nets in providing crisis grants for struggling households. Many councils have redesigned or reinstated their Local Welfare Assistance schemes to give emergency support for food, fuel and other essential household goods and items.

The recent GMPA report, which examines such schemes across the region, backs the growing calls for a cash-first approach to these hardship grants. It is shown to maximise dignity, autonomy, choice and ultimately impact, compared to the provision of food parcels or vouchers.

A new payment solution, Cash Perks is helping Councils, housing associations and local/national charities overcome the challenges of cash disbursement to those in financial difficulties – especially where clients might not have bank accounts but more commonly are overdrawn.

Gareth Evans, a leading researcher and anti-poverty campaigner who launched Cash Perks explains: “The idea came about when we were helping design an emergency food and fuel scheme for one of the country’s largest housing associations. We recognised the limitations of other payment options to get cash immediately to those that need it, so went out and created a solution.”

ATM photo for cash first for GM Poverty ActionThe technology enables organisations to securely send payments between £10 and £500 to their beneficiaries by SMS text message. Recipients can instantly collect their allocated funds 24/7 at over 17,000 ATMs nationally – all without the need for a card or bank account.

One local authority that has already embraced the facility is London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, which originally piloted it to send hardship payments for those without bank accounts. But following its success, the Council has just used it to disburse almost £250,000 of its Covid Winter Grant Scheme allocation in individual payments to its approved households. “It’s really straight forward and it’s a fast, efficient, flexible system that supports us to implement frequently announced new government initiatives,” explains Donna Radley, Head of Benefits. The Council’s Children’s Services directorate has now adopted it to replace the myriad of petty-cash payments that it makes to clients.

Anthony, one of the recipients of the Councils support explained the difference the emergency cash payments had made, “This has literally saved my life. I have had such a bad couple of years and this went some way to helping me eat properly and getting myself back to myself after the death of my son in 2019 and losing my job and then lockdown. I can’t thank you enough.”

With no setup costs or monthly charges, just a fixed fee per transaction based on the amount sent and usage volumes, it enables organisations of all sizes to access the innovative technology.

Wimbledon Guild, a small benevolent charity that operates in South London has used Cash Perks to continue offering its small emergency grants throughout Covid despite its offices being closed. Vanessa Robins, the charity’s Welfare Manager says, “It is a fast and convenient way to get cash urgently out to clients at little cost to the charity, especially for those without access to a bank account or who have overdrafts where transferred cash would be swallowed up.  It reduces admin time and fewer staff need to be involved in the transactions, although there is a strong audit trail.”

Find out more here.


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