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Fixing Lunch

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The case for expanding free school meals (FSM)

A new report by CPAG and Covid Realities

Child Poverty Action Group press release for GM Poverty ActionThe Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Covid Realties have released a new report, Fixing Lunch: The case for expanding free school meals. The report brings together findings from CPAG analysis and the Covid Realities research programme to highlight problems with existing FSM provision. It also draws on research carried out as part of CPAG and Children North East’s UK Cost of the School Day project.

Despite a rise in the number of children claiming FSMs between March 2020 and March 2021, there are still one million school-aged children in poverty who miss out on any form of FSM provision because of restrictive eligibility criteria. The proportion of children in poverty not getting free school meals varies a lot across the 4 nations, and is highest in Wales and England (where 42% and 37% of children in poverty miss out on free meals respectively). Rates are much lower in Scotland (17%) and Northern Ireland (22%).

Key recommendations, developed with Covid Realities participants, are:

•   Work towards the long-term goal of universal provision of FSM for all children across the UK.
•   In the short term, increase eligibility to every family on Universal Credit (or equivalent benefits).
•   Eligibility should also be extended to all families with no recourse to public funds.
•   Follow the Scottish Government’s lead, extend free school meals to all primary school children across the UK.
•   Support family finances throughout the year by addressing the inadequacy of the social security system.
•  As a first step, the planned £20 cut to universal credit must be abandoned.Covid Realities logo for GM Poverty Action

 

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Your Work Your Way

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By Jane Jacoby, Child Poverty Action Group

The number of families affected by in-work poverty is rising. Parents on low pay now need the equivalent of 1.5 earnings to keep their families out of poverty. In families where one parent works, a growing number of the non-working parents identify as being unemployed, yet while seeking work many of these potential second earners face barriers such as childcare, transport, skills and confidence. This important group also tend to be overlooked in Job Centre targets and by most employment support programmes; hard to reach out to and often requiring intensive but flexible support that recognises they may not be able to access many jobs due to family commitments and the challenges of juggling work and childcare with a partner.

In response Child Poverty Action Group are offering practical employment support to couples families in Bury. Your Work Your Way offers a year of in depth, individualised employment support to families who are living on low wages topped up by Universal Credit or Tax Credits. Participants will also have access to specialist welfare rights advice as well as access to a support budget which can be used to assist with work-related costs such as course fees, childcare and transport. Participants are also eligible to apply to Barclays’ Rebuilding Thriving Local Economies Fund which can provide financial assistance to people who have been adversely affected by Covid.

“When I was looking for a job after my child started school, I remember feeling confused about everything – jobs, money, childcare, the impact on family life – after being out of the world of work for a few years. There’s so much to think about! If someone had offered me the opportunity to sign up with a project like Your Work Your Way for tailored support and advice, I’d have jumped at the chance. It’s great to be able to help participants to really understand what it will mean for their family finances, including benefits, if both they and their partners work – so that any changes they make, they can have confidence in.” Dee Lynch – YWYW Welfare Rights Advisor

“We use a solution focused approach to really help participants explore work which is right for them and their families. It is great having time to support participants explore options around jobs, training and volunteering.” Jane Jacoby – YWYW Personal Support Coach

Your Work Your Way are seeing participants in a central Bury office location. They are happy to take referrals or be contacted for a friendly chat. The project is open to men or women who:

  • have a partner who is working
  • have children
  • are receiving Tax Credits or Universal Credit (or are entitled to them but not claiming)
  • live in Bury
Jane Jacoby for GM Poverty Action

Jane Jacoby

Your Work Your Way is funded by Barclays. Bury was selected as a location by Barclays as part of their commitment to Bury through their Thriving Local Economies initiative. Further details can be found here: Your Work, Your Way | CPAG on Bury Directory or on our Facebook page

Jane Jacoby

jjacoby@CPAG.org.uk   07985104986

 

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Community Savers

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Community Savers is a network of women-led savings groups which engage in regular peer support: sharing ideas, experiences and strategies for reducing poverty in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities. They have been learning from the approaches of a women-led movement called Shack/Slum Dwellers International since 2016 and work in alliance with Community-Led Action and Savings Support (CLASS).

Women have always played a critical role in community action in the UK (and across the world). Since the onset of austerity policies in 2010 which has reduced spending on public services and social support, women have been at the forefront of the battle to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable in our society. And now COVID.

The gendered nature of community action usually goes unrecognised. It is almost always unpaid, and the cost of activities are frequently shouldered by communities themselves.

This presents the Community Savers-CLASS alliance with a significant challenge. The Community Savers approach amplifies and builds upon the expertise and resilience of grassroots women leaders to make change happen. But this creates additional demands on women who are already shouldering many of their own community, family and work pressures.

Yet, being in the network also builds resilience and enables effective strategies to spread. Throughout the pandemic, savings group leaders have been able to fall back on their network for moral support, ideas and information, or just to offload when things get tough. Crisis resources have been shared between groups. Before COVID, groups were travelling to learn from each other’s projects and approaches, where a savings group set up in one place, a food project would replicate in another.

Women in the lead

Building on 30 years of SDI’s learning by doing, the Community Savers-CLASS alliance are attempting to build a genuinely alternative form of community-professional partnership.

Their work together is led by, for, and with grassroots women but protecting that principle requires constant dialogue, reflection and renegotiation. Where to find the time and space to have these discussions without needing to rush to school pick up, hospital appointments, food collections, or tonight’s campaign meeting?

In September, Community Savers & CLASS will be going on a 2-day rural retreat. They would like to enable four amazing women from each of the affiliate groups to attend but need to raise an additional £1,000.

If you can, consider helping them to reach their target by making a donation. You can also email for further
information.

 

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Salford Fighting poverty

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Fighting poverty on all fronts in Salford

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salford fighting poverty Cllr Sharmina August for GM Poverty Action

Councillor Sharmina August

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

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

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

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

•  Offering personalised job-hunting support and skills development;

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

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

Read about The Salford Way here


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

 

 

 

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Employment and Skills Service

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Trafford Housing Trust

Employment and Skills service supports customers seeking training and job opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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BEESMART

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Manchester Credit Union introduces BEESMART

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester Credit Union logo for GM Poverty Action

 

 

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End of the eviction ban

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

By Tom Togher, Chief Officer, Salford Citizens Advice Bureau

First the advice!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the campaigning:

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

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

 

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Managing finances research

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Turn2us

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Turn2us publish an Impact Report and launch a new Benefits Calculator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information about Turn2us

 

 

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Groundwork GM: Out of bounds

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Severe inequalities in access to parks and greenspaces

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

Key statistics brought together in the report show that:

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

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

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

But what does the report mean for Greater Manchester?

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

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

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

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

Read more here

 

Why Groundwork is important:

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

 

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