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Manchester Credit Union reaches a milestone

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Press release

Savings and loans provider Manchester Credit Union has reached a milestone of £12.5million savings by its Mancunian members as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Starting up as Beswick and Openshaw Credit Union in 1991, it evolved into Manchester Credit Union and now serves 32,000 members across the city, as well as Bury, Rochdale, Tameside, Trafford, and the High Peak.

The credit union, a financial co-operative that is owned by its members, has seen demand for their services rise since the pandemic hit, as the city’s residents turn to local, ethical and affordable loans and savings products.

Chief executive Christine Moore said “When I first joined in 2000 there were 103 members and I was the first, and only, paid member of staff.

“Today we have more than 32,000 members and all day-to-day transactions are handled by a fantastic team of 23 staff. We estimate that we save local people in excess of £5million in loan interest each year, compared to doorstep and other high-cost lenders. When they borrow from us, we actively encourage all our members to save with us by transferring a small amount of their loan repayments into a savings account to help them build up a pot of savings for a rainy day.

Manchester Credit Union for GM Poverty Action

Christine Moore

“More and more Mancunians are turning to us as they look for an organisation that really cares about them and their city – and it keeps money in Manchester, rather than in the pockets of external shareholders.

“We would not be where we are today without the unfailing support and hard work of the staff, directors, and most importantly the volunteers from all the pioneering credit unions who are now part of the Manchester Credit Union family.”

For more information about Manchester Credit Union please visit their website

 

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Gambling related harm

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New financial data highlights the broader impact

By Jo Evans, Gambling Harm Reduction – Programme Manager, Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Earlier this month a ground-breaking new report was published using data from 6.5million anonymised bank accounts to demonstrate the impact of gambling on customers. For the first time this study documented the wider financial impact of relatively low-level gambling. For example, a 10% increase in the amount spent on gambling is associated with a 52% increase in payday loan take-up, an 81% increase in missing a loan repayment and 98% increase in missing mortgage repayments. Where spend on gambling amounts to 2 – 4% of an individual’s income, harms become more severe. With no limits on the amount that can be gambled in a single session, gambling harms can happen very quickly, but recovery can take a long time.

Gambling related harms are not just financial, and this study showed that people who gamble are less likely to spend money on their own wellbeing and had an increased mortality rate. Anyone who gambles is at risk of harm. In Greater Manchester it is estimated that there are approximately 147,000 at risk or harmful gamblers, although this is likely to understate the true extent of gambling related harm as for every person directly affected, up to 6 – 10 others may also be impacted.

Gambling is often described as a hidden harm, but many of those experiencing harm may already be in contact with existing services, where the issue of gambling may be the root cause of wider problems such as domestic abuse, mental health, family breakdown and financial difficulty. This represents a significant opportunity to improve the identification of problem gambling and access to appropriate treatment and support.

GMCA is developing an ambitious programme to prevent and reduce gambling related harm in Greater
Manchester, one of the first areas in the country to do so. We all have a part to play in this.

Educate ourselves and our teams about gambling related harm and build skills to identify, signpost and support people in our communities who may be experiencing harm – visit the GMHSCP website for details of resources and available treatment options.

Support our call on Government to take a proactive stance to regulation in response to its review of the Gambling Act, in particular in restricting the way that gambling products are promoted and advertised
(e.g. sponsorship in sport), introducing stake and deposit limits on online products and giving communities a greater say over the premises that are licensed in their neighbourhoods.

If you have a story to tell about how gambling has affected you, or the people you work with, please get in touch as we can use this to build our understanding of gambling related harm in Greater Manchester, and develop better targeted interventions to prevent and reduce harm.

To get involved, or for further details about this programme, please contact Jo Evans, Gambling Related Harm Programme Manager.

 

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Cost of learning in lockdown survey

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Cost of Learning in Lockdown Survey

Child Poverty Action Group press release for GM Poverty ActionBuilding on the Cost of Learning in Lockdown report in June 2020 and as part of the Cost of the School Day project, CPAG would like to hear from children, young people, and families across England about their experiences of the first term back in school and the Christmas period. This research would be an opportunity to hear from families and children about what has worked well for them so that CPAG can champion the successes of schools and share best practice across the sector, but also help them to understand where there are gaps, and the impact these gaps have had on families living in poverty.

The surveys can be accessed here.

Areas of focus:

  1. The school day
    •  Additional costs for families associated with this academic year
    •  Additional support provided by school (or local authority) as part of the response to the pandemic (e.g. tutoring or catch up lessons)
  2. Homeworking (for those pupils who have had to isolate)
    •  Understanding whether families have the resources they need at home and what support is being provided, and whether this has improved since school closures in March
    •  What FSM provision has worked best for isolating families
  3. Financial & holiday support
    •  Levels of concern about finances and the reasons why (e.g. increased bills)
    •  Available holiday support and how well that works for families (e.g. Covid Winter Grant Scheme)

 

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Mental Wellbeing

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Greater Manchester Mental Wellbeing conversation findings published

By Charlene Mulhern, Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership

Findings from the Greater Manchester Mental Wellbeing conversation have been published with over 4,000 people emphasising what is important for their mental wellbeing.

The aim is to use this information to understand what matters and to shape future initiatives to improve mental wellbeing, making sure they reflect the needs of local people. Key findings have indicated that:

  • The majority, (97%), of Greater Manchester citizens think that mental wellbeing is important or very important;
  • Whilst significantly more people know what to do if they wanted to improve their mental wellbeing,(58%), there are 42% who are either unsure or who have no idea;
  • Work (and/or college) is the single biggest factor associated with poor mental wellbeing and cited by around 1/3 of all respondents, followed by existing mental health illnesses and / or disabilities;
  • Almost two in three people in Greater Manchester (61%) don’t feel connected to their community or place;
  • An emphasis of green open space, the ambiance of the surroundings, good facilities and events and people behaving in a more supportive ‘community’ way would meet most people’s needs (63%) for a place of positive wellbeing. This reinforces that improving mental wellbeing is as much about shaping places as it is about engaging people
  • The people surveyed highlight that too many people aren’t very happy (5.2/10), don’t find life satisfying (5.1/10) and worthwhile (5.7/10) and have fairly high levels of anxiety (5.6/10)

Responses to questions clearly indicated that there is no one single solution. Improving mental wellbeing across the population will require a whole system approach which involves everyone working together to bring about sustainable long-term system change. A plan to respond to feedback is now underway.

Access to the detailed report can be found here

 

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Wigan Equalities commitment

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Why Wigan Council have made it their own responsibility to consider poverty

GMPA is keen for socio-economic duty to be included in equalities legislation and early in 2020, as part of our work in response to the spread of COVID-19, we developed a briefing. Some public bodies, including Wigan Council, are taking matters into their own hands.


Councillor Paula Wakefield, Lead Member for Equalities and Domestic Violence at Wigan Council, explains why in Wigan Borough, a key consideration when developing new policies, is now the impact the policy will have on lower income households.

“I understand from personal experience the effect that coming from a lower income family can have on your life.  My family were in a relatively stable situation until my father died when I was 13. He had received contaminated blood products as part of a treatment he had for his Haemophilia. He went on to die from Hepatitis C.

It was the early 90’s and there was massive stigma and discrimination surrounding these conditions. We lost our home, and my father had lost his job and his life insurance. When he died we were forced into bankruptcy.

The impact of suddenly living in a low, single income household affected everything. I stopped asking my mum if I could go on school trips or holidays as I knew she couldn’t afford it. My brother and I received free school meals and bills for essentials like utilities suddenly became a real struggle.

I had done well at school but knew that higher education wasn’t an option. We couldn’t afford for me to go to University, I knew I had to get a job and bring money into the family as soon as possible. If you live in a lower income household, your life choices and pathways become limited, through no fault of your own.

Perhaps because of my background, addressing any type of inequality will always be a passion of mine, so when I was offered the Lead Member role for Equalities and Domestic Abuse at Wigan Council, I knew it would be a perfect fit. In one of the first meetings in my new role we discussed tackling the way people are disproportionately affected if they come from lower income families.

I was informed that a decision had been made by the Government not to include socio-economic disadvantage as part of the Equality Act but that we could include it in our own Equality Commitment, which is already a statutory requirement, in the same way that we had adopted carers and veterans into our Commitment.  I made the decision that this would be a priority and last year Wigan Council added socio-economic disadvantage to the protected characteristics listed in our Equality Commitment and our Equality Impact Assessments.

The fact that socio-economic disadvantage is now part of our Equality Commitment means that every time a new policy is developed, we are required to consider the impact it will have on those from lower income households. If we think it may have a detrimental effect, we discuss what we can do to make sure that does not happen.

Considering poverty as part of our Equality Commitment has also helped to raise the profile of the issue. Wigan Council is taking action to improve the life choices for those from lower income families in many different ways including making sure that high quality health services are accessible in lower income areas, providing quality, affordable homes and building more of the right homes, harnessing the power digital connectivity has to improve people’s opportunities and creating local economic growth through our Community Wealth Building Strategy.

Cllr Paula Wakefield for GM Poverty Action

Councillor Paula Wakefield

It is so important for councils to adopt socio-economic duty. The coronavirus pandemic has shown that, yet again, it is the lower income families that are disproportionately affected and we must do everything we can to mitigate it.

We must continue to campaign for socio-economic disadvantage to be included in national legislation. But it’s also important to remember that there are small changes we can make locally, that can have a huge and positive impact on lower income families.

Everyone deserves the same life chances – no matter where you are born or how much money you have and if a Local Authority can help on that journey, why would we choose not to?”

 

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Supporting fuel poor households in GM

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By Andrew Pinches, Groundwork Greater Manchester

Fuel poverty affects a significant proportion of the UK population and is associated with negative effects on both physical and mental health. It is currently estimated that approximately two and a half million households in the UK live in fuel poverty. Fuel poverty is measured using the Low Income High Cost (LIHC) indicator, which considers a household to be fuel poor if:

•   they have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level of £1,378); and

•   were they to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the poverty line.

Greater Manchester currently has the highest number of households in fuel poverty in the North West, with Gorton currently having the highest percentage of households in fuel poverty (20.5%) in the UK. It can also be noted that more than 80% of Greater Manchester’s parliamentary constituencies sit above the national average for proportion of households in fuel poverty.

One of the main issues in GM currently is that 80% of the houses in use are over 40 year’s old and deemed energy inefficient. As energy efficiency is a driver for fuel poverty, low income families in Manchester are already in danger of fuel poverty from just moving into an energy inefficient home

Energyworks image for GM Poverty ActionIt can be seen from this graphic, that that there are 3 main drivers for fuel poverty: Energy efficiency, energy prices and income. If a household has high energy bills, low income and an energy inefficient house then they will more than likely be classified as fuel poor.

Improving any one of these parameters can help bring a household out of fuel poverty and alleviate the associated stresses.

Energyworks supports the residents of Greater Manchester with all three drivers of fuel poverty:

•   Energy Prices – Providing support and tailored advice with switching tariffs and providers, helping set up affordable payment plans and supporting residents with energy debt to find affordable solutions.

•   Energy Efficiency – With the installation of FREE small measures such as low energy lighting (LED bulbs), draught-proofing and the installation of radiator panels, residents can use less energy to achieve the same level of heating and lighting in their homes. Larger measures, including Cavity Wall Insulation, Loft insulation and Boiler Replacement, are also available through grants for eligible residents.

•   Income – Through trusted partners, referrals can be made to secure additional income for low income families through increased or additional benefits, grants for essential items/white goods and food and fuel vouchers.

Energyworks is funded at both national and local level with funders such as Ofgem, LEAP and the Local Authorities across GM. Having multiple funders at all levels allows us to go that extra mile for customers ensuring that we give the best possible tailored service to every person. Each customer we speak to is also offered an information pack that they can refer back to at their leisure.

To refer in to the Energyworks team please email  or call us on 0800 090 3638.

 

For details of fuel poverty across Greater Manchester by Local Authority and LSOA, please refer to GMPA’s Poverty Monitor

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Sound Pound

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GM Community Credit Unions unite to unveil £15m support in Covid recovery plan

Press release from the Sound Pound Campaign

Eight Community Credit Unions have joined together to launch a Covid-19 recovery plan that will offer hope and £15m in financial support to millions of people across Greater Manchester.

The consortium, known as Sound Pound, wants to show communities across the city region that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that their local community credit union is there to support them at this time of uncertainty and financial hardship.

David Batten, chief executive of Hoot Credit Union in Bolton and chair of the Sound Pound consortium, said: “We have come together to launch this joint recovery plan and to pool the resources and financial support we have available. Together, we have a very clear objective to rebuild communities, support people and lend responsibly. And, by doing this, it will also provide a vital boost to the local economy.

“We want to encourage anyone who is struggling financially due to the impact of Covid to speak to their community credit union about their borrowing needs. By supporting local people and offering them credit, it will increase spending and keep our economy moving forward. It’s a cycle and, if we work together, we can keep going.”

The Sound Pound consortium is made up of Manchester Credit Union, South Manchester Credit Union, Stockport Credit Union, Cash Box Credit Union (Tameside), Unify Credit Union (Wigan), Hoot Credit Union (Bolton), Salford Credit Union and Oldham Credit Union. All eight have signed up to the initiative in order to provide support to their local communities.

David continued: “Credit Unions are ethical, not-for-profit financial organisations. They are there to put people first and to help anyone who needs financial support. Credit unions also help people to save for the future and become financially independent.”

Angela Fishwick, chief executive of Unify Credit Union in Wigan, said: “Our communities are really struggling right now. Many who never experienced debt or hardship before, are facing a very uncertain future and we can help. Because of the unique way that credit unions operate, we are able to lend money to help them with their day to day living costs and even help them save for a more secure future.”

Nathan Walters, member of Cash Box Credit Union in Tameside, said: “I first joined Cash Box because I wanted to start saving but they really came to my rescue recently when I needed urgent financial support. They are so friendly and helpful and because they are a part of my community they really understand me and my circumstances.”

David added: “Credit unions offer support to local people whatever their needs are. Whether they are a single parent struggling to make ends meet, are looking for a deposit for their first home or need some help with managing their finances and putting some money away. Credit unions are also there to support local businesses and we offer a range of support services to help them with the increasing pressures they are currently experiencing.

“Our Sound Pound recovery plan has been created to rebuild communities, support people and lend responsibly and it will play a crucial role in driving our local economy forward, helping all of us to build back better from the impacts being felt by our communities across Greater Manchester due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

To find out more about the support offered by your local community credit union, visit the website

Soundpound logos for GM Poverty Action

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Help with your water bill

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Income affected by COVID restrictions? Get help with your water bill

By Colin Gallagher, United Utilities

United Utilities is appealing for customers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 to get in touch so they can help. Their ‘Back on Track’ scheme is aimed at customers who receive benefits or tax credits and are struggling with their water bill payments due to their income being affected by COVID restrictions.

Jane Haymes, affordability manager at United Utilities said: “We know that many of our customers have already been impacted by coronavirus over the previous seven months and even more will be affected by new restrictions being introduced across many parts of the North West.

“Our Back on Track scheme is a way we can help those customers who need our support the most by reducing their annual bill until the end of March 2021.

“We would encourage customers to get in touch with us whether they’ve been previously furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme or are likely to be affected by the Job SupportScheme introduced on November 1st. Even if you don’t meet our criteria for the Back on Track scheme there are other ways we can make your water bills more affordable until these restrictions are eventually lifted.”

For further details about the scheme download the full application pack from the United Utilities website.

To apply, customers can either return the application form included in the pack or compete the online affordability form here.  Customers can also call the affordability team at United Utilities on 0800 072 6765 to apply.

 

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Rethinking Poverty

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Big reset needed for a resilient society

by Barry Knight, a frequent contributor to Rethinking Poverty

My favourite history book, The Sleepwalkers, tells the story of how the great powers drifted into the First World War without reason or regard to consequences. This is a common pattern, repeated many times since. For example, by blindly giving priority to economic growth, we have walked lemming-like towards the pandemic, the economic crash, the climate disaster, and the racism crisis. Yet, half a century ago, the Club of Rome report set out the social and environmental limits to growth and predicted the consequences of ignoring them.

The consequences are now becoming clear, exemplified in the dramatic rise in poverty. Since March 2020, we have witnessed the fastest increase in the number of people claiming working-age social security benefits in the UK since records began. In parts of Manchester, up to 40 per cent of children now grow up in poverty.

And this is just the start. Planned redundancies are running at twice the level of the 2008 financial crash. According to estimates by the Trussell Trust, destitution rates are set to double by Christmas, while the crisis of food poverty is becoming a ‘national scandal. Footballer Marcus Rashford speaks for many when he says:

I have no interest in party politics. Letting millions of children in the UK go hungry at night
is only an issue of humanity. We need to do better
.’

The pandemic has exposed a critical weakness in the systems we use to support society. We have relied on a just in time approach, with no spare capacity, so that systems collapse as soon as unusual events occur. Successive governments have downgraded the importance of building infrastructure for the long term, preferring the quick-fix magic-bullet policy designed to address short-term symptoms.

So, the main lesson from the pandemic is the importance of planning for resilient systems. The concept of a planned society was a key factor in the success of social and economic policy in the 30 years since the Second World War, but has now been more or less abandoned.

A much-needed national plan would develop a ‘big reset’ for our society. There would be two main goals: first to rescue the millions of people now living in poverty and second to reform the operating principles for society.

Taking rescue first, the plan needs to stabilise our society by guaranteeing a basic income for everyone. This can be done in many ways, but the simplest and most respectful solution is through a universal basic income. This is needed because jobs are scarce and Universal Credit barely meets people’s subsistence requirements.

Turning to the development of new operating principles, the plan should use the idea of wellbeing as its goal. Wellbeing means that people feel good, have robust physical and mental health, and find fulfilment in their work, leisure and family lives. The Carnegie UK Trust has developed a framework for how to develop wellbeing in society.

The plan would involve substantial reforms to the way we generate, tax and distribute wealth in society. Rather than having a society driven by profit, the plan would build on the surge in community spirit produced by the pandemic to foster solidarity where everyone has enough, but no one has too much. This would require a sustainable economy that enhances the natural world, while creating meaningful work. The plan would examine each and every government policy to ensure that it is life enhancing, so that, for example, education produces enthusiastic lifelong learners who can develop meaningful lives rather than people who can pass SATS tests.

Barry Knight for GM Poverty Action

Barry Knight

Given the upheaval caused by the pandemic, there is the opportunity to #BuildBackBetter.  This will require countercyclical investment, including borrowing to pay for it, but the alternative will be increasingly ineffective crisis interventions to compensate for our years of sleepwalking. Let’s wake up.

 

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Tackling evictions

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The Bond Board is taking on a pending tsunami of evictions

By Thomas Ingham, Housing Adviser, The Bond Board Ltd

It’s common knowledge that Covid-19 has had a severe effect on the Private Rented Sector for both landlords and tenants. It has been estimated that over 174,000 tenancies have been threatened with eviction with 227,000 tenants in the UK admitting they are in rent arrears. Greater Manchester Combined Authority Leaders say they fear “homelessness could return to the streets of Greater Manchester on a scale not seen since the 1930s” if rapid and decisive action is not taken to avert a crisis. The legislation seems to be changing so regularly it is hard to keep up and as a result both landlords and tenants are struggling to understand what their rights are.

Tenants are also finding themselves more frequently in a position of financial insecurity which is often not only putting their tenancy at risk but potentially affecting the landlord’s finances too. Though the government has put large notice periods in place for most evictions, this does not solve the problem and only delays it. At some point there is potential for a large wave of private rented evictions to take place. We, at The Bond Board, have recognised this growing issue and we believe that tackling these issues sooner rather than later can prevent potential evictions.

With funding from The National Lottery and the Greater Manchester Mayoral Fund we have successfully put together a specialist housing advice service to tackle these issues within Oldham, Wigan, Rochdale and Bolton. We are offering 1 to 1 support with any private rented tenant living within these areas that are at risk of losing their tenancy and are on a low income. We will offer support with a variety of issues ranging from advice on legal possession notices and what their rights are, rent arrears, complex issues regarding illegal evictions and many more. We have partnered with the National Housing Advice Service and Shelter to assist us with any cases that demand additional specialist support to ensure that all our clients have the best chance of getting back on track.

For instance, in a recent case we offered support to we found that the Section 21 notice the tenant received was produced on the wrong document and therefore would have not been legal. This caused stress for the tenant and meant they could not go on a priority banding with their local housing provider. Through landlord and tenant mediation we managed to discuss the reasons for the eviction and we have helped manage the tenancy to a point where the eviction is no longer necessary. The landlord has been given advice on Section 21’s so that in the future both landlord and tenants have a clearer understanding. We hope we can ensure that we exhaust all options before any eviction and we can prevent a potential tsunami in evictions in the upcoming 12 months.

However, we also understand that a significant number of landlords have also been affected by Covid-19 and may be struggling with income or ever changing legislation. Thanks to funding from The Nationwide Foundation and their Fair Housing Futures project, we are offering support, advice and training to landlords who may need advice around their rights, information around Universal Credit, updates on changes to housing legislation and eviction proceedings. This is a valuable free service that can offer long term 1 to 1 support that is rarely available and continues The Bond Board’s objectives of a Private Rented Sector that works for all.

Thomas Ingham Bond Board for GM |Poverty Axction

Thomas Ingham

If you would like to refer to either of our services then please email and request a referral form. If you would like to spread the word to your colleagues or clients then please get in touch on the same email and we can send over both referral forms and leaflets for you to share, as well as answering any burning questions.

 

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