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Empowering communities: Community Led Homes leading the way

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By Rachel Summerscales, Project Officer at Greater Manchester Community Led Homes

In the ever-evolving landscape of housing, the concept of Community Led Housing (CLH) emerges as a beacon of empowerment and sustainability. At its core, CLH embodies the principles of local engagement, ownership, and long-term community benefit. And in Greater Manchester, GM Community Led Homes (GMCLH) stands as a driving force behind this transformative movement.

But what exactly is Community Led Housing? It’s more than just bricks and mortar. It’s about housing that is built or revitalized by local residents, supported by the community, and owned or managed by its members. Importantly, CLH ensures that the benefits to the local community are safeguarded for generations to come.

GMCLH, a member-led hub within Greater Manchester, is dedicated to accelerating the delivery of community-led homes while providing vital support to housing groups. Their mission? To collaboratively build and manage homes with and for communities throughout the region. As an independent not-for-profit Community Benefit Society, GMCLH serves as a hub for advice, resources, and provides and invaluable network for contacts and shared experience.

The support GMCLH provides is exemplified in their recent endeavours in Oldham. When landowners sought to develop a community-led housing project, GMCLH stepped in to facilitate initial community engagement. This effort culminated in the formation of a steering group comprising local housing associations and organisations in dire need of affordable housing solutions.

Among the groups engaged in the co-design process are Support and Action for Women’s Network (SAWN) and Youthouse Housing Co-op. SAWN, a local charity empowering Black African women, recently expanded into housing, aiming to provide a safe and empowering environment. GMCLH’s support ensures that their housing model can be replicated within the Eco Village, offering autonomy and security to its tenants.

Similarly, Youthouse Housing Co-op, comprising young individuals who have experienced homelessness, is designing shared housing to address the unique needs of vulnerable young people in Oldham. By involving care leavers in the codesign process, GMCLH ensures that the resulting homes are not just affordable but also safe and supportive.

GMCLH’s network encompasses diverse housing models, including community self-builds, co-housing initiatives, Community Land Trusts and Shared Ownership scheme. They are also a member of the Social Homes for Manchester campaign, which aims to influence the Manchester Local Plan to include a target of 30% social housing in all developments.

With grant funding from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and collaboration with all ten local authorities, GMCLH is supporting progress in Wigan, Oldham, Manchester and Salford, as well as some initial work in Rochdale. Our vision throughout is to address housing issues at the grassroots level and provide sustainable solutions that truly meet the needs of the community.

To learn more about GMCLH and join the movement towards community-led housing, sign up for their newsletter, follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or attend their monthly forums. Together, we can build a future where housing is not just a commodity but a fundamental right for all.

This article is featured in our 21 February newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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Ending child poverty: why and how

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By Lizzie Flew, Communications and Campaigns Manager at Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Too many children are growing up in poverty in the UK. The average class of 30 pupils now has nine children living in poverty.

In a new guide from Child Poverty Action Group, Ending Child Poverty: Why and How, Kitty Stewart, Jane Millar, Alan Marsh and Jonathan Bradshaw set out the evidence on the extent of child poverty and its impact on children – their day-to-day lives and their future opportunities.

Poverty means a lack of healthy food and homes that stay cold in winter. If children arrive at school cold and hungry, they are less able to respond to even the best efforts to improve their education. Poverty means parents forgoing essentials while debts increase, creating anxiety and stress which profoundly affects family wellbeing. All these factors impede children’s progress at school and cause their physical and mental health to fall steadily below that of children in better-off families.

But child poverty is not inevitable. It is a political choice. We can stop it, and this guide sets out how. The authors outline how our social security system can help families on low incomes, and explore what we can learn from what other countries have done to tackle child poverty. They then detail the priorities for action: the steps the government must take to help reduce child poverty. The book finishes by imagining a society without child poverty, and the opportunities that would unleash for all our children.The guide sets out specific action. First, abolish policies that are increasing child poverty, such as the benefit cap and two-child limit. Second, expand measures that will prevent or reduce child poverty, including increasing child benefit and making it universal again, and expanding free school meals. And third, build support for a society with no child poverty, and bring in a comprehensive child poverty strategy to ensure action across all levels of government.

Read the essential guide for anyone concerned about ending child poverty: Ending Child Poverty: Why and How.

This article is featured in our 21 February newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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Disability and financial hardship

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By Hannah Biggs and Jo Wildman, Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen)

  

Being disabled, or living in a disabled household, are some of the strongest predictors of poverty in the UK; with nearly half of all people in poverty living in a household where someone is disabled.

The cost-of-living crisis has caused sharp increases in food insecurity among disabled people in the UK. Food insecurity can be defined as worrying about affording food, cutting back on the amount of quality of food you eat, or going without food due to a lack of money. The Trussell Trust’s 2023 Hunger in the UK report found that 69% of working-age people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network across the UK are disabled, three times the level seen in the general population (23%). The Hunger in the UK report also identified widespread underclaiming of disability benefits among disabled people referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks.

In February 2023, the Trussell Trust commissioned the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen) to carry out a study exploring the reasons for the overrepresentation of disabled people accessing food banks and the underclaiming of disability benefits among disabled people using food banks. Over the course of the study, 57 disabled people from across the UK took part in in-depth interviews.

The study aimed to provide an evidence base for the development of policy solutions to reduce the need for food banks among disabled people across the UK. The research was published in November 2023.

What the research found

Our study identified several causes of food insecurity among disabled people – many linked to issues of accessibility caused by a widespread lack of understanding of disability or, in some cases, stigma and prejudice directed at disabled people.

We found that disabled people were frequently excluded from employment due to inaccessible or inflexible employment structures where they were denied their legal entitlement to reasonable adjustments.

Disabled people also faced extra costs in the treatment and management of their impairments and health conditions that were not provided by the NHS or local authorities. Overall, participants found it difficult to meet their day-to-day living costs let alone the extra costs associated with their impairments.

We found that disabled people were also frequently excluded from the social security benefits that should have helped with disability-related costs or supported them if they were unable to work. Participants described the challenges they faced when applying for disability benefits.

A lack of awareness of the eligibility criteria, and stigma associated with claiming benefits caused people to not apply, or delay applying for disability benefits. Those who did apply found the application and assessment process complicated and repetitive as well as physically and emotionally exhausting. A participant in Northern Ireland described their experiences of being assessed for disability benefits:

“It makes you feel labelled. It makes you feel less than human. You’re very much dehumanised. You are a number; you are not a person. It can be quite degrading. There has to be a better way, there has to be.”

The ‘one-size-fits-all’ processes prevented participants from fully communicating the impact of their impairments and health conditions which could result in a failed application. The distress and trauma involved in applying for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) meant some disabled people did not challenge a refused claim. A participant in Wales explained why they hadn’t challenged their unsuccessful claim:

“It was really violating, the whole process. The questions they asked, the way they made me feel. It made me feel like I was a scrounger, and I’ve always worked. Not like big, important jobs, but it’s always work, so we supported [name of child]. It just made me feel like I was worthless, and I just thought, ‘No, I can’t do it’.”

The cost-of-living crisis worsened the financial situation of many disabled people. Rapidly rising food prices were a universal source of concern. With financial resources severely limited, the requirement to pay essential bills such as rent, utilities and council tax pushed buying food down the list of priorities. People had sought food aid when they reached a crisis point, when a visit to a food bank meant the “difference between eating and not”.

What needs to change?

Solutions to food insecurity among disabled people are embedded in the social model of disability and focus on changing social structures and attitudes and challenging prejudices and assumptions about disabled people.

Improving the accessibility of the disability benefits system is part of the solution. However, increasing uptake alone will not be sufficient to relieve food insecurity for disabled people. This research adds to a wealth of previous evidence that the value of both disability and incapacity benefits is inadequate. These benefits are also not designed to take into account the full complexity of disabled people’s lives and the ways in which this complexity can increase costs associated with disability. The value of disability benefit needs to increase, alongside other changes to improve the financial security for disabled people. Policy solutions developed as a result of the research findings are outlined in the full report.

This article is featured in our 7 February newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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Reflections on the future of local crisis support summit

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By Penny Rimmer, Policy Officer at Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA)

On Tuesday 30 January, GMPA, alongside the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), End Furniture Poverty and Cash Perks, held an online summit sharing best practice on crisis support and advocating for the permanent extension of the Household Support Fund.

We are immensely grateful to all who joined our online summit and the speakers for their invaluable insights and contributions. It was fantastic to see a range of organisations, such as local authorities, frontline support agencies, and anti-poverty campaigners, come together to discuss the effectiveness of local crisis support and the critical need for the Household Support Fund’s ongoing provision.

We heard countless examples of how the Household Support Fund has been a significant lifeline for households across the country. Local authorities have used their allocations innovatively, tailoring the funding to support the needs of their communities by providing, for example, cash grants, funding for advice services, and supporting food voucher programmes in the holidays to assist households in receipt of free school meals.

Our panel of local authority representatives voiced deep concerns about the devastating impact that the withdrawal of the Household Support Fund will have. They highlighted the ‘perfect storm’ brewing for local authorities, marked by escalating cost-of-living pressures and a funding gap of £4 billion over the next two years. They warned that the Household Support Fund’s conclusion coincides with the ending of other vital cost-of-living support measures. As a result, councils face the stark reality of having to consider scaling back other existing support schemes, which will mean there is an immediate risk of more households being plunged into poverty.

Speaking at the event, Sir Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, emphasised the critical nature of the situation with the Household Support Fund, remarking that “there is a great deal at stake here”. Despite the urgency, he expects the government is unlikely to make an announcement about the fund until the Spring Budget. This expected delay presents significant planning challenges for local authorities, as their budget allocations will already be set by that time.

In light of these challenges, it is more important than ever to maintain our advocacy and pressure on the government. We must continue to build momentum and call on the government to commit to extending the Household Support Fund beyond March 2024.

This article is featured in our 7 February newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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Free School Meals in the North West

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By Tom Lee, Senior Policy Analyst at Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Free School Meals (FSMs) have sparked a lot of policy debate in recent years. Yet, still 900,000 children living in poverty across England do not qualify for nationally provided FSMs, including 100,000 in the North West of England.

Our new report with GMPA focuses on FSMs in the North West, including new statistics on the number of children in poverty across the region missing out. It also looks at the role of schools and local authorities in FSM provision. Finally, the report considers the socio-economic benefits, including the impact on children’s socio-economic rights, which support a nationwide universal roll-out of FSM.

The 100,000 children are spread out across the region, and new analysis shows that every local authority (LA) has thousands of children in poverty who miss out.

We encourage LAs to do all they can to increase the number of children in low-income families benefiting from FSM, but recognise the different and difficult environments that they operate in. We encourage local and regional authorities to extend the provision of FSM where funding can be made available.

There are also low-cost and no-cost practices LAs can adopt to improve take-up under the existing eligibility criteria. LAs and local leaders can also support calls for a nationwide expansion to ensure FSM provision reaches all children.

As well as LAs, schools can work to identify and address any existing policies or practices that prevent pupils taking up their FSM entitlement or further disadvantage them.

However, the responsibility for tackling this issue does not rest with LAs and schools. The UK government must provide universal FSM for all children and young people in full-time education up to the age of 18 in England.

Aside from the obvious benefits of ensuring no children goes hungry at school, and improving family finances, introducing universal FSM would help to realise children’s socio-economic rights, as well as a variety of socio-economic benefits.

This article is featured in our 7 February newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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Plinth: the platform helping vulnerable people get the support they need

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By Ceci Sutcliffe, Partnerships Development Manager at Plinth

Despite their eligibility, there are 3,181,729 single people with an annual income of less than £12,000 that are not receiving the government support they need. (Policy in Practice)

Marginalised communities often go to the voluntary sector for support and companionship, whether this be for emergency wrap-around services or weekly football matches at their local community centre. But often, vulnerable individuals are slipping through the cracks and not getting as much support as they could. Plinth is a community impact platform designed to help bridge the gap between third and public sector support.

Jamie is 27, living alone in private rented accommodation in Bolton. Working day shifts at his local pub and working as a delivery driver in the evenings just covers the rent for his room, with some money left over for his weekly grocery shop. However, recently Jamie has been struggling with his mental health. His boss at the pub keeps reducing his working hours, threatening to let him go if he doesn’t ‘get his act together’. Customers are complaining about him being rude and unprofessional. It’s not in Jamie’s nature to be like this, but he’s hardly sleeping. His room is so cold because he can’t afford to put the heating on. He used to get food on shift, but less hours means less food. Jamie’s struggling to be on time for the few shifts he has left because he can’t face getting out of bed in the morning.

On a Wednesday, Jamie puts his boots on and jogs down to the football pitch. Every week he goes to train with his mates before they all have breakfast together at the community centre. Last week, his football coach noticed that Jamie was looking more tired than usual, and recently had been devouring his bacon bap in seconds. He asked the community club kitchen to allow him an extra bap, and the volunteers told Jamie that they have a pantry open every Tuesday and Friday morning. At the pantry, Jamie made a friend that told him about the job advice services the community centre has on a Monday, the counselling sessions on a Thursday and the running group on a Sunday.

Jamie is one of the 77% of men suffering with common mental health symptoms; nobody knew how much he was struggling before he got a helping hand at his community centre (Therapy For You). He is amongst the 3,181,729 of single people with an annual income of less that £12,000, that are eligible for (and really need) government support, but are slipping through the cracks. People like Jamie aren’t on the council’s radar, but need help just the same. Although councils have teams to support these people, there is such a vacuum of voluntary sector data they struggle to reach them – or even know that they exist. Plinth is gradually filling this data vacuum, helping to identify and reach people like Jamie.

A free case management platform for the voluntary sector, Plinth records attendances that may otherwise remain stored on Google Docs, spreadsheets, get lost on loose pieces of paper, or just not get recorded at all. Local authorities can gain aggregated anonymised insights into the outreach of local community organisations and match this data with a public dataset (like people in Council Tax arrears). By matching these datasets, the council can identify those that are not receiving welfare support but are being helped by the voluntary sector. Plinth has embedded Policy in Practice’s Better Off Calculator which then identifies what benefits an individual is eligible for; this list can then be used by the voluntary sector to reach out to those vulnerable people that they have strong relationships with, helping them get back on track.

After two weeks of going to the pantry twice a week, one of the volunteers took Jamie aside for a quick chat. They had received a list of people that are recorded on the community hub’s Plinth platform, but not on any council support datasets. Jamie put his information into the Better Off Calculator and saw that he was eligible for £532.21 of Universal Credit. Together, they put forward his application, and Jamie is no longer having to choose between a warm meal and turning his bedroom light on.

Government support exists – but there is work to be done in joining things up so that people can get the support they need. Side-by-side with the voluntary sector, that is what Plinth is here to do.

This article is featured in our 24 January newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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The Universalism Multiplier

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By Georgina Burt, Senior Education Policy Officer at Child Poverty Action Group, and Matija Tomanovic, National Campaigns Manager at the National Education Union

Schools are complex ecosystems, and the relationships and experiences children and parents have at school can define their experience of education. The vast body of evidence on the benefits of universal free school meals has so far looked at the impact they have on attainment, health outcomes and attendance. However, to fully understand the effects, we must also understand how they impact on wider aspects of school life and the ripple effects they can have on the relationships and practices that occur in schools.

A recent report from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the National Education Union (NEU) has identified new and previously unexplored benefits of universal free school meals, for children, parents and schools themselves. The findings are based on interviews and survey data that aim to understand the experiences of universal free school meal programmes by those who receive and administer them.

The report explores what difference universal free school meals makes to day-to-day life at school for pupils and parents and the impact that it has on the running of schools for school staff, alongside saving families money.

To complement and contribute new insights to the existing body of research we explored the day-to-day realities of a means-tested school food system. We looked practically at what happens to school life when means-testing is removed and a universal approach to school food is introduced and embedded. We gathered the views of school staff and parents in six primary schools in two London boroughs where there is long-standing universal free school meal provision. This initial exploration detailed in the report found that where universal meals are available for pupils, families and schools, there are a wide range of benefits.

The report found that universal free school meals can:

  1. Provide greater financial and psychological security for families. Families have less worry and more money to spend on food and household essentials. They were also able to invest in other areas of family life, such as paying for their children to join sports clubs and purchasing devices for homework.
  2. Improve nutrition and school engagement. School staff told us they felt more confident that children were ready to learn, and that they noticed greater engagement in lessons.
  3. Reduce stigma and social exclusion. Means-testing lunchtime drives divisions between children and acts as a barrier to families taking up free school meals. Children are also often aware of who is struggling to pay for lunches and facing dinner money debt issues. Universal provision helps to address these inequalities and stops children being singled out.
  4. Improve home/school relationships. School staff spend time they previously devoted to following up on school lunch debt to communicating with parents about enrichment activities and trips.
  5. Change children’s eating habits. The communal experience of eating with their peers meant children were more adventurous in their dietary preferences.

Taken together, the report concludes that these effects can be seen as a having a multiplier effect on the investment made. This analysis suggests that universal free school meals can enrich the education and lives of children, offer families more capacity and resource to spend quality time with their children, and strengthen the relationship between families and schools. For parents, children and schools it’s win-win.

This report demonstrates what difference free school meals make to families, pupils and schools when universal lunches are embedded into life at school, and all pupils are offered the same experience at lunchtime. It serves as a call-to-action that free school meals should be for all and that the removal of dining room divisions brings a wide range of benefits to the whole school community.

Since the report launch, the Mayor of London has announced that all primary pupils in London will receive free school lunches throughout the next academic year (2024/25). This is a welcome step, however too many children are still missing out elsewhere and the government needs to take action to ensure that all school-aged children in England get a lunch at school, starting with those in primary schools.

Find out more about the NEU’s ongoing campaign at: Free School Meals for All.

Find out more about CPAG’s research and campaigning work on school costs at: Cost of the School Day.

The full report is available here: The Universalism Multiplier.

This article is featured in our 24 January newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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Britain is resembling the two nations of the Victorian era once again

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By Josh Nicholson, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Social Justice

There are those that are getting by, and there are those who are not. Britain is deeply divided – in every metric that the Social Justice Commission used, we found deep gaps between the general public and the most disadvantaged.

For the most disadvantaged, work is barely worth it; their lives are marked by generations of family breakdown, their communities are torn apart by addiction and crime, they live in poor quality, expensive and insecure housing and they are sick, both mentally and physically.

These are some of the findings of the Centre for Social Justice’s (CSJ) landmark Two Nations: The State of Poverty in the UK report, published in December 2023. This report was led by the Social Justice Commission, made up of politicians from all parties, including Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, business and charity leaders and big names from the media.

‘Two Nations’ is the Commission’s interim report, which diagnoses the root causes of Britain’s deep malaise and social breakdown. A final report of solutions will be published in the Spring of 2024.

The Commission travelled the length and breadth of the country to speak to charities and lived experience panels. We held six Big Listen events across the UK, where we convened roundtables of charity leaders to hear what the biggest issues and best solutions were, including one in Manchester for the North West. We also polled over 6,000 adults, 3,000 from the general public and a special 3,000 boost of the most financially deprived.

What the Commission found was a tale of two nations.

40% of the most deprived self-diagnose as having a mental health problem, compared to 13% of the general public. We forecast that over 1 in 4 children (27.8 per cent) aged 5-15 will have a probable mental disorder by 2030. This is nearly twice as high as what would have been forecast if the COVID-19 pandemic had never happened. The general public are 60% more likely to say they will progress at work in the next year than the most deprived. Nearly 3 in 4 of the most deprived worry about the cost, security, and quality of their housing.

While many of these issues are decades in the making, the tumultuous lockdown years were blamed by many for pouring petrol on the flames of social breakdown. Here’s what a few charities in the North West of England told the Commission at our Big Listen event.

Oasis Centre, Big Listen North West:

“Lockdown caused so many people to relapse into debt, gangs, addiction. People were making choices that didn’t help them, but they were thinking ‘oh whatever’.”

Barnabus, Big Listen North West:

“Pre-pandemic we saw people with different levels of need accessing support – now they all have high needs.”

Big Listen North West Attendee:

“Children were educated at home via Zoom for a couple of years. So, their social interaction, their social norms have been affected. We are seeing a big rise in teenagers who are unable to have a healthy, respectful relationship.”

Demand for charity services skyrocketed in lockdown and has not come down since. Successive lockdowns devastated Britain’s most deprived communities and so far, no one has offered a plan to match the scale of the problem.

In this election year, it is critical that both Labour and the Conservatives are offering solutions to heal the gaping wounds that are decades in the making, as well as the recent social and economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges facing the most disadvantaged were not taken into account when demands where made to lock down during the pandemic. If post-COVID, there is no effort to tackle the root causes of poverty in a comprehensive manner, Britain, as a whole, will always be poorer.

This article is featured in our 24 January newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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Child poverty and caregiver mental health issues negatively impact future generations in UK

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By Dr Nicholas Kofi Adjei, Research Associate at the Department of Public Health, Policy and Systems, University of Liverpool

Child poverty is rising in the UK. There are also concerns about the deterioration in adult mental health. Presently, one in six children and young people in the UK grapple with mental health issues, while one in three children face poverty.

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rising levels of poverty and mental health problems posed a critical challenge for the UK. Recognising the intrinsic link between household poverty and parental mental health and later outcomes, it is crucial to explore the extent of their impact on young people’s health and identify effective strategies to tackle these problems.

Understanding the link: trajectories of child poverty and parental mental health on young people’s mental health

Commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) our investigation sought to understand the impact of childhood adversity, including poverty, on young people’s mental health. In another study funded by the Health Foundation we assessed the role of societal and family-level protective factors in promoting resilience. Our recent findings, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health used longitudinal data from the UK millennium cohort study, tracking 10,500 children from 9 months to 14 years to unpick these issues.

The Impact and Economic Costs

We identified five distinct trajectories of poverty and parental mental health: low poverty and good parental mental health (46·8%), persistent poor primary caregiver’s mental health (11·3%), persistent poor secondary caregiver’s mental health (9·2%), persistent poverty (21·8%) and persistent poverty and poor parental mental health (10·9%). We further assessed their associations with mental health outcomes at the age of 17.

We found that children who experienced poverty and poor primary or secondary caregiver mental health (53%) had worse outcomes compared to those in low poverty and good parental mental health. Those exposed to persistent poverty and poor caregiver mental health faced significantly increased risks of socioemotional behavioural problems, mental health problems, and cognitive disability. Approximately 40% of socioemotional behavioural problems at age 17 were attributable to persistent parental caregivers’ mental health problems and poverty. Notably, poverty accounted for a substantial portion of the burden of adverse adolescent developmental outcomes.

We estimate that tackling these issues could potentially lead to lifetime improvements in earnings across adolescents, equivalent to around £6.5bn.

Interventions for Positive Change

Efforts to reduce child poverty and parental mental health problems could result in a substantial reduction in poor health across the UK population’s life course, provided the right policies and interventions are put in place. Immediate policy considerations should include retaining the Universal Credit uplift, reversing changes to the welfare system contributing to rising child poverty, reinvesting in support services and preventive services like children’s centres, and enhancing access to mental health services for families.

Our latest study, commissioned by the Health Foundation, also showed that policies and practices focusing on building strong and supportive families have the potential to improve outcomes for young people, including mental health. Addressing the interconnected challenges of household poverty and mental health issues is not only a moral imperative but also an investment in a healthier and more prosperous future for the UK.

This article is featured in our 13 December newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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Government fails to take action for people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage

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By Laura Burgess, Senior Policy & Research Advisor at Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA)

Ahead of party conference season in September, GMPA wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister asking for the government to enact the socio-economic duty.

We were delighted that over 100 individuals and organisations from within our Greater Manchester network co-signed the letter, sending a clear message to the government that eradicating poverty is a priority for our city region.

The socio-economic duty is contained within Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 but has not been enacted into law by successive governments since then. If enacted, the duty would legally require public bodies to consider the way their decisions increase or decrease inequalities that arise from socio-economic disadvantage.  

At GMPA we believe the socio-economic duty is an important tool for driving down poverty and minimising the inequality of outcome associated with it. If brought into law, the socio-economic duty would provide a strong foundation for a fairer and more equal society. England is trailing other nations across the UK when it comes to recognising socio-economic disadvantage in equality law; Scotland introduced the Fairer Scotland Duty in 2018 and Wales followed in 2021 by enshrining the socio-economic duty within its More Equal Wales agenda.  

It is disappointing, then, that the government’s response to our open letter was unequivocal in its dismissal of any potential progress on the socio-economic duty, with Stuart Andrew MP, Minister for Equalities, telling us:

There are no current plans to commence the socio-economic duty in England.

The government have repeatedly missed opportunities to prioritise the needs of people experiencing poverty and this position further illustrates the need for robust anti-poverty efforts at all levels of government, starting from the top.  

While the socio-economic duty isn’t enshrined in law, councils and other public bodies can voluntarily adopt the duty, and research by GMPA shows that around one in seven councils in England have done so. GMPA have also produced publications on how organisations can adopt the duty and case studies demonstrating the benefits of adoption, which are useful resources for anyone considering adoption of the duty and how to implement it effectively.  

There are pockets of progress across Greater Manchester. Bolton, Rochdale, Salford, Tameside councils, as well as Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), have adopted the duty. However, there is more that can be done from within our city region on prioritising socio-economic disadvantage. Greater Manchester Combined Authority has an opportunity to send a clear message of leadership and standard bearing on tackling the scourge of poverty by adopting the duty but, to date, has chosen not to. And although many of our councils have made progress on specific anti-poverty work, more of them need to adopt the socio-economic duty as a means of building on this and ensuring the needs of low-income residents are prioritised. 

GMPA continues to campaign for socio-economic duty enactment by central government as well as encouraging voluntary take-up among the public sector. We are a member of the 1forEquality campaign group, a coalition of organisations united under the aim of commencing the duty in England.  

The future of the duty remains unclear. We are around a year away from a general election and although the Conservative Party have not committed to movement on the socio-economic duty, the Labour Party did state that it would enact the duty if the party were voted into government after the next election. GMPA, along with the wider 1forEquality campaign are working to seek assurances that this would be a meaningful adoption that affects real change.  

GMPA offers consultancy work for organisations who are interested in voluntarily adopting the socio-economic duty, which would be useful for public sector bodies wishing to “get ahead” of any change in statute following a general election, but also because prioritising people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage is simply the right thing for organisations to do.  

For more information about our work on the duty, please get in touch with Laura.

This article is featured in our 13 December newsletter. To get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

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