Manchester Poverty Truth Commission

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You are cordially invited to the  Launch of Manchester Poverty Truth Commission
at the Comedy Store, 3 and 4, Arches, Deansgate Locks, Whitworth Street West, Manchester M1 5LH on Thursday, June 27, 2019 from 11.00am to 1.45pm

Poverty is no laughing matter

‘Nothing About Us Without Us is For Us.’

Sponsored by Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader, Manchester City Council and Dr Ruth Bromley, Chair, Manchester Health and Care Commissioning

The Poverty Truth Commission is a unique process is based on the conviction that we cannot hope to understand, let alone address, the causes and symptoms of poverty unless we involve the experts. In this context, the experts are those who have a direct experience of poverty; living with the reality day in and day out.

The approach is founded on the belief real progress towards overcoming poverty will be made when those who experience poverty are central to the development, delivery and evaluation of solutions. Unlike many other Commission processes, a key to its success is recruiting both commissioners with direct experience of poverty and commissioners in positions of influence locally and enabling them to have the opportunity to enter into real dialogue on the issues which come up.

The launch will include hearing from some of the 15 ‘grassroots’ members of the Commission, and an introduction to the 15 civic and business leaders who will join them as members of the Commission for the next 15 months.

Come prepared to hear some challenging and inspiring truths about poverty in Manchester.

To find out more about the Poverty Truth Commission ethos and approach, watch a short video produced by Leeds Poverty Truth Commission on the booking page.

Book here

The Manchester Poverty Truth Commission is hosted by Church Action on Poverty, sponsored by Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council and Dr Ruth Bromley, Chair of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, and funded by Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Seedbed, Cheetham Hill Advice Centre and others.  However, the Commission itself it is being run independently and delivered by a team of freelance facilitators.

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GM Food Poverty Alliance Survey

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Survey to help shape future work of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance

We are working to bring in funding to employ a new coordinator for the GM Food Poverty Alliance, who will drive forward implementation of the Food Poverty Action Plan (launched on March 4th, 2019).

Before they begin, we are planning how best to coordinate the Alliance over the next 3 years. We therefore want to understand the impact so far, and to know how the Alliance can support members in achieving our shared ambition of reducing and preventing food poverty.

If you have been involved in the Food Poverty Alliance so far, we would like to know:

  • Your priorities for the Alliance and the Action Plan
  • What you/your organisation will be able to contribute to the Alliance
  • What help and support you would like from the Alliance.

Please could you complete this short on-line survey  – it should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes.  Your answers will be extremely helpful in making sure that together we do all we can to turn the Action Plan into Action.

The survey will be open until May 30th, 2019. Survey responses will be used to inform the work of the Alliance and will be kept confidential.  We may publish a summary of the survey results, but no individual or organisation will be identifiable (unless you provide a quote in the final question, in which case this may appear in reports). Wherever applicable, please answer the survey on behalf of your organisation, rather than as an individual.


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GMLWC New Campaign Coordinator

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Recruiting a new Campaign Coordinator

Our Campaign Coordinator Vicky Egerton, who was working for the campaign part-time, has started a full-time job so has had to step back from the Living Wage Campaign role. We want to thank Vicky for her work on the campaign, particularly last year’s Living Wage Week when she secured an important meeting with the Co-operative Group, and the development of a strategy for engaging local authorities.

We are therefore recruiting a new part-time coordinator. Please share this vacancy with anyone who you think might be interested.

This is a crucial time for the campaign. GMPA’s work in other areas, such as on food poverty, is opening new doors to talk about a raft of anti-poverty measures with major local employers, including the Real Living Wage, so the new role will be more integrated into our wider anti-poverty work than ever before. There is scope to build up the campaign group and empower activists to go out and advocate for the Real Living Wage in their own places and organisations. We also want to start planning events and actions for an inspiring and impactful Living Wage Week.

The role is 2 days/week for the next six months, with a possible extension, or even development into a full-time role if the project is broadened out to focus on a wider range of good employment issues, and we want the Coordinator to work with us to explore those possibilities.

The deadline for applications is 10am on Friday May 24th, 2019, and interviews will take place on Monday June 3rd and the morning of Tuesday June 4th.

Please read the job description, download the application form, consider applying, and share this exciting opportunity through your networks.


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Understanding Food Poverty

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Understanding Food Poverty and the Transitional Behaviour of Vulnerable Individuals

On Thursday April 25th, 2019 from 3.30 – 7pm at Media City UK, University of Salford M50 2HE

As almost a fifth of the UK population live in poverty and emergency food access is increasing year-on-year, our event reports on the temporal experience of austerity and food access exclusion in the Greater Manchester and city of Birmingham regions with the purpose of helping vulnerable individuals to navigate their way out of food poverty.

This event is hosted by SHUSU at the University of Salford, together with Huddersfield Business School and Birmingham Business School. Sponsored by British Academy/Leverhulme, it aims to bring together stakeholders across business, government, charities, academia and society to discuss key questions around food poverty and poverty in general.

In addition to disseminating their key findings and policy summaries from local government, the event features an open Q&A panel with leading thinkers from Greater Manchester Poverty Action, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Birmingham Food Council and Salford City Council.

GMPA Co-Director Tom Skinner, who will be speaking at the event, commented “The Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester is centred around the need to address the underling causes of food poverty at the personal as well as societal level. This event is important as it will discuss and develop the evidence base for helping people to navigate their way out of food poverty.”

Conference Chairs: Prof. Morven McEachern; Dr Caroline Moraes; Prof. Lisa Scullion; and Dr Andrea Gibbons.

Refreshments are provided on arrival and midway through the event.

The event is free to attend but pre-registration is compulsory via Eventbrite.


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From Poverty to Prosperity for all

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A one day Conference on April 2nd, 2019

This is a joint event organised by the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit at the University of Manchester and GMPA.

Greater Manchester can tell an impressive ‘growth story’, but poverty continues to exist across the city-region and on a large-scale. More than 600,000 people are living on low incomes, with child poverty rates of over 40% in parts of the city-region. Meanwhile a growing share of people are in in-work poverty and welfare reforms and a freeze on working-age benefits have taken £100s if not £1,000s out of the pockets of the poorest families.

How can local areas respond to these challenges? This conference will examine whether it is possible to do more to tackle poverty at local- and city-region level, with a particular focus on Greater Manchester.

Nationally, the Government has scrapped targets to reduce child poverty and the requirement for local authorities to develop child poverty strategies. In the context of city-region devolution, and a growing emphasis on cities as the engines of economic growth, is a commitment to a more inclusive approach to economic development, part of the answer? What new examples and ideas can we draw on to shape action at a local level: to design and promote better jobs; tackle living costs; and help people to gain additional skills and build routes out of poverty?

Confirmed speakers and panel guests include:


Katie Schmuecker, Head of Policy and Partnerships, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Uzma Kahn, Deputy Director, Economic Strategy, Scottish Government

Rita Evans, Leading GM Programme Director

Mike Wild, Chief Executive, Manchester Community Central


Supporting parental employment, an “infrastructure” approach with Eve Holt, Co-founder, Happen Together CIC (chair), Imandeep Kaur, Birmingham Impact HUB

Tackling living costs for low income residents: Emma Stone, The Good Things Foundation (chair), Andy Davis, Salary Finance, and Paul Colligan, End Furniture Poverty

An anti-poverty approach to adult skills: speakers to be announced

Equitable business models as a means of tackling poverty: speakers to be announced

This timely conference will bring together people with expertise in economic development, skills, public service reform, procurement, social housing, welfare and debt advice services, crisis and family support services as well as those with experience of poverty to share ideas and learn from practical initiatives that have been trialled elsewhere. The day will end with a panel discussion to identify the next steps we can take to tackle poverty in Greater Manchester.

The conference is being held at the Mechanics Institute in the centre of Manchester. Booking has now closed.  The programme for the day is available here.

This conference builds on the local poverty strategies event GMPA held at Kellogg’s in October 2018.

University of Manchester, GMPA and JRF logos for GM Poverty Action

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Feeding the city

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Feeding the City: Greater Manchester

Saturday January 19th, 2019

The Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester will propose many actions for businesses seeking to benefit and improve access to good food in their local communities,so it is great timing to be able to share this opportunity.

Impact Hub are putting on a free workshop to help you develop ideas for sustainable food businesses to benefit your local community. Funding, training and advice will be available for new businesses through the Feeding the City program, and this workshop will help you to develop your ideas, ready to apply for this funding – please note that the deadline for funding applications following the workshop is Sunday January 27th, 2019.

When: 1:30pm – 5pm, Saturday January 19th 2019

 Bridge 5 Mill, 22A Beswick Street, Manchester, M4 7HR

How to book: Places are limited, so please book for free using this link

Our city region is growing and we’re struggling to feed ourselves sustainably. We want to support you to make change! What food problems would you like to solve for your community?

Do you play with the idea of starting a social business, or already have an idea in mind?

Feeding the City is a fully funded 12 month programme that will support sustainable food start-ups across all of the UK. Successful applicants will receive bursaries, and have access to business and food expert advice and training throughout 2019. At this Idea-Generating Workshop you will be supported to develop an idea for your own social business, get to know others working in similar areas and have a chance to learn more about Feeding the City. Using concrete tools, you will be helped to think through important elements of your idea in a structured way and to identify blind spots. Furthermore, you will receive valuable feedback and also learn which criteria are important in the funding application. Even those who have no concrete or only a vague idea are welcome.

Please note, any queries about the Feeding the City program should be directed to Impact Hub, while you can find out more about the Greater Manchester workshop through the booking form.


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Filling the vacuum

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The need for local child poverty strategies

On Friday October 26th, 2018 from 1.30pm – 3.30pm at Kelloggs, Orange Tower, Media City UK, Salford M50 2HF

There is currently a sizeable policy vacuum in respect of tackling family poverty in the UK. The UK government no longer has a child poverty strategy in place. The 2020 child poverty targets and the requirement on councils to have local poverty strategies were both scrapped by the Coalition Government.

With child poverty currently increasing and expected to reach 5.2 million by 2022, urgent action is needed locally to mitigate the impact of central government policy.  Local authorities and their partners in different parts of the country have begun filling this vacuum through the implementation of child or family poverty strategies and initiatives such as poverty truth commissions.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government has introduced its own child poverty reduction targets and is asking local authorities to create Child Poverty Action Plans.

At this event we will discuss how we can ensure Greater Manchester is at the forefront of tackling family poverty.  We will also explore how we can work together across public, private and VCSE sectors to ensure that all parts of the city region have comprehensive poverty strategies in place.

Graham Whitham, Greater Manchester Poverty Action;
Louisa McGeehan, Child Poverty Action Group;
Angela Harrington, Manchester City Council;
Lisa Nandy, Member of Parliament for Wigan (pictured above);
Andrew Lightfoot, Greater Manchester Combined Authority;
John McKendrick, The Scottish Poverty and Inequality Unit

Places are limited so please book


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Hidden young people in Salford – a new research project

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Since the mid-2000s, increasing numbers of young people have been struggling to make a successful transition from full-time education into work or further training opportunities. Whilst in recent years the numbers of young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) has been decreasing following a peak in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the number of young people impacted remains a major concern.

But whilst there is a growing body of research focusing on NEETs, there is increasing concern about so-called ‘Hidden NEETs’ – those young people who are neither in employment, education or training nor in contact with mainstream welfare services. Suggested possible reasons for being ‘hidden’ include the stigma associated with benefit receipt, experience of benefit ‘sanctions’, being able to rely on financial support from family, engagement in crime and participating in the informal economy.  However the evidence base on this is incredibly weak.

To address this evidence gap, the University of Salford, as part of the Salford Anti-Poverty Taskforce, has been commissioned by Salford City Council to explore this issue.

We are currently trying to find young people (aged 18 – 24) who are living in Salford, not in employment, education or training (NEET), and not claiming the benefits they are entitled to. They will be invited to take part in a short, confidential interview about their experiences and all will receive a £10 shopping voucher as a thank you for their time.  If you or your organisation are aware of any such individuals, or might be able to help us to find them, please contact Katy Jones by email or call 0161 295 7030.

Hidden young people in Salford for GM Poverty Action

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Universal Credit

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Universal Credit: Comment and information

Roll-out dates for Universal Credit in 2018 in Greater Manchester:
March 2018: Ashton under Lyne and Hyde
April 2018: Ashton in Makerfield, Leigh and Wigan
May 2018: Middleton and Rochdale
July 2018: Bury, Cheetham Hill, Prestwich and Wythenshawe
September 2018:  Eccles, Irlam, Salford and Worsley
November 2018:  Bolton and Stockport

There are 3 different Benefit calculators available: Turn2us, entitledto and Policy in Practice. The last one includes an earnings slider, which shows how Universal Credit will be affected if earnings change.

Back to Basics: What is Universal Credit and what are the problems?  A quick guide by the Guardian
Universal Credit  (UC) is the supposed flagship reform of the benefits system, rolling together six benefits into one online-only system (including unemployment benefit, tax credits and housing benefit) . The theoretical aim, for which there was general support, was to simplify the benefits system and increase the incentives for people to work, rather than stay on benefits.

How long has it been around?  The project was legislated for in 2011. The plan was to roll it out by 2017. However, a series of management failures, expensive IT blunders and design faults have seen it fall at least five years behind schedule.

What is the biggest problem?  The original design set out  a minimum 42-day wait for a first payment to claimants when they moved to UC. In the autumn 2017 budget the wait was reduced to 35 days from February 2018. The wait has led to rent arrears (and in some cases to eviction), hunger (food banks in UC areas report almost 17% increases in referrals), use of expensive credit and mental distress.   Ministers have expanded the availability of hardship loans (now repayable over a year and resulting in reduced UC payments) to help new claimants while they wait for payment. Housing benefit will now continue for an extra two weeks after the start of a UC claim. Critics want the waiting time reduced to two or three weeks.

Are there other problems? Yes.  Multibillion-pound cuts to work allowances imposed by the former chancellor mean UC is far less generous than originally envisaged. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, about 2.5m low-income working households will be more than £1,000 a year worse off when they move on to UC, reducing work incentives. Landlords are worried that the level of rent arrears racked up by tenants on UC and the whole system is not very user-friendly: claimants complain the system is complex, unreliable and difficult to manage, particularly if you have no internet access.

Child Poverty Action Group Univresal Credit Publication for GM Poverty ActionThe Child Poverty Action Group produce a “Universal Credit: what you need to know” guide  for both advisers who need to know how and when universal credit will affect their clients, and for those currently claiming benefits themselves. It is filled with clear advice and lots of useful examples.  The current guide is the 4th edition, is 159 pages and costs £15  ISBN: 978 1 910715 33 8

Universal Credit: Can we fix it? Should we fix it? Excerpt from an article by Professor Jane Millar, University of Bath

“The Work and Pensions Select Committee in a new phase of their enquiry into the rollout of Universal Credit, identifies a list of ‘priorities’: self-employment; free school meals and passported benefits; work incentives, including both the work allowance and the taper rate; the locally delivered Universal Support system; and support for childcare costs in Universal Credit. The list does not tackle some of the most challenging changes such as the monthly assessment and the impact of a single monthly payment. Nevertheless, these are some major areas at the heart of Universal Credit, not just issues at the margins.

This follows hot on the heels of the Resolution Foundation’s ‘remedy’ report, which sets out 16 recommendations under four main headings: implementation; generosity of support; financial incentives to enter work; and financial incentives to progress. And this is not the end; there are many other people and organisations with ideas about how to fix Universal Credit.  Gingerbread, for example, identifies seven areas particularly related to the needs and circumstances of lone parents.

There is, of course, quite a lot of overlap in the proposals. But still, that’s a lot of fixing. One might be forgiven for thinking that something that needs quite so much fixing is, perhaps, not really fit for purpose in the first place.

Should we fix it? The government says yes because Universal Credit will ensure that work always pays and will achieve three important goals: it will make people out of work search harder for jobs; it will increase the number of people in employment; and it will improve employment retention and progression.

But there is very little solid evidence so far to judge these claims.

And what of in-work progression? In many ways, this is the top prize. If Universal Credit can help low-paid workers improve their wages, and their jobs more generally, this would be an important outcome that could really improve incomes and lives. But we should be cautious about whether this is likely to happen. The Social Security Advisory Committee recently published a report on in-work progression and Universal Credit. This points out that ‘there is very little evidence as to what can be done to advance earnings progression’ – and that the DWP Randomised Control Trial, which is the main source of evidence so far, ‘has mostly involved single childless people who have progressed from unemployment into low paid work’.

There is a big policy and research agenda here, and ensuring that all Universal Credit recipients receive the best possible advice and support will be a major challenge.” Full article

Universal Credit and Foodbanks – perspectives from the Trussell Trust

Last year The Trussell Trust provided 1.2 million three-day emergency food supplies.  Most people referred to their foodbanks were at the time supported by working age benefits. Yet the average income for households was just £319 in the month before they were referred. Most households had been unable to afford heating, toiletries or suitable shoes or clothes for the weather. 78% had skipped meals and gone without eating – sometimes for days at a time, often multiple times a year.

Our current system of benefits is letting many of the most vulnerable people in our country down. Last year, Trussell Trust foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout saw an 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64%.

It is not just the way Universal Credit has been designed that is leaving people in crisis. There are also serious issues in its implementation. Due to poor administration and IT issues, some people are waiting 11, 12 and even 13 weeks to receive their first Universal Credit payment.

So, what can be done? In the immediate term, work to amend Universal Credit’s design and tackle poor administration in the system is needed before it should be rolled out further without causing more hunger and destitution. The Trussell Trust also knows there are some areas where Universal Credit hasn’t led to huge increases in the number of people needing foodbanks and they want to find out why. But what the Trussell Trust must not become is a charity safety net that catches people because our benefits system is fundamentally flawed, not just for moral or ethical reasons, but because the evidence on Universal Credit leads them to believe that even with the enormous generosity of donors and the hard work of volunteers and staff, they and the other foodbanks across the country will simply not be able to catch everybody who falls.                     More information             Now is not a time for celebration

To find your nearest foodbank please check GMPA’s Emergency Food Providers map.

Universal Credit and Housing

In a recent article by the Residential Landlords Association, they stated that 38% of landlords saw their Universal Credit tenants fail to pay their rent and start to fall into arrears.

“Currently, if Universal Credit tenants leave a home where they owe rent there is no mechanism for the landlord to recover the money owed to them via the benefit system. They simply have to write it off.  This is not fair, and against a backdrop of draconian tax changes and the pressures of increased regulation and licensing, it is a risk fewer and fewer landlords are willing to take.  Only 13% of landlords we questioned were willing to let properties to tenants on Universal Credit as it stands.

On January 9th MPs met at Westminster Hall to debate the effect of Universal Credit on the private rented sector. This debate provides an important opportunity to get past the politics and show how all the parties, working with landlords and tenants can secure the benefit system we all want – one that is easy to understand, fair to all, supports the vulnerable and ensures the security of a home for all claimants.”                                                                                                                            Full article

Universal Credit deductions excerpt from an article by Kate Belgrave

“A Freedom of Information request revealed that between April 2016 and October 2017, 95,620 Universal Credit claimants had deductions made from their payments due to tax credit debt. The average monthly deduction in October was £50.85 – no small amount for people who are already on such low incomes and who often already have money deducted from their benefits for other debts such as rent arrears, council tax, court fines and more recently, advance Universal Credit loans which they are forced to take out to cover delays in initial payments.

People don’t know how much money they will receive from one month to the next. Trying to find someone who will help them resolve complex, cross-department benefits problems is soul-destroying. People who receive Universal Credit can’t afford financial uncertainty, or the stress that goes with using these systems.”                                                                   Full article

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“Is it OK to invest public money in building a multi-million-pound conference centre while the A&E down the road is crumbling?” written by Victoria Bettany from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES)

This question for me highlights the glaring errors in the mainstream economic model. For decades, it has been an accepted wisdom that investment in big shiny things will eventually trickle down to the masses. In some instances, investments of this type have brought new jobs to a failing economy. But time and again, this kind of investment fails to create good local economies where wealth is truly dispersed and broadly held, with local roots.

A flawed economic model operating alongside prolonged austerity has pushed much of the public sector into damage limitation mode, where innovation is considered a risk, too complex and costly to contemplate. This view is disastrous for public services and the economy at large.

Poverty, low wages and inequality are just a handful of myriad issues proliferated by the old economic model. Progressive economics promotes a system where the distribution of wealth extends to many more than the privileged few. Businesses, the social sector, the public sector, pension funds and more are the change agents required to embrace and further the movement from the old way to the new way, where prosperity, Living wages and equality are enjoyed by all.

If we want to create good local economies, we really need to think differently, and be bolder and more ambitious than ever.

In early July, an event took place at the Nishkam Centre in Birmingham, an audience of Policy makers, Think tanks and Enterprise networks gathered to hear how five cities have rejected the accepted wisdom of the old way and became part of a movement centred around progressive local economics.

Funded by the Friends Provident foundation, CLES and NEF have worked with Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and Leeds to develop and action innovative approaches to tackling the issues affecting real people that remain largely unchanged through the old economic model. This has not involved throwing up shiny new buildings or an obsessive focus on GDP. Instead they are spending their time embedding anchor institutions in the local economy to repatriate leaking wealth, engaging their community in creating a community economic plan with real outcomes, and shifting the narrative around the foundational economy specifically for sectors such as social care.

For CLES article for GM Poverty Action

A community taking charge of new housing in their area

As well as working intensively with these five cities, we also created an online handbook to help community groups and local
government to create good city economies across the rest of the UK. The handbook details all of the existing powers and tools
available for each of these actors to help them take the first step towards creating better housing, procuring and commissioning for good, offering and accessing finance that works for people and places, creating affordable renewable energy and a thriving local economy. Alongside every existing power or tool we have showcased a local example of where the use of that particular tool or power has been a force for positive change.

But this is just the beginning.

The five cities we worked with and this brand new handbook are part of a bigger movement, operating outside the auspices of the existing neoliberal economic model, with a drive to grow sustainable, liveable, and connected good local economies.

Find out more here:  Creating Good City Economies in the UK, Five Cities Five Good Local Economies and Building a Good Local Economy:  What do you want to do?


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