by Graham Whitham
As part of Oxfam’s Inequality Hearings project, GMPA recently worked with Oxfam to bring together Greater Manchester’s citizens, service providers and decision makers to discuss economic inequality in the region and the impact it has on people’s lives.
Inequality Hearings are a new project by Oxfam being delivered in 10 locations around the UK to engage its citizens in conversation and influence decision makers, encouraging them to take action to reduce economic inequality.
Oxfam is campaigning to tackle economic inequality because apart from it being fundamentally unfair, it undermines their fight against poverty. The drive for growth and profit means millions of people around the world are being left behind despite the vast amount of wealth, resources and opportunities that exist. At GMPA we were keen to understand what economic inequality means to people in our network, people experiencing poverty and how it relates to efforts to tackle poverty. At a well-attended Inequality Hearing in central Manchester in June, people came together to discuss the issues and challenges and chose to focus particularly on employment opportunities. The Hearing built on two ‘prep sessions’ we held in Oldham and Wigan in May. Attendees from those sessions were joined at the Hearing by other stakeholders and citizens, including influential local leaders and decision makers.
We heard from attendees about their personal experiences struggling to make ends meet, as well as their thoughts and opinions about what needs to change in order to really make a difference. One of the common themes that emerged was that economic inequality often hits women harder than men, as they try to balance caring responsibilities and paid employment. High childcare costs mean that families are struggling to afford a basic standard of living. Among the delegates, married mum of two, Emma, talked about having to pay £50 per day for her childcare. Emma works part time and looks after her children, but the family doesn’t have much money. She told us “By the time childcare and travel costs are paid, it hardly seems worth it. I stay in work for the future not because it is financially beneficial. I know when both my children are older, it will help that I have continued to work. Its just a struggle trying to make ends meet now.”
The feedback from the hearing was extremely positive, with people appreciating the space for conversation and expressing an urgent need for change. Some of the ideas to reduce inequality that emerged were the need to revaluate what we see as valuable in society, for citizens to have a stronger voice in decision making processes and for greater opportunities for people to retrain and enhance their skills. The outcomes have been shared with Greater Manchester’s MPs.
You can keep in touch with Oxfam’s campaign to tackle global economic inequality by following them at @oxfamcampaigns
If you would like more information about the Inequality Hearings Project, please contact Kelly Mundy
You can also watch a short Oxfam video here