GM Poverty Monitor, Free School Meals, the £20 uplift and shifting public opinion
by Graham Whitham
Thank you to everyone who got in touch following the launch of the Greater Manchester Poverty Monitor 2020 last week. We’ve had some really positive feedback, and already been told by local VCSE organisations that they’ve been using the data in funding bids. That is the main aim of the Monitor – supporting local stakeholders to strengthen responses to poverty across the city region.
Thank you to everyone who supported us by promoting the Monitor on social media. GMPA’s tweets were liked or retweeted almost 300 times, and over the first two days after the launch the Poverty Monitor was mentioned by more than 50 other twitter accounts. There have been over 2,500 visits to the Poverty Monitor section of our website so far.
Although the Monitor is an unfunded project and we don’t have the resources to keep it updated on a rolling basis, we are happy to add data and would welcome your support in doing so. With that in mind, do contact us if you have any sources of data that you think would complement the statistics already featured.
On the same day that the Monitor was launched, there was a vote in Parliament on extending Free School Meal provision to cover the school holidays. Sadly, this didn’t pass. In response, we saw an incredible outpouring of support across Greater Manchester for families struggling to put food on the table. Local authorities across the city region stood up different types of support to help people during October half-term. GMPA collated details of this support and the information and links through to relevant council websites can be found here. With local authority budgets coming under pressure, and local authority officers responding to multiple demands, we know a lot of effort went into these responses.
Whilst the October half-term has now passed, the vouchers that have been made available by some councils can be backdated and applications will remain open into November.
Even more important than Free School Meal provision is the future of the £20 Universal Credit uplift introduced at the start of the pandemic. Latest reports suggest that the Chancellor is open to the idea of extending the uplift, saying it will depend where we are with the pandemic come the Spring. Regardless of where things are up to with COVID-19, the uplift should be made permanent. We know that the benefits system wasn’t generous enough prior to the pandemic and left many people in poverty. It isn’t just because of COVID-19 that many families find themselves struggling financially.
Alongside this, we need to see the £20 uplift extended to families in receipt of legacy benefits (i.e. those benefits that Universal Credit is replacing). You can support this campaign by writing to your MP. Please see details of how to do this from our friends at Z2K.
The Chancellor would likely find public support for this. The British Social Attitudes Survey 2020 (released last week) found an upsurge in support for more generous welfare benefits. Hopefully the absurd arguments made over the last ten years to support cutting social security support can be consigned to the past, and we can move towards an adequately funded welfare system that acts to drive down poverty.