How do we tackle poverty in Greater Manchester? An article by Mary Robinson MP for Cheadle
There is no simple answer to tackling poverty. However I want to talk about aspects of tackling poverty which I have direct experience of from my work as a Member of Parliament: The role of jobcentres, homelessness and housing. The Government recognises that the best route out of poverty is work, and I am encouraged by consistently good employment figures which show that more people are in work, more jobs are being created, and that the majority are full time.
Encouragingly, when I recently visited Stockport Jobcentre staff told me that they are reaching vulnerable people who they wouldn’t have reached in the past, meaning that long-term issues relating to poverty can begin to be addressed. In addition to this, the Jobcentre is able to offer a wider service, with work coaches being able to help people with housing and other issues by working with Stockport Homes and the Council. Making sure that people are confident enough to seek help and advice is a massive step towards tackling poverty.
Turning to homelessness, it is concerning to hear of rises in rough sleeping in recent years, which is why I was proud to co-sponsor the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, and I am confident that it will play a big part in tackling homelessness in Greater Manchester as time goes on. Helping every homeless person, not just those in ‘priority’ need should mean that nobody is refused help if they seek it. In the budget last year the Government announced the first step in eliminating rough sleeping altogether by 2027. A £28 million investment by the Government in three ‘Housing First’ pilots, one of which I’m pleased to see has been launched in Manchester, will provide 270 homes and support rough sleepers with the most complex needs to turn their lives around.
However, tackling homelessness is as much about preventing it as it is about relieving it, and I am glad that the Act recognises this. It is wrong to leave people to fall into homelessness when we know they are already at risk, so people will now be offered help as soon as they are 56 days away from being homeless, rather than at the very brink.
Ultimately, any strategy designed to tackle homelessness and poverty is dependent on having a housing strategy to match, and as a member of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee I have helped to scrutinise this. Last year, the Prime Minister announced an extra £2 billion for social and affordable housing, and committed to building 300,000 homes a year. These are bold measures, and if done right, will ensure that more people have a home and a defence against poverty.
Poverty is inextricably linked to mental health, and housing is also important when it comes to protecting people who are even more vulnerable. Supported housing offers vital support to vulnerable people, and I was pleased that recently the Government announced that the local housing allowance cap will not be applied to socially rented homes, and that a new approach to funding for supported housing will end the ‘top up’ which local Councils currently have to pay. This will make supported housing more accessible and prevent more vulnerable people from falling into poverty.
Good jobs, good homes, and an accessible support system for when people fall on hard times are the best defences against poverty. While we have a way to go, it is important that we continue to address the underlying causes of poverty and tackle it for the long term.