Powerlines: New Stories From The Urban Edge at the Manchester Literature Festival.

This years Manchester Literature Festival, features an event on the 20th of October 2016 which will be of interest to all GMWRAG members, If you can’t go, maybe send details to your local DWP, local councillors or your MP!.

The project began following a discussion with ex Manchester Advice worker, David Gaffney, about the lack of real, genuine voices around the subject of welfare ‘reform’ and benefits in general. In particular annoyance (to put it mildly) about the DWP inventing stories to justify sanctions.

The idea was discussed of using the Manchester Literature Festival, to create a platform  for the ‘real’ stories (from those on the sharp end of the benefit system) to get a hearing. A bit unusual for a literature festival but worth giving it a go. The festival were keen and so Church Action on Poverty were approached to become a partner (based on their previous work in this area and direct experience of working with them around financial inclusion). A successful bid was made to the Arts Council for funding, participants recruited, workshops ran and now material gathered. Other partners include The University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing and Salford City Councils Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service.

The evening will be a mixture of pieces (poetry, prose, visual, audio), the vast majority of which will come directly from the participants themselves.

Five artists have worked with people in Salford to explore the lives unfolding far beyond the aspirational city of artisan coffee shops and slick new builds.

Join poet Jo Bell, graphic novelist Darryl Cunningham, sound artist Gary Fisher, short story writer David Gaffney and novelist Stephen May as they place these stories centre stage.

These stories will make you cry, laugh and shout with rage at inequalities perpetuated by a social security system that is no longer social or secure.

Steve Quinn from Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service was asked by David to write a short piece in the first person, from an advisers perspective, which we may use in the run up to the festival. It may or may not chime with your experience, but hopefully it contains something that you can recognise. Powerlines will shed light on some of the too-little considered realities of life in the Northern Powerhouse.

You can find out details and even hear a sound trailer here.

Please download and circulate the flyer for the event.

Tickets are free but the performance space has a 100 person capacity. We expect more people to take tickets than attend and so if people can’t get tickets online we would still encourage them to attend.

Tickets can be obtained here.

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DWP Benefit Conditionality and Sanctions in Salford – One Year On.

In 2014 a Task Force comprised of Salfords Financial Inclusion Practitioners Group in Salford was invited by the Chair of the Skills and Work Board to produce a report into the impact of DWP conditionality and benefit sanctions in Salford. An interim report was produced in August 2014; endorsed by the Skills and Work Board and publicly launched in October 2014.

The conclusions of that report will surprise no-one. The threat and use of sanctions help no-one to move into work but do cause damage to the wellbeing of vulnerable claimants and can lead to hunger, debt and destitution. Furthermore, public and voluntary sector organisations were increasingly having to step in to support claimants in crisis due to sanctions but also benefit delays. This added to the strain on resources when faced with local government budget cuts.

It was recognised that the impacts of welfare reform were only just emerging so it was agreed an additional report would be produced after a period of at least 12 months had elapsed and particularly following the introduction of Universal Credit. That report can now be viewed here. Again, the conclusions should surprise no-one.

It was launched in Salford on Monday the 23rd of May 2016 at an event which included keynote speakers

JobcentrePlus were also in attendance.

We thought GMWRAG members would have an interest in all aspects of this subject.