The next UK White Paper on social security (welfare benefits) comes to Greater Manchester.

It was drawn to the attention of GMWRAG a few weeks back that the Commission on Social Security (welfare benefits), led by Experts by Experience was busy touring the UK but didn’t have an event in Greater Manchester. We are very pleased to draw to your attention that there will now be a GM event supported by the UK Social Policy Association.

This will take place on Tuesday the 23rd of July 2019 between 1pm-3pm and will be hosted by Greater Manchester Poverty Action and the University of Salford (venue: University of Salford, Media City). Regrettably, GMWRAG has been unable to locate an exact address for the venue but we think it’s this and there’s some more helpful stuff here too. GMWRAG accepts no responsibility for members found wandering round Salford Quays before or after said event.

So, what is it then?

What proposals should be made in the next UK White Paper on social security (welfare benefits)?

Background

The social security/welfare benefits system is failing, with foodbanks and homelessness just two of the most visible signs of this.

But there is little agreement, even within civil society, on ways forward.

The workshops

The workshops will stimulate thinking about the future of social security/welfare benefits, and provide the opportunity for discussion and collaboration among attendees.

In particular, the workshops will input to a project called the Commission on Social Security (welfare benefits), led by Experts by Experience which is issuing a Call for Solutions.

The Commission is highly innovative in that all the Commissioners are people with experience of claiming benefits. The Commission’s aim is to produce a White Paper style document setting out a better system and building consensus. The Call for Solutions will include questions such as the following.

  • What steps can be taken to make Universal Credit better or if you think it should be scrapped, what would replace it?
  • How can people who are sick or disabled be better supported and how should the system work out who should get sickness or disability benefits?
  • Should there be a minimum income level below which no one can fall and if so, how could this be done?
  • How should benefit rates be worked out and how much should each benefit be?

Workshop participants will also be welcome to identify solutions on the whole range of issues relevant to social security/welfare benefits. For example, sanctions, Child Benefit, Local Welfare Assistance Schemes, National Insurance contributory benefits, support for housing costs and council tax, individual/household assessments and payments, how increased spending on benefits can be financed, the balance between means-testing or being contributions-based and reflecting people’s particular needs or being universal? Etc.

Workshop format

The workshops will have a participatory format including small group work and consensus building activities.

They will be structured around the Call for Solutions being made by the Commission on Social Security led by Experts by Experience but will also identify other possible activity.

Who should attend?

Anyone interested in a better social security/welfare benefits system! Whether you are an individual Expert by Experience, part of a user-led or community group, from a third sector organisation, academia or anywhere else, you will be made very welcome.

Workshop organisers

Michael Orton and Kate Summers

Any queries please email Michael.Orton@warwick.ac.uk

Additional information

The Workshops are free but places are limited and registration is essential.

A small travel budget is available for people who would otherwise be unable to attend. Please contact the organisers for further information.

In 2016-17 the Social Policy Association supported a previous series of workshops on social security/welfare benefits which identified an agenda for future work. That agenda is summarised here and informs this latest initiative.

We’ll see you there (or wandering aimlessly thereabouts). You can reserve a place via Eventbrite.

Latest GM Poverty Action Newsletter now available.

The latest newsletter from Greater Manchester Poverty Action is now available for download from here.

In the newsletter there is an article from IPPR North’s Marcus Johns on the need for local government to act to reduce in-work poverty.  They share the latest on the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan – including pledges from the GM Housing Providers and a collection by Cracking Good Food. There’s brief information on a successful Salford food project and several events are listed. The newsletter is also available on the GMPA website.

If you would like to submit an article or event information for inclusion in the newsletter, GMPA would love to hear from you so please do get in touch.

The newsletter is circulated to key organisations across all sectors, to influential leaders and members of the public. Some subscribers then forward it to other networks hugely expanding its reach.  That’d be us then 🙂

GM Food Poverty Alliance launches Action Plan and issues latest newsletter.

Today is the launch of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance Action Plan. GMWRAG would have liked to have told you about the event itself well in advance but it was only brought to our attention on the 27th of February 2019 and unfortunately the opportunity to post did not arise until today.

We have at least now managed to get our act together and post up the new Greater Manchester Poverty Action newsletter, which you can download by clicking on the word “newsletter” (we’re quite good at this stuff).

Also in the newsletter is information about a forthcoming joint IGAU and GMPA Conference “From Poverty to Prosperity” in April 2019 and an update on their Poverty Strategies map. The newsletter is also available on their website.

GMWRAG was a little concerned to note that we’d not really clocked the work of the IGAU. We’ve added a link to their work to the many other links on our site.

The rapid demise of local authority welfare assistance schemes, Universal Credit and complex need plans.

GMPA have produced an excellent report – “local welfare assistance schemes: the urgent need for a new approach” – weirdly enough talking about the urgent need for a new approach to local welfare assistance. Information wasn’t obtained in the case of 19 local authorities but nevertheless key findings include

Key findings include:

  • 22 local authorities don’t operate local welfare assistance schemes. GMPA estimates that this means 7.75 million people are living in areas where crisis support isn’t available.
  • A further 29 schemes are under threat, with local authorities having cut the budget for their schemes by two-thirds over the last three years or operating schemes on budgets of less than £100,000 a year.
  • The number of awards made through Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans was over 1.3 million in 2010/11 and over 700k in 2012/13 (the final year of the national scheme). This compares to a little over 161k successful applications for support through local welfare assistance schemes in 2017/18. This represents a fall in support of 88% between 2010/11 and 2017/18.
  • In Greater Manchester, spending on crisis support in 2017/18 was £3.8 million. This is over £15 million lower than spending under Crisis Loan and Community Care Grant provision in 2010/11. The number of successful applications for support through local schemes in Greater Manchester was 10,077 in 2017/18 compared to 123,220 Community Care Grants and Crisis Loan awards made in 2010/11.

The context for this decimation needs to be that, where an area has Universal Credit full service, complex needs plans may be referencing local welfare assistance which no longer exists. We don’t need to add anything to that do we! Well, there’s this we suppose.

The first episode of GMPAs “Beyond Poverty” report has been issued.

Greater Manchester Poverty Action are committed to strengthening the voices of people in poverty. People who have lived experience of poverty are sometimes referred to as experts by experience, rightly
recognising the potential that they have to bring about real change for themselves, for their communities, and for wider society. Sharing people’s stories is important for raising their voices and helping them to be heard, and for developing everyone’s understanding of poverty.

The reasons why poverty exists in Greater Manchester, and in the UK as a whole, are well understood;
high living costs, a housing market that is incapable of meeting everyone’s needs, a broken social security system that fails to provide a sufficient safety net, and an economy that relies too heavily on insecure and low paying work in order to function are all among the structural factors that result in people experiencing poverty and hardship.

However, the reasons why one person experiences poverty and one person doesn’t, and why some
people are at greater risk of poverty are complex and multifaceted. Policy and practice needs to be
designed in a way that responds to these complexities and challenges. To do so the voices of people with
lived experience of poverty must be heard, and furthermore they must be involved in re-designing policy
and practice.

We are therefore pleased to announce the launch of GMPA’s “Beyond Poverty” report, which will be
serialised in a newsletter and on their web site over the next few months. The report will share the stories of people from across Greater Manchester who are either currently experiencing poverty or who have experienced poverty in recent years, describing the experience, the causes and the effects of poverty. They don’t offer detailed commentary alongside the case studies, we want the voices of these experts by experience to speak for themselves. When all the articles have been published we will print them as a single report – please let them know by email if you would like a copy.

They start with David’s story that describes being out of work due to illness and disability,
and shows the importance of a supportive and effective welfare system for those unable to work.
They want to take the opportunity to thank everyone whose story you will read in the coming months,
who have showed great courage and understanding in coming forward and telling their stories, as well as
Peter Cruickshank for having conducted the interviews with such sensitivity and dedication.

Going beyond the Beyond Poverty report, sharing stories is important, but it is only the beginning.
Poverty can only be addressed when those who experience it first-hand are involved in the process of
identifying problems and working on solutions. We are therefore also inviting experts by experience to
co-chair each sub-group of the Food Poverty Alliance (launching on the 8th of May 2018 – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/greater-manchester-food-poverty-alliance-launch-tickets-44144968790). In so doing, we aim to co-produce a Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester with a deep understanding of the causes, effects and experience of food poverty.