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Manchester reports seek to become ‘irritant’ on poverty

18 January 2013

THE Greater Manchester Poverty Commission, chaired by the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, called this week for a series of measures to tackle rising levels of poverty.

The Commission, which was formed by MPs from different political parties in the area, published two parallel documents on Tuesday: a research report, and a text making recommendations.

The commissioners heard evidence from some of the 600,000 people in Greater Manchester who were "experiencing the effects of extreme poverty", and called for action "to prevent nearly 1.6 million people . . . sliding into deeper poverty", a statement accompanying the report said.

The Commission's recommendations include the "development of social enterprises in the banking, food, and energy sectors"; the adoption of the Living Wage by employers in Greater Manchester; and the provision by social enterprises and local authorities of "affordable broadband and IT equipment" to people in poverty.

Speaking on Tuesday, Bishop McCulloch said that the Commission had been careful "not to reduce this to some kind of major attack on the Government", whose austerity programme has been criticised by some charities.

"Everybody recognises that we are in difficult economic times. The truth is that the gap between the economic prosperity of Greater Manchester in last ten years, and those who have not benefited from that, has increased under both Governments from the Labour Party and the Conservative Party."

Bishop McCulloch said that the commissioners had found a significant increase in the use of food banks in the area, many of which were run by churches. "Some of the people who are needing to come and get help [from food banks] are not the sort of people who would have turned up a year ago."

The Commission was not saying that "we need to throw more money at this," but that there needed to be better co-ordination between local authorities, private businesses, and voluntary groups, he said.

"We are all conscious that any report can end up on the shelf. We recommended that there should be a continuing group that acts as a sort of irritant, constantly making a nuisance of themselves, to make sure these things happen."

Bishop McCulloch said that interviewing those in poverty had been "very humbling". The commissioners had witnessed "the human picture" of poverty. "We saw people in tears, not wanting to admit they are in poverty, and deeply depressed. When you are depressed, you are unable to make calculated decisions."

Most of the people whom the Commission met, he said, were "not looking for handouts, but looking for help to get on their feet and take control of their lives again".

The commissioners found that many of those living in poverty were "in part-time work, low-waged", and suffering from fuel poverty and food poverty, their statement said.


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