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
"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.