Poverty in Greater Manchester has been rising over the years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Its government has devised several solutions to address the issue.
COVID-19 Impacts on Greater Manchester
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a collapse of the Greater Manchester economy as more than 4,000 businesses failed. The unemployment resulting from such business closures caused the number of people relying on Universal Credit to rise from 65,820 to 240,460, “a 38% increase from March 2020” to April 2020. It is because of these struggles and poverty in Greater Manchester that people have connected to form community awareness groups such as The Elephant’s Trail.
Homelessness and Poverty
A video produced in the town of Bury by The Elephant’s Trail titled “Made in Bury: Elephant in the Room” included interviews with the locals facing the pandemic’s impacts. Issues, such as homelessness and the inability to afford food, afflicted many people throughout the Greater Manchester area.
According to a Poverty Monitor that Greater Manchester Poverty Action managed, a nonprofit organization that focuses on reducing and preventing poverty in the county, in 2022, 144,770 children (one in four) are living in poverty and the number of food banks needed has increased twofold in the last five years.
Also, 15% of all households are facing fuel poverty, and “195,000 workers earn less than the Real Living Wage of £9.90 an hour,” the Poverty Monitor said. In terms of homelessness, the number of homelessness duties in Greater Manchester increased from 5,366 in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 6,015 in the third quarter of 2021.
Response and Solutions
Leaders have introduced several solutions to poverty in Greater Manchester, including digital solutions. Amid the pandemic, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority developed the Greater Manchester Digital Platform, which includes an app that helps those in need connect to volunteers and support systems to assist them in tasks such as obtaining necessary food and medicine. It aims to reach all 2.8 million citizens of Greater Manchester.
In response to food poverty, in October 2021, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, launched the Food Security Action Network. The Food Security Action Network addressed food poverty by distributing more than “7,000 emergency food cards” for youth and “funding grassroots organizations” to provide support to those not eligible for other support. In October 2020, The No Child Should Go Hungry campaign launched. It provided free school meals to those not eligible and more than “13,000 Emergency Food Cards” for youth to use at grocery stores.
The Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network (GMHAN), which originated in 2017, is a network working with leaders to help the homeless. It provided funds to homeless shelters across towns in Greater Manchester. GMHAN also co-produced the Rough Sleeping Action Plan, a long-term strategy that addresses homelessness and makes plans to partner with agencies, businesses and communities to ensure support for those experiencing hardship. So far, Greater Manchester notes a reduction in “rough sleeping” of 29% from 2020 to 2021 and 67% since 2017.
The Elephant’s Trail
The Elephant’s Trail is a group of people from Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Salford. The members aim to be the voice for others suffering from poverty by documenting real-life experiences through film. Their goal is to bring awareness of poverty in Greater Manchester to the area’s leaders.
The Elephant’s Trail has partnered with other local and regional organizations such as Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Petrus Community and Unlimited Potential to aid the people of Greater Manchester. People who have worked with The Elephant’s Trail have said that the work has changed their lives because of its focus on co-production, or people with lived experience and professionals working together to develop solutions to common issues.
“Made in Bury: Elephant in the Room,” a video that a “reporting team from The Elephant’s Trail and video journalists at The Guardian” created, interviews residents of Bury about their personal experiences and how local group efforts help, such as housing and food that the Manna House provided. This kind of personal reporting helps top leaders make important decisions about poverty-reducing legislation and funding. In the video, Melanie Humphrey of The Elephant’s Trail stated, “How amazing to have a group of people with lived experience able to advise those people that really are at the top.”
The Future of Poverty in Greater Manchester
Poverty in Greater Manchester has seen some slight improvements due to the efforts of its leaders. The impacts of the pandemic still linger all across the nation, increasing the number of people experiencing mental disorders, malnutrition and homelessness. Efforts and successes like The Elephant’s Trail, which brings poverty in Greater Manchester right before the eyes of the government, inspire others to take action. With consistent efforts, the government of Greater Manchester can reduce both poverty and homelessness.
– Tara Boehringer