According to the latest figures, the number of children living in poverty across Greater Manchester has increased.
Commissioned by the End Child Poverty coalition, new figures from a study at Loughborough University has found that a third of all children across the North West are living below the breadline.
It also shows that child poverty rates across all but just one Greater Manchester borough have increased, and four of the North West’s top 10 increases are found in the city-region boroughs.
The new data reveals the true extent to the hardship experienced by families on low incomes – an overwhelming majority of which were working households before the pandemic, according to the research.
Research shows that children from low-income families are more likely to experience worse physical and mental health, do less well in school, and have fewer opportunities in the future.
End Child Poverty is calling for an urgent government plan to end child poverty in the country, and for the chancellor to not go ahead with planned cuts to Universal Credit which will see a loss of £1,000 to families.
The rate in Oldham has risen by 8.1% in the last four years, from 31.8% in 2014 to 39.9% now. Rochdale has seen a 5.3% increase and now stands at 37.7%.
34.8% of Tameside’s children now live in poverty, a 3.4% rise. In Bolton over the past four years, the number of children in poverty has increased from 32.7% to 39%.
In Bury, more than a third of its children live below the breadline (33.8%).
Salford saw a 2.3% increase, meaning 34.8% are now in poverty and in Wigan the figure is 30.8%.
Stockport saw the lowest increase at just 0.2%, however, 25.9% of its children are still below the breadline.
In Trafford, there was a 0.9% reduction in the child poverty rates, the figure still stands at 23.1% of children affected.
Des Lynch, of Wood Street Mission in Manchester City Centre said: “In Manchester and Salford, child poverty has never gone away. We’re 151 years old and we’ve been dealing with it in all of that time.
“It’s a subject that has never been tackled by any government, let alone the one we have at the moment.
“The issue comes up in manifestos but then is dispatched into the background.
“While Manchester and Salford outwardly look like affluent areas, if you walk 20 minutes from city centre in any direction, you’ll hit poverty-stricken areas. And that’s only going to get worse in the coming months and years.”
Des added that people aren’t coming forward to get help due to following the Covid rules, adding that the problem is hitting those classed as ‘working poor’ the most.
He said: “People are too scared to access help, they’re sticking to the rules, no matter what is sometimes said out there, they’re trying their best and they don’t know what to do.
“But the poor housing rates, the poor quality of housing in Manchester and Salford, that’s been a problem for some 40 years with housing costs increasing.
“We haven’t been building enough social housing and what we are building isn’t the touching the sides.
“Giving developers permission to build is all well and good, but with the small percentage of social housing required, quite frankly it’s negligible.
“And the knock on effect that has on children, it’s appalling, we should not be bringing children up in these environments.”
The fight to end child poverty and to stop children from experiencing food insecurity has been highlighted in the media over the pandemic, not least due to Marcus Rashford MBE’s efforts.
Over the summer holidays, he made the government U-turn on its decision to not provide free school meals over the summer. This put a stop to ‘Holiday Hunger’ which many of the UK’s children face.
His new petition calls for free school meals to be available for every child from a household on Universal Credit or equal. This would reach an additional 1.5 million children aged seven to 16.
However, ministers responded to the campaign on Thursday saying: “It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays.”
Adding: “We took that decision to extend free school meals during the pandemic when schools were partially closed during lockdown. We’re in a different position now with schools back open to all pupils.
“We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than government subsidising meals.”
Senior Tory MP Rob Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, wrote on Twitter that the government’s response was ‘very disappointing’, adding: “We need a long-term plan to combat child food hunger, especially given 32% of families have had a drop in income since March.”
A huge 50 million-tree forest is being planted across the North of England
This is amazing!
The North of England is set to see 50 million trees planted over the next 25 years.
It turns out the North has just 7.6% of woodland cover, significantly lower than the average of England, and this new planned forest could absorb 7.5m tonnes of carbon.
Many council leaders, including Sir Richard Leese in Manchester, are backing the ambitious project that will see a forest created, spanning 120 miles across the North.
The forest will connect Manchester with Liverpool and Lancaster, and see Sheffield, Leeds and Hull connected too.
The project is currently underway and the Woodland Trust is looking for private landowners who want to take part!
More than 120 Northern leaders and MPs have asked for the prime minister’s commitment to deliver the Northern Forest in a letter. They’ve also asked for opportunities to be looked at to support the development of green investment models.
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Manchester City Council declared a climate change emergency earlier this year and is working on a wide range of initiatives to enable the city to achieve its ambitious goal of becoming zero carbon by 2038.
“We are bringing forward an action plan which will explain how Manchester will achieve this ambitious target.
“The Northern Forest initiative, which would help absorb millions of tonnes of carbon, is entirely complementary to that wider goal and something we wholeheartedly endorse.”
Mayor of Sheffield Dan Jarvis, who is co-ordinating the Northern Forest campaign, said: “It will be transformational for more than 13 million residents, improving their health and wellbeing. It will help habitats thrive, a woodland culture to flourish as well as helping to tackle climate change, reduce the risk of flooding and create thousands of new jobs.”
Darren Moorcroft, CEO, Woodland Trust, said: “The Northern Forest represents the green lungs of the Northern Powerhouse. This pioneering project spearheaded by Woodland Trust and the Community Forests will deliver millions of new trees planted, and billions of pounds worth of economic, social and environmental benefits to the region.
“If we are to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises the world faces, internationally significant projects like the Northern Forest must be at the forefront of bold, ambitious domestic thinking.”
You can find out more and get involved on the Woodland Trust site and on the Northern Forest page.
Home Bargains, B&Q, Wilko and others give important update on masks and other Covid rules
Everything you need to know about their rules
Everything you need to know about shopping at DIY and discount stores in the pandemic…
Throughout the lockdown, DIY stores such as B&Q and Wickes as well as those selling essential items like Wilko and Home Bargains have been able to remain open.
They have, however, rules to follow to stop the spread of coronavirus and to protect staff and customers.
Here’s everything you can expect while shopping at them (it is mandatory to wear a face mask unless exempt in any shop in the UK).
Those who do not want to wear a mask inside B&Q’s stores have been told they can order online. Those wanting to shop in-store are reminded of hand sanitiser and told to not visit in more than groups of two.
A spokesperson said: “We are giving face masks to any customers who do not have one. If customers do not want to wear a face-covering in our stores, we are reminding them that they can always place an order for their essential items at diy.com for home delivery”.
Queuing systems are in place at Wickes as only 30 people are allowed in the store at any one time. Customers must follow social distancing queues inside and wear a mask.
At the tills, customers are asked to leave their trolleys in the designated space so staff can scan the items.
If you’re buying larger items you can bring another member of your household to carry them. Showrooms remain closed.
Customers are asked to visit alone where possible and to queue outside when stores are full. Customers can also expect a traffic light system in busier branches.
NHS, care workers, disabled and elderly customers have priority access.
Customers can expect marshals at the front of the stores along with floor markers to maintain social distancing throughout the stores.
All customers are asked to wear face masks and clean their baskets and trolleys at the disinfectant stations at entrances if they wish.
A spokesperson said Homebase is ‘continuing to ask all customers to wear a mask when shopping with us, unless medically exempt’. They added: “We are also introducing further signage in stores reminding customers of their role in helping to make shopping safe for everyone.”
Manchester’s mental health café launches new campaign to brighten up Blue Monday
Look out for the posters around Manchester
Feel Good Club and Manchester’s Finest have launched a campaign to spread positivity across the city on Blue Monday.
The third Monday in January is known as ‘Blue Monday’ and is often described as ‘one of the most depressing days of the year’.
Christmas is well and truly over, the excitement of New Year New Me has worn off and we’re left with dark, cold and short days.
To add on top of all of that is a third national lockdown and a global pandemic.
A mental wellbeing cafe, Feel Good Club launched in the midst of the pandemic with mental health at the heart of everything owners Kiera and Aimie do.
Collaborating with Manchester’s Finest, the two platforms have come together along with Jack Arts to create billboards and posters containing supportive messages.
Commenting on the campaign, Miranda Banfield of Jack Arts said: “Bringing inspiration to the streets and positivity to our communities is at the heart of what we do at Jack Arts.
“We are delighted to be a part of this important project, displaying these powerful messages across Manchester, in the hope they are seen by those who might need them most.”
Co-Founder of Feel Good Club, Kiera Lawlor-Skillen added: “Feel Good Club is all about spreading positivity and making sure that people know they aren’t alone in how they feel, whether that’s a good day or a bad day, so on blue Monday it was more important than ever for us to do something that could possibly bring a smile to someone’s face.”
Steven Pankhurst, a director at Manchester’s Finest, said: “Finest was created for the people and ecology of Manchester. At a time where we all face our own unique challenges, we want to show support and spread a bit of positivity to everyone in our city.”
You can see the posters across the city for two weeks from today (Monday January 18th).
For more positive vibes head to Manchester’s Finest to see the collaboration between them and Feel Good Club in the monthly series ‘This Month’s Positive News’.