Greater Manchester is stepping up its response to the cost-of-living crisis affecting residents, with leaders announcing a new range of support measures and a new drive to coordinate efforts across the city-region.
At last Friday’s Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) meeting, local leaders from the 10 districts and the Mayor all raised concerns from residents about increasing pressures brought on by food and fuel costs, with energy bills predicted to rise to more than £3,300 on average this October.
Greater Manchester’s own Residents’ Survey, last carried out in March and April, found that more than two thirds of people cite finance as a current concern, with economic challenges likely to have a greater impact on younger respondents and those from racially minoritized communities.
A third of people said there were times over the past year when they couldn’t afford to eat a balanced meal, while a quarter said someone in their household had cut back on meals or skipped them entirely.
Greater Manchester has also seen a rise in the number of children and young people eligible for school meals, with census data indicating that 132,000 school pupils – approximately 28 per cent of all pupils – qualify. The figure is substantially above the national rate of 22.5 per cent. The Greater Manchester Residents’ Survey has also found that households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity. Despite the extension of the holiday activities and good programme, and the Government’s household Support Fund, there remains a funding gap in good provision for children over the summer holidays.
Following the success of the Emergency Food Card Initiative, which has already seen over 12,500 cards distributed over the past 18 months to support children and young people who need immediate access to good quality food, the Mayor has pledged additional funds from the Mayoral fund to provide an extra 220 pre-paid cards to each council area. Each card, which can be used in a range of supermarkets or PayPoint Networks, will be charged with £5 credit to enable young people in need to access to emergency food, fuel, or mobile top-ups over the summer holidays.
The cards will bolster a package of support schemes already in place, including through the No Child Should Go Hungry campaign and the cross-sector Greater Manchester Food Security Action Network. A donation page has also been set up, managed by charity Forever Manchester, to help children and young people who need access to food over the school holidays, and can be found at No Child Should Go Hungry Fund – JustGiving.
Research suggests 8% of Greater Manchester households are unable to continuously afford access to the internet with Greater Manchester becoming the first region to work with national digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation to locally launch the Greater Manchester Databank. The databank provides free SIMS and mobile data to people in need via a network of local community partners.
Jeff Smith said: “In the absence of a concrete plan to tackle the cost of living crisis from the UK Government, it is great to see the Mayor and Council leaders step up to support residents. Time and time again, we see local Government ready to tackle crises head on, despite years of constant underfunding. Meanwhile, both leadership candidates for the next Prime Minister have to be dragged into announcing a plan to ensure families are not left destitute by the energy crisis. I hope residents are able to find useful support from the GMCA’s online resource.”
You can access their new online resources here https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/helping-hand//