Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett at MediaCityUK
Salford Mayor Paul Dennett exchanged views with experts on recent poverty studies in Salford and the methods underway in dealing with the matter.
The public panel where the conversation took place was held in one of the most invested-in and economically advanced areas of Manchester, MediaCityUK. The contrast between this well-developed project in Salford and the food poverty rates in the rest of the city was acknowledged and addressed by Mayor Paul Dennett in his speech:
“You could say ‘things are improving, you are not as bad as you were a few years ago’ but actually when you just look at some of the data you realise that poverty over the same period in the city of Salford hasn’t actually changed very much.
“What actually happened in a sense is gentrification. More people have moved in, more people who are economically independent. But actually those pockets of poverty in certain parts of the city haven’t shifted significantly at all.
“I guess what I’m trying to say here is don’t be fooled by the growth, because behind the growth of the city there are still extreme forms of poverty and destitution.”
Mayor Paul Dennett continued by shifting the conversation to the other outcomes of what he called a ‘failing system’ such as high rises in rough sleeping and homelessness.
“To tackle some of the structural issues here, just to give you an example of that, in 2018/2019 the Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service secured almost £5m of unclaimed social security entitlements for Salford’s most vulnerable residents. That’s a significant amount of money to tackle poverty, austerity and food poverty especially.”
The panel began with a welcoming speech by the Dean of Research at the University of Salford Professor Karl Dayson. Debating on the topic were experts in the field such as Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA) Director Tom Skinner and Salford City Council’s Welfare Rights Officer Catherine Connors.
On the importance of Welfare Rights in fighting food poverty that was noted by Mayor Dennett, Catherine Connors said: “We’re really proud to be a part of the City Council. The way that we deliver our advice services is about primarily working with people to empower them. To ensure that people know what their rights are and that they are able to use the law to fulfill those rights”.
Picture taken by Viktor Kayed
From left to right: Prof Lisa Scullion, Mike Hawking, Catherine Connors, Tom Skinner, Kate Cooper
Ms Connors also commented on the Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service and their activity on homelessness: “Increasingly a lot of our work has moved into homelessness prevention and what we see is that we have lots of people in Salford now who cannot afford social rent.
“And again that’s quite unprecedented really and throws a lot of challenges towards us as an advice service on how to support those people in the long term. So a lot of our work is around challenging departments who are responsible for ensuring those people get their entitlements. We do a lot of appeal work, we represent people at appeal trial bureaus, we go to court with them.”
Tom Skinner, Director of GMPA, said: “For two or three years the action has been bringing together small groups of experts and asking what are we missing out on. With food poverty there was so much more to be done. So we asked ourselves, if every institution that we need in every way was to get really behind us on this agenda, how do we start materialising our vision?
“We have put it all together in the first Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester and published it earlier this year”.
Could Food Clubs pave the way for more joined up services and support that goes beyond handouts? Read more in the #GMFoodPovertyActionPlan being launched today https://t.co/MiCKs4H39z #GMFoodPovertyAlliance #FoodPoverty pic.twitter.com/V22n04lRvV
— GM Poverty Action (@GMPovertyAction) March 4, 2019
The panel was closed by a plenary from Professor Morven McEachern, co-director of the Centre for Sustainability at the university of Huddersfield, urging guests to treat food poverty not as a background problem, but rather as a setback on the path to a modern and civilised 21st century Britain.