Homelessness: my pledges to help end it

If you live in Manchester – or any city in the UK – you have almost certainly noticed a rise in homelessness over the last few years.

In December the city council counted 70 people sleeping rough in the city centre, almost double the number of a year before. That snapshot figure only includes everyone the team could find. It doesn’t count people who are homeless but have a roof on their head, or those who sleep rough in other parts of the city.

The austerity programme of the current and last governments has meant a multi-pronged attack on housing security. That doesn’t only mean welfare ‘reforms’ like sanctions and the bedroom tax, but also the central cuts to council funding that put local services at risk, and the changes to legal aid that prevent many people from getting the help they need to avoid losing their home.

But when so many people in our city don’t have a home to call their own or even a roof over their heads at night, it’s not the time to apportion blame. It’s time for homeless people themselves to decide how Manchester can become a safer and better place – and one where homelessness becomes a thing of the past.

That’s what the Manchester Homelessness Charter is about. Homeless people, those with experience of homelessness, other Manchester citizens, the city council, healthcare and other public sector services, charities, faith groups, businesses and more came together as the Manchester Homelessness Partnership.

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Together they produced a Charter with a clear vision: to put an end to homelessness in Manchester, and. Before that is achieved, those who sign up to the charter agree to follow a set of values regarding the rights of homeless people in our city. Everyone who is homeless has a right to a safe, secure home. A right to safety. A right to respect and a good standard of service. A right to equality of access to information and services. A right to equality of opportunity.

You can sign up here to pledge your support to the charter. I’m proud that Manchester City Council – one of the key partners behind this work – have done so: you can see the council’s pledges here.

But I also thought it was important to pledge my support as an individual. So I did,  and my 2 pledges are:

  • I will find more opportunities to listen to homeless people about council decisions and services
  • I will take part in the Great Manchester Run to raise money for Mustard Tree.

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Mustard Tree are a local homelessness charity who helped create the charter. They provide vital life support to homeless and marginalised people in Greater Manchester and they put the voices of those with experience of homelessness at the centre of everything they do. I’m so proud to be running for them, and I’d be so grateful if you would consider supporting me, and more importantly supporting Mustard Tree, by donating here.

Thanks for reading- don’t forget to donate here and to pledge your own support to the charter here.

My speech to council on International Women’s Day 2013

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Friday 8th March was a day for the world to celebrate women.

I’ve written on this blog before – pretty comprehensively, I like to think – about what International Women’s Day is for and why it’s important, so I won’t do it again.

Instead, as Chair of Manchester Labour Women’s Forum, I made an intervention at Friday’s budget-setting council meeting about all the things making me angry this International Women’s Day. If you missed it – either because you weren’t there or because I was speaking too furiously fast to be heard – here it is:

It’s International Women’s Day today, as well as Angry Manchester Day, but I’ve found all the anger this morning a bit infectious, so I’d like to talk about some of the things that are making me angry.

I’m angry that women have been the hardest hit by the Tory-Lib Dem government’s freezing of child benefit; by the Tory-Lib Dem government’s cuts to childcare funding through Working Tax Credits; by the Tory-Lib Dem government’s decision to start charging for the use of the Child Support Agency; the decision to scrap the Health in Pregnancy Grant; and by the cuts to refuges and domestic violence charities that have seen Women’s Aid having to turn away over 200 women in danger in a single year.

Women make up the vast majority of victims of domestic violence, who will be hit by cuts to legal aid, and will find it harder to leave their partners thanks to welfare benefit cuts. Women are expected to make up 65% of the 710,000 redundancies this government has planned between now and 2017. Women in two-parent households will be discouraged from working under Universal Credit. And one-quarter of the victims of the Tory-Lib Dem government’s outrageously unfair bedroom tax will be lone parents, the vast majority of whom are women.

And as what I would like to think of as a final indignity, although I’m sure it won’t be, next month the Tory-Lib Dem government will introduce real term cuts to maternity pay, on the same day that they give millionaires a tax cut worth an average £100,000.

This is the Government’s Mother’s Day present – a hundred grand each to their own mothers and a maternity pay cut for the mothers of Manchester. I’m not sure about you, but I think my mom would have preferred something from Thornton’s.

We’ve heard today that this Government is not on the side of Manchester people. It’s certainly not on the side of Manchester women. And that’s why everyone in Manchester, especially women, needs to ask this group of Liberal Democrats, and John Leech MP, why they keep standing up for this government when this government is not standing up for us.