RESIDENTS and businesses across Greater Manchester are feeling the pressure of the rising cost of living – with those already in disadvantaged positions being hit harder.
These are some of the findings of Greater Manchester’s latest Residents’ Survey, which comes as the city-region faces a winter period that poses increasing challenges to public services and local businesses, with rising food and energy costs.
These latest survey results also come as the city-region’s Leaders continue to strengthen their response to the cost-of-living crisis, with a dedicated online support hub, a network of warm spaces, and expert advice and support for businesses through partner organisations.
However, Leaders also called on the Government to provide additional support for the most vulnerable and marginalised people, including by uprating benefits in line with inflation.
Residents facing rising costs – and rising pressures
Greater Manchester’s latest Residents’ Survey posed a series of questions to a representative sample of residents across all 10 boroughs to get an insight into their experiences of the cost-of-living crisis. The survey was carried out in September, five months after the last exercise which took place in March and April.
Levels of food security – the measure of people’s access to good quality, nutritious food – were shown to have fallen since the last survey, while food insecurity increased substantially. Around 42 per cent of respondents – equivalent to almost half a million households in Greater Manchester – said they weren’t eating as much, or as often, or as well as they should, while more than half of households with children also reported increased levels of food insecurity.
The impacts of the cost-of-living crisis are widespread throughout the city-region, with four in five residents saying their expenditure on essentials had increased over the past month, and more than 80 per cent are worried about rising costs. Over half say they are having difficulty affording energy bills – higher than the national average. At the same time, borrowing rates have increased, with 35 per cent of households taking out loans or using credit, which is substantially higher than the national figure of 22 per cent. Almost half of respondents – 44 per cent – reported high levels of anxiety around the cost of living.
Those already in marginalised or disadvantaged positions continue to be hit disproportionately by the crisis. Greater Manchester’s Big Disability Survey found that one in five disabled residents sometimes could not afford essential items, while a quarter had had to use a foodbank. Many found dealing with benefits very difficult, reporting systems that were “abusive, inaccessible, and unfair”.
Across Greater Manchester, households with disabled residents, those from within racially minoritized communities, as well as parents of children under five, consistently reported higher levels of food insecurity than the city-region average.
In August, Greater Manchester launched the first version of the Helping Hand online resource. The information hub helps to guide residents to support in their area on a range of issues including help with food and energy bills, managing household finances, pension credit top-up, transport costs, mental health and wellbeing – including gambling harms – and digital inclusion.
The GMCA is also supporting local boroughs to provide welcoming and warm spaces throughout the winter period, with libraries, community centres, leisure centres and youth centres set to offer heated areas, hot drinks, and in some cases advice and support to residents.
Greater Manchester’s approach to the crisis will continue to be informed by residents’ surveys, what we are hearing more widely and other ongoing work to ensure that support is responsive to people’s needs and targeted to those who require it.
Greater Manchester’s business and enterprise organisations are also stepping up to support local firms to manage increased costs and uncertainties caused by national and international events.
This includes the Business Growth Hub running ‘Strive and Thrive’ workshops for companies to plan ahead and respond to changing operational costs, running events, drop-in clinics and seminars on business challenges, and continuing to support businesses to adapt and implement energy efficiency measures to reduce their emissions and cut costs in both the short and longer term.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “The experiences of our residents, struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table for their families, will be shared by millions more around the country. People have already changed their lives drastically to cope with sharply rising costs, and are now facing serious risks to their health and wellbeing from a crisis that will only worsen as we go into this winter.
“Following an exceptionally challenging decade for local government, councils are now mobilising all the resources at their disposal – with no extra budget – to protect residents and the vital public services that we all rely on. We are clear: local public services, which are already the last line of defence for residents, must be given the support they need. They cannot be weakened any further.”
Cllr Amanda Chadderton, Greater Manchester’s Lead for the cost-of-living crisis, said: “These findings make for stark reading, and ought to be an alarm call for anyone out there who still hasn’t woken up to the severity of this situation.
“When things are difficult, it’s those people who are already in vulnerable or marginalised positions that are hit the hardest. We see it across our districts in food banks whose resources are depleting while the number of people and families – including people in work – that they feed each week is increasing.
“It’s up to us to respond to these findings, and to what our residents are telling us every day. Right now there are 306 warm spaces that have been set up across Greater Manchester. This is an incredible achievement in such a short space of time, but it absolutely shouldn’t have to be part of British society in 2022. The new Prime Minister has an opportunity to demonstrate the kind of country we should be: one that doesn’t just let people exist, but supports them to thrive.”
Cllr Bev Craig, Economy Lead for Greater Manchester, said: “In 2022, in one of the richest countries in the world, we should not be taking about how we can feed residents and keep them warm. Local authorities once again find themselves acting as the last line of defence for residents, and are working tirelessly to ensure that people have emergency support available when they need it.
“What our research into the current economic situation tells us is that the picture for businesses, while extremely challenging, does show signs of confidence in our city-region. Despite the ongoing uncertainty at national and international level, if businesses are choosing to come to Greater Manchester then we are doing something right.
“We will continue to use our collective voice as Greater Manchester to push the Government for that certainty for businesses, so that they can continue to deliver the good jobs and investment that will be so crucial to our economic recovery and long-term resilience.”
Results from the latest Greater Manchester Residents’ Survey are available at: Resident Surveys - Greater Manchester Combined Authority (greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk)
The results of the next round will be published in November.
Article Published: 01/11/2022 15:58 PM