Press Statement: Work under way to tackle gender and racial discrimination across Greater Manchester

Date: 18th February 2021

The Covid-19 outbreak has disproportionately impacted Women in the African diaspora in Manchester, compounding the already existent health inequalities, say the Mama Health and Poverty Partnership (MHaPP) and Women’s Resource Centre (WRC).

Women in the African diaspora in Manchester experience multiple barriers including those of gender, race and immigration status. In July 2020, MHaPP and WRC wrote to Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), calling for an emergency regional strategy to meet the health needs of the most marginalised families experiencing gender and racial discrimination.

Now GMCA has agreed to work in partnership to tackle gender and racial discrimination; with a commitment to intersectional experiences of Black, African and asylum seeking women. A newly-published joint statement will be used to inform policy-makers around the issues facing Black, African and asylum seeing women.

Bev Hughes, Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “I am committed to working to help protect women and girls across Greater Manchester. The discrimination faced by Black, African and asylum seeking women, with whom MHaPP works, is all too real. I am proud to form this partnership with the Mama Health & Poverty Partnership and Women’s Resource Centre as we work together to tackle structural inequality head-on. We will build upon our work with the Greater Manchester Women and Girls’ Equality panel, drawing on the expertise of WRC and the MHaPP as we work together to make our city-region the best place in the country to grow up, get on and grow old.”

For the most disadvantaged families, barriers to accessing healthcare includes the cost of medication, transportation and phone credit. The No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition is a particular concern for those whose income has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The NRPF condition has an overwhelming risk of increasing the trauma of asylum-seekers through its policies that, (1) Prevent those without lawful status from renting properties; leaving them exposed to homelessness and targeted by violent and sexual predators and (2) make it an offence to work without lawful status.

The MHaPP helpline received over 100 calls per week from women and families living in destitution. A MHaPP study of their services users demonstrated that almost 95% of their beneficiaries are poor-income families, 75% are living in destitution struggling to meet household bills and 85% are concerned and anxious about having enough food to feed their children. Over half had been denied benefits and housing assistance in the last year and 35% had no access to welfare benefits, including Universal Credit and child benefits. Furthermore, 35% reported waiting 5 years or longer for a decision on their asylum application, meaning they remain ineligible to access financial support.

The MHaPP was established through a project led by Women’s Resource Centre, the Women’s Commissioning Support Unit (WCSU). It became evident financial inclusion mattered to women who considered themselves to be underserved communities often excluded from accessing services and financial products. With support to do so, the future for these communities is to build a better life, which includes finding well paid jobs or starting businesses. The MHaPP brings together specialist services for Black women by Black/African women and girls to change their experiences and address health inequalities and poverty.

Women’s Resource Centre is the leading national umbrella organisation for the women’s with a membership and network of predominantly small local specialist women’s organisations. WRC strives to give voice to the most marginalised and disadvantaged organisations and is working towards transformational and substantive equality for women. WRC are proud to be working with MHaPP to support women in Greater Manchester.

GMCA has already been working to address inequality through the Greater Manchester Women and Girls’ Equality panel. Delivering on a key commitment of Mayor Andy Burnham, the panel exists to accelerate gender equality in Greater Manchester and brings together a 20-strong group of women from across the 10 boroughs with the stated aim of informing public policy to “enable women and girls to live their best life in Greater Manchester.” The Panel will establish a clear vision for women and girls in Greater Manchester to understand issues and inequalities affecting their lives, and recognising women and girls’ particular experience of COVID-19.

GMCA will continue to work with community and voluntary groups to consider issues which negatively impact on the lived experience of African women.  This includes in the arena of health and justice and in the development their gender-based abuse strategy. GMCA is working with WRC to seek an opportunity for the MHaPP to give oral evidence to the Governments Women and Equality Select Committee. Furthermore, a number of actions which have been raised by the Mama Health & Poverty Partnership are now being followed up through the work of the Police and Crime Commissioner and GM Service Reform programmes.

Grassroots, led by and for women’s organisations are best placed to meet the needs of Black, African and asylum seeking women and their families. Led by and for women’s organisations offer a uniquely empowering experience to women and children as they see themselves reflected in staffing, management and governance structures of these organisations. We hope other Local Authorities and Government bodies will see how working with grassroots organisations, and hearing the voices of service users with lived experience, has the best outcomes for our communities.

Mama Health & Poverty Partnership 

Women’s Resource Centre

Email: [email protected] 

Greater Manchester Combined Authority