Cost of Living Summit

Oldham's Cost of Living Summit Report By Amelia and Layla

The following report was written by Amelia and Layla, two young people taking part in my 2022 Summer School who are undertaking their Working for Your Community placements in my constituency office. Layla and Amelia attended the Cost of Living Summit in Oldham and wrote a report on what they learnt from the sessions:

Oldham’s Cost of Living Summit was held this week and many local organisations attended to collaborate and tackle the issue which disproportionately impacts Oldham. The summit highlighted how the current crisis is having a devastating effect on our local communities.

Currently, we are experiencing the highest rate of inflation in 40 years at 9.4%. As Oldham has the highest unemployment rate in Greater Manchester, the increase in price of essentials is becoming a main concern for residents. Statistics show that 25% of children in the Manchester city region are currently living in child poverty, however this figure is alarmingly higher in Oldham, standing at 37.2%. The increasing disparities between Oldham and the rest of Greater Manchester is notably higher when you look at specific areas of Oldham, for example the rate of child poverty in Coldhurst is 64% – the fourth highest in England. Not only does this cause families to have to choose between basic aspects of life, like whether to heat their home or eat a hot meal, but it also has detrimental impacts on healthcare and education opportunities.

Household bills are projected to be 130% of household income by March 2023 which, combined with the ever-growing cost of petrol, results in families avoiding the use of these essentials. This often leads to accessibility issues, especially in terms of health, as people feel they cannot afford to pay for fuel costs to get to hospitals. Moreover, it also results in challenges in schools regarding costs which mean disadvantaged children will miss out on opportunities. This raises the structural issues in society that will arise as a result of the crisis because it leads to barriers in such aspects of everyday life.

The summit allowed residents of Oldham to voice their concerns and offer solutions in how to tackle the issue. A main obstacle in tackling the crisis that was raised is the stigma and lack of hope surrounding the matter. The most effective interventions with people who are struggling teach you to help yourself and get involved in something bigger, and so it is important that instead of only focussing on the immediate negativity, we look beyond the crisis and offer hope and positivity to create long term change.

After hearing from charities, council members and various local organisations there was an opportunity later in the session to come together and put together plans to help the people of Oldham. In working alongside key members of Oldham council, such as the chief executive of the council and housing representatives, in round table discussions it became clear that a way to help people in Oldham is to raise awareness within communities. Often, people miss out on help they are entitled to by not being fully aware that it is in place for them. If we work together in Oldham, perhaps through WhatsApp groups and workshops in town halls, we can make it far easier to help people get access to the help they need so they utilise schemes that are already in place for them and then put more of an emphasis on putting further plans in place when this is not enough.

The rise in cost of living is something that will impact all corners of our community, whether that be in health, education or mental health. The summit encompassed all these aspects of the crisis and shed light on just how significant the issue of cost of living is, but also provided an opportunity to collaborate and find solutions to provide hope for Oldham.

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