Andy Burnham tells VIEW why he is determined to end homelessness

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Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, tells VIEW why he is determined to end homelessness and rough sleeping in his city

Whilst homelessness and rough sleeping are issues that did not originate here in Greater Manchester, I am committed to tackling them with all those who want to help. That is why one of my first acts as Mayor was to create the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Homelessness Fund, to which I am donating 15 per cent of my salary every month.

The fund provides support to the organisations who are working with people sleeping rough. Private businesses, the voluntary sector and residents across the region have come together to join me in helping those in need. It is this spirit of generosity that inspires me to work even harder to help those whose voice is most often not heard.

Rough sleeping is the tip of the iceberg. It is the visible element of a massive social issue with many other human consequences lying beneath the surface; sofa surfing, insecure tenancies, families being forced to live in hotels. These are all signs that something is not working in our society. They are challenges that we are all committed to tackling, but we recognise that public money alone will not be sufficient.

In Greater Manchester, we have a legacy of giving and compassion that still resonates today. The ideas and morals of philanthropists like Joseph Whitworth and John Rylands, and social pioneers like Elizabeth Gaskell and Ernest Simon live on. And while societal challenges and the way that we give have changed over the decades, that sense of community and civic pride and a desire to change things for the better remains.

As Mayor of Greater Manchester, I have been humbled by the compassion, community spirit and charity of local people. We don’t like the idea of people falling through the net – our values simply won’t allow it. It is by harnessing this passion and working across all sectors that we can create a real momentum and make a huge difference to so many.

There is good work already being done across Greater Manchester by our councils and others but with so many without a secure roof over their heads this work can only thrive if we push ourselves further and embrace a change to the way things are done.

Greater Manchester is receiving £3.8 million as part of a Government ‘trailblazer’ scheme in recognition of the ground-breaking work we are doing in this area, which will enable us to put in place real solutions to help people to get off the streets. This includes 24-hour hub-based services which will provide high quality support for people when they need it the most.

This is bolstered by a £1.8 million Social Impact Bond, which will use money provided by the private sector to help ensure that those coming off the streets are able to access support which will help them find employment, education or training, and enable them to access specialist support services around mental health and addiction.

Work has also begun on ensuring homeless people who wish to be registered with their local GP practice can be. We are going to make sure that no patient is discharged from hospital straight back onto the street.

The Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network is the bedrock of this work; a network of like-minded, passionate individuals who have offered their time, space and expertise to unravel these complex issues and co-produce our joint action plan to end rough sleeping by 2020, as well as reducing and preventing homelessness over the next 10 years.

But this good work is hampered by the Government’s determination to continue the rollout of Universal Credit, a policy that will make the issues of homelessness and rough-sleeping dramatically worse. My plea to government is clear: immediately halt the roll-out of this damaging benefit scheme.

Homelessness is a crisis that is unfolding on our doorsteps, in our communities. Everyone deserves a home to call their own and we should not – cannot – turn a blind eye.

In Greater Manchester, our eyes are wide open and it is this strength of compassion and generosity – which has seen more than £50,000 donated to the fund – that shows care, kindness and altruism is alive and well here.

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