There is no better example of Greater Manchester’s dynamic spirit than our city-region’s efforts to end the need for rough sleeping. Over the past two years we have, together, created a movement that has faced this issue head on and made huge strides towards ending the need for rough sleeping.
In Greater Manchester we famously like to say we do things differently here. But my experience over the past two years has shown me this is far more than just a saying. The appetite of public services, business leaders and the general public to come together and tackle the problems we face in new and innovative ways has shown me that doing things differently in in this place’s DNA.
Our city-region has created A Bed Every Night – our commitment to deliver a bed plus support for every person sleeping rough in Greater Manchester every night since November. Nowhere else in the country has pledged this level of support – in total more than 1,000 individuals have been helped indoors into warm, safe and supported emergency accommodation.
The programme has undoubtedly saved lives every night the mid-winter temperatures here dropped below freezing. The fact that we do still have people dying on the streets of Britain in the 21st century is abhorrent, a national shame, and here in Greater Manchester we will not stand for it.
But the commitment from Greater Manchester extends still further. Just as important as delivering ongoing emergency accommodation is ensuring those helped from a life on the street are supported into a sustainable, longer-term solution that prevents a return to sleeping outdoors, a dangerous, uncertain and unacceptable existence.
Devolved powers have enabled services and organisations across the homelessness sector in Greater Manchester – faith, public, private and charitable – to pull together like never before. Of those thousand or more people helped, roughly 400 are now in their own longer-term accommodation, a fact that shows our model is a sustainable one.
The collective will to make change happen is perfectly illustrated by our Raise the Roof fundraising event at the end of May, with the line-up a special mix of some of the biggest and most influential bands and artists from across the city-region. To find out how to apply for tickets before noon on Friday, visit the website.
In January, official Government figures showed the total number of people sleeping rough in the city-region had fallen substantially for the first time in eight years. That demonstrates that in Greater Manchester, while there is still a long way to go, the tide is beginning to turn.
But Greater Manchester’s drive to innovate and make real change does not end with our efforts to end the need for rough sleeping. As calls on Governments to tackle climate change grow louder, Greater Manchester is taking action. At our second Green Summit we set out our bold ambition is to be carbon-neutral by 2038, 12 years’ ahead of the Government’s own target. Our Paris-aligned, science based, plan sets out how Greater Manchester will become one of the globe’s healthiest, cleanest and greenest city-regions.
I firmly believe that devolution can speed up the urgent action that needs to be taken on climate change. While the old Westminster system is creaking under the strain of Brexit, public bodies, businesses and communities across Greater Manchester are pulling together to keep the city region moving forward.
But when it comes to public services this is, again, not an isolated example of how we are using devolution to do things differently. Across all policy areas we are radically overhauling the way we deliver public services.
The Greater Manchester model of public service delivery is built around the unique and diverse needs of its people and places, not the policies of fragmented service providers. Instead of a drive towards more institutions and outsourcing, public services are being integrated at a local level. This means organising resources – people and budgets – around neighbourhoods of 30,000-50,000 residents, rather than around policy areas as is traditionally done.
By recognising people’s unique needs across the full spectrum of life, we can provide more tailored, appropriate services that lead to people getting back on their feet, turning their lives around, and actively participating in their community again. No more should people feel pushed from pillar to post or that no one is listening.
We know that devolution works; we’re already seeing it. It doesn’t just help drive forward the economy, it helps create a new society, culture and politics; a system based on people, places, progress, and shared interests, not divisive party politics. That’s why we’ll continue to push for further devolved power and budgets. This isn’t a begging bowl agenda – let us take control of our future and do things our way.