Wythenshawe voices: It’s wonderful – but austerity NEEDS to end

In Wythenshawe, people tell of the harm of austerity, and hopes for a better future

“We need funding back. We need Government to pay attention to what we are saying…. Poverty is a killer. We need austerity to end.”

Cat lives in Wythenshawe, south Manchester, and was taking part in the Neighbourhood Voices conversation at the Dandelion Community, a radical inclusive church and community base, very close to Manchester Airport.

Issues raised include housing, poverty, mental health support, opportunities for young people, and the engagement levels of politicians.

Funding and opportunities have been taken away

Cat helps out here and is clear what she wants from the next Government.

“They talk about a cost of living crisis, but it’s class warfare. Our working class lives are disproportionately affected, and we are a largely working class area. We don’t get political support – the only help we have had recently was from Marcus Rashford on free school meals, and he’s not an MP.

“If I was an MP, I would tax the rich more. I would make sure tax is a lot fairer. Our treasury is missing out on a lot by allowing tax breaks and loopholes. Addressing that alone would provide so much more funding for things. We need to get the NHS funded again, and social programmes. We need to care about our smaller communities.

Cat standing in front of a We Love Wythenshawe poster

“Wythenshawe gets a bad rep from people who do not know it, but there’s community here. We care about each other. We might never have met but we care about what happens to each other.

“London gets a lot more than the rest of the country. Our politics is very London-centric. The EU used to bolster our funding but that has been taken away now. 

“We need things here for the kids to do. There’s no upward mobility for the children. They come out of school and are stuck doing low-paid working class jobs, unless they can play football or act. Children need to be able to have dreams that are achievable, but the idea of upward mobility has been taken away from us. I was doing a Masters in English contemporary literature and film, then during the pandemic my mental health suffered and there was no support or aftercare.

“It all comes down to funding. Austerity has not done anything, except make people poorer, poorlier and unhappier.”

Zoe and Eloise at Neighbourhood Voices, at Dandelion in Wythenshawe
Zoe (left) and her daughter Eloise at the Dandelion Community

Hard-to-reach politicians, and a mental health crisis

Zoe, another of the volunteers, says: 

“I feel the community I am in needs more of a relationship with the Government. People don’t feel they and the Government are on the same page, and feel that politicians are unreachable. We do anti-poverty events and they need to engage.

“Working in a food bank, we get to learn people’s needs, which is often housing. We get a lot of people from a hostel and from social housing, and problems spill out to us because people are not getting everything they need.

“There’s also a mental health crisis. So many young people are not getting the medication or therapy they need. Mental health is breaking down. 

“It feels like little people like us are being squeezed and squeezed and squeezed ’til there’s nothing left. I didn’t used to know what gentrification was, but I’m learning – it feels like we are being pushed out of our community so upper classes can come in. If they’re building nice houses, why can’t we have nice houses too? They’re talking about things like 10% of housing being affordable housing – on a council estate! It makes no sense! 

"People need somewhere to call home"

“My daughter starts university in September and she has to live with me because she cannot find anywhere affordable to stay, and she will probably still live with me after university. She’s thinking of moving abroad after, and it’s awful that our children are thinking they can’t afford to live in their country.

“Some people will say immigration is the issue, but that has nothing to do with it. It’s because they’re not building enough houses. There should be somewhere for people to live. People need somewhere to call home. 

“I’m from Wythenshawe and the best thing is the people. People here will help you no matter what. It’s like: if you have nothing, you can share your nothing with someone. It doesn’t matter who you are, we are just all neighbours, and in the majority everyone is wonderful.

“My hopes for Wythenshawe in five years? I would like people to have the right places to live, accessible places, and for people to be getting the right amount of benefits for their needs. I would stop sanctions. I have been sanctioned before for being in hospital so missing an appointment.

“I want people to be able to live and get jobs. When I was 16 I could walk into a job, but kids now can’t, there need to be more jobs.”

A signpost in Wythensawe, including directions to the airport, station, job centre, bus station, market and health centre

Views of a first-time voter

Zoe’s daughter Eloise, who will be voting in her first General Election, says:

“We need more social housing, definitely, and there are no jobs here. I have looked and looked and looked. Benefits are not keeping up with inflation, and a lot of places are really really suffering with that. I’m studying at the moment, I’m going into biomedical engineering, and want to move to the Netherlands after that, or go to Gaza.

“Wythenshawe needs funding for parks, churches, food banks. I don’t feel there’s enough funding there, or in schools. There’s very little funding. Wythenshawe has a strong sense of community, however it’s not always safe, due to teenagers having nothing to do and schools being underfunded. It’s like a lot of council estates – not enough opportunities.” 

The rise of food banks

Another volunteer said: “We all get on with each other. We’re all friendly. People from Manchester are all friendly compared to some places. But Manchester doesn’t get as much of anything as places like London do.

“We didn’t used to have food banks, but now we do. Since 2010, things have got worse, but now no matter who gets in, to fund anything they’ll have to take money off something else.” A

Moving here was the best thing we did

Three volunteers sitting for a posed photograph, inside the church hall

Local resident Elizabeth is concerned about the state of the pavements locally, and also about the uncertainty around benefits.

She says: “I’m in a scooter and for me the paths are a big problem. The holes and the state of the paths is awful for wheelchairs and scooters. In my wheelchair, it’s a nightmare. We also need more variety of shops in the town. It’s an alright place to live but there is not enough choice. Whatever Asda sells, that’s what you have to put up with. 

“I will definitely vote, but nobody yet has really mentioned benefits and what they will do for people on benefits, or with disabilities. They need to tell us what they’re actually going to do, what will happen?

“The best thing about Wythenshawe is the people, the community. There is a lot going on in here. I have been coming to this church for 25 years. A lot has got better, it’s much more of a community. We used to live in Altrincham but there was nothing to do there. Moving here was the best thing we did.

“My hope for Wythenshawe is that we get more money, so people do not have to use food banks.”

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