Manchester City Council has committed to offering support to “anyone struggling” in the city region over the festive period.
While Christmas may only be just over a week away now, and the spirit of the season is really starting to set in for many, it’s sadly not always ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ for everyone – especially with the rising cost of living crisis unfortunately continuing to make its impact felt across Greater Manchester and throughout the UK.
Here in Manchester, Council figures show that more than 100,000 households have been put at risk in some way due to the cost of living crisis, whether that be accessing food, paying bills, or slipping into financial trouble.
Councillors say that the difficulties thousands of Mancunians have faced on a daily basis have been “plain to see” over the last few years.
But in spite of what it has referred to as “the failings” from the UK central Government in delivering “tangible and lasting support” for those who need it most, the Council says it has has “resolved to ensure that people can turn to us”.
So, what support is available to Manchester residents this winter then? Here’s everything you need to know.
Cost of Living Advice Line
Back in 2022, the Council started Cost of Living Advice Line, which provides Manchester residents with a number to call if they are struggling with a range of issues such as paying bills, debt advice, access to services, food support, and more.
That number is still live and can be reached on 0800 023 2692, with operators remaining on the line to support anyone who needs help or advice.
Warm Welcome Spaces
Warm Welcome Spaces are places where people can go to take shelter in a warm and judgement free location.
This year, all of Manchester’s libraries are open to those in need, for as long as they need them, with a range of other businesses and organisations across the Greater Manchester region having also put themselves forward for the scheme too.
More than 15,000 ‘Helping Hands’ Advice Guides – which detail the support available for people during the winter – have been produced and will be available across the city in locations such as libraries, Sure Start Centres, and Early Help Hubs.
‘Winter Warmth’ advice leaflets are also being made available, which inform people how they can access support if they need help paying their heating bills, where they can go to stay warm for free in Manchester, and how to stay healthy during the cold weather.
‘Social Tariffs’ are also available for people who are in receipt of Universal Credit or Pension Credit, which allow them to access reduced-price internet or mobile phone rates.
The Holiday Activity Fund Programme
Additional support has also been made available by the Council for families who struggle when schools are out via The Holiday Activity Fund Programme.
Running throughout the school Christmas holiday period, this scheme provides free activities and shared experiences for children aged five to 16, with free meals provided throughout the day to “fill a gap” which would normally be provided via a free school meal.
The Council has outlined its festive season support options just a week after it was revealed that the city has secured £5.2 million in funding to build new ‘supported accommodation’ designed to house rough sleepers, and also comes after it published its plan back in November to get rough sleepers off the streets of Manchester and into temporary accommodation this winter.
Stockport County create a new community mural with young street artists in Edgeley
Stockport County is creating a brand new mural with a group of young street artists from the local area and a little help from one of their squad members.
This past February half-term, the Greater Manchester football club enlisted the help of some schoolkids and aspiring artists, along with local creatives from around the area to create a brand new piece of artwork right in the heart of the community.
With some paint, plenty of spray cans and the expertise of Manc muralist and designer, Oskar With A K, and poet Ruth Awolola, a dozen local secondary school pupils helped write, design and paint the mural — taking inspiration directly from the club and the thriving fan culture in Stockport.
There is no chant more iconic and important to the Hatters than their famous ‘The Scarf My Father Worse’ song and that’s exactly what the local artists have decided to immortalise.
The painting process began on Friday, 16 February and, as you can see, they even managed to rope in County defender Ethan Pye came along to lend a hand with the mural, armed with a can of spray paint to help the young people bring their ideas to life.
Being developed by the Stockport County Community Trust in collaboration with North West organisations, GRIT Studios and The Writing Squad, ‘The Scarf My Father Wore’ project has received £14,800 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Popping in a prime location on the corner of Castle Street and Mercian Way — just metres away from the Edgeley Park stadium and right at the beginning of the local village high street — this vibrant work of art will be passed by thousands of commuters and pedestrians every day.
Being brought to life in brilliant blue and white in line with the club’s colour scheme and proudly printing the title of the famous chant on the wall along with stencils of the County crest, footballs and many other details, it sits pride of place in the Stockport suburb.
Much like the historic chant and the symbolic scarf itself, this brilliant piece of street art will be passed down and enjoyed by generations to come, as well as make sure the club continues to play a key role in local culture.
County’s Community Trust CEO Alison Warwood said: “This project shows how art and writing by young people can make a real difference to the local community, and I can’t wait to see the end result.”
John Macaulay from GRIT Studios added: “We’re thrilled to be involved in such a collaborative and community-spirited initiative. Our young artists will be helping to create a lasting landmark that will become a focal point in Edgeley for years to come.”
With the Hatters currently top of the League Two table and looking at yet another promotion season, there feels like no better time for fans to wear the club on their sleeve, their scarves around their necks and now up on the wall too.
Manchester City legend Joe Hart announces he will be retiring at the end of the season
Manchester City legend and ex-England international Joe Hart has announced he will be retiring at the end of the season, bringing a close to a career spanning over two decades.
The iconic Man City keeper and former Three Lions goalkeeper played 266 games for the Blues and had 75 senior caps, but has finally decided to call it a day at the age of 36.
Currently in net for Scottish giants Celtic, who are going for an incredible 54th league title this season, the number one and long-serving English keeper confirmed in a club interview that he will be hanging up his gloves at the end of this campaign.
He also represented his country at three major international tournaments but says he is now in a “place of clarity” and confident in his decision, with manager Brendan Rodgers insisting he will be a “huge miss to the game”. Truly the end of an era.
🧤 Joe Hart announces that he will be retiring from playing football at the end of this season.
Joe Hart is retiring after 20 years at the top level.
Having spent 12 years at City between 2006-2018 and making over 340 appearances in the Premier League at the likes of Burnley, West Ham and a handful for Spurs in club competitions, not to mention nearly a century of games for Celtic since 2021 already, it’s fair to call Joe Hart a footballing veteran.
All told, he has made over 700 appearances at club level and even more all-told, with half of a blockbuster season in Scotland still yet to go. Quite the achievement.
Most famously back here in Manchester though, not only did he pick up four golden gloves during his time at the Etihad but he was also in net for the Aguero goal when the Blues won their first league title in 44 years, and his reaction to the stoppage time winner is almost just as memorable as the strike itself.
But, more importantly, he had plenty of highlight reels of his own.
Speaking to Celtic TV following the announcement, the Shrewsbury-born shot-stopper said: “This something that I have thought about for a while, there’s no right or wrong time is there?…
“Physically I feel great — I feel as good as I possibly can do for my age and what I have done to my body, I have been on the bench since I was 15 and have been involved in professional football every day since I was 16.
“I have gone down every avenue to keep myself in the best possible shape to give my all on game day and I do really think I am at that peak, but I am aware time waits for no man and I don’t want my body to be retiring me. That was one of the key factors, thinking I can smash through the finish line.”