Star date: 10th July 2016


On Friday, at a packed Eccles Old Town Hall, the Salford Poverty Truth Commission was launched as the Salford City Mayor, the Bishop of Salford and representatives from business and housing associations heard true horror stories of hell in a city that is supposed to be economically booming.

People from Salford's community bravely told their stories of torment, terror and tragedy that went way beyond dry statistics and strategies to drive home some real life honesty to those shaping the city's present and future.

Full details here...

Salford Poverty Truth Commission Salford Poverty Truth Commission Salford Poverty Truth Commission
Salford Poverty Truth Commission Salford Poverty Truth Commission Salford Poverty Truth Commission
Salford Poverty Truth Commission Salford Poverty Truth Commission Salford Poverty Truth Commission
Salford Poverty Truth Commission Salford Poverty Truth Commission Salford Poverty Truth Commission
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It certainly wasn't pretty...real life stories of prostitution, drugs, self harm, abuse, domestic violence, rough sleeping, mental health breakdowns, benefit removals, fleeing from terror...death...lives unlived...financial, emotional and physical despair...

As each person bravely stood on stage before a packed audience of whoever wanted to be there in Eccles Old Town Hall, the grisly tales from Salford's underbelly seemed to get worse and worse.

There was Jayne, haunted by debt collectors after a toxic marriage, who turned to sex work to try and financially cope, and alcohol to try and mentally cope, via some more harrowing experiences of beatings and rapes. With her kids eventually removed by social services, Jayne had only a single person's benefit on which to live...

"That's when living in poverty really kicked in" she recalled "A single person's benefit doesn't fix the holes in the roof or heat a house meant for four, which I had to keep for my kids to come home...it doesn't cover the cost of paying extra for fuel on pre-pay meters...or the small debt agencies that have county court judgements against you...

"...I had no hot running water or heating for 18 months and I often sat alone in the dark so I could afford the extortionate pay-as-you-go mobile charges that I needed to ring the kids in their foster placement...I ended up bare foot on the East Lancs Road trying to throw myself in front of passing trucks..."

Welcome to the Salford Poverty Truth Commission, an attempt, not to define or totally solve poverty but to share experiences with people in public life to "see what happens", as Joyce Kay, from Community Pride explained.

Those in `public life' who attended included Salford and Eccles MP, Rebecca Long Bailey, Salford Mayor, Paul Dennett, the Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, various agencies, City West housing association, Eccles Councillor Peter Wheeler and a slight smattering of business people.

Fifteen `public life commissioners', including reps from Salford University, the BBC and Barclays Bank will listen, interact and respond to fifteen `grass roots commissioners' from the community who, thankfully, are not the usual suspects to be bought off with a buffet but people who have experienced poverty first hand.

At the beginning of the launch, the Salford fifteen paraded on stage holding blackboards with one word to express feelings about their situation – ranging from `isolation' to `torment' to `fear' to `worthless' to `NIBE', the unaffordable heating system installed in Pendleton high rises that is supposed to ease fuel poverty...

First up to tell tales of homelessness was Angela `Penny' Barratt, who has spent five years working with rough sleepers and "opening people's eyes to what goes on in our city centres". On the screen above her flashed photos of tents and cardboard beds. She was followed by Danny describing her work "saving lives", while explaining the existence of homeless camps and squats beneath the multi billion pound developments that are pocking the Manchester/Salford border.

"My hope for the future is that the homeless can have more support" Penny concluded, to applause from the politicians, bankers and agencies who are so clearly failing them.

Next up, the audience heard Christine's story. Her dad died when she was ten; she suffered with depression, and was then hospitalised with mental illness – "a thief that steals your life". She recovered. Went back to work for 23 years before it came back with a vengeance. To the point where she was given ECT (electro compulsive therapy).

Christine was on incapacity benefits during recovery but ATOS deemed she was fit for work and removed her welfare, until she appealed... "I lived in fear of being sanctioned" she explained. Her conclusion? "People's lives can change in an instant".

Meanwhile, Laura was brought up in social care where, at 14, she was self harming, on anti-depressants, with no counselling and anger as her only emotion... "I was a statistic...left empty inside and out". At 17 she was dumped in a flat in Ordsall to fend for herself, soon having two daughters to "love and care for", despite carrying the mental health scars of her own youth...

Constantly searching for help from social services, school and doctors, and constantly let down, Laura was on a cycle of medication and hospitalisation with her kids living with her partner... Laura's conclusion? "Early intervention is the only way to get support. Things need to change – and fast..."

Alan fled Cameroon in 2007 after the government embarked on arresting, imprisoning and torturing SCNC members who were fighting for independence. He was arrested but escaped to an unknown destination... "I thought my life would be better" he said but immigration didn't believe his account, and his fear of being sent back led to a mental breakdown... "I still continue to suffer...with no hope in life, no plan for tomorrow; I only wish that my depression does not lead to an early grave..."

Each story was told powerfully and, incredibly, without tears. Those who came forward had managed in some way to sort their lives and were now involved with volunteering, work or activism, and had some kind of a happy-ish present day. But Jayne summed up the angst... "Poverty and despair can happen to anyone and we are not to blame..."

It was a point echoed in the pre-speech by the Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, who called poverty a 21st Century insult...

"What's going on is that now there's wealth but people are being excluded from its benefits, not through laziness but simply by exclusion and that's something we need to address" he explained "If we listen to people who really are in need, about their experience, about their expectations, about their priorities I have no doubt that we can assist in overcoming this insult which is poverty in the 21st Century..."

Meanwhile, a humbled Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, explained that, while poverty is seen in numerical terms, it's about "the lived experience...The challenge is about how we move away from an institutional approach...people in communities need to tell us".*

Those who attended were left in no doubt that fifteen brave people had found their voice and were going to use it to try and change things for the better. Unfortunately, few councillors were present and even some of the `public life commissioners' went missing. Is the Salford Poverty Truth Commission going to make a difference? It's easy to be cynical but at least it seems to have the right people from the community on board...

At the back of the hall there was a large collage of the `Causes and Indicators of Poverty', with Salford Council looming large in one corner but a zillion other things as well, all festering together in the community cauldron being stirred by a Macbeth of politicians intent on cuts and Do-It-Yourself solutions.

"We're planting a seed but don't know what's going to come from it" said Sarah Whitehead from Community Pride "We've got to recognise each other as equals or we can never progress..."

The Salford Poverty Truth Commission is jointly sponsored the Salford Mayor and the Bishop of Salford. The vent was delivered by Community Pride in partnership with Church Action on Poverty. The next meeting of the Commission will be in September.

For further details see the Facebook page – click here

See also previous report from Leeds Poverty Truth – click here

See also previous Salford Star pre-launch article – click here

*The Mayor went on to raise a question about the current state of Salford, where there's huge development but poverty and deprivation "isn't shifting". It was a breakthrough confession that confirms everything the community and the Salford Star has been noting for a decade. For this follow up feature - click here

Caroline Gray wrote
at 05:27:37 on 07 November 2016
hey stop this...remember Bindloss ...we were vulnerable..but developer now has..it salforld council trash it... an pay council tax on house they trash the comptan gruop .grown rents we try to stop them far to high...for you but the church of england gave to them at low price.to them..
Sharon Hooley (Independent Housing Advocate) wrote
at 06:42:06 on 15 July 2016
Mark Preston.... It is true that council and hosing associations will go as low as to lie in a court of law. To produce fabricated evidence against vulnerable people. I've seen this too many times. What I will say is that Mr Chakotia is correct in saying that the Justice System only works if you have been represented properly and evidence to counter act obligations were given. It is possible in my opinion that you were insufficiently represented and that led to the judge taking the side of the council. Without knowing the facts of your case I can only presume that you were in a "bad place" mentally and because of this they used this vulnerability against you. You have every right to feel that the Justice System doesn't work...I would also if I had been treated like that, but I can assure you that there are people like Mr Chakotia and myself fighting for vulnerable people as we are, ourselves, deemed vulnerable adults.
Tahir Chakotai (Independent Housing Advocate) wrote
at 17:18:25 on 13 July 2016
Dear Mark Preston, you presume way too much, and in my opinion, understand way too little. I am a High Functioning Autistic Adult, and therefore I very rarely delve into the logical grey areas concerning civil and criminal law. What I have derived from your comments, in my opinion, is that you are a person with too much to say, but has little knowledge of the legal system. I am a Retired Chartered Electrical Design Engineer, who designed cooling systems for nuclear reactors. So like you, I do have a vast engineering background. As a High Functioning Autistic Adult, with a current IQ of 156, I am not in the habit of working in shades of grey when it comes to civil or criminal law. I have also noticed, by reading your comments, that in my opinion, you lack behavioural, and emotional control, which are the two main factors needed in order to win any legal case. I have also observed when reading your comments, that you obviously don't read completely or fully a persons reply, thus contradicting what a previous person has said. I do understand, more than you could possibly imagine, that there are, in my opinion, individuals within the Salford Council, and within Housing Associations, that prefabricate evidence against tenants, especially those who are deemed vulnerable, who cannot fight back. However, you have implied within many of your comments that you have lost your legal battles with the Council. I however, am yet to loose one single court case. I have defended 69 vulnerable tenants from unlawful eviction within the last four years, thus proving that I do not talk utter nonsense and do understand civil and criminal law. I have tried my very best to support you, using the Salford Star Comments Box as my medium, however, in my opinion, you continue to rant and rave about matters you obviously do not understand or fully comprehend. I have offered my help, and have done everything in order to help and support you, but, in my opinion, you refuse to listen to reason, and certainly have failed to understand another persons point of view. For this reason, I feel that I am unable to assist you any further. I would strongly recommend that you seek the services of either a councillor, or ask your GP to refer you to the mental health services. I do hope, at some point in your life, you find the legal closure, you so rightly deserve. Kindest Regards, Mr. Tahir Chakotai, (Independent Housing Advocate)
Mark Preston wrote
at 14:35:56 on 13 July 2016
Dear Tahir Chokotai, I disgaree. If an ordinary person turned up to a court with with false details against someone else like Salford City Council did in 2014, they might be doing doing 2 to 3 years now for possible fraud and extortion. I'll not be happy until salford city council are forced to explain, before a court, before members of the press and before witnesses why: - they falsely claimed someone had not sent a form back to them so they could cancel a HB claim and evict - and why they falsely claimed someone was employed in order to obtain council tax when they knew that person was unemployed. - and why Manchester Magistrates and Manchester Civil Center for Justice ruled in favour of a case that was based upon FALSE details. As for you comments on 'tricks to understand your opposition for behavioural predicatability'.  I disagree with such a system it also sounds a bit fuzzy and grey.  A bit like Orwells 2+2 = 5 system.  In contrast, I come from Science and Engineering which is world where you have to get things perfectly correct, otherwise things don't work.  If we worked the way the 'Justice System' worked, then a passenger aircraft would start one day and not start the next,a car would turn left when you steered it right, your house lights would do the heating and you would have to use your heater for lighting, your watch would tell storied instead of the time, and you could forget robots and space travel. 2 + 2 = 4 mate.  Always has done and always will regardless of a 'Justice System'. Salford City Council knew they had received a form in August 2014, and they lied to inorder cancel the claim.  They also knew I was unemployed in Oct 2014, but again lied before a court in order to obtain council tax money. It's all a bit boring for me, because it was only a small HB claim and Council Tax, so why do that ?  why change someone's details for such a small amount of money ?  I don't know!!!!  It's incovienenced me because i'm trying to setup a business which takes time, so, i'm going to get Salford City council to account for that before a different court. Until then Salford City Council are crooks in my books.
Tahir Chakotai (Independent Housing Advocate) wrote
at 08:05:33 on 13 July 2016
Dear Mark Preston, I am sorry to hear that your case did not succeed within a court of law, however, it is important to understand that we must not let out personal opinions cloud the judgement of others. The Manchester and Salford Justice System has, and still does give every Salford Citizens a fair hearing. Your case may not have had enough evidence, or the other party may have sounded more credible. The Justice System does not just factor into its decision evidence and credibility, but also includes something called "Shadow of Doubt". Sometimes a case can be in a state of what chess players call "Stalemate". Therefore the Judge has to make a decision on who he thinks is more accurate or reliable. Now I am not a councillor, MP, and I certainly am not a Salford Council Worker. But I have successfully defended 69 Vulnerable Tenants, from being unlawfully evicted. You could claim one or two were a fluke, but 69 Vulnerable Tenants walked away from that court, cleared of all charges of wrongdoing, and can now hold their heads up high within society. I am now severely physically disabled to a point where my body either refuses to move, or I am hospitalised / incapacitated. So I have now trained 15 new Independent Housing Advocates, who have also been successful in court, and have defended other vulnerable adults from unlawful eviction, thus proving that the Salford Justice System still works. The trick is to understand the person you are fighting against in court, and use "behavioural predictability" to ensure you stay several steps ahead of the opposition. If you then combine the right evidence, at the right time, and remain completely calm and composed throughout the case, you will beat the opposition. It is also important in some cases to ensure that you use a reputable and knowledgable solicitor combined with a razor sharp barrister. This ensures your evidence is presented in the best possible way. I do hope that this helps you to understand the Justice System, and if you are having some ongoing difficulties, I would be more than happy to refer you to one of my trained Independent Housing Advocates, and if needed, they can also help you find a suitable solicitor and barrister to defend you, in a court of law.
Mark Preston wrote
at 16:20:20 on 12 July 2016
Dear Tahir Chakotai, I have to disagree with your comments on the 'the Justice System',I have no confidence in it, not just because of my case but from what iv'e seen over the years. The council, from my point of view, can - and will go to court with false details, and the court will and has ruled in their favour, even when that court is presented with 'evidence' or, 'the truth' of their false details. In my case the court didn't even check whether the council had a claim based upon solid facts, but just assumed they 'were telling the truth'. So we have to disagree on the 'The Justice System'. My advice to anyone living in Salford is be careful when dealing with 'council' or the courts, because as they say 'give them an inch and they'll take a mile'.
Tahir Chakotai (Independent Housing Advocate) wrote
at 06:29:40 on 12 July 2016
Dear Mark Preston, I totally agree with what you are trying to convey about the local council, however I do feel the need to defend the "Justice System" within Salford and Manchester. Your absolutely correct when you say that certain Manchester and Salford Housing Associations are making vulnerable people unnecessarily homeless. This is a fact, and I have defended and won many cases for vulnerable tenants who were facing unlawful eviction, however it all comes down to one thing, and that is who defends you in court. When I hear of an eviction case that needs more experience and certainly more knowledge, I tend to use the services of Stephensons Solicitors. Their Manchester / Salford number is 0161 979 0216. I have certainly witnessed many unlawful attempts of evicting vulnerable adults based on nonsensical and sometime unsubstantiated claims. But if you use the truth, evidence, and a really good solicitor, the Justice System will always act in your favour. Another interesting point for any mentally disabled tenant who is facing eviction is something called "Protected Characteristics". Every mental disability comes with a unique set of unchangeable behavioural practices that are a direct result of a persons mental disability. We call these "Protected Characteristics". If the Housing Association fail to take into consideration a vulnerable adults "Protected Characteristics" or "Behavioural Trades" then the Housing Association could be in breach of Section 149 of the Equality Act of 2010. So although there are vulnerable people who are wrongfully or unlawfully evicted, if a neighbour or social worker assists that vulnerable adult, and either mediates with the Housing Association, or finds a reliable solicitor, the "Justice System" still works within Manchester and Salford. Remember, Justice is based on the ability to present the facts, the truth, and above everything else, relies on the honesty of the individual. I still believe in the "Justice System", but I totally understand that some, not all Housing Associations, try to manipulate the "Justice System". So Mark, it all comes down to one thing, are you a person that stands back and allows vulnerable adults to be unlawfully evicted, or are you like me, who uses the "Justice System" to protect the most vulnerable who live in Salford / Manchester?
Mark Preston wrote
at 19:20:54 on 11 July 2016
If you want to hear some truth about poverty in salford, then you don't need to look no further than how the council illegally evicted people with the help of the bent court in Manchester. We have a situation where you have a council running a homeless service and at the same time the very same council makes people homeless. How orwellian can things get.
Paul Gerrard wrote
at 07:37:22 on 11 July 2016
I attended on behalf of Salford against Cuts. The individual testimonies were extraordinarily powerful and it must have taken great courage to share these experiences. So it was a shame so very few councillors were present to hear the realities of life in Salford. It was a shame too that there was absolutely no opportunity to contribute from the floor or seek answers from the 'movers and shakers' present. I hope this will be rectified at future events.
David Minshull wrote
at 07:36:49 on 11 July 2016
Rather shocked to hear of this meeting even though working alongside SAFVN and supporting veterans in the City as well as homeless people in Manchester from Salford was not invited or informed it was taking place.
Tahir Chakotai (Independent Housing Advocate) wrote
at 16:48:11 on 10 July 2016
I knew things were bad in Salford but OMG!!!!!!! I was hoping that only a few people were suffering within this over developed city, but to hear there are hundreds possibly thousands is horrific. Red should be the colour of the faces who run the council in Salford. Salford Council, in my opinion, obviously wants to socially cleanse the city of low paid workers and build a House of Parliment, so they can become the new capital of the UK. The only trouble with that idea is the city will no longer be full of true Salfordians. The Salford Council, in my opinion, are practically giving plots of land to the developers, along with shovel loads of money, in order to expand the city, and make it the new capital of Britain. However while shovel loads of cash is being given to developers, vital services, such as mental health, are going without. All I can say is, that in my opinion, the Salford Council should be facing criminal charges for abuse, if they are failing to provide services, or meet the needs of those who are disabled, mentally ill and / or vulnerable. The NHS Safeguarding Legislation is very rigid about such matters. If a vulnerable person is refused the right support and services, this is deemed by the NHS as an act of abuse, that should be dealt with by Social Services and the Police. If enough Salfordians complain to the local government, change is possible. But we must all coordinate our efforts so we are all saying the same thing as a group, and not as a majority of individuals. Only then can this disgusting state of affairs be resolved.
tom wrote
at 13:55:05 on 10 July 2016
Dennett is a bigger liar than stewwart ..dsnt give a mo kies for salford folk just ass licking his developer mates , like a carry on film . Wat ever he says he has his fingers xsd behind his back.rebbecca long bailey ,same camp ...self important money wasters , our money..
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