Discover more from The Mill
Are almost one in five Mancunians unemployed?
Plus: 'The Mill continues to report its arse off'
Dear readers — we got a huge reaction to this weekend’s investigation into the problem of staff not getting paid or getting paid late in Manchester’s hospitality sector. “Another eye-opening — but not at all surprising — tale of hospitality workers being treated like shit in Manchester,” tweeted Christina. “If the city wants to be seen as a nightlife/cultural capital, it needs to support the people behind it.”
“As so much local journalism is eroded or eradicated entirely, The Mill continues to report its arse off,” tweeted the award-winning journalist Terri White. “THIS is the future-proof model. Shoe leather, ground-reporting and regional relevance over a volume play of aggregation, SEO and all-clicks-pay.”
She went on: “At a time when regional journalism has never felt more devalued and more violently necessary, Manchester Mill, Liverpool Post and Sheffield Tribune give me hope. The big publishers would do well to pause and peek.”
Please do share Terri’s thread and if you haven’t read the piece yet, click on the preview below.
Various people have been in touch with related stories since we published. If you’ve been left unpaid by a venue in Manchester or you’d like to point us to our next story, please email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We strongly believe the perspective of workers in Manchester’s key industries needs to be given more air time to balance out the masses of hype and free PR that surrounds many of these businesses. If you believe in that too, and you’re not a Mill member yet, please do join as a member today so we can take on more of these projects. At the moment, it’s very difficult to fit them around the rest of our work because we have a tiny team and not enough hours in the day. So please do join up as a member now so we can hire more staff and dig into more big stories — it costs much less than a cocktail in a midrange city centre bar.
A museum - or an ‘empathy machine’?
From today’s sponsor: The New York Times doesn’t write about Manchester very often, but recently it did. The headline? A Museum Pivots to Become ‘an Empathy Machine’. The story reports on Manchester Museum, an organisation that has gone from displaying fascinating objects to thinking about its role in a broader sense — as a place that can help people to take action. Alongside the mummies and the dinosaurs, the museum has a new area called the Top Floor, which is a co-working hub for people who want to make a difference in this city, including environmental groups, local artists and a specialist college for neurodivergent young people. The aim is to create a space for the people of Manchester to learn, share ideas and build community. Find out more and plan your visit.
☀️ This week’s weather
A late spring treat this week! Plenty more warm sunshine and very little, if any, rain. The bank holiday weekend is looking good as well…
Tuesday ⛅️ A mix of cloudy and sunny periods with the best of the sunshine coming during the afternoon. Cooler. Max 18C.
Wednesday ☀️ Dry with long spells of sunshine accompanied by light winds. Max 20C.
Thursday 🌤️ Dry and warm with sunny spells. Max 22C.
Friday 🌤️ Dry and warm once again with plenty of sunny spells. Max 21C.
Weekend 🌤️ Remaining warm and often sunny.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Are almost one in five Mancunians unemployed?
Top line: Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, wrote in a piece this weekend that almost 70,000 people are receiving out of work benefits in Manchester — equivalent to 18% of the working age population. “Welfare dysfunction has created a huge hole in the workforce”, Nelson writes, suggesting that this is giving Manchester’s businesses major headaches as they struggle to recruit workers.
The pushback: There are good reasons to think that figure might be a bit overstated, as suggested by policy analyst Jamie Thunder:
Firstly, roughly half of the total UK number Nelson identifies experience health issues that keep them from returning to work. Within that group, over half have a mental health condition.
Secondly, there are those with caring responsibilities who can’t reasonably be expected to work.
And thirdly, the figures include some of those who are working but earning less than £677 a week. Since the introduction of Universal Credit in place of many other benefits, it’s become harder to unpick the data to ascertain exactly why people are receiving benefits.
Impact of the pandemic: What is clear is that the number of people receiving out-of-work benefits of some kind is significantly higher than before the pandemic. Claims spiked in the second quarter of 2020, and have come down a bit since then, but not much, which is surprising at a time of high job vacancies. Research by John Burn-Murdoch of the FT has shown that the UK is alone among developed countries in seeing increasing “economic inactivity” following the pandemic. Most countries saw a spike, then returned to trend levels.
In Manchester, ONS data shows that 28,700 people are out of work due to long-term illness — an increase of around 4,000 since before the pandemic.
We previously covered the story of one man living in White Moss who had fallen out of the labour market 20 years ago and never made it back in. He’d been through the process of proving eligibility for long-term sick benefits after being put on antidepressants by doctors.
Expert view: After publishing that piece, we caught up with Tom Pollard, Head of Social Policy at the New Economics Foundation and a former social worker. He told us that this kind of story was very familiar and that mental health has been the fastest-growing cause of sickness-related absence from the labour market. But he also pointed to the way that the DWP works as one of the main problems. He described their approach as frequently “confrontational” — causing people to dig in, for fear that admitting some kind of work was possible for them might result in them losing benefits.
What to do about it: Whatever your view on the causes, it’s clearly a problem if lots of people who might be able to work aren’t doing so. In his piece, Nelson argues that major reform of the welfare system is needed. Given that the system has already experienced a large-scale reform with the introduction of Universal Credit, that will be challenging. Instead, it might be better to invest in targeted support for those whose mental health is keeping them out of work.
One model that has been successfully trialled is Individual Placement and Support (IPS). Whereas the traditional approach to getting people back into work focuses on training before a job search, IPS is a ‘place then train’ service aimed at getting people with severe mental health difficulties into employment, by quickly finding them a job, then providing ongoing support to both the organisation and employee. Greater Manchester does provide an IPS service — though the numbers out of work might suggest this needs beefing up.
Bottom line: Whatever the exact number, many people in Manchester have left the labour market due to health reasons, with mental health being the biggest contributor. This is bad for people’s well-being and bad for the economy. An approach that works with people at an individual level to overcome these barriers is likely to be the most effective.
Do you know about this area or have experience of the IPS scheme? Please get in touch with our data and policy reporter Daniel Timms (email@example.com).
You might recognise the image above from the cover of David Scott’s new book, Mancunians. It was taken by the photographer Anne Worthington, who spoke to us at our packed-out Mill Members Club last week. The picture was taken in Beswick around 2000, where the boys photographed were rollerblading around the walkways on Grey Mare Lane. “The flats in the photograph have been demolished now,” Anne says. “I went back to Beswick a few months ago — it was the first time I’d seen some of the people in twenty years.” You can buy a print from the British Culture Archive.
At the event, our senior editor Sophie spoke to David about Mancunians. We’ve published a live recording of their conversation as a special episode of our podcast. Listen here.
Your Mill briefing
Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Arena Attack. Tributes to the 22 who died have been laid at the Glade of Light memorial beside the cathedral, where this morning a bell rang out 22 times. According to a new study by Lancaster University and the National Emergencies Trust, three-quarters of the young people caught up in the attack suffered some form of psychological damage, but almost a third of them still haven’t received any kind of professional support. The Guardian spoke to Ellie Taylor, 15 at the time of the attack, who said the struggle to receive help made her original trauma “ten times worse”. Other respondents to the survey said they were told by tutors and GPs to take the attack as “a positive experience” that would make them stronger. The government is finalising a new “survivor’s charter” which is set to include a guaranteed timeline of support for survivors of terrorist attacks.
It was the Great Manchester Run yesterday, and 25,000 people took part, among them Andy Burnham, Manchester’s council leader Bev Craig and Peter Hook, of Joy Division and New Order. Hook ran in memory of Andy Rourke, the bassist for The Smiths who died last week. Defending champion Hellen Obiri won the women’s 10k and Eyob Faniel won the men’s. Sir Mo Farah, in what was the penultimate race of his career, came eighth.
And some heartbreaking news from the University of Manchester. Laura Nuttall, who graduated last summer despite being diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer, has passed away. When Nuttall was diagnosed in 2018, she was told she only had 12 months to live, but was able to access an innovative treatment in Germany thanks to donations from a fundraiser. She was well enough to restart her studies, raise money for brain charities, and promote research by the Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre on campus. Her family said she died peacefully this morning surrounded by the people she loved.
Our favourite reads
How a Disaster Expert Prepares for the Worst — The New Yorker
Lucy Easthope, a disaster adviser who has worked on nearly every major emergency involving the deaths of British citizens since 9/11, spoke with Sam Knight for this New Yorker profile. “Her job is to anatomize the pain of a catastrophe and then — through rehearsals, policy pamphlets, heavily appendixed emergency-planning documents, and the force of her personality — attempt to reduce the agony of the next one. She normally fails. ‘You won’t get it right,’ she told me recently. ‘You will always have an imperfect response.’”
I Thought I Heard You Speak — an oral history of Factory Records by American lawyer-turned-journalist Audrey Golden — uses stories from around 80 women, including DJs, journalists, chefs and the UK’s first female bouncer, to tell an alternative history of the record label, and of the Haçienda. “Some stories are almost Tarantino-worthy: Henry was once tied up in the office in an armed robbery with a gun to her head. Cath Carroll of the band Miaow and her queer friends were pelted with stones. Factory PR Jayne Houghton says her life was saved by Shaun Ryder when two Dutch sex workers wanted to slit her throat in a nightclub.”
This is a handy recap of how Missguided, the huge fast-fashion brand based in Manchester, fell into administration owing millions to suppliers and reneging on customer refunds, and how it is now struggling to return to its former self. Rob Hastings, who broke the original story last year, writes: “a source with close knowledge of Missguided tells i that while the original firm was raking in £8m of sales per week at the height of its lockdown boom, the relaunched brand is now “scraping by” with around £250,000 a week. The numbers are “absolutely desperate”, says the industry insider.”
Home of the week
This two-bedroom terrace in Stretford has a cast iron fireplace, a spacious living area and a cute (if rather tiny) yard. It’s on the market for £270,000.
Property people: Want to sponsor our Home of the Week spot so we’re linking to your site rather than Rightmove? Hit reply to get a very reasonable quote.
Our to do list
🎞️ Manchester Art Gallery is showing the premiere of the first feature-length documentary about Shirley Baker, the Salford photographer best known for her street photography in the 50s and 60s. Book a place here.
🍸 There’s a gin supper club at Atlas Bar on Deansgate. There will be a “welcome surprise G&T” — the surprise now somewhat diminished — followed by a three-course meal designed to augment the taste of three accompanying gins. Book here.
🎭 “In 1988, two Birmingham school friends tentatively come out to one another: one as gay, the other — more shockingly — as an ABBA fan,” reads the showbill for The Way Friends Do, a new comedy showing at the Lowry, which charts the creation of an ABBA tribute band — in drag. Book here.
🎧 Herbal Tea Party, a techno night focussing on “chilled tunes” will be at the Carlton Club in Whalley Range. DJ Rob Fletcher will be providing the music, and there will be art and photography installations too. More info here.
🎸 Nonunonu, a guitar trio described as a “groove-based jazz loaf fresh out of the oven” are hosting a special jazz edition of Jam on the Wall. The new night at Band on the Wall is a space to “improvise, express yourself and connect through music, hosted by incredible musicians from around Manchester”. More here.
🤣 The Global Megacorp Institute of Manchester — a pair of satirical get-rich-quick influencers played by comedians Eryn Tett and Cameron Jones — are hosting a corporate and wellness summit at Cultplex in the Green Quarter. The event itself looks like it’ll make no sense, but definitely be funny. More here.
For an insider’s guide on where to be and what to see on a summery Manchester weekend — which we send out every Thursday — hit the button below to join us as a member.