How charities are dealing with the cost of living crisis in Greater Manchester

Film-makers are shining a light on important issues affecting residents across Greater Manchester and are supporting charities working to tackle the problems.
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The team behind an award-winning grass-roots film made in Manchester is shining a light on serious issues being faced by residents across the city-region and supporting charities trying to tackle them.

Lifeshare is Manchester’s oldest homelessness charity and provides a range of services and projects for people who are sleeping on the streets or in vulnerable positions to help them turn their lives around.

EPiC HOPE, meanwhile, is one of the newest charities in Greater Manchester and is based in Wigan, which has high numbers of people sadly choosing to take their own lives.

The two charities were the recent beneficiaries of a screening of Nobody Loves You and You Don’t Deserve To Exist, created by Manchester film-maker Brett Gregory, at Leigh Film Factory and they got to speak about the work they are doing to help local people who are struggling.

‘We are seeing a massive increase in demand for our services’

Lifeshare has been supporting people in Manchester who are sleeping rough or in precarious accommodation for decades, with its services being largely but not exclusively aimed at younger people aged between 16 and 25.

Its services include digital inclusion projects which it says are vital because it is very difficult to access support such as Universal Credit and other benefits without online and email access.

Judith Vickers from Lifeshare speaking to the audience at the film screening at Leigh Film FactoryJudith Vickers from Lifeshare speaking to the audience at the film screening at Leigh Film Factory
Judith Vickers from Lifeshare speaking to the audience at the film screening at Leigh Film Factory

The charity says it has seen demand for its services soar, with numbers of people attending its weekend breakfast project doubling since last autumn, which it describes as “a worrying trend”. One weekend in March Lifeshare saw 270 people come for its hot breakfasts between Friday and Sunday, whereas an equivalent weekend 12 months previously saw just 102 people turn up.

Lifeshare also says it has run out of clean, warm clothes to hand out at some of its projects in recent times.

Lifeshare says the current cost of living crisis is “having a massive impact”, with many people who do have a roof over their heads being just one step away from losing their home as they also cope with the rising costs of energy, rent, food and other essentials.

The charity has also seen the cost of providing food rise significantly and is urgently asking for donations to enable it to keep supporting those who need it.

‘We need to come together and say we don’t want anybody else taken by suicide’

EPiC HOPE has been founded in Wigan by Ellie Palma-Cass to try to tackle the sensitive and difficult issue of suicide in the town, which had a higher-than-average rate of 12 deaths per 100,000 people recorded between 2019 and the end of 2021. Three-quarters of those who took their own lives in that time were men.

Ellie said she set the organisation up in January having spent years battling her own mental health issues and suicidal ideation. She described why she is so passionate about helping people who are extremely low and maybe contemplating taking their own life.

EPiC HOPE is in the process of setting up places where people can go to access peer support, have a chat with the teams and volunteers or be signposted to other organisations who can help them. Ellie has called these harbours as the importance of having a safe place in a storm was important to her during her own mental health battle. The charity is also spending time at places where it is known people attempt to take their own lives to try to be there when someone is in need.

Ellie Palma-Cass, founder of Epic Hope, at the screeningEllie Palma-Cass, founder of Epic Hope, at the screening
Ellie Palma-Cass, founder of Epic Hope, at the screening

Ellie said: “I suffered from suicidal ideation from a young age until I was in my 30s. I’m glad I’m alive and overcame it, although it was after any years. I’ve had amazing things happen in my life and I want to say things will get better. People in that dark, desperate place need support and care to be able to get through that next step, sometimes even that next hour.

“More people are turning to us. It’s not that mental health services aren’t there, they are just overwhelmed, they haven’t got enough staff. We’re creating these places so people have got somewhere to go.

“We want to reduce and stop suicide in Wigan and beyond. We can’t just leave it to the council, the NHS and local services because that evidently isn’t working. Community seems to come together when there has been a tragedy and we need to come together now before there’s another tragedy.

“We need to get together and decide we’ve had enough and we don’t want anybody else to be taken by suicide. It’s just heartbreaking. What we’re trying to do is make sure people know they aren’t isolated and people care.”

EPiC HOPE has already picked up support from the Wigan Warriors rugby league club and the Co-op which is donating tea, coffee and snacks for the harbours. More information about the services are on the EPiC HOPE website.

What have the film-makers said about supporting these charities?

Lifeshare and EPiC HOPE both took the microphone and took part in a question-and-answer session at the screening of Nobody Loves You and You Don’t Deserve To Exist at Leigh Film Factory, a cinema created in the historic Leigh Spinners Mill.

The film follows the tough life of the central character in Manchester as he suffers child sexual abuse in the 1980s, gets involved in the drug and rave culture of the ‘90s and then faces the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The team behind the film said it was important to support causes working in areas which chime with the themes being explored on screen.

Film-maker Brett Gregory with Judith Vickers from Lifeshare and Ellie Palma-Cass from Epic HopeFilm-maker Brett Gregory with Judith Vickers from Lifeshare and Ellie Palma-Cass from Epic Hope
Film-maker Brett Gregory with Judith Vickers from Lifeshare and Ellie Palma-Cass from Epic Hope

Writer and director Brett said: “The film charts the socio-cultural decimation of the North West under Thatcher in the 1980s, Major in the 1990s and Johnson in the 2020s. The horrendous consequences of this sustained neoliberalist onslaught on working men and women has included, amongst other things, redundancies, debt, depression, homelessness and suicide.”

The charities who were beneficiaries were also grateful for the platform provided by the film-makers.

Ellie said: “This film shines an important light on the scale of the mental health crisis which has taken hold of Greater Manchester over recent years. Feelings of despair and helplessness are now the norm. Creative platforms like this encourage important discussions about what kind of country we want to leave for our children.”

A spokesperson for Lifeshare said: “The film really shows the gritty life for many people. We see that and it’s heartbreaking, seeing people struggling with problems. It’s great for Brett to throw a light on us for a little bit as a grass-roots Manchester charity.”

The Samaritans are here to help at any time and offer a free, non-judgemental listening service for people who just want someone to talk to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 116 123 or look at other ways of getting in touch on the Samaritans website.