New bid to improve life for Salford poor

August 26, 2010
Poverty is rising among Charedim

Poverty is rising among Charedim

Efforts to alleviate poverty, particularly among children, in Manchester's Charedi community have been stepped up with the launch of a new organisation and the extension of an apprenticeship scheme.

The Israel-based welfare body Mesila has started work in the north-west with the aim of getting families to understand how they can deal with their debts and come off benefits, rather than simply receiving charity.

Separately, a group of 30 Charedi men have been attending a class run by Salford City Council to train them in practical skills, such as plumbing, electricity, woodwork and joinery, to enable them to start businesses for themselves. This has now been extended to a class in computer skills.

News of the work being done in the Charedi community follows a recent report by Salford City Council highlighting the growing problems of child poverty in the area.

Charedi children make up as much as 10 per cent of the borough's child population, according to one of the community's leading welfare organisations.

The Salford report said: "The best route out of poverty is through employment. Families living in areas of high and entrenched unemployment can face additional barriers to getting a job and experience a sense of hopelessness. Parents and carers need support to overcome this sense of hopelessness - practical and personal help to overcome the barriers they face and to get into work.

"Families living in poverty may have less than £10 per day per person to buy everything they need such as food, heating, toys, clothes, electricity and transport."

Nava Kestenbaum, of Interlink and Aguda Community Services, which works with the strictly Orthodox community in Greater Manchester, said the training scheme to get men into work was proving to be very successful.

She said: "There have been 30 men going through the first year of the scheme and next year it looks like it could be 50.

"There have been significant efforts within the community to set up training programmes such as this. Two men, Rabbi Dov Oppenheimer and Mordechai Katz, are working as administrators in close partnership with Manchester Community College and Salford College on such projects." Ms Kestenbaum said work was also ongoing to deal with issues surrounding health and housing, which have also contributed to poverty in the community.

Rabbi Yehuda Brodie, registrar of Manchester Beth Din, who is involved in Mesila, said: "There are a significant numbers of large families in the Higher Broughton area and, by definition, there will be increased levels of poverty.

"It's unfortunate that in large families the wife won't be able to work so it's a double whammy for a single earner in a large family. From my own involvement, I can say there has been a rise in the numbers of families needing help.

"Charitable organisations are also feeling the pinch. Some of the bigger donors are not giving with so much generosity, so one has to widen the net to try to find more small donors - but even they have problems."

Rabbi Brodie added: "No-one is starving and no-one is sleeping on the street. But there are many families who are seriously under-financed and that's where Mesila comes in. A dozen trained counsellors help families understand how they can sort out their debts and stand on their own feet, rather than just accepting charity, which doesn't solve their problems."

Figures reveal the education gap

A study of the 2001 census contrasted the high level of secular qualifications attained by Jews in general with the lower level within parts of the Charedi population in areas such as Salford.

Though the strictly Orthodox invested in religious education to preserve their way of life, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research authors wrote: "their future economic security is far less certain, especially given rapid population growth".

While only 8.8 per cent of 16 to 24-year-old Jews in the borough of Bury had no secular qualifications, the percentage was 26.5 per cent in Salford.

Among 25 to 34-year-olds, 24.5 per cent in Salford had no secular qualifications, compared with just 8.8 per cent in Bury. Twice as many 25 to 34-year-olds in Bury had a degree or equivalent (37.8 per cent) as in Salford (17.9 per cent).

Almost 34 per cent of Jews in Salford had no access to a car compared with 15.5 per cent in Bury.

simon rocker

Last updated: 9:50am, August 27 2010