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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Beth Abbit

The Mancunian Way: Our hidden carers

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Here's the Mancunian Way for today:


It was wonderful to see Manchester's Chinese community celebrating the Year of the Rabbit yesterday.

Chinatown was packed out for the Chinese New Year celebrations with colourful displays by lion and ribbon dancers. Seeing the 175ft dragon weaving its way through the streets really was a sight to behold.

Lisa Yam, President of the Federation of Chinese Associations of Manchester said: “It has been two years since we have been able to wake up the dragon to bless the city. The Year of the Rabbit is sure to be a great year for us all.”

In today’s newsletter we’ll be looking at the situation for the many Mancunians providing care, the changes to bus services and the line up for this year’s Bluedot festival. Let’s begin.

The people of Manchester came out in their thousands to line the streets in celebration of the Chinese New Year (Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News)

Our army of hidden carers

They are the 'hidden army' who keep our communities going with little or no reward.

Now, the full scale of the number of people who provide unpaid care across Greater Manchester has been revealed in fascinating detail by the latest census figures.

The Mancunian Way can reveal that across Greater Manchester 269,710 - or 9.4 per cent - were providing some level of care at the time of the last Census.

And a total of 88,988 people were providing 50 hours of unpaid care each week or more. That’s 760 more across the conurbation than were providing that level of care at the time of the last census, in 2011.

Experts say the country’s health and social care systems would ‘quite simply collapse’ without the support provided by unpaid carers.

Carers UK is pressing for the Government to develop a funded National Carers Strategy for England. And they say it’s vital that ‘hidden carers’ recognise themselves as such and get the help and support they’re entitled to.

Carers UK say this distinct increase is significant because of the ‘devastating impact’ substantial unpaid care can have on health, wellbeing and carers’ ability to juggle work and care.

Looking at the number of people who provide some level of care, Manchester has the highest number of unpaid carers in the region. However Wigan has the highest proportion with 33,306 - or 10.1 per cent of the population. Trafford had the lowest proportion with 20,493 - 8.7 per cent.

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, says the increase in the number of hours of care provided by families every week since 2011 is striking. “This is clearly a result of the shortage of adequate and properly funded social care services and health services to support unpaid carers and the people they care for,” she says.

“Funding to help carers take vital breaks and respite, so they can maintain their own health and wellbeing whilst looking after someone, is desperately needed along with significant social care funding.

“Many people don’t identify themselves as unpaid carers and take years to do so – 51 per cent of carers took over a year even though they were providing substantial care. Most people consider themselves to be a partner, husband, wife, son, daughter, good friend or neighbour and don’t recognise themselves as unpaid carers.

“We know that there are potentially many more hidden carers out there that could be getting information, and advice and support and it’s essential that public services recognise this in their planning and delivery.

“Without the support provided by unpaid carers our health and social care systems would quite simply collapse. It is vital that the Government recognises the pressing needs of this huge swathe of people and develops a funded National Carers Strategy for England.

“This would help millions of carers around the country get the practical and financial support they need to care without putting their health and livelihoods on hold.”

Unpaid carers are defined as those who provide help and support to a relative or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition or who needs extra help as they grow older. This help can be within or outside of the carer's household.

Back on the picket lines

Patients are again being asked to get taxis or a lift to hospital as ambulance workers stage further strike action today in a bitter dispute over pay.

The North West Ambulance Service has warned of 'severely restricted' resources and is urging people to only call 999 in a life-threatening emergency. Unite and Unison’s ambulance workers - including paramedics, call-handlers, technicians and other staff - are on strike. There are pickets at a number of ambulance stations across the region.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "Rather than act to protect the NHS and negotiate an end to the dispute, the government has disgracefully chosen to demonise ambulance workers."

Paramedics stand with signs 'From the frontline to the breadline' and 'if our pay doesn't rise we will' on Longsight Road (Manchester Evening News)

Further strikes are planned in the coming weeks by nurses and other NHS workers.

Unions have warned that a mass walkout of staff in February could be a ‘very bad day’ for the health service as they urged the Prime Minister to act to avert the biggest strike action the NHS has ever experienced.

Unite says that Health Secretary Steve Barclay ‘does not have authority’ to negotiate pay deals as it urged Rishi Sunak to call a meeting with union leaders.

The union says the Prime Minister had been ‘missing in action’ during the dispute, and accused him of an ‘abdication of leadership’.

Crisis in the NHS

There are some shocking details about the current state of our health service in this piece by health reporter Helena Vesty.

She has been speaking to emergency medics about the current atmosphere in A&E departments across Greater Manchester and the wider north.

Helena reports that one patient went into cardiac arrest in a waiting room, others have died while waiting for ambulances and people are ‘dying outside the resuscitation area because there’s no room inside’.

“We are witnessing harm on a daily basis with patients either dying in the emergency department or their condition significantly worsening before they have been seen and/or admitted,” one A&E consultant said.

While a North West Ambulance Service paramedic, working in Greater Manchester, likened the situation to ‘a warzone’.

“We’re right on the knife’s edge. People are dying,” they said. “We’re reaching them 12 hours later than we should. Had we got there earlier, they would have been alive - by the time we get there, they are already dead.

“If they are alive when we get to them, they’re dying in the ambulance after waiting 12 hours for us, or they're dying as they wait eight hours in A&E.”

You can read the full piece here.

Quicker to get to Blackpool

Dozens of bus services across Greater Manchester are set to be cut in April, months before mayor Andy Burnham starts to take control of the network. But passengers say services are already poor with waits lasting more than two hours.

Meanwhile, transport bosses warn that some uncertainty is 'inevitable' over the next two years as buses are brought under public control. Within 48 hours of Mr Burnham announcing which companies would run the first publicly-controlled bus services in Greater Manchester since 1986, Diamond decided to pull around a fifth of its fleet from the Bolton depot.

Bolton Interchange in January 2023 after Diamond announces cuts to bus services from April (Kenny Brown)

The loss of 30 buses means that fewer services will be running in Bolton, Bury and Rochdale, as well as parts of Salford, Trafford and Wigan, from mid-April. However, some of these services could be saved before the changes come in.

Already affected by staffing shortages, the bus operator said news that services would be taken over by Go North West, as they come under the publicly controlled system in nine months' time, could 'destabilise' the workforce and a reduced timetable would be more reliable.

Joseph Timan has been looking into the services and how they will affect locals. He spoke to passengers who were patiently waiting at Bolton bus station, who said a reduced timetable won’t make things any better.

Andrew, a builder who lives in Salford, says he has waited for as long as two and a half hours for a bus to get back home from work near Bolton Royal Hospital. Describing the 36 service as a 'joke', he said: "It's quicker going to Blackpool on the National Express than going from Bolton to Salford by bus."

You can read the full piece here.

Tenant told to wipe mould clean

A tenant was reportedly told to wipe off damp because Stockport housing officers didn't have the right PPE.

Coun David Meller told a town hall meeting the case was one of a number to have recently come to light which Stockport Homes had not dealt with to a ‘satisfactory level’, as Nick Statham reports.

A motion calling on it to act on complaints ‘without delay’ was passed by the full council after members heard of a case where a child’s bedroom was affected and another tenant who was told to ‘wipe it off’.

The motion also asked the landlord to prioritise vulnerable tenants, provide tips and guidance for keeping mould at bay and focus on maintaining properties ‘to the highest standard’.

The housing association has been urged to speed up its response to complaints in the wake of toddler Awaab Ishak's death in Rochdale.

Coun Meller said that, while Stockport Homes undoubtedly did good work, the borough could not afford to be complacent.

Stockport Homes says it has already been working with the council to prioritise this work and ‘remains committed to dealing with complaints effectively and swiftly’.

Coming along nicely

New grass has been laid in Piccadilly Gardens (Pat Karney)

It’s a local hobby to complain about Piccadilly Gardens - but the area is looking far better after being re-turfed over the weekend.

The area was likened to a 'mud bath' after the Christmas Markets and the New Year's Eve countdown event with the grass looking trodden and sparse.

But on Saturday, Councillor Pat Karney posted a picture of new grass and said the work was 'coming along nicely'.

Grace Jones, Róisín Murphy & Leftfield top the bill

There’s always an eclectic line up for Bluedot and this year is no exception.

The festival, at the iconic Jodrell Bank Observatory, will return in July with 80s icon Grace Jones, dance legends Leftfield and Pavement and electropop queen Róisín Murphy topping the bill.

Grace Jones (BPM)

They will join Max Richter and the BBC Concert Orchestra along with Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers, art rockers Django Django, post-punk four piece Dry Cleaning, Malian desert blues pioneers Tinariwen and experimental rockers Black Country, New Road, plus a Sunday Closing Party headlined by Annie Mac.

The performance from Grace Jones will be her only in the North over the summer, while it will be the first time Róisín Murphy has headlined a UK festival. After her performance at Homobloc last year, there’s good reason to be excited.

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Weather etc

  • Tuesday: Overcast. 6C.
  • Road closures: M56 Eastbound exit slip road to the A34 closed due to roadworks at A34 Kingsway until 7pm on February 5.
  • One lane closed due to carriageway repairs on M56 in both directions between J7 A556 Chester Road (Bowdon) and J5 (Manchester Airport) until 6am on February 18.
  • Trains: Salford Central will be closed until summer 2023 for vital platform and canopy works.
  • Trivia question: In which local borough was the famous Co-Operative movement founded in 1844?

Manchester headlines

(GMP Traffic)
  • Supercar: Police seized a £170k Lamborghini after catching a driver behind the wheel with no insurance. The blue Lamborghini Huracan - usually priced between £170,000 and £300,000 - was spotted on the M60 near Swinton on Sunday. Officers noticed that the registration plate was not recognised on the PNC system, and pulled the driver over on the hard shoulder of the motorway. Traffic cops then said that the driver was found to be using his friends' car without insurance, and was reported for offences before the supercar was seized.

  • Stabbing: Police are investigating after a 19-year-old man suffered serious, life-threatening injuries during a stabbing in Levenshulme. He currently remains in a critical condition in hospital, GMP say. Officers were called to Stockport Road at around 11.30pm on Sunday and remained at the scene on Monday afternoon. No arrests have been made. More here.

  • Banned: Parents say they are delighted after cars were banned at pick-up and drop-off times around Guardian Angels Primary School, in Bury. A ‘School Street’ traffic-free environment has been introduced during peak times with staff putting out signs, cones and barriers to stop non-residents driving through the area. The scheme allows residents and blue badge holders picking up children to use the roads if they drive at a walking pace.
  • Roadworks: Closures are in place on The Mancunian Way (the motorway not this newsletter), eastbound from London Road to Fairfield Street, from today as part of 'planned works'. They will last until Friday morning. Lane closures are likely to cause delays in and around the city. More here.

  • Spiking: Warehouse Project boss Sacha Lord says the existing law around drink spiking needs urgently updating. After protests last year, then Home Secretary Priti Patel announced plans to make spiking a specific offence. But the current Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has reversed the plans with the Home Office saying ‘there is no gap in the law a new spiking offence would fill’. Mr Lord said: “When I go out on a night out I don't have to cover my cup. I don't have to be as aware as girls and women going out." He says he has been contacted by a thousand girls, women and men and boys who have come forward and said ‘we’ve been spiked’. Mr Lord is preparing to speak to members of parliament in the coming weeks and work with students to combat the rising issue.

Worth a read

You can expect dinosaurs, lizards and plenty of fossils when Manchester Museum fully re-opens after a £15m five-year revamp.

Ben Arnold has been speaking to David Gelsthorpe, the museum’s curator of Earth Sciences, about the exciting changes, which will be unveiled next month.

The bones of a plant-eating tenontosaurus - originally unearthed in Montana in the early 90s - will form the centrepiece of the newly reimagined dinosaur and fossils gallery. Although that gallery will still be dominated, as it always was, by the giant T-Rex skeleton.

As Ben writes: “Manchester Museum, from its mummies and dinosaurs all the way through to its exotic vivarium stuffed with lizards and tiny neon frogs, has always been a wholesome place, and the city has missed it keenly.”

(Vincent Cole - Manchester Evening News)

That's all for today

Thanks for joining me. If you have stories you would like us to look into, email

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The answer to today's trivia question is: Rochdale.

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