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Nick Buckley, the founder and leader of local charity Mancunian Way, talks about social problems in Manchester’s inner city neighbourhoods, and how the charity is working to support and improve people’s lives. He tells us how the charity started, and what motivated him to do something about the needs he saw.
We have heard many a 13 year old saying things like “what’s the point? What’s the point of school, what’s the point in trying for a job? I’m going to fail anyway, so why bother?” Our biggest challenge is trying to overcome that mentality.
Another thing we try to work on is teaching young people basic skills such as communication, appropriate language for different settings such as the workplace, turning up on time, and understanding why these things are important, and how these things reflect on you towards the public. We have noticed that a large section of the younger generation are lacking these soft skills.
Oftentimes, we have come to notice that large scale problems like antisocial behaviour stem from a culture that has taken decades to develop. I believe we have a culture in the UK that I like to call ‘learned helplessness”. For example, if you are living in a household where 2 or 3 generations of the same family have not been working, everyone gets used to just getting by. If you have been brought up in that environment, you don’t know any different, and it becomes normal to you.
Mancunian Way is a relatively small charity, trying to tackle a lot of very large problems, but you always have to start somewhere! We are realistic, and do not expect to change the world, or even the whole of Manchester overnight, but we want to change the lives of whoever we have the chance to engage with. In our projects, it’s all about promoting personal responsibility.
Without that, nothing can change. People need to see the chance of a better life, and take responsibility for themselves and their mistakes, and even when there was no mistake and it was just bad circumstances. We always say to the youngsters, it doesn’t matter if you fail. If you fail, you get up, you dust yourself off, and you start again. Young people are often scared of trying in case they fail. They need to overcome that fear. We have conversations with them that say they are the captains of their own destiny. We can hold the map for them, but they are the ones that ultimately have to decide which way they are going to go.
It’s the same story with our homelessness projects - it’s all about personal responsibility. We don’t do handouts like most charities, because that doesn’t work, and it can’t be sustained. We go out, meet them, sit with them, and build relationships with them over time. We ask them purposeful questions, like “how did you get here?” And “what can we do to help you get off the streets?”
Without them highlighting what they want, we can’t move them forward. We can’t force them into accommodation straight off the mark; they need to take a good, honest look at their lives, and say “I don’t want this any more. I need help. I’m not sure what that looks like, but I’ve known you guys for a few months now, we’ve chatted, and I trust you. Can you help me the rest of the way?” Without building trust, they can’t really ask for help. They often see the government, the local council, social services, police, etc, as the enemy, so they struggle to take hold of the kind of help they offer.
But they need to want the help. On average, we get a person a week saying they want accommodation. That might seem like a small number, but since we came together as a charity, we have never failed to get a person into accommodation. This goes to show that help is out there, and it’s readily available to those that are prepared to reach out and grab it.