Read all about it

stigma_stories_final_lores 1

We thought that – because we’re all about fighting stigma in the media – we should produce our own newspaper.

One that celebrates our achievements and spreads the word about who we are.

We’ll be handing out copies at our event this Thursday – but in the meantime, click here for a sneak preview.

We’ve also had word that Inspector Steve Gerrard, of Salford Police, will be joining our panel discussion on Thursday.

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Our event

We are delighted to announce details of our event on Thursday, July 17th, to be held at the Beacon Centre, London Street, Salford,  M6 6QT from 12.30pm to 3pm.

The event will feature presentations by the group – as well as a panel discussion with Maria Smyth of Unite the union,  Eccles councillor Peter Wheeler, Inspector Steve Gerrard of Salford Police and Hannah Dobrowolska, Head of Corporate Services at Salford Clinical Commissioning Group, who are in charge of NHS funding in Salford.


The day will be an opportunity for us to introduce ourselves, and share our learning.

It will also be a chance to put some of our questions to those who make the decisions…..

Lunch is included. Get in touch with Joyce at or 0161 236 9321 if you want to come along.


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Media matters


Cllr Peter Wheeler with Greg

Last week’s session was a chance to put our knowledge into practice.

Instead of using negative labels to describe ourselves, we are now advocates for disability rights; peer mentors; career women; trainee family support workers.

Who are we and what do we want to say to the world? We practiced our answers during role play interviews, using the following questions….

Can you tell me a bit about the NICE group?  Who are you?


Samara with Kasia

What motivated you personally to join the group?

How does stigma affect you and the people you know?

How has being in the group benefited you?

What do you want to achieve?


Kay and Sarah

Some of the group were forced to perform their interviews in front of the rest of the group. With a microphone shoved in their face.

Nerve-wracking, but useful practice for the real thing. And as we all agreed, being scared is what pushes you to try your best.

This was the final week of media training – but the group will continue meeting over the next few weeks to finalise preparations for our event on July 10th, which is being held at Salford’s Beacon Centre.


Joyce from Church Action on Poverty with Kirit of Oxfam

People from different organisations across Salford – the NHS, the council, the University, the voluntary sector, and the police – are being invited to hear what the group has to say.

We will then hold a panel debate where the group will be able to get answers to some of their questions, on a huge variety of issues – including welfare reform, disability care cuts, services for ex-offenders, and the meaning of social value…..

Should be good. Keep posted for more details very soon.



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Number crunching

In our last session, we talked facts. And figures.

Numbers are sometimes as important as words when you’re telling stories.


Fred and his neighbour Letitia. Fred spends £10 a week more on the bedroom tax than he does on food.

Let’s look at a few examples:

More than HALF of the UK’s  £208bn annual welfare bill goes to pensioners – and they will receive a £16bn increase by 2018.

6.5 million can’t get the paid work they need, and 1.4 million part-time workers want to work full-time – but the jobs aren’t there.

6.1 million people in working households are suffering poverty.

Working households make up the huge majority of new housing benefit claims – 93 per cent.

Since 2009, the cost of privately renting a home has increased by almost 40 per cent.

The UK spends around a fifth less per person on benefits than Germany.

So I asked the group to come up with some figures of their own.

Kay, who is wheelchair-bound and suffers from spina bifida, has had her care package cut by almost 70 %, from 38 hours a week to just 13.

She has secured legal aid, and is fighting the decision through the courts.

Slim told us that it had cost £80,000 to keep him in prison for two years – a cost the Government were willing to pay.

Yet they are trying everything they can to avoid paying him just £4,800 a year in unemployment and support benefits  – he was recently sanctioned, through no fault of his own, for six months.

Earlier this year Kasia – a mother-of-two – had to wait for three months for the Job Centre to process a benefit claim, despite the fact she is desperate for worthwhile work, and did all they asked her to do.

After almost 100 days without any support and mouths to feed, Kasia ended up in tears to an adviser – who was unable to help.

Letitia’s daughter was sanctioned for a whopping 6 months – with the household losing £1,846 – over a mix-up with the Job Centre. Letitia’s daughter lives at home – so even though Letitia works, her housing benefit was cut because of her daughter’s sanction. So everyone suffered.

Fred, 60, suffers from gout and arthritis, and has difficulty reading. But as he lives in a three-bedroomed house, his housing benefit has been cut by a quarter.

He pays £26 a week in bedroom tax – yet has just £15 a week for food and clothing. He has lived in his family home for 44 years, and there are still no one-bedroomed houses for him to move to.

Yet despite being punished and sanctioned for not working, this group actually works thousands of hours a month, for free – as carers, mentors, volunteers, and parents.

We worked it out.

Collectively, the group works 512 hours a week.

That’s 2,048 hours a month – or 24,576 hours a year.

Even if we were to cost that time at the minimum wage of £6.31, that’s the equivalent of a £155,075 wage bill.

Yet because these are free hours, society doesn’t value them.

But we would argue that what we do is the opposite of worthless.

It’s priceless.

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value judgements


the lovely Kash

Today’s session was brilliant.

We’re getting closer and closer to being able to articulate who we are and what we represent.

We created a mission statement with the values we think are important – not just for us personally, but as a group.

How can we fight stigma, if we don’t know what we stand for?

We took as a starting point an Express newspaper front page from this week:


A pretty extreme piece of media bias, designed to create stigma.

So what is the Express’s mission statement?

‘We stand for traditional British values of decency, politeness, personal responsibility and honesty.’

It seemed pretty obvious to take on theirs and produce a better version.

So we brainstormed and came up with this:

‘We stand for traditional British values of equality, compassion, integrity and truthfulness.’

Ray, Joyce, Sarah

Ray, Joyce, Sarah

We felt that reflected us and what we do a bit more effectively….we don’t really rate politeness as that important.

And we try to take responsibility for everyone around us – our family, friends and community – as well as ourselves.

After all, this is a group stuffed with people who give their time for free to help others.

Our members volunteer with mental health charities, schools, and with young people.

They have set up support groups for ex-offenders and those with addiction problems. And they are brilliant parents, carers and friends.


Golda – she volunteers in a school and a mental health charity

I wonder – if you were to convert the hours we give to others into cash – how much would this time be worth?

And would we still be called scroungers?

Tony, Laetitia, Fred

Tony, Laetitia, Fred

We would also like to welcome Fred to our group (that’s him, on the right there. I’ll put a proper picture up next week).

He’s what you could call a community champion – he keeps the streets clean, looks after everyone’s bins, and makes sure everyone on his street is alright.

As Carl said, everyone needs a Fred on their street.

Next week we will put our biographies together online. Keep posted!



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empathy training

Last week, we started a four-week course of training – and welcomed five new members from the Positive Changes group who will be joining us over the coming weeks – Carl, Ray, Rick, Lisa and Michael.

We focused on how to tell our story – what detail is important for us to focus on to create empathy with the audience? What are the ingredients of a good story?

To find out, members of the group split up and interviewed each other.

They were then asked to come up with a headline that would sum up their partner’s story – remembering that we we had to focus on creating empathy whilst being honest.

We will be posted the stories on the blog over the coming weeks…..




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The truth is slippery…..


Our first session looked at the kind of language used by the media to manipulate readers’ emotions.

In the first piece, by the Sun, words like freeloader and scrounger pepper a story about a single mum who is claiming benefits.

Details have been included about the family being to able to buy a games console and TV  – without actually stating where the funds have come from.

We then looked at another piece – Hunger Hurts – by anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe.

Her language is emotional, full of small details – like the fact that she is forced to have cold showers, and has had to pawn her watch to buy food for her son – that provoke a different kind of emotion from the reader.

Many of the group can relate to Jack’s story.

But they point out that she is clearly articulated, educated and confident.

How can they learn how to express themselves in the same way?

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