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Manchester Urban Institute

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People and groups

Case studies.

The rights of undocumented migrants

Gaining an understanding of status and experiences of undocumented migrants.

The challenge

The issue of migration is never far from the political headlines in the United Kingdom and is highly contested. The Immigration Act 2014 enacted by the coalition government presents undocumented migrants as criminals and has increased enforcement measures against them. However, not all undocumented migrants have entered the UK without legal permission and instead this may have expired or been altered by a change in circumstance.

A key challenge is this hostile political environment leaves undocumented migrants vulnerable to crime and exploitation, since they have restrictions to access to healthcare, housing and employment. A further challenge is the decision making process about the status of migrants, which is often experienced as unfair and unjust. Altogether there is a lack of research informed evidence about how the system is experienced and how it could be changed to work better.

Our research

With funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, a team of researchers from the University of Manchester have collaborated with the Migrants Rights Network holding a number of consultation meetings with local stakeholders to gain the migrant perspective on the nature and effectiveness of the system. This included Manchester-based migrant community organisations, migrants, local government workers, legal professionals, and researchers with relevant expertise and research interests.

The findings revealed that the current policy focus is often experienced by local stakeholders as unjust and not capable for making the most arbitrary of decisions. For example, many undocumented migrants applied for asylum before becoming undocumented, and questions were raised about the transparency of the system. This lead to the recommendation that a reform of the asylum system is needed to ensure that decision making is fair and that people are not becoming undocumented unjustly.

The impact

A policy briefing document has been produced which outlines the recommendations of the research. This has been sent to a number of MPs and civil servants which ensures the research is feeding into public policy debates. A number of presentations have been made around this and a policy blog and infographic have been created which help ensure the research is impacting on actors across a range of levels. Various events have also been organised across Greater Manchester more specifically to engage the findings of the research with local stakeholders, for example including the recent ‘Migrants in Manchester’ touring exhibition. 

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Key people

  • Jon Spencer, Reader, School of Law
  • Joanna Bragg, Research Associate, School of Environment, Education and Development
  • Dr Jo Deakin, Lecturer in Criminal Justice and Research Fellow, Criminal Justice Research Unit
  • Dr Elaine Dewhurst, Senior Lecturer, School of Law
  • Dr Claire Fox, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, School of Law
  • Steve Collett
  • Ruth Grove White
  • Simon Ruding

Maximising the benefits of Passivhaus

Supporting older occupants in social housing.

The challenge

Greater Manchester is one of the most deprived regions in the United Kingdom (UK). Although there are differences across the region, some areas are characterised by high poverty rates and this often has a particularly negative effect on the elderly. Cold environments contribute to around 27,000 excess winter deaths each year in the UK. Older people are regarded as particularly vulnerable, owing to the physiological changes associated with ageing including diminished capability in maintaining stable core temperature. This is exacerbated by high levels of fuel poverty amongst those on a retirement income, and is therefore potentially having a disproportionate effect on older people living in the most deprived geographical areas.

Housing constructed to Passivhaus standards offers a potential solution to problems posed by cold homes, providing warm and dry environments with stable internal temperatures. The term ‘Passivhaus’ refers to a performance-based energy-efficiency standard for buildings. In a house constructed to Passivhaus standards heat loss is minimised through the use of high levels of insulation and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, to the extent that the need for conventional heating is almost eliminated. In consequence, less energy is used for space heating than conventional new-build homes, with accompanying high levels of thermal comfort and air quality. Yet, whilst these unconventional dwellings may require little energy to heat, occupants must relearn how to maintain thermal comfort for their benefits to be fully realised.

Our research

Although the Passive House Trust has published guidance on how to write a user manual, there has hitherto been no clear guidance available for older occupants. With the aid of an ESRC Impact Accelerator grant, in partnership with Eastlands Homes (a not-for-profit housing association operating in East Manchester) we developed a guide which details best practice for using Passivhaus.

The guide was developed via literature reviews and interviews with housing providers involved in developing Passivhaus schemes. Focus groups and one-to-one semi-structured interviews were held with 14 occupants of a housing scheme refurbished by Eastlands Homes (therefore occupants were Manchester based) in order to bring it up to EnerPHit standards (similar to Passivhaus). The guidance document was further refined through a workshop hosted by Eastlands Homes and is available to download for free via the Housing LIN (Learning and Improvement Network) website. In particular, the guide outlines a number of important recommendations about how building features can be designed and developed to help older people maintain thermal comfort in a Passivhaus dwelling. Some highlights from these recommendations are listed in the following:

  • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR): Controls should be simple to comprehend, and be designed and positioned so that they can be seen easily by people with sight loss and operated by people with arthritis.
  • Window opening: Windows should have lever handles, positioned between 750mm and 1200mm from floor level, so that they can be easily opened and closed by people with reduced strength or who find it difficult to reach up high. Tilt-and-turn windows should be avoided.
  • Controlling solar gain: Where possible, fixed solar shading should be used. However, consideration should also be given to the provision of adequate daylight for occupants’ health and to assist with vision. Where moveable shades are used, they should be operable by people with sight loss, arthritis and mobility impairments, including wheelchair users. Occupants diagnosed with dementia might also require assistance in controlling solar gain, where moveable shades are used.

Stable internal temperature: This should suit those older occupants who, owing to physiological changes, find it difficult to adjust to changes in temperature. However, some occupants, particularly those diagnosed with dementia, might find it difficult to cope with the slow response time of the MVHR unit, particularly where air heating is used.

The impact

The guide – ‘Maximising the Benefits of Passivhaus: A Guide to Supporting Older Occupants’ – will be invaluable for housing providers and architects involved in the design and development of older peoples’ housing. 

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Key people

Project partners

Co-producing policy to reduce age-inequalities

Identifying the issues as viewed by older residents in cities.

The challenge

By 2030, sixty per cent of the global population will be living in cities, with at least a quarter of city dwellers aged sixty or over. Clearly the needs and requirements of this age group will become an increasingly significant aspect of social and public policy, both in terms of design and delivery. And whilst progress has been made in identifying key age-friendly interventions, older people have rarely been central to their development. Moreover, how people’s experience of old age in Greater Manchester can be vastly different. The city has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the United Kingdom, and this varies across different geographical areas.  Being older can be an opportunity for some people but for others it can be more of a challenge, for example those living in neighbourhoods with high poverty rates, crime levels and low investment in public services. 

Our research

This was a project led by Tine Buffel and Chris Phillipson, and funded through an EU Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship. It builds on work already being conducted in the city of Manchester which focuses on the experiences of social exclusion and inclusion among ageing populations. The aim of the research was to identify the issues older residents themselves viewed as important in developing the age-friendliness of their neighbourhood. A further aim was to involve older people, not only as the research target group, but also as experts and actors in the planning, design, development and implementation of the study.

A diverse group of eighteen older residents (aged between 58 and 74) were trained as co-investigators. They conducted sixty eight interviews across South Manchester with older people who were experiencing social exclusion, isolation, poverty or health problems. The interviews focused on ways of improving the quality of life for older people living in urban communities. During the training sessions, attention was given to the design of the research, to ensure that it was particularly sensitive to marginalised voices within the community.

The study found that many people’s quality of life was reduced by their susceptibility to multiple forms of exclusion (poverty, social isolation, loneliness and the experience of crime). However, the research also found that older people retained a strong commitment to neighbourhoods in which they had lived for most of their lives. 

The impact

As a result of the research, important principles have been established in terms of promoting age-friendly neighbourhoods:

  • First, the neighbourhoods must provide a mechanism for empowering older people and ensuring broad social participation.
  • Second, they are a reminder of the importance of ‘citizen rights’ in terms of ensuring full and active use of a city’s resources and services.
  • Third, they affirm the importance of recognising the multi-layered nature of the urban environment, where social and physical constraints affect the lives of older people in a variety of ways.

Taken as a whole, the Manchester Ageing Study represents a significant advance in research methodology and in developing new models of community engagement. Crucially, it contributes to re-thinking public policy in relation to age-friendly cities, drawing on the direct involvement of older people themselves.

The work carried out in Manchester has received various accolades, including winning the ‘Outstanding Local Community Collaboration Award’ at the 2015 University of Manchester Social Responsibility Awards. The work has also attracted interest from both the WHO – pioneers of the age-friendly cities agenda – and a number of key UK and European policy actors.

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Key people

Project partners