It’s early October and already feeling chilly. There is a lot of news coverage about the economy, mortgage rates, cost of food and fuel. It is a difficult time.
As an organisation we have adopted a Winter Plan. There will be much more to discuss and detail to follow over coming months, but the headlines are below.
1: Working with our amazing donors we are being clear what food and toiletry items we really need, because in challenging times people understandably want to be smarter with their donations. Foodbank use was up 25% in September compared to 2021, and our Food Pantry is serving double the number of people since the start of 2022. We are working hard to give Pantry members the support they need to move on into our Next Steps programme, thereby keeping Pantry places open for new referrals. Our teams will be able to award special discretionary Christmas dinner vouchers and vouchers for warm winter clothing.
2: Rather than a Christmas hamper with predominantly sweet treats for clients, there will be a Winter Warmer Package which can be applied for. It will include options like a slow cooker, winter duvet, thermos flask and electric blanket. Loads of festive goodies such as selection boxes and mince pies will also be distributed at our 11 foodbanks and Food Pantry sites. We will continue to provide additional support to families via our Uniform Hub, which is open every Friday at our Community Hub in Cambridge Walks, Southport. To access uniform items, just show up and in return for a small voluntary donation, get the uniform you need – saving you a substantial amount for your hard pressed household budgets. What will also help for a selection of families identified by our school partners is an after-school Family Space in Birkdale.
3: We will reinforce our debt and benefit advice team, backing them up with more resources as they are seeing an increased caseload. This will allow us to continue to offer these services to anyone who needs them.
4: Finally, there are few of us who are not affected by the worries of the cost-of-living crisis and almost all of us could benefit from a bit of sound advice. Our popular Financial Wellbeing workshops will be running regularly and are open to all. We can provide a budgeting guide, and there will be handy drop-ins at our Community Hub in Cambridge Walks. Also open to all, with no judgement, no special paperwork or criteria, are our new ‘Warm Spaces’. You can sit quietly and enjoy a hot drink, have a chat or try a new activity. The first is on Wednesdays 1-3pm at Victoria Centre, Sussex Road.
Sadly we can’t help everyone, but will try to advise, raise the public debate and signpost where we can. This is where I also ask people to spare a thought for our staff and volunteers who will see and hear some heart-wrenching stories. I’m so concerned to look after their emotional wellbeing also at this time.
Whatever you are going through, know that you are not alone.
Richard Owens, Compassion Acts Chief Executive