Our people are 'Here for You'

Our people are 'Here for You'

By Cllr Susan Gambles, Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare

There can be no doubt we have faced considerable challenges over the past two years.

The pandemic impacted everyone but the impact on our most deprived communities was harshest.

Now with inflation at a 40-year high causing the price of fuel and food to soar and wages unable to keep pace, those already in disadvantaged communities are being hardest hit.

We built our excellent relationships during the pandemic as neighbourhoods rallied with the voluntary sector playing a crucial role in our response.

We reached out again in September to ask if any organisations would be willing to open their community hub and parish centre as warm, welcoming space for residents to visit.

We were overwhelmed by the response and now have 55community venues available across the borough in addition to 20 warm spaces in our libraries, museums and leisure centres.

I have watched how the use of these spaces has grown and can only see demand increasing as it turns colder. These places offer a safe, warm space for people to spend time and there are often activities available along with a listening ear for people who want to share worries or concerns.

I wanted to hear more from these organisations, to listen and learn from people’s experiences and guide them to the support available.

So, we invited them to a workshop and once again they responded in their numbers. The room was full when the event was opened by the leader of the council Cllr David Molyneux who confirmed that this crisis is a priority for the council.

I listened to the stories of people and families being impacted by rising inflation with fuel and food poverty their biggest concerns.

Our partners and other services came to the meeting including AWARM, Citizens Advice, Department of Work and Pensions and GMP. We showcased the excellent Here for You campaign which directs residents to services, organisations, resources and offers help and advice with benefits and welfare support, borrowing wisely, keeping warm and eating well.

Two presentations which really stood out were from National Trading Standards about the increased use of illegal money lenders followed by Unify Credit Union, the ethical alternative.

Then the local Fire Station Manager explained that residents are turning to candles and patio heaters to warm their homes and using BBQs instead of turning on the gas or electric oven which all increase the risk of house fires.

We closed the event by launching our money advice referral tool which has been developed to boost household income and financial resilience by getting more money into people’s pockets and helping them access the support to which they are entitled.

As the community response to the pandemic demonstrated, when we work as a team, we are stronger and by working together we can reach the residents that need us most. Whilst it was difficult to hear about the financial challenges people are facing, we explained the welfare support that is available including the Household Support Fund so they can share with their communities.

We are already planning our next event as we realise the scale of the challenge being faced this winter. I would like to thank our community organisations, partners and services who have come together to respond to this crisis and for always going above and beyond.

Posted on Friday 9th December 2022

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