COST OF LIVING CRISIS IN TORBAY

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

 

THERE are challenging times ahead for us all as we transition from one crisis into another. We were all affected by COVID and few of us will escape the effects of the spiralling cost of living.

During COVID, our communities pulled together to make sure we got through the worst of it as one. The issues were omnipresent and affected each and every one of us in one way or another.

Sadly, some lost loved ones, some were furloughed and others lost their jobs as a result of which some are still reeling from the far-reaching effects of the virus not just on people’s physical health, but their mental health as well.

We still do not know what winter will bring in terms of the virus, but we have a good idea of what effect the cost of living crisis will have on huge swathes of our community because we are seeing the effects now and know that worse is stil to come.

We see the effects through the Torbay Community Helpline, which was originally set up to help people during coronavirus, providing lifeline services such as shopping, prescription collections and befriending services for the lonely.

It also provided a focal point to recruit an army of volunteers who were on call to help their friends and neighbours through various lockdowns and restrictions. As a result our communities came through it all stronger and more resilient.

But the next few months, if not years, are going to test those strengths further in ways that we could not imagine just a few years ago. We have said that before and it was almost a mantra during COVID.

Before Christmas, we saw people choose between eating and heating and many went without presents under the tree as various factors came together in a perfect storm that struck at the heart of families.

A premium payment on Universal Credit introduced during the crisis was withdrawn, just as fuel prices started to rise at the pump and through our meters and all that came alongside mountains of debt accumulated through the lockdowns.

Things were already looking bleak, but few predicted the additional and far-reaching effects of Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine and its even bigger impact on fuel and food prices across the board.

The Helpline, which thankfully has now become a permanent fixture in the Bay, has seen call levels rocket in recent weeks, often exceeding the high levels seen during the early days of lockdown one when people were scared and helpless. In May 2020 we received 2422 calls and in the May just past, 2524.

The subject of those calls are consistent and revolve around food, finance and mental health and come from people who are facing crises of their own, many for the first time in their lives.

No matter how hard they try, they cannot make ends meet, and it is hitting people across the board, not just those that are not in work; we are talking to people who have jobs and still cannot afford to switch the electricity on and put food on the table.

People live in homes across the Bay with no furniture, no cooking facilities and are fearful of switching the electricity on for fear of the top up cost. And that is in summer when the heating is not needed.

We are not here to judge and there are myriads of reasons why people find themselves in the circumstances they do, and to a man and woman, none of them saw it coming and none of them have wished it upon themselves.

Even those that are helping are feeling the effects of the crisis. The food the foodbanks buy in is more expensive and like everyone the cost of heating and lighting the buildings they operate from is rising.

Even the food being donated via supermarket collection points is reducing or if not reducing in quantity, reducing in quality because those that are giving have less to spare after their weekly shop.

The crisis may have a different title, but people need our help and once again we must look out for our friends, our neighbours when they need us most, which is now and is in the foreseeable future.

Volunteers staff the Helpline, and we urgently need more. Please ring 01803 446022 to offer your services today, or fill in the online form at https://bit.ly/torbayhelpline.

Empty wallet photo courtesy of Freepik.com

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