31 Aug DON’T FORGET NEIGHBOURLINESS
By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
Good neighbours are a blessing, and they come into their own when times are tough.
During COVID, neighbours across the Bay formed themselves into tightly organised communities to look out for anyone who might be struggling during the crisis.
Neighbours shopped for each other, collected prescriptions and called each other regularly to make sure no one was lonely or isolated. Without them, the crisis in the Bay could have been a lot worse.
Some signed up for our Good Neighbour Scheme and received help from our community builders, who have supported just short of 70 groups in Brixham, Paignton and Torbay.
Thankfully many are still going, and strong friendships have grown out of them. Thankfully, as the cost of living crisis deepens, we will need them again.
Instead of shopping and prescription collecting, it is going to be about checking whether everyone is OK – that they can afford to put food on the table and can heat their homes because it is becoming clear that many won’t.
This time around, the crisis will hit the most vulnerable as always, but thousands more will be sucked in, because the dreadful combination of rising prices across the board means that whatever is coming in will no longer cover the bills.
There have been some dire predictions regarding what the Autumn will bring, and as parents prepare to send their children back to school, the purse strings are tightening to breaking point.
Hard choices are being made at a very basic level. How can you afford new school shoes, perhaps a uniform when you can’t afford school meals? Or any meals for that matter. The choices are stark and they are, for some, heartbreaking.
Fuel bills are through the roof, energy bills are spiralling out of control, and inflation is on an upward trajectory, putting pressure on everyone, whether they work or not. The money coming in quite simply goes nowhere near as far as it did at this time last year.
We are seeing it through the Torbay Community Helpline as desperate people reach out for help with bills of every kind and to put food into hungry mouths and sadly whilst we can help, we do not have the answers to every problem.
That is where strong resilient communities must also look to themselves to get through the worst of this – do not assume that your neighbour is OK. A vulnerable elderly person is easy to spot, but what of the apparently healthy younger person? This crisis is across the board and will hit in hitherto unexpected places.
All it takes is a call, a knock on the door or a quick conversation in the street to find out how your neighbours are coping or not. Come the Autumn, as the new, and higher bills drop they may be sat in the dark and the cold, either unwilling or unable to switch on the lights or the heating.
We need a network of good neighbour schemes covering every street and every community in the Bay, we need to know that everyone is connected and it only takes one or two people in each area to make it happen.
During COVID Good Neighbours arranged socially distanced get-togethers, street parties, jumble trails, coffee mornings and even outdoor exercise sessions. Some have set up telephone trees or What’s App groups, but all have been checking on each other regularly.
This time around the fundamentals remain the same, it is just the rules of engagement and the circumstances that have changed. We still need the kindness and we still need to look out for each other. Together we will come up with ways of making sure we all come through this together.
Right now, things look pretty bleak. But knowing that we can rely on our neighbours, goes a long way to lighting up the darkest of cold winter nights.
If you want to be your street’s Good Neighbour, please go to bit.ly/goodneighbourtorbay or call the Helpline on 01803 446022. All we need are a few details – name, address and a referee and you will be up and running in no time.