By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead


Some very familiar themes are re-emerging as summer gives way to autumn and none bode well.

The number of COVID cases is again on the up, but from a thankfully very low level – but the question is, where will those figures go as the cold weather comes in? No one can be sure, but the predictions aren’t good.

In a bid to keep on top of the cases, the vaccination centre has reopened at the Riviera Centre in Torquay and is being staffed on average three days a week for appointments only – thus far mainly aimed at older and more vulnerable people.

However, as with previous rollouts, the age of recipients will fall as everyone is urged to get their booster to ensure that the virus is contained and once again potential pressure on our NHS is kept to a minimum.

The cost of living crisis which slipped from sight for a few days as the country turned its focus from soaring energy bills and the Government’s plans to overcome it to mourning the death of the Queen, is back at the forefront of minds and it is taking its toll.

A temporary change of focus did not stop the inflated bills dropping through the letterbox and those combined with high inflation, soaring food bills and petrol and diesel prices remaining stubbornly high, have pushed overstretched family budgets into meltdown.

The end of the school holidays is always a pressure point for families and that has registered all too clearly with calls to the Torbay Community Helpline rocketing as some struggle to put food on the table and keep the lights on.

The Helpline, originally established one week before the first lockdown, is busier now than it has ever been as it pushes toward helping its 10,000th person in the Bay. Last week alone it took more than 720 calls, all from worried people.

Much has changed since the team behind the Helpline responded to the first calls in March 2020 from those who needed food deliveries, prescription collections or to hear a friendly voice in a frightening world. But the principles remain the same – food, finance and mental health.

New people are being added all the time as they realise that they cannot afford to pay their gas and electricity bills or feed their families. It is now affecting more and more individuals who are already in full-time employment.

The pressure on our volunteers and Helpline staff is immense and it is falling on charities and voluntary organisations to relieve the pressure on statutory services that are struggling to cope. And we know that the worst is still to come.

Experts are warning that a combination of being unable to heat homes, and a poor diet will lead to more people being hospitalised on top of the usual winter pressures – already expected to be exacerbated this year by people’s first exposure to bugs that were kept in check during lockdowns.

Once again, we need to rally around to support our friends, family, and neighbours, because none of us really know what goes on behind those closed doors. Just as we did during the worst COVID crisis, we need to check in to ensure all is well.

In some ways, this crisis is potentially worse than the pandemic because it is not affecting everyone equally and it is easy to miss the signs of the insidious creep of abject poverty and deprivation. The signs are all around us, yet they are hidden in plain sight.

Who is to know if someone has had their three square meals today or is keeping warm enough through the cold winter evenings? We can’t know, which means we need to be ever more vigilant for our more vulnerable neighbours in our communities.

If you need help, do not suffer in silence, pick up the phone and call the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022 from 10am to 1pm and from 3pm until 6pm, from Monday to Friday and from 11.30am to 12.30pm on Saturdays. We are here to help.

And it is a familiar plea by now, but if you can volunteer to help in any way – staffing the Helpline, marshalling at the vaccination centre or setting up your own Good Neighbour project, the number is the same – 01803 446022 – One call, that’s all.