Neighbourly support needed as we head towards Autumn

Hard to believe that Summer is drawing to a close already, and as the weather cools, the harsh reality of the various crises facing families will once again be thrown into sharp focus.

The heating has been switched off for the last few months, which has meant the extra money needed to spend on food has been available, but inflation is still much higher than it has been for decades and for many, income simply does not match expenditure.

Salaries may finally have come into line with the rate of inflation, but that is all well and good if you have money coming through employment. But it is meaningless if you are on a fixed income or your increase was negotiated at the beginning of the year.

Energy prices have dropped, but they are nowhere near the levels they were before Russia began their war against Ukraine and the shockwaves were felt around the world.

The fact is, whilst it is lower than its peak of 11.1% last October, it is still 6.8 % and food inflation is considerably higher at 14.9%, which is across the board. Some staples that many families rely on such as pasta have risen in cost by more than 23%, which is a massive hike for those on a limited budget.

The Torbay Community Helpline has remained busy throughout the summer, and the call handlers are now braced for a surge in the levels of enquiries, roughly in line with the falling temperatures – the colder the weather, the higher the call volumes.

It is easy to forget as we lurch from one set of bad news to another and struggle to keep our own lights burning and food on our own tables that there are individuals and indeed families out there who have only got through the summer by dint of it having been a good one.

Even a mild winter might be enough to push them over the edge and demand will increase at the food banks that have maintained a brisk trade rolling from the effects of the pandemic into economic woes that are striking at the heart of our communities.

There has been no let up in calls to the Helpline about financial crises and those have been matched by calls about declining mental health from people who are buckling under the pressures that seem to be coming from all sides

Once you are in the hole, it is hellishly difficult to dig yourself out, but making that call to the Helpline on 01803 446022 is a great starting point. You will immediately realise that you are not alone; the friendly voice that answers has heard it all before. More to the point, they know where to start looking for the answers.

They recognise that dealing with seemingly insurmountable problems can feel all the worse if you are lonely and or isolated. We can help find a befriender who will call regularly to share your burden and help you through the worst of times.

For those who have found the issues they face overwhelming, impacting their mental health, we can also provide a listening service with a specialist befriender, someone with counselling experience who can provide advice and signposting if things get worse.

Financial advice continues to be available for those who need it; some cannot see a way forward, but once they have spoken to experts can begin to see the light and start planning for the future.

Back in February 2020, one month before COVID struck, none of us could have foreseen what just down the road and the far-reaching effects coronavirus would have, let alone that combined with a war in Ukraine and a series of economic meltdowns some the result of the Russian invasion, others some might argue, self-inflicted.

But we are where we are, and we must all do what we can to support each other. Neighbours continue to look out for each other in communities across the Bay and for those that need a little extra help there is the Helpline

We are always on the lookout for volunteers – drivers, befrienders, specialist befrienders, call handlers, you name it, we can find something for you. If you have the time and want to give something back, please call 01803 446022 today.

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