TORBAY NEEDS MORE NEIGHBOURLINESS

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

 

Yet again, the phones have been ringing off the hook on the Torbay Community Helpline as the cost of living crisis goes from bad to worse.

Wherever you look, there’s bad news heading our way and the prospect of increases in mortgage rates has added a whole new cohort of people who are deeply worried that they will not be able to make ends meet this winter.

For nearly a year, warnings have been circulating about a perfect storm of rising gas and electricity bills, spiralling petrol and diesel costs, and increasing food bills and that was all before the War in Ukraine.

Already we were dealing with a growing number of families who needed food parcels, some for the first time in their lives and that was before the money markets went into meltdown and inflation went through the roof. Hundreds, if not thousands of people in the Bay, have joined the ranks of the concerned and stressed.

Calls to the Helpline have been coming in so quickly that we have had to reduce the hours, giving weary call handlers the chance to regroup, sort paperwork and brace themselves for more calls. It is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is a necessary one.

If you need the Helpline, the new hours are 10am to 1pm and 3-6pm from Monday to Friday and Saturdays from 11:30 am to 12:30pm.

Last week alone, we dealt with more than 700 calls from people worried about what we now call the three f’s – food, fuel and finance and 71 new people were added to the 9,500 people that have been supported before them. That is a staggering one in 140 people in Torbay.

And we expect many more to contact us in the coming weeks.

To think that before the COVID crisis, there was no Helpline, no single place that people could turn to regardless of their needs. The Helpline has come a long way since it was set up one week before lockdown in March 2020.

More and more support services have been added over recent months and since the early days when it only dealt with shopping, prescription collections and befriending as was essential in those days, it now boasts and stands by its strapline – One Call, That’s All. If you have a problem and do not know where to go, then pick up the phone and dial 01803 446022.

Agencies across the Bay are looking at practical support for those that are struggling over and above the existing services for example the Torbay and Wellbeing Network are looking to compile a list of ‘warm spaces’ which as the name suggests are places that people can go to keep warm when they can no longer afford to heat their own homes.

Community Builders from Torbay Community Development Trust are on the lookout for places that they can add to the list, whether that is a regular coffee morning in a community space or a café.

The aim is to publish a directory of all the places available to Torbay residents across the public, private, health and voluntary sectors so that anyone who is cold knows where they can go to get warm, stay warm and enjoy a little company and some hot refreshments.

If you know of a warm space or wish to offer one, please email [email protected]

As discussed over the last few weeks in this column, COVID was tough, but the communities came together and got through it together. In many ways, this crisis could be even harder, as not everyone is in it together and those that are suffering are difficult to spot.

How do you know if your neighbour is sat shivering behind their closed door, with little or no food to put on the table? The sad fact is that you don’t and won’t unless you choose to do something about it, like checking on them, particularly if you know them to be vulnerable.

Set up a WhatsApp group or a good old-fashioned telephone tree in your community and keep checking in as the weather turns colder. You might want to consider setting up a Good Neighbour Project and if you do our Community Builders can help – sign up at: bit.ly/goodneighbourtorbay or call the Helpline on 01803 446022.

Hands-in photo courtesy of Freepik.com

Author