What does Autumn & Winter in 2023 hold in store for us?

Blink and it is gone. It wasn’t a bad Summer, but already it is fading into memory as the nights draw in and the temperatures drop.

As a nation, we obsess over the weather, yet the onslaught of Autumn always seems to take us by surprise. However, this year, we can be justified having just enjoyed unseasonably high temperatures in late September and early October.

But now is the time to hunker down and see what the next few months will throw at us and for many families, it is a period that they have been dreading.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that the crisis facing so many people as we move into the colder months is no longer at the forefront of people’s minds, but the effects of the cost of living crisis have not gone away; they have merely been in abeyance.

It is one thing struggling through when the temperatures are in the teens and the outdoor life beckons, but it is quite another when they drop down to single figures and dark evenings and mornings mean more time at home.

How much longer can we put off the day when the heating is switched back on and the dials on the gas and electricity meters begin spinning, clocking up the pounds with each rotation?

The food banks are braced for busier times as individuals and families are forced to choose between heating and eating, a stark reality for many who have struggled through the last few months, knowing that these days were just around the corner.

Supermarkets across the Bay have large receptacles for donated items just after the tills. Still, even those are not as full as they once were and it is unknown whether that is because people are not as aware of the ongoing need for help or whether they cannot afford it.

The Torbay Community Helpline is also preparing for a spike in the number of calls it receives from people in our neighbourhoods who need our help and support.

The Helpline is the first call for food parcels but it is also the first line of defence for those needing advice about their finances, and how to make them stretch further when inflation is eating away at already overstretched budgets.

This time of year is also tricky for the lonely and potentially isolated, with fewer people out on the streets and smaller numbers stopping in the cold to pass the time of day.

So far, the Helpline has taken more than 81,000 calls since it was set up in March 2020, initially to counter the effects of the COVID crisis, and it is worth noting that not only is it still fielding calls every day, some of those days are busier than at the peak of coronavirus.

The business of the Helpline shows only too clearly that whilst the worst of COVID might be behind us, the problems that came with it, along with the ensuing cost of living crisis, are still taking their toll and in some respects, are expected to get worse before they get better.

During the COVID crisis, Torbay communities showed that they are resilient and good at looking out for friends and neighbours, and now is not the time to lose that focus. Volunteers are needed now as much as they ever were.

Neighbours need to remain vigilant for each other and be prepared to step up when they see others struggling. There are lots of people behind front doors across the Bay that need our help.

There is no shame in picking up the phone and calling the Helpline on 01803 446022 and there will be no judgement made by our call handlers, who are there to help in any way they can.

By the same token, there is a huge amount of pride in our volunteers who are providing that help whether they be call handlers, drivers, shoppers, befrienders or neighbourhood activists.

We just need more of them. Today.

Please join the throng. Our problems have not gone away, and there are people in your community that are suffering and you could be the one to help them.

Please pick up the phone today and call 01803 446022; your community needs you.

Image by wirestock on Freepik