By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead


NO matter how tough things get over the next few months, you are not alone and a whole host of organisations and charities are working together to provide much-needed advice and support.

Things might look bleak as the cost of living crisis begins to bite and the weather changes for the worst, but many sources of help are available in Torbay. You do not need to suffer by yourself, reach out for advice.

A good starting point as ever is the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022, which is staffed from 10am to 1pm and 3-6pm, Monday to Friday and from 11:30 am to 12:30pm on Saturdays.

The Helpline has built up a well-deserved reputation for being the one place people go when they don’t know where to turn and the call handlers are proud of their strapline – one call, that’s all.

Set up to deal with the COVID crisis, the Helpline is now busier than ever fielding a stream of calls mainly about the three ‘f’s – food, fuel and finance, accompanied by an inevitable need for mental health advice often exacerbated by the pressures.

It is difficult to imagine, but the coming months are likely to be harder for many families than the COVID crisis as they are pushed further into poverty, with mounting debts and still no means of keeping food on the table and the heating on.

Crises like these are easy to talk about and even easier to predict, but delivering the help to where it is needed most is a challenge being faced by both the statutory services (health and council) and the voluntary and charitable sector.

All have a part to play in ensuring that no one goes hungry, stays cold, and suffers alone this Winter. We as individuals must also step up to ensure our friends, neighbours and relatives are kept safe, fed and comfortable.

The alternative does not bear thinking about.

A recent Cost of Living summit held between dozens of active groups from the voluntary, charity and community sector heard that we are braced here in Torbay for a worse ride than most because of the already high poverty levels in some areas.

Our much higher-than-average ageing population means that many more people are finding that their already tight pensions no longer cover the bills and they are having to ask for help, some for the first time in their lives.

The foodbanks already working flat out are swamped with requests for food and essentials and they are also seeing working people coming through their doors, desperate for their support.

At this time last year, we were warning of a perfect storm making lives difficult for individuals and families across the bay, and for thousands of people, it was indeed a tough winter during which hard choices had to be made between heating the home or putting food on the table.

This year, the prospects are worse. Much worse. War in Ukraine, spiralling inflation, and economic and political uncertainty are all adding to the already onerous burden, tipping many over the edge.

There is some additional funding available, but as always, not nearly enough to go around and everyone is being urged to be creative to plug the gaps – like sharing food with neighbours and friends and sharing warm spaces, saving individuals heating homes.

A list of warm spaces that are available including libraries is currently being drawn up and will be published soon and initially, the Household Support Fund has £1.2m available to provide:

  • Christmas holiday meal vouchers for children on free school meals
  • Vouchers handed out through Children’s Hubs for preschool-aged children
  • Warm Spaces in community settings
  • Supporting food providers through the Torbay Food AllianceSupport to low-income households who missed out on the £650 cost of living payment
  • Support to people on pension credit
  • The Welfare Support Scheme for those who need help paying fuel bill
  • Vouchers given to community partners to distribute directly to residents
  • But that is just the start and a great deal more is being planned behind the scenes to help make sure we all come through this, and as usual, a lot of it is down to us as individuals.

We need to look out for each other – our neighbours, friends, relatives and even strangers. We have proved before that we have strong resilient communities. Sadly, they are about to be tested yet again.

Signpost photo courtesy of Freepik.com