My first home in Cumbria was in Windermere in the early 90’s. I was living with my wife to be and was fresh out of university. I had a portfolio career that embraced shelf stacking at Booths, cleaning holiday cottages, and working as a Home Carer. I was able to pay my rent, run a car, feed myself and go on occasional holidays. Things were tight but we managed. Sadly, many families in the county living in similar circumstances will be calling on help from Food banks and food pantries and seeking debt and benefit advice from organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau and Christians Against Poverty. In South Lakeland, there are 18 different communities and projects where people can access either a Food Bank or a Food pantry including places like Ambleside, Windermere, Kirkby Lonsdale and Grange over Sands.
As the cost of energy and fuel continues to rise alongside other basic foodstuffs, more and more families will begin to feel the pinch. The recent Government support package will, at best, see households facing bill increases of between £1,000 and £2,000. In a normal winter, 300 older people will die because they can’t afford to heat their homes. Unthinkably with vastly increased fuel costs this number may become much higher.
I know that many people will be looking to their employers to help them out. This is at a time when most businesses are facing their own hike in costs, especially linked to energy and transport. Not all companies can pass on these costs to customers with some businesses really struggling. A perfect storm.
This should be short lived but for the moment we need everyone to pull together to help in whatever way we can. For those of us who can, I strongly encourage you to donate to your local Food Bank, Age UK group or speak to the team at the Community Foundation about work going on in your area to help families that are struggling.
Organisations like Citizens Advice can make a huge difference to families. I recently spoke at a thank you event for the staff and volunteers from Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden. Over 60 people who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic, many from home, providing telephone and face to face support. Helping people manage their debts, claim health, disability and employment benefits. In the last two years they have worked with nearly 10,000 people, securing over £6 million in additional income for clients.
One thing we’ve successfully done for 12 years is run our Winter Warmth Fund, which makes grants to vulnerable older people. Every household will receive a £400 rebate from the Government. For those people who really can afford it, we’re suggesting they donate the rebate to the Foundation’s Winter Warmth Appeal https://www.cumbriafoundation.org/winter-warmth-fund/
We’re also working with philanthropists to direct funds in support local groups, for example in Allerdale, the Community Foundation is working with a member of the Cumbria Club, Mike Wombwell. He grew up in Allerdale and has created the Allerdale Holiday, Activities and Food Fund. This summer, the fund will be making grants to a whole range of projects and activities available to children and young people in places like Maryport and Workington, addressing food hunger.
If you know someone who is struggling, please encourage them to seek help. If you are struggling. Take care and seek help, you are not alone.