The cost of living crisis and what we can do to help.
07 March 2023
The cost of living crisis – what can we do to help?
Love it or hate it, use it or avoid it – Twitter has proven conclusively that you do not require great tomes of literature to move readers to pity, to outrage and to action. After all, the Tweet that brought the reality of the cost-of-living crisis crashing down to earth for so many was less than 300 characters.
Earlier this summer, I was volunteering at the Charles Thompson Mission in Wirral when, appalled by what she was seeing, she posted the below Tweet which has been viewed well over one million times.
“Oh god it’s getting so bad. At breakfast club more people with accommodation than homeless but can’t eat & pay energy bills. Very thin elderly man this morning hadn’t eaten for FOUR days. In UK in 2022. We gave him cereal, 2 breakfasts & food to takeaway. He can’t make ends meet.”
Fans Supporting Foodbanks and Carpenters Group have run a breakfast every Sunday morning for the last five years, and when it started it was aimed at homeless people unable to find alternative assistance on Sunday mornings, with many hostels only open Monday-to-Friday. In recent weeks and months, however, its uptake has spiked, while the profile and requirements of those coming in have also changed significantly.
There are people coming in now who have got accommodation, some who are working and quite a few on benefits and state pensions and they just can’t make ends meet. It’s not surprising when you see how the cost of food has risen which is making it particularly hard for people on a state pension. Then there are the energy bills. Some people are telling us they’ve switched off their gas and electricity because the standing charge is too high.”
To support these newcomers, the Breakfast team are giving them food to take away with them but this is raising additional challenges as the food has to be something that cooks quickly. The Sunday in question was the most stressful I have seen in five years because everybody was coming in early as they were afraid to miss out on what was available. Where normally, the volunteers would have leftovers for people to take away, they found themselves having to ration second helpings.
The reaction to her post – which spawned over 6,000 retweets and almost 18,000 likes – is testament to the growing concern of many around the inflationary environment and the far-reaching consequences it has for families and individuals all around the UK. A crisis like this will impact so many regardless of whether they’re working or on benefits, and it feels like a tsunami that hasn’t yet broken. The cold weather will mean people will not only be hungry, but they will also be cold too.
I often tweet about stuff I see and experience on a Sunday morning because I feel that I can use my platform to tell their stories, to share their pain and to be the voice they don’t have. Over the years I’ve had a lot of feedback, support and offers of help too. A lot people I support on a Sunday feel abandoned, worthless and ignored. They don’t think anybody cares about them any more. My experience is they do.
It's not all bad news as evidenced by the wave of support and backing that my post about the devastation has generated, both across the UK more widely but also in the insurance profession. In the aftermath of her speaking with Radio Merseyside about the report, a foundation led by a high-profile footballer got in contact to make a financial donation to the Mission.
Interestingly, after a Liverpool Echo piece that journalist Liam Thorpe wrote after visiting the Breakfast club, following the tweet, donations went up hugely and the four people featured got £100 cash each which all helps.
Volunteering on a Sunday has really changed my life. I’ve met amazing volunteers and fantastic people at the breakfast who display the most incredible fortitude and humour through the worst deprivation I’ve ever seen and being part of this is just so incredible, for all that it’s so tough right now. It’s very humbling.
For those looking to get involved or to further their engagement, I have two messages – education and prioritisation. It’s critical that people develop a very keen understanding of the reach of these challenges and that they don’t allow stigma to get in the way of themselves or those around them getting the help they need. On the prioritisation front, while people are still in the thick of this turmoil, businesses should examine their list of chosen charities and make sure these reflect the most urgent aid required.
We’re in a different position now, where we have so many who are going to go hungry and going to go cold, so things like foodbanks and community charities may need to be jumped up that list. My advice to companies is also to look inward, and look at your people on a lower income because they will feel this crisis too.
If you’re an individual, every supermarket has a foodbank and there are charity shops that need warm clothes for the winter. We did a huge ‘warm clothes appeal’ at Carpenters Group end of last year and collected a huge amount of coats, hats, scarves, gloves, blankets etc which were distributed to community groups and homeless shelters. The great thing about these initiatives is that their reach is so wide – they will provide whatever support they can, so whatever you can give will not go to waste. I also think having access to advice is essential so it’s great to see citizens’ advice bureaus, law centres and community groups producing information about the energy crisis and the support that’s available to you.
As an industry we do a lot for charity and always have so we can’t bury our heads in the sand – whether or not we are impacted ourselves. If everybody can pull together and help each other through this, that will make all the difference.
If you want to chat to me about how you can get involved or if I can assist in any way, please contact me on dmscarpentersgroup.co.uk
Donna Scully, Director