The Covid-19 crisis made life even harder for communities up and down the country with thousands of people made redundant or placed on furlough resulting in loss of income, increase in living costs and businesses closing. Now, with soaring energy prices, increases in tax and national insurance and a cost-of-living crisis, Jacqui Scott, CEO of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Foundation, warns that residents already struggling in the region will need more support to make ends meet.
In its annual review, which is due to be published next month, HIWCF reports on its Covid-19 response and describes the pressure that the voluntary sector is under.
“Working so closely with hundreds of charities and voluntary groups across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight means we get a bird’s eye view of the challenges people are facing across our region” says Jacqui, “For example, we see the rise in the cost of food and provisions directly reflected in increased reliance of local food banks and pantries”.
Portsmouth Foodbank, which received an £8,000 grant from the National Emergency Trust Fund managed by HIWCF in 2020, has seen a 14% rise in foodbank use since April 2021. Sam Hanson, Foodbank Manager said: “We have seen countless clients come through our doors saying they never thought they would end up relying on a foodbank, and that many have to make the tough choice between putting their heating on or feeding their family. This is a choice no one in the UK should have to make”.
For a growing number of people, not just the unemployed or those working in the ‘gig economy’, life is becoming even harder. Eighty-one areas in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight fall into the 20% most deprived areas in the country and a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that rates of ‘working poverty’ hit a new high in the UK of 17% – approaching one in five – before the pandemic took hold in 2020, up 13% from 20 years earlier. For households with two full-time workers, the chance of being pulled into poverty has almost tripled.
Jacqui continues: “Escaping low income, social exclusion and experiences of deprivation can also be more difficult for those in rural areas where people can struggle to access the support services they may need. Added to this, the people who rely on help from community groups are increasingly presenting with more complex needs than those in which a charity or voluntary organisation may specialise – so for example tackling barriers to unemployment often requires a holistic view, as clients may be young people from difficult backgrounds or have additional support needs; counselling services and support for young people with autism spectrum issues report that young people facing gender or sexuality issues may need additional support, and they are often also struggling with poverty or unemployment at home too.
“Many people turning to their local community groups for help may be asking for support simply to put food on their table but can often be dealing with other complex issues. And that’s why the work of HIWCF and all the charitable and voluntary organisations we support is so crucial – they literally offer a lifeline to individuals and communities every single day and are constantly looking to learn and adapt to support the communities in which they work.
“As a region, we’re facing fuel and energy crises like we haven’t seen in decades – and this is resulting in serious financial difficulty for many people and communities. People find themselves in the difficult situation of choosing to either keep warm or buy food. That’s why our Endowment funds are so important, they enable us to keep helping the most vulnerable across Hampshire and the Island.
“There is no doubt that there are huge challenges ahead, and people in our local communities will need our help and that of our local charitable bodies more than ever. If you’re a local business or an individual with the means and desire to support your local community, we urge you to get in touch and find out about partnering with HIWCF”.
Interested parties are encouraged to contact HIWCF at email@example.com or call 01962 798700.