This has been a hard winter for so many of us. With rising prices stretching household budgets even further, it can sometimes feel impossible to afford even the essentials for your family. So, what charities offer help and support in the Peterborough area?
There has been so much in the news this winter about the cost-of-living crisis and how to manage your household budget. But, sometimes, the advice gets it so wrong. For many people, it isn’t simply a case of cutting back on shop- bought coffees or cancelling magazine subscriptions. The problem is much bigger than that.
And what could be harder than struggling to afford the essentials for your family? As a parent, nothing hurts more than feeling like you’re failing your children in some way. We’re tough on ourselves anyway without feeling financial pressures too! Many parents are being forced to make impossible decisions, such as whether to skip meals themselves in order to ensure their children are fed.
Poverty has the ability to destroy life chances. According to The Campaign to End Child Poverty, 27% of children in the UK were living in poverty in 2020-21. It’s staggering: that adds up to nearly 4 million children.
Since the start of the pandemic, the UK has been hit by rising costs and the worst inflation levels seen in four decades. The challenge that comes with this is that wages are not growing enough to match the increased prices – essentially meaning a substantial squeeze on household income.
Many UK households are under significant financial pressure, and it can feel overwhelming. Recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that food and drink prices rose by 16.5% in the 12 months to November 2022. 61% of people in the most deprived areas are now buying less food compared with last year in an effort to try and save money.
If you’re struggling to pay for fuel, heating or food, know that you’re not alone. And that there is help available. While people can look for help from the regular routes of support, like speaking to their utilities providers and taking up local council and government initiatives (such as cost-of-living support schemes), more and more people are turning to local charities too.
Which charities offer support?
Many families are relying upon food banks to help them get through difficult times. Between April and September 2022, food banks in the Trussell Trust network distributed 1.3 million food parcels to people facing hardship – this is an increase of 52% compared to the same period in 2019. Half a million of these parcels were distributed to children.
Closer to home, Peterborough Foodbank reports seeing a big increase in families in need. In 2022, they fed 8,048 adults and 4,635 children. The Foodbank uses a voucher referral system for emergency food, allocated through organisations such as Citizens Advice, Peterborough City Council, children’s centres and health visitors. You can find out more online at peterborough.foodbank.org.uk.
A spokesperson said: ‘Whilst we are continuing to receive food and monetary donations, for the first time we are starting to see that demand for our service is now outstripping the donations in, as more people are struggling to afford food and pay for heating. Low-paid families are really struggling and very appreciative of our support, but are embarrassed about needing help.’
You shouldn’t ever have to choose between going to bed hungry or living in a cold house. But these are the choices millions of families have to make every day. Being unable to keep a home warm leaves people at risk of developing respiratory diseases and is particularly harmful for the most vulnerable in society. Yet from March-June 2022, around 24 million people were reducing energy usage in their homes to cut costs.
Michelle King is the Founder and CEO of Little Miracles, a charity that supports families that have children with additional needs or disabilities. She says: ‘This winter, more than any other, has been really hard on families, with increases to bills whilst wages or benefits relating to caring for a disabled child remain the same. This means a gap has formed that causes families to struggle and to make difficult choices.
‘Examples of this might be around reducing heating or the parent choosing to prioritise feeding their child over themselves. This is particularly hard for families that have disabled children, as a child with less movement will struggle to keep themselves warm; often temperature regulation means that reducing the heating just is not an option. It might be that the child is on life-supporting equipment which is expensive to run but it is not an option to turn it off, or maybe the child has a restricted diet meaning that making cheaper meals is not possible.’
She continues: ‘For families in need, please get in contact with people who can help as early as possible. There is support available via charities, utility providers and the local authority but it is important to get help as soon as you can. For families that have a child with an additional need, disability or life-limiting condition contact 01733 262226 or email . We can provide support.’
Worrying about not having enough money to pay bills or buy food can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Having the chance to talk about your concerns and gain advice from local support services can make a big difference to your wellbeing and how you feel tackling the problem.
Family Voice Peterborough is a local charity that aims to improve services in all areas of the lives of children and young people with disabilities or additional needs. A spokesperson said: ‘We realise how difficult it is at the moment for many families, and, with help from Peterborough City Council and Orton Longueville Parish Council, we are one of the local organisations running Community Hubs for people to attend. These are spaces for people to come and do activities with others, or a place for people to get food and support. All these are free to attend and are good ways to meet others and make new friendships.’
The charity runs activities such as Tai Chi for wellbeing, Craft Club, and MIND run their Good Mood cafe on Thursdays. For food support and advice there are drop-in hubs several times a week. One attendee explains: ‘I wasn’t expecting you would be able to help with toiletries as well as food, but this is really useful and means that I don’t need to worry. Bills are increasing so quickly it’s a huge worry, but you providing help with some food and household goods means I can redirect my money and cover the bills for a bit longer. Thank you.’
Further community hubs have been created for residents across the city. Using the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Household Support Fund, Peterborough City Council has commissioned community-based hubs, which are run by organisations from the community, voluntary and faith sectors in key locations across the city. All hubs will offer food support and many will also offer energy and warmth related essentials and social activities. Several hubs have cafes and options to pay what you can. For full details, visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/council/campaigns/support-with-the-cost-of-living/winter-support-hubs.
If you have a baby on the way and you’re finding it hard to afford essentials such as nursery furniture, cots, prams and children’s clothing, then Bumps & Beyond in Stamford can help. The charity is open two days a week and supports parents and care-givers with a full range of donated clothing, equipment and healthcare items. Similarly, Care Zone in Peterborough aims to address the impact of poverty by providing practical support and care to the most vulnerable in the city. They provide furniture, household items and baby equipment at no cost, through recycling donated goods from the public.
Struggling to pay the bills can make non-essential items a lesser priority too. The National Literacy Trust reveals that 6.6% of children and young people from the East of England report having no book of their own at home. Almost 3 out of every 10 children who receive free school meals have fewer than 10 books. Families can access free books from local libraries and are also entitled to a Bookstart baby pack for children up to the age of one. These can be collected from health visitors or any Peterborough library.
If you’re after financial guidance for your family, then Citizens Advice Peterborough offers free, confidential and impartial information services. The organisation’s goal is to help everyone find a way forward, whatever problem they face.
No one should have to rely upon charitable support, but the truth is that during hard times these not-for- profit organisations are becoming essential sources of additional help. During the pandemic, communities came together to look out for friends and neighbours. This needs to continue. If you’re in a position to be able to lend a hand – whether it’s through volunteering, donations or by spreading the word – then why not see if there’s a way to get involved with your local charities?
Feeding local families in need
The Greenwood Academies Trust (GAT) is a not-for-profit organisation comprising 38 academies. These educate around 20,000 pupils, across six local authority areas, including Northamptonshire, Peterborough and Lincolnshire.
Peterborough is ranked one of the most deprived areas within Cambridgeshire. There is high unemployment, pockets of deprivation and identified food poverty across the city.
In an innovative partnership, the GAT funds Family Action Peterborough (a charity that supports those who are experiencing poverty) to have an extra order of surplus supplies delivered by FareShare Midlands once a week. Six local GAT schools refer families into the Family Action Peterborough FOOD Club.
The FOOD Club is a membership scheme set up to provide families with good quality food at a low cost, while also reducing food waste. The FOOD Club helps to reduce food poverty and provide additional support to vulnerable families who need it most, for example supporting with housing issues and signposting to a range of services across the city. The Club offers limited credit that can be vital to parents managing household budgets depleted by the cost-of-living crisis.
In addition, Family Action is supporting people on a means tested benefit to apply for the Family Action Fund, which provides individuals and families with a £200 supermarket voucher. Family Action also delivers the Holiday Activities and Food programmes over the school holidays, providing year-round support to families in the area.
The Tuesday FOOD Club has been set up for GAT families as a targeted initiative to encourage families to join by showing them the value a membership can bring. The food is very well received. It is a positive initiative for the local community and much needed.
There are 56 families registered as members for the Tuesday FOOD Club and, since the project began, it has saved 11 tonnes of surplus food from landfill, which is equivalent to more than 25,000 meals.
Julie White, FOOD Club member said: ‘I heard about the FOOD Club from word of mouth and originally came to the Friday club. I started coming over 2 years ago. My children attend a GAT school, so when the Tuesday FOOD Club started, I transferred to a Tuesday. The cost-of- living increases mean it’s much harder to manage all my finances and juggle all the bills. My benefits don’t stretch as far as they used to. I have definitely had to cut back to cope – my boys are always hungry and they eat me out of house and home. I do keep the heating on – it’s important, but I have to cut back on other things. I rely on the food I get through the FOOD Club and I never miss a week. The grant I recently got from Family Action has been a great help too.’
Graham Feek, Deputy Chief Executive of Greenwood Academies Trust said: ‘I have seen at first hand the impact that the work of Family Action and FareShare has had in helping address food insecurity in our communities. We wanted more of our families, who are especially feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis at this time, to be able to benefit from these programmes. Therefore, we were very pleased to work with our partners to enable more of our families in Peterborough to access this provision. We very much hope that in time this becomes a model where we can help many more families across our communities access high-quality, nutritious food, whilst also reducing food waste.’
Find out more about the FOOD Clubs here: www.family-action.org.uk/what-we-do/children-families/food-club/
Where to find help
Action for Children
Protects children by providing practical and emotional support.
Supports families that have children with additional needs and disabilities.
01733 262226 or www.littlemiraclescharity.org.uk
Works to combat poverty and hunger.
01733 575083 or peterborough.foodbank.org.uk
Transforms lives by providing practical, emotional and financial support.
Family Voice Peterborough
Improves services in all areas of the lives of children with disabilities or additional needs. familyvoice.org
Bumps & Beyond
Supports families with donated clothing, equipment and healthcare items.
01780 480493 or bumps-and-beyond.org
Empowers individuals to improve their lives with a variety of services.
01733 735563 or www.helpcharity.org.uk
Exists to end the cycle of poverty for the most vulnerable in our communities.
01733 575083 or kingsgate.church/carezone
Citizens Advice Peterborough
Offers free, confidential, impartial and independent advice.
0808 278 7850 or www.citapeterborough.org.uk
Helps parents and carers to support their children’s literacy skills. literacytrust.org.uk/communities/peterborough
Residents struggling with the rising costs of living can get support at community hubs.