Council vows to support people through cost of living crisis
A raft of measures are being considered by South Tyneside Council to help people through the cost of living crisis.
Since the Council formed its Poverty Group several months ago, the Council has already agreed to provide 'warm spaces' where people who cannot afford to heat their homes can go and keep warm. Voluntary organisations across the Borough are being surveyed through Inspire South Tyneside to see if they could offer such spaces and the Council is looking to offer its own warm refuges in some of its own buildings such as libraries. Once the warm spaces have been identified, a directory will be compiled so that people can see which local venues are available to them.
Helping people to maximise their benefits has also been highlighted by the Poverty Group (formed as a result of the Place Select Committee Poverty Commission which started its work into poverty two years ago) as a key way of supporting people. The Group is looking at how to boost the availability of benefit advice in local communities, through utilising community champions, food banks, vaccination centres and other places.
The Group is also looking at measures to help those on low incomes who are feeling the pressure of the significant increases in the cost of living. Measures being considered
include boosting the opportunities for walking and cycling, helping people to reduce energy consumption through energy education and efficiency measures and raising awareness around food waste. Partners are planning initiatives such as Key2Life's food bus, with outreach workers onboard, and the potential rollout of more community pantries.
Councillor Ruth Berkley, Lead Member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Equalities, said: "There is no doubt that the soaring cost of energy combined with rising inflation is already having a devastating impact on our residents.
"More children than ever used our Holiday Clubs and Activities while there has been a huge increase in the use of school uniform banks and we are seeing more people in work access food banks. Furthermore, Citizens' Advice estimates that one in four people in South Tyneside - and across the country - will be in fuel poverty by October."
She added: "As a council we are committed to doing all we can to support our residents through these incredibly challenging times.
"However, there is only so much we can do and we feel strongly that both energy companies and the government should be doing more to help people. An element of our work will be communicating this to those with means to offer this support."
A cost-of-living summit is to be held later this month which will bring together partners and drive forward actions. This would seek to build up a comprehensive picture of the situation in South Tyneside, identify those eligible but not taking up benefits and target them accordingly while actions will be explored to help those not in receipt of benefits.
A dedicated web page has been created to offer cost of living support. Visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/costofliving