Wiltshire Community Foundation is responding to increasing hardship suffered by people in Swindon.
It has launched a Cost of Living Crisis Appeal to generate vital funds for grassroots voluntary groups and charities who are supporting families and individuals in the face of escalating rent, food and energy prices.
“We are hearing of increased need across the county with food banks running out of food and more and more people unable to afford to eat or heat their homes to a safe level,” said community foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver.
“The price of food has risen faster in the last year than at any time since 1980, typical energy bills have doubled, rents and other household costs are escalating.
“This new fund will support projects which are keeping people fed and warm and provide additional practical support and advice to help people cope throughout this period of great hardship.”
A survey by Citizens Advice Swindon found one in five of 1,200 respondents had skipped meals to reduce costs, and one in two said the cost of living crisis had negatively affected their mental health.
Mrs Oliver said the tougher the financial pressures placed on people, the more the effects ripple out into other areas of their lives – with poor mental health, low self-esteem, domestic abuse and family breakdown all attributed to increased poverty.
“Young people’s education is also harmed – it is hard to concentrate at school when you are tired, hungry and worried about what is happening at home,” she said.
Charities in Swindon, including food banks, debt advisors, family support and mental health groups, have told the community foundation they have seen a sharp rise in demand for their services in recent months – at a time when their own costs are rising.
Mrs Oliver said: “Many of the groups and charities we work with are small and they face the same pressures as the people they seek to help, with energy, rent, fuel and other running costs eating further into their income and leaving them with stark choices about which services they maintain – at the very point when people need them the most.”
Gorse Hill Baptist Church in Swindon began distributing food bags to struggling families in June 2021 after receiving a £5,000 Wiltshire Community Foundation grant. It is now sending out up to 80 a week and has also opened a community fridge.
Heather Prictor, one of the organisers, said 150 people a day, three times a week, were coming for food. The group has opened the hall as an all-day café on Mondays. “With the winter coming and food and gas prices going up people are wanting to save money so we have a full hall every Monday,” she said. “They are coming and staying to chat and keep warm.”
Mrs Oliver said households with lower incomes were less able to cope with rising costs or unexpected expenses because they were less likely to have savings.
“Everyone is facing an extra squeeze on their finances at the moment but any amount donated to the appeal will help some of the amazing groups across Wiltshire and Swindon maintain the support they are giving to families and individuals,” she said.
“Some people have already kindly made a donation of all or part of their Winter Fuel Allowance or Energy Bill Discount as they are in a position not to need all of it and we are able to direct this generosity to where it is needed most. It’s at times like these that Wiltshire and Swindon’s boundless community spirit shines through.”
Further information can be found at localgiving.org/appeal/costofliving/
The donation line is at 01380 738989 from 9am to 5pm on weekdays.