Community leaders who are playing a major part in helping to tackle the cost of living crisis in Stoke-on-Trent have revealed what they are doing to support residents facing hardship this winter.
Around 70 delegates from organisations across government, business, education, arts and the local community came together for the latest City Forum – which took place at Port Vale Football Club on Friday, September 23.
Led by Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown, the event highlighted what is being done to help navigate the city through the challenges presented by the current cost of living crisis.
Councillor Brown also officially launched a new support programme – Stronger Together Through Winter.
Built around four key priorities, the programme will:
- Provide direct support to residents and businesses by helping them to manage the financial pressures they are facing
- Help people to stay safe and well by providing additional support for the city’s most vulnerable residents
- Support communities to become more resilient by helping them to reduce their outgoings, maximise their income and ensure residents are claiming everything they are entitled to
- Support families on lower incomes with the launch of new central portal on the Stoke-on-Trent City Council website.
Councillor Brown said: “The City Council has developed Stronger Together Through the Winter because we acknowledge that we have an important role to play in helping to lead and co-ordinate our city’s response to the cost of living pressures.
“I have already written to our new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, to tell her about the challenges facing people in our city and the support that we need. And we will be bringing key partners together for the first meeting of the Stronger Together Through the Winter Group next week to agree priorities and responsibilities and plan next steps.
“However, it is also important to state that, while we will be focusing our efforts on supporting the city through the coming months, we are also facing the same inflationary pressures as the residents and businesses that we are trying to help.
“We know that we are going to be faced with challenging decisions that will affect how the council spends public money.
“We must therefore collaborate to ensure that Stronger Together Through the Winter gathers pace quickly over the coming weeks, and to focus our precious resources on supporting people who need our help the most during the difficult time ahead.”
The City Forum also heard from a number of other speakers including Martin Jones, vice chancellor of Staffordshire University, and community champions from The Hubb Foundation, Middleport Matters and Affordable Food Stoke.
The Hubb Foundation is an independent charity dedicated to supporting disadvantaged children and their families during the school holidays.
Its Hubb Pots Project is designed to support families across the city by providing them with access to a family slow cooker, utensils and ingredients to make cost-effective meals ranging from soups to casseroles.
Sheena Bateman from the Hubb Foundation said: “With funding, the Hubb Pots Project has resulted in the provision of over 72,000 meals that our community have cooked for themselves at home following our recipes, using slow cookers and equipment provided by the project and receiving weekly fresh ingredients enabling the family to enjoy healthy nutritious meals and learn new cookery skills.”
Middleport Matters is a not-for-profit organisation that works with families and individuals of all ages in the Burslem and Tunstall area. One of its aims is to help improve the health and wellbeing of residents in Stoke-on-Trent which, over the last few years, has included helping to provide food and other essentials, as well as supporting households to budget, plan food menus, carry out wellbeing checks and providing access to specialist services.
Operations manager, Vicki Gwynne, said: “Since July, the level of need in our immediate area has risen by over 25 per cent, with working families as well as non-working families feeling the pressures of the increased cost of living. Footfall at our community allotment has doubled since last summer, with families taking advantage of the food grown there, as well as additional food we can provide. As an organisation, we are making plans as to how we can continue and expand our support over the coming months as the local need increases.”
Blurton-based Affordable Food Stoke is on a mission to reduce food waste in Stoke-on-Trent and help feed families for less. The charity collects, saves and uses surplus food that would have otherwise been thrown away or wasted.
CEO and founder Nikki Barrett said: “Affordable Food Stoke is more than just food, it is food plus. Food plus support, food plus kindness, food plus emotional and mental support, food plus activities and events, food plus companionship and friendship and food plus knowing someone is there for you – whoever you may be.
“We are a small charity with a big heart and a big vision for Stoke-on-Trent and being part of the City Forum is an incredible way to ensure Stoke-on-Trent can get fed. Teamwork and partnership is the key to success.”
For more information on the support available across Stoke-on-Trent visit www.stoke.gov.uk/strongertogether