Help is at hand in Calderdale

By Cllr Tim Swift | 21 March 2022

The cost of living crisis is hitting many of our residents hard, especially the most vulnerable who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

The pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in the number of families needing extra help.

Increased living costs, combined with the end to the Universal Credit uplift and with an estimated 14,000 Calderdale people earning less than the living wage, means a tough year ahead for many families.

Soaring energy bills could force more people into severe hardship. Citizens Advice Calderdale is reporting a 32% increase in people needing help with energy debts since last year.

These blows to family budgets are taking their toll on people’s health and wellbeing. We’re doing everything we can to help.  

Reducing inequalities is a council priority, a commitment that is at the heart of our Vision2024 for Calderdale to raise aspirations, build resilience and create a strong future for everyone.

Calderdale’s Anti-Poverty Action Plan focuses on prevention, intervention and resilience. We work with partner organisations and our voluntary and community sector to support those in need.

Our Healthy Holidays scheme is a partnership between ourselves, the Community Foundation for Calderdale and many community organisations to provide enriching activities and healthy meals for thousands of children and young people during school holidays. A quarter of Calderdale’s children live in households experiencing poverty daily. Funded by the Government’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme, we’re bridging the holiday experience gap by providing clubs for children who receive free school meals. In the summer 2021 holidays alone, over 6000 youngsters took part in 15,000 free activity sessions in 43 venues throughout Calderdale.

This is not only a helping hand for struggling families, but also opens up opportunities for young people to reach their potential and live a larger life, regardless of their starting point – a key ambition of Vision2024.

Our work with homeless people and those living street-based lifestyles has shown us how people’s life experiences, thoughts and feelings can be linked to poverty. We are now taking a trauma-informed approach to supporting vulnerable people, which is helping us to really understand their lives, prevent a downward spiral and offer a stronger future.

Our Vulnerable Customer Support Team has expert advisors specially trained in trauma, who refer residents to services that meet their needs. One resident who had fled domestic abuse couldn’t afford food, had no internet to complete forms online and felt isolated without her family and friends around her in her new home. The team’s training meant they could promote trust, safety, choice and resilience when supporting the resident, resulting in positive outcomes.

The kindness of our communities is also key to Calderdale’s response to poverty. We were heartened by the care and togetherness shown during the pandemic, with local people stepping up to provide support such as food and befriending. For example, the Halifax Community Fridge was created by volunteers in August 2020 in the grounds of a mosque in the area with the highest poverty rates in Calderdale. Everyone was welcome to visit and take the food they needed for free. Beyond being an emergency response to COVID-19, the Fridge is still open and providing a lifeline to around 50 families daily, tackling hunger, poverty and loneliness during the cost of living crisis. 

Community initiatives like this make a difference alongside the support the council offers, which includes delivering over £1m of the Government’s Household Support Fund to low-income families with increased fuel and food costs, and awarding a further £1m to voluntary groups working with people who are struggling financially, through our grants with the Community Foundation for Calderdale. 

Financial support is one vital part of what we offer. Our council web page, 'Tackling poverty - help at hand' shows the broad range of additional help available for people living in, or at risk of, poverty – from advice on benefits and building skills, to help with housing, energy efficiency, food and money management.

Cllr Tim Swift is leader of Calderdale Council


comments powered by Disqus
Fuel poverty Homelessness inequality Poverty Coronavirus