Sunday, 1 December 2013

Poverty in Sidmouth: Sid Valley Food Bank: "demand has quadrupled in just a year"


The fact that more and more people are unable to afford to pay their energy bills is becoming a hot political topic:
Futures Forum: Green levies and the cost of energy... the Energy Companies Obligation, the warm homes discount scheme and the Green Deal
Futures Forum: "... a reckless use of public money at a time when people are very concerned about energy costs.”

Local government too has shown interest, as shown in the Devon County profile of Sidmouth, which reveals that, whilst unemployment is very low in Sidmouth, the percentage of children living in poverty stands at a surprising 21.4%. 
The number of households suffering from fuel poverty in 2011 stood at 5.6%, but has risen significantly in the last two years.
The Child Poverty Unit - Teams - GOV.UK
The Fuel Poverty Indicator Website - Visualising and disseminating the results of the 2007 FPI - Centre for Sustainable Energy

The District Council has also been doing its own research, reporting a year ago that: 
"Overall, fuel poverty in East Devon for 2010 was 12.3% (down from 13.2% in 2009), with the rate in the private rented sector being 18.8%, according to the Private Sector Housing Condition Survey (December 2010)." 
Meanwhile, the District Council has invested in energy efficiency measures for its own housing stock.
And has recently put on a 'Working Together' event to consider 'significant family, health and well-being reforms':
East Devon District Council - Working Together event 2013

Other groups in Sidmouth have tried to address the issue of fuel poverty:
Vision Group for Sidmouth - Energy we can all afford


There are more families in the Sid Valley who are also finding it difficult to pay for food: 
"despite the town’s reputation as being well-off, there [are] lots of people living in ‘food crisis’."
Food bank helps Sidmouth families in ‘food crisis’ - News - Sidmouth Herald

A year ago saw the launch of the food bank:

Sidmouth food bank to help the hard-up

Monday, December 10, 2012 
A FOOD bank will be launched in Sidmouth after it was revealed that scores of families are so hard-up they cannot afford to eat.

Revered David James, Ian Skinner, and Unitarian church congregation chairman Hugh Barlow
Revered David James, Ian Skinner, and Unitarian church congregation chairman Hugh Barlow
Driving forces behind the project say there is a stigma around poverty in a town widely perceived as affluent – with some residents unwilling to ask for help. They have pulled out all the stops to have the service up and running by Christmas.
The Sid Valley Food Bank will open its doors next Friday, December 14. It will operate on a weekly basis out of the Leigh Browne room, next to the Unitarian Chapel in All Saints Road, from 1pm to 3pm.
“There is a misconception that Sidmouth is wealthy – but there are a lot of families in need,” said organiser Annemarie Jones."A lot of people don’t know about the problem because those suffering won’t say and ask for help. There are lots of families from Sidmouth who are already going to Honiton (food bank).”
The project, which will serve the entire Sid Valley and Newton Poppleford, is the initiative of a group of Christians, who say they are aware of the present poverty in the area - and how the future economic climate will effect the population further. The food bank will aim provide a nutritionally balanced supply of nourishment to anyone in ‘food crisis’ - where people have no money for subsistence - for a minimum of three days.
“People might find themselves in need of emergency food because of a sudden change or stop in income or benefits, an unexpected bill, prolonged illness and even being victims of fraud,” said Annemarie. “Whatever the reason, no discrimination or judgement will be made to those using the food bank and no charge will be made.”
The service will operate on a voucher system and will receive referrals from the likes of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, childcare agencies and churches.
Donations of non-perishable food can be made at churches and supermarkets. Suitable items include cereals, tinned meat, fish and vegetables, tea bags, instant coffee, long-life milk, bottled water, fruit juice, squash, pasta, rice, instant mashed potato, biscuits, snack bars, toilet rolls and washing powder.
Organisers will also provide a listening ear, with the help of Sidmouth Help Link, and assist in guiding individuals to other agencies where they can obtain help for a longer term resolution to their difficulties.
● For more information on the food bank, or to volunteer as a helper, e-mail sidvalleyfoodbank@gmail.com.
Sidmouth food bank to help the hard-up - News - Sidmouth Herald

At the Annual Town Assembly, the Town Council showed generous support:

SIDMOUTH: Council give groups a boost

£500 was handed over to Belle Bick, Ian Skinner and Lois Swarbrick from the Sid Valley Food bank.
View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset
www.sidmouth.gov.uk/PDFs/Annual Reports/town-meeting-agenda-22-4-2013.pdf
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Annual Report: grants to local organisations

This week's Herald highlights how important this service has become:

Food bank in urgent need of more help

Friday, November 30, 2013
'FRIGHTENING' numbers of people will be struggling to afford to eat this Christmas and New Year according to Sid Valley Food Bank organisers - who say demand has quadrupled in just a year. 

Give a gift to needy families in North Devon this Christmas.
With more than 130,000 readers between them each week, the Herald, Exmouth Journal, Midweek Herald and North Devon Gazette are launching a four-week campaign to boost supplies at local food banks.

Home - Sidmouth Herald
Give a gift to local food banks this Christmas - News - North Devon Gazette

The Churches have been particularly active:
Diocese of Exeter | Foodbanks
and have looked into the issue a little deeper:

Foodbanks in Devon

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”
Dom Helder Camara, Brazil (1909-1999)

‘More Than Food’ Part 1 April 2013
This event brought together over 80 church people from Cornwall, Devon, Somerset already engaged in Food Banks, Community Food Stores and similar schemes to share updates and look at deeper issues of poverty and its causes.
‘More Than Food’ Part 2 Oct 2013
This event will help church leaders engage with the underlying causes of food poverty.

The Devon Strategic Partnership (DSP) 
This has set up a Task and Finish Group on Food to look at some of the issues and to encourage some longer-term, strategic thinking on matters of food poverty and food reliability.

The Trussel Trust  01722 580171
The Trussel Trust partners with churches across the nation to help open new Foodbanks providing a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK. The Trust now has extensive experience and has established some useful processes and policies which are often helpful to communities wishing to respond to food poverty in their community. The Trust has also been able to collect and share useful statistics and case studies to inform others on the issue. In 2011-12 Foodbanks fed over 128,000 people nationwide.

Church Action on Poverty – Beyond Foodbanks
Church Action on Poverty co-published a report with Oxfam, Walking the Breadline, and mobilised supporters to call for an inquiry into the links between the benefits system and rising food poverty.

National government has recognised the issues:
Food bank problem is 'very serious', admits Business Secretary, Vince Cable - UK Politics - UK - The Independent


Local politicians have occasionally referred to the larger issue of 'hidden poverty':
View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset

The issue of affordable housing is a big topic locally, with the CPRE, for example, pointing out that a development near Plymouth "was to be 50% affordable housing, but the developers pleaded poverty and got this down to 17%." 
‘New homes are going up, but only the developers benefit.’ | Sidmouth Independent News
This is an issue recognised by the District Council:
Futures Forum: VGS AGM: sustainable communities in East Devon
Futures Forum: East Devon and affordable housing: November 2012


Older people are more likely to suffer higher levels of poverty:
Millions of elderly people live in poverty, figures suggest - Telegraph
BBC News - Elderly poverty: 'Living like something from Dark Ages'
Elderly hit by 'epidemic of poverty and loneliness' | Mail Online

And the fact that Sidmouth has a large elderly population suggests this is another aspect of 'hidden poverty':
"[in Devon]... there are single people and couples who continue to live on very limited income which is recorded as single below£133 per week and couples below £203 per week." 
www.devonomics.info/sites/default/files/documents/The Impact of Older People on the Economy in Devon.pdf

An innovative campaign has been initiated next door:
"Initiated by some of Somerset's better-off pensioners donating some or all of their Winter Fuel Payment in 2010, an award-winning programme has already raised over £250,000 locally."
Foundation seeking funds to keep elderly warm this winter | This is Somerset


Whilst Sidmouth is on average more well-off than much of the country, the predominance of the caring industry
Futures Forum: Jobs and services: caring for the elderly
and the hospitality industry
Futures Forum: Jobs and services: the hospitality industry
suggests that there is more 'hidden poverty' in Sidmouth.

Employment in retail and education also do not traditionally pay well. District Council statistics put these jobs at the top:
> The top three industries employing the highest proportion of the population in East Devon is:
– Wholesale and retail at 16.3% (9,766),
– Health and social work at 13.7% (8,228)
– Education at 9.4% (5,613).
However, the Council is trying to do more:
Futures Forum: Apprenticeships in Sidmouth

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