28 Sep 2022
30 Sep 2022
24 Aug 2022
For our Cost of Living Week, we asked Lara Rufus- Fayemi (Strategic Partners and Engagement Manager) and Anne Bowers (Senior Strategic Lead Community Public Health Community Champions Co-ordinators Lead ADPH London) from the London Borough of Newham about how they are using the lessons from the pandemic to support their residents through the cost of living crisis and how we as funders can help.
Going into the crisis, Newham residents were already disproportionately impacted by the challenges of poverty and inequality. Newham has one of the highest rates of fuel poverty in England, with nearly a fifth of households affected in 2020, prior to the current crisis. 16% of households (more than 17,000 households) compared with only 11% in London. 25% of people who live in Newham are food insecure and this rises to 35% of families with children and 50% of children in Newham were living in poverty prior to the cost increases in 2022. The Council’s Our Newham Money service (which provides residents with help around financial capability) saw a 175% increase in residents accessing the service for emergency energy support in the first 5 months of 2022, compared to the same period last year.
But like many areas across the UK, Newham continues to rise above the current tide of challenges to get things done for our residents and communities; whether that be the pandemic, the Ukrainian war or now the cost of living crisis.
The costs of living have been hard in Newham for years – and the pandemic has only made it worse. As one resident said “cost of living crisis is just a Tuesday in my area”.
In Newham we’ve adopted a one council approach, which is entrenched in all of our work. Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, the Mayor of Newham has launched the Newham Cost of Living Crisis Response Task Force bringing together all parts of the council with the NHS, local businesses as well as the voluntary, community and faith sector.
A cross-council working group has been operating for the past few months, with actions taken in partnership with the community wealth building teams (including benefits, work, and debt advice), housing, commissioners of services, public health, and others. The NHS is actively involved, particularly around mental and emotional health. Together we have already delivered workshops on fuel poverty, distributed information about support for income, work, housing, and mental health for adults and for children, and how to get cheaper travel. We are getting our Warm Havens programme ready to launch and our Cost of Living Champions and Energy Champions (see more about what we learned from our COVID-19 champions here)
We are learning from our collective efforts during the pandemic to support our residents and local businesses through these challenging times.
We are learning from our collective efforts during the pandemic to support our residents and local businesses through these challenging times. For example, the Council immediately put support measures in place working closely with a number of alliances, including; Newham’s Social Welfare Alliance, Newham’s Food Alliance, and Newham Anti-Poverty Alliance (a blog on our work in building alliances can be found here). We continue to work with these alliances to address the cost of living crisis.
Our partners have told us that they are more worried about surviving the cost of living crisis than the pandemic
On Sept 7, Mayor Fiaz hosted a Cost of Living summit bringing together more than 100 leaders from across Newham to work together for the immediate crisis and to develop long-term solutions to tackle the symptoms of the cost of living crisis such as low pay, endemic poverty, and inequality.
Our Voluntary, Community, and Faith sectors in Newham have been on the coalface of much of this work, such as Newham Connect who are conducting a basic cost of living survey among community members to assess the current need. They’ve also established the Newham fuel poverty project, which aims to bring together a number of charitable organisations to deliver help & support for vulnerable Newham residents.
The Council and partners are continuing to explore collaborative efforts, as we are all being hit hard by the same pressures. We are responding together by ensuring maximum uptake of support; fighting for a fairer deal for Newham and underpinning all our work with quantitative data, listening to residents, and working as partners.
But these organisations are also facing significant challenges. They are struggling to pay their own bills with real concerns about resilience and sustainability. Our partners have told us that they are more worried about surviving the cost of living crisis than the pandemic.
The ongoing crisis(es), means that we can’t afford to take our finger of the pulse
We need to work closely with funders who can support organisations in a number of ways - first to help with the delivery of services and support residents who are not likely to come to the Council and other statutory partners for lots of different and well-documented reasons. And we also need to help these organisations stay open – to pay their own bills.
We welcome any and all opportunities to work with our local Newham Funders as well as funders operating in wider London and nationally. The ongoing crisis(es), means that we can’t afford to take our finger of the pulse but continue to strive collectively to build a better and fairer Newham for our residents and communities to be able to thrive in uncertain times.