'Tidal wave' of anxiety felt ahead of toughest winter in 50 years

There With You This Winter

Norfolk Community Foundation's Surviving Winter Appeal is set up to provide support to those most in need. - Credit: PA IMAGES

Thousands in the region are in need of support ahead of a winter predicted to be the toughest in 50 years -  but you could help those most at risk.

Communities in Norfolk are currently experiencing a "tidal wave" of anxiety as they anticipate the winter ahead, as many struggle with the prospect of paying their bills and fuelling their homes.

Charities say they expect a growth in the number of people and families needing to access support, with worries increasingly setting in about how they will keep warm, healthy and connected during the winter months.

It comes after we launched our There With You This Winter campaign to recognise the financial difficulties people are facing, to raise awareness and offer support.

An elderly woman reads a book. Inset: There With You This Winter

The EDP launched its 'There Woth You This Winter' campaign to recognise the financial difficulties people face, and to offer support. - Credit: Thinkstock/Archant

As part of this we are backing the Norfolk Community Foundation's Surviving Winter Appeal, which raises hundreds of thousands of pounds to help those in need.

Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation, said this winter is set to be the toughest in 50 years - with the most vulnerable set to be hit the hardest.

She described the situation as a "perfect storm" as measures put in place to support the vulnerable come to an end such as furlough and the uplift in Universal Credit, combined with a rise in fuel bills and cost of living going up.

Claire Cullens, chief executive of the Norfolk Community Foundation. Photo: Norfolk Community Founda

Claire Cullens, chief executive of the Norfolk Community Foundation. Photo: Norfolk Community Foundation - Credit: Norfolk Community Foundation

She added: "What we're seeing right now is the anxiety about the known impact, about how people are going to provide a warm home and hot meals for their family.

"You can anticipate this tidal wave and you're standing waiting for it to happen without anything you can personally do to change it.

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"There will be lots of people that this has happened to before, but a growing number find themselves in this situation and they don't know where to turn to for support."

Nik Chapman and Billie Lawler, of The Burrell Shop in Thetford, a pioneering shop which provides access to good quality and affordable food with reduced cost goods on a membership basis, said the impact this winter is "stark" for those with the least.

Billie Lawler, The Burrell shop manager, with Nik Chapman, CEO of the Charles Burrell Centre.

Billie Lawler, The Burrell shop manager, with Nik Chapman, CEO of the Charles Burrell Centre. - Credit: Sarah Hussain

They added: "This is not about sourcing a turkey or the latest toy trend for Christmas. This is about getting through the colder months.  

"The removal of £20 uplift to Universal Credit, real increase in utilities costs, price of food and in council are having an immediate impact on existing members."

The shop has seen an increase in new members and the number of times people access the shop, with members who had not been for a while now returning.

(From left to right) Sandra Turner, volunteer, Billie Lawler, shop manager, Justine Staines, volunteer and Nik Chapman...

(From left to right) Sandra Turner, volunteer, Billie Lawler, shop manager, Justine Staines, volunteer and Nik Chapman, Charles Burrell Centre's new CEO, at The Burrell Shop, East Anglia's first citizen supermarket. - Credit: Billie Lawler

Mr Chapman and Ms Lawler said members say they are worried there is a "degree of fatalism" and that they will have to use the heating, wash and eat less in order to cope, with Christmas "a time of misery for many" who do not have disposable incomes.

They added: "People know bills will go up but do not how to budget for something that is currently so volatile.

"We are seeing an increased demand for fuel bank vouchers, and we are only in October."

Among their concerns was shop supply and increased demand as they see some gaps on shelves difficult to fill, which Mr Chapman said they suspect they will find harder over the coming months.

A similar message was shared by Hannah Worsley, Norwich foodbank project manager, who said those on low incomes are going to be "forced into crisis" following the end of furlough, the rise in heating costs and the uplift in Universal Credit.

She added: "People who were already in crisis are going to be really struggling. But people on the edge are going to be pushed in."

She expressed her gratitude to those who have supported the foodbank.

Volunteers at Norwich foodbank project manager Hannah Worsley. Picture: Nick Butcher

Volunteers at Norwich foodbank project manager Hannah Worsley. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Ms Cullens said the Surviving Winter Appeal was so important in order to support community groups working as the crisis response for those most in need.

She said: "They're providing the regular friendly contact, support and practical help to support these families and households through this time.

"They tell us what they need, we can only get that support if we've got the funds to be able to deliver it to them."

For more on the Surviving Winter Appeal and to donate visit norfolkfoundation.com/giving-and-philanthropy/surviving-winter

What impact has the appeal had?

The Norfolk Community Foundation has been supporting local charities for more than 15 years, providing immediate and targeted help.

Surviving Winter is an appeal it runs every year in order to provide vital help to people in need during the winter months, from helping people unable to feed their families and heat their homes to providing emergency accommodation to those sleeping rough.

Its Surviving the Covid Winter appeal in partnership with the EDP, launched last year, raised more than £144,000 to support those struggling amid the pandemic.

The foundation works with local charities and community groups, which apply to them for funding for a particular project which is responding to an area of need, or for support on an ongoing basis.

There With You This Winter campaign

Thousands across the region could face a struggle to pay their bills, fuel their homes and even feed their families this winter.

That is the stark prediction amid fears a perfect storm of financial pressures will push many into hardship over the forthcoming months.

This newspaper has launched a new hard-hitting campaign to recognise the financial challenges some of our readers face, raise awareness and offer support during the cold winter months.

As part of our campaign, 'There With You This Winter', we hope to stand by our communities, just as we did with a series of campaigns during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are plenty of local organisations and support groups offering advice. We will be profiling these throughout the campaign. 

Wider financial support is still available for those who need assistance, through the Norfolk Assistance Scheme - please visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/NAS or call 0344 8008020.

Suffolk Advice and Support Service (SASS) is a free phoneline and is available to support vulnerable people in our communities. The telephone number is freephone 0800 068 3131 and will be staffed from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

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