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This week we have heard about an elderly neighbour with COPD who’s refusing to use her heat this winter due to fear of rising bills: she literally can’t afford to heat her home.
We’ve also heard of a second case of a person only eating toast as they’re petrified to cook, worried about running out of money.
This is the current reality: the widespread and well-reported panic on the front pages of the papers is going to end up killing people who think they can’t eat or heat: things we should be able to take for granted.
We live in uncertain times: for finances, for jobs, for the planet, for the future, and many people are unsure of the best way to survive.
The above issues are just some of the things that can lead to confusion and distress, and we receive daily questions of how people can help, so here are some of the main ways we’ve come up with:
In truth, energy bills are usually manageable in chunks or smaller monthly direct debits – depending on your supplier – but many people aren’t aware of this, particularly the elderly, so see if you can help by identifying what energy company someone is using, and helping them to contact their supplier to see what their options are.
Also ask people to check in on relatives who are struggling. Don’t make them ask for help because people are proud. But be aware that sometimes when you offer, some people may refuse out of pride: try your best to help where possible and make sure the vulnerable aren’t sitting in the dark not eating because they received a bill they weren’t sure what to do with, or saw something scary on the news.
Many vulnerable people also don’t realise they are eligible for Social Tariffs. Read here and make sure friends and family are aware.
Make sure that people are aware of the charities and services that may benefit them. It is challenging for some vulnerable groups to access the internet. So if you have a neighbour or elderly relative, help them set up a service which gets food delivered to them.
“One in five (19%) of people aged 80-84 say they have difficulty shopping for groceries. This rises to 60% for those aged over 90. Our research shows that older people face a number of barriers to food shopping:
Age UK runs local food shopping services which have a range of benefits for older people, including preventing malnutrition, reducing social isolation and enabling them to be independent and remain in their own home for longer.”
AgeUK have a fantastic service to have food delivered. If you know someone who is eligible, but too proud to contact them, follow this link and find out what can be done.
There is also a “meals on wheels” service run by the government. To find out if your friend is eligible click here.
If, however what is stopping your elderly friend use this service is financial then help them access your local food banks and food providers. Trussell Trust are a good place to start here.
What is provided by each free foodbank site varies according to donations from the nearby community and the volunteers that keep them running. Donations include meat, fruit and fish, tinned vegetables or other items such as pasta, milk, tea and cereal. As long as nobody goes hungry is the ultimate goal.
If someone is eligible for a food box, they can receive anything from one day’s worth to a week’s worth of food; normally non-perishable, but always healthy and can benefit the whole family. Also, the sites can be used as many times per year as required.
Much more may be provided in some cases, and that can include hot meals for people on a low income or the homeless. They may also provide special Christmas food boxes and other everyday essential items like clothing. Some food banks use volunteers to deliver boxes to older people or those with physical disabilities.
The emergency food is a temporary measure to help people break out of poverty and who find themselves faced with a crisis. The goal is to end the cycle of poverty, so volunteers may also help the client by directing them to other agencies in the area to further their help. They may also be entitled to free advice about different government benefits or resources available to them: this assistance varies by region.
One charity providing free food packages is the Salvation Army, who have churches across the UK that each have a form of emergency assistance: most offer a cafe or food bank, allowing people to get a meal or a box of groceries. Other Salvation Army churches may provide clothes, soap, toothbrushes, shampoo, handed out as the same time as the food. Find a listing of Salvation Army churches and learn more about their schemes.
Councils have hundreds of local authorities across the UK with these kind of welfare schemes, such as a family voucher allowing access and help from a local food bank. Councils can also direct people to soup kitchens, free school lunch schemes for children, and other such programmes. Find vouchers from emergency welfare schemes that can help pay for groceries.
If you want to help at the time but seriously don’t have the time or resources then this is the time to help delegate some of that help. Thankfully services to help with this do exist. One such is Befriending Services: set up around the UK in place to help vulnerable people. They are run from Scotland to Ireland to the North and South of the UK, and they cover the gamut of befriending needs, including help for:
Befriending offers supportive, reliable relationships through volunteer befrienders to people who would otherwise be socially isolated. Around the UK, there are befriending projects which organise effective support for children and young people, families, people with mental ill-health, people with learning disabilities and older people, amongst many others.
The results of befriending can be very significant. Befriending often provides people with a new direction in life, opens up a range of activities and leads to increased self-esteem and self-confidence. Befriending can also reduce the burden on other services which people may use inappropriately as they seek social contact.
These organisations can be found most easily on the Befriending Network site, where you can type in what area you require help in: both geographically and socially. You should be quickly directed to the appropriate group, including:
Care for the Family: a UK charity that aims to promote strong family life and support those who face family difficulties in these areas: Parenting, Marriage/Couple Support and Bereavement. They run training courses and telephone befriending schemes for Bereaved Parents, those Widowed Young and Parents of Children with Additional Needs.
Age UK York Community Befriending Service: providing support, companionship and support for older people living alone in the community.
There is someone out there for practically everyone with a problem that needs discussion and action, as well as helping to educate people to show that they needn’t be fearful of the terrible stories of hardship in the media.
Happy at Home Partnership, Daventry Volunteers provide a lifeline to lonely, isolated, older people across West Northamptonshire, supporting them to live happily, healthily, safely, and independently in their homes for as long as possible. Each older person will be matched with a befriender volunteer who will build a relationship with them and offer individualised support e.g. signposting, trips out, paperwork and shopping.
AmbaCare Solutions is a health and wellbeing social enterprise (voluntary organisation) based in the West Midlands, working across the UK, delivering projects which support people to optimise their wellbeing.
Active and In Touch Frome reaches out to people of all ages over 18 who are isolated and lonely. You can become a member and they can provide support, befriending, and practical help.
Wednesday’s Child provides support for those suffering from, affected by, or seeking understanding of, eating disorders, providing befriending to those battling the illness, but also partners, parents and educators.