Households in The Dales struggling with the cost of living are being directed to community and financial support during the winter months.
As more people struggle with affording everyday essentials and bills, North Yorkshire County Council has put together a co-ordinated response to the cost of living crisis across the county to highlight the support that is available to the public.
The council is also working with Community Support Organisations (CSOs), which have extensive knowledge on locally-run projects. The CSOs can direct people to local support, such as food banks or food share schemes, community venues offering warm spaces or support groups.
Alongside the established foodbanks and network of libraries offering a warm welcome for people over winter, there are many more smaller schemes such as food pantries run by volunteers in their spare time, or when resources are available.
The CSOs will have the local knowledge to direct people to the nearest support in their communities. There are 23 CSOs across the county, which co-ordinate volunteer and community support in each area. The network was used effectively during the pandemic to direct resources on the ground to where they were needed most. A list of North Yorkshire community support schemes can be found at www.northyorks.gov.uk/info/community-support-organisations
Libraries are also on hand to provide people with a warm and friendly welcome, where people can pick up a book, join an activity, or find out details of other events in their communities.
The council is also urging people to look out for family, friends and neighbours over the colder months.
North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for corporate services, Cllr David Chance, said: “Libraries remain - and always have been - places where people will receive a warm welcome and can spend a few hours without having to spend any money.
“But we understand that not everyone will have the mobility, or money, to travel to projects or community events over winter, which is why we are asking everyone to think about looking out for their neighbours, friends and family as we head into the colder months.
“This could involve getting together for a cup of tea; making sure they have accessed any financial support which may be available to them, or just checking on their wellbeing.”
Some community spaces in North Yorkshire are looking at extending their opening hours and the range of activities they have on offer, to provide a warm and inviting venue over winter. Community venues which have the resources to offer help in this way are encouraged to register on the website www.warmwelcome.uk which provides an interactive map which people can search, along with information packs for venues.
Venues which have already registered with the Warm Welcome project include the Living Rooms project in Northallerton, a community hub in the town set up to tackle social exclusion and provide support for good mental and emotional wellbeing. It includes a Renew Wellbeing space, a quiet, shared café-style space where it is “okay not to be okay”. It partners with other similar organisations in the town, including Hambleton Foodshare, Hambleton Community Action and Jubilee Debt Advice and Darlington Credit Union, which run sessions from the town centre building.
Jo Swain, hub co-ordinator at the Living Rooms said the project always offers a warm welcome to anyone who needs it, but this winter will be looking to extend the support it can offer to people struggling with the cost of living.
North Yorkshire County Council will be updating its cost of living online resource throughout winter, which details where people can go if they need help or advice on everything from energy bills to childcare support and help with housing costs. The webpage can be found at www.northyorks.gov.uk/cost-living-support
It also includes information for households with children, to direct them to support such as free school meals; the holiday activities programme run by North Yorkshire Together, which includes activities and a meal, and Healthy Start support which can provide food and milk to parents more than ten weeks pregnant, or with a child under four.
The county council’s executive member for children’s services, Cllr Janet Sanderson, said: “We are aware that many families are finding the cost of living particularly challenging at the moment and are currently working closely with our teams in public health and children’s services to make sure families know where to get help if they are struggling with essential costs such as food.”