Blog: ‘Local charities determined to tackle the cost-of-living-crisis’ by Steven Chown, ECI Chief Executive

Exeter Community Initiatives invited other charities, partners and members of the public to its Annual Review Meeting on Wednesday, 16 November at the Palace Gate Centre to discuss how organisations can work together to best support people during the cost-of-living crisis.

With interest rates rising, energy prices soaring and food bills increasing, the situation for many people is only going to get worse over the next 12-18 months, families and communities will suffer. This will present us with huge challenges going forward, so we want to work with other charities and partners to ensure we help where it matters most and support people through this difficult time.

As a charity we are already feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the work we do:

Takings are up at Jelly, our children’s charity shop in Fore Street, as more and more people look to buy low-cost clothing for their children. We would like to think this is due to the recent refurb but it is also driven by parents carefully budgeting. We have had early requests for Christmas items as parents plan ahead.

Our Devon Family Resource project is busier than ever and is in the process of recruiting more staff. Earlier in the year we distributed Household Support Fund money to 168 families to help with the weekly shop and buying white goods. Many people are one disaster away from debt if a fridge or a washing machine breaks down.

Our Community Builders and Transitions staff are reporting people feeling anxious and worried about finances and their physical and mental health. Transitions has responded by offering bespoke workshops to help people cope and our Community Builders have been signposting to local support and advice.
The event was attended by nearly 50 people with several representatives from local charities: CoLab, Age UK Exeter, St Petrock’s, YMCA, Step One, Ride On and Crosslines as well as from local churches. Councillor Martin Pearce, Exeter City Council Portfolio Holder for Communities and Homeless Prevention, and Councillor Su Aves, Devon County Council, who sits on the Children’s Scrutiny Committee, were also in attendance.

There were several suggestions we could work together to create a collaborative group around the cost of living, share resources and information, and create greater awareness of what charities are doing to tackle the crisis. This included practical suggestions: advice on maximising income, cost-saving measures in our own homes, food clubs, clothes swaps, extending existing food and clothing voucher schemes.

The meeting also welcomed Katie Holland the new Chief Executive who started with ECI on 21st November. Katie is keen to work with colleagues and partners to address the needs of individuals and communities in Exeter and across Devon.

Other information and advice is available from Exeter City Council and Devon County Council including how to access the Household Support Fund.

Click here to download a report based on the sugeestions from the meeing.

Steven Chown

Outgoing Chief Executive

Steven will be leaving ECI at the end of December. He will be replaced by Katie Holland who is the new Chief Executive who started 21st November.