Council leaders in Stoke-on-Trent have released details of plans to support vulnerable families and individuals this winter as the cost-of-living crisis continues. The council’s Stronger Together Through Winter plan is modelled on the type of support put in place during the pandemic and will be based around four key priorities.
- Supporting residents and businesses to manage financial pressures
- Supporting the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people
- Supporting communities through initiatives like ensuring people are claiming all benefits they may be entitled to
- Supporting families on low incomes through a specific portal on the council website.
Council leader Abi Brown said the plan had been developed in recognition of role the authority has to play in “helping to lead and coordinate our city’s response to the cost-of-living pressures”.
Councils are under pressure too
Brown struck a cautionary note by adding that the council is “also facing the same inflationary pressures as the residents and businesses that we are trying to help”.
Surging inflation has placed many local authorities in England in a position where rising costs will inevitably impact on services. The District Councils Network, which represents 186 second-tier councils outside London, warned this week that an unexpected bill of £400mn could see services, including support for families struggling to make ends meet cut to the legal minimum.
Details of the support plan for Stoke-on-Trent residents emerged before the ‘mini-budget’ announced by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and the collapse in the value of the pound that followed an adverse reaction to the tax cuts it contained. On Wednesday 28 September, just five days after the mini-budget, the value of the pound fell to $1.05, forcing the Bank of England to step in to ‘stabilise’ the market by buying up government bonds.
The Stronger Together Through Winter plan is part of a wider support package that will see the council working in partnership with community groups and charities including Middleport Matters, The Hubb Foundation, and Affordable Food Stoke.
Speaking at a forum event that brought together 70 groups from around the city along with the council and Staffordshire University, Middleport Matters operations manager Vicki Gwynne said the “level of need” in terms of families seeking support had risen by 25% since June.
Affordable Food Stoke CEO Nikki Barrett said people were coming to her group principally for help putting food on the table, but also for support with their mental wellbeing as the pressure of struggling to get by becomes unbearable. She said that what many people needed in these difficult times was “companionship” as well as food, to know “someone is there for you- whoever you may be”.
That mixture of emotional and practical support will be needed more than ever during difficult times for the city and the country.
Details of the support available for residents in Stoke-on-Trent can be found here.