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A week is a long time...

As I write, it is still a few days until the Chancellor delivers his deferred Autumn Statement, but by the time this is published we will all be analysing the impact his plans will have on us, our organisations, and our communities and it feels that whatever is announced the winter is going to be a tough one! So as Harold Wilson once said, a week is a long time in politics. However, seven days, if you are watching the balance on your electricity meter or working out how you can feed the kids until next pay day, isn’t just a long time, it might feel like a lifetime.

In Wolverhampton, like I imagine in many other places, we’re certainly seeing the cost-of-living crisis impacting a larger and sometimes different section of society. I’m finding myself walking around the supermarket amazed at sharp hikes in prices from one week to the next. So, if those of us experiencing this from a position of privilege are noticing, how must it feel for those on lower incomes? And by lower incomes, I don’t just mean those receiving benefits, not even minimum wage or living wage, but households who bring home the average wage. If we consider this from a place of demand on our services, which as we know has been confirmed by the DfE’s Characteristics of Children in Need figures and continues to increase year on year, we need to be thinking creatively about early help, building resilience for the winter and beyond and working within communities to ensure we can target support to those who need it most.

In the West Midlands we recently held our Team Excellence Awards, a chance to share our collective Outstanding achievements in a way that both celebrates success, and which acts as a catalyst to drive further improvement across the region. My nomination for Wolverhampton was our Co-production and Youth Engagement Team. Co-production, across the council has enabled us to ensure that whatever solutions we propose, or any tax-pound spent, is seated at the centre of the community and this has truly been embedded in our response to the cost of living crisis. By doing so we know that our Warm Spaces are located where they are needed and that by promoting community food shops instead of food banks we aim to reduce stigma, empower people and build resilience. Similarly, Stoke-on-Trent nominated their Children’s Advice and Duty Service as their Team of Excellence 2022. This is a service that is based around conversations, not referrals, and that seeks to offer the right support at the right time. An important reminder as to how critical it is to get this right for families, at a point of personal and national crisis.

A glance at the internet shows that across the West Midlands and up and down the country, there are plenty of initiatives being delivered, or are backed, by local authorities that aim to support those who are feeling this crisis the most. As nights grow longer, so lights are on more; and the weather gets colder, meaning heaters are burning longer. More than ever, we need to stand beside those who are living and breathing this crisis at the most acute level. Moreover, we need to do so at the earliest opportunity both to cushion the impact on individuals and to manage demand on our local partnerships.

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