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Cost of living crisis is biting families and staff

The cost of living crisis is starting to bite and will have a huge impact on household incomes. With the Bank of England forecasting inflation to peak at 13.3% in October and rising energy, food and fuel prices, we are all in for a tough winter. Energy bills are expected to go up from £2000 to £3500 and we are working hard to ameliorate the impact on our families, and staff, in Calderdale.

Public sector pay continues to fall behind the private sector. Local government staff are not alone in facing the current financial pressures, however, it was difficult to hear from staff in my local authority about how they are struggling to maintain their cars, pay for petrol and parking up front, some are even taking up second jobs to make ends meet. These are the same dedicated staff who are still transforming, delivering efficiencies and rising magnificently to the challenge of supporting local communities during a global pandemic. Face to face work continued, my staff sourced their own PPE when there was the national shortage. I fear the current pressure on household finances will mean more people fall into poverty.

Social work has a long history of tackling poverty and its impacts on children. Professor Brid Featherstone from the University of Huddersfield recently ran a session for us and focused on the fact that, next to the climate emergency, there is nothing more serious than poverty. There is clear evidence that it leads to higher levels of child abuse and neglect. Our frontline staff say that child poverty levels are at the worst they can remember, and they are supporting thousands of families desperately trying to keep their children warm, clothed and well-fed.

So, what can we do in response? In Calderdale, we have focused on money and wellbeing for our families. This gives our practitioners easy access to support and advice on money, debts and benefits advice; housing and rent; plus information about free school uniforms, childcare funding, healthy food, milk and vitamins for the families they are working with. Let’s not forget the powerful impact that individuals can play; in 2020 more than a million people signed the petition that Manchester United player Marcus Rashford set up for extending access to free food. This improved the lives of nearly 1.7 million children with support gained for the widespread provision of free school meals and activities over the Christmas, Easter and summer holidays for years to come.

And now, more so than ever before, is a time to show kindness, care and support, not only to the families that we work with and support but to our amazing staff. Particularly those on lower incomes many of who are anxious and worried about how they will cope over the challenging times ahead.

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