Cost of Living Crisis: Praise for winter poverty initiatives in South Tyneside in the run up to Christmas, including 'warm spaces' scheme
This week, South Tyneside Council’s People Select Committee heard an update on the work of the borough’s ‘poverty group’.
The group, which meets monthly, was set up in Spring 2022, uniting the council with key organisations including food banks, Citizens Advice and the NHS.
Following a cost of living summit in October, the local authority launched its ‘warm spaces’ scheme across the borough, with around 60 now set up to help residents keep warm this winter.
Other actions include creating an online cost of living support hub to share intelligence and support, producing a cost of living directory for South Tyneside to signpost residents to support and encouraging partners to refer clients to the welfare support team, which is open to all borough residents.
Elsewhere, senior councillors have been lobbying energy companies to do more to support vulnerable customers, alongside wider work to coordinate outreach activity and plans to use the third round of the Government’s household support fund to benefit more people.
This includes a focus on those just above the ‘benefits line’, including pensioners and parents with children eligible for free school meals, because of “the rise of the number of people in-work seeking support”.
Future proposals include rebranding previous Covid Champions initiative into ‘cost of living champions’, targeting energy efficiency advice to support those on low incomes and backing the expansion of community shops and pantries.
Councillors heard the poverty group’s work had been brought into “sharper focus” due to rising inflation and issues around food and energy costs.
A report from Rory Sherwood-Parkin, the council’s corporate lead for policy and insight, confirmed the poverty group would continue to meet with a “particular focus upon winter pressures” and support available.
The report also noted the council’s progress against the People Select Committee’s Poverty Commission recommendations, which were formed following an investigation to better understand poverty and improve the borough’s response towards the issue.
The ongoing work across South Tyneside was praised by several councillors at a meeting of the scrutiny panel earlier this month (Tuesday, December 13).
Cllr Susan Traynor noted the “masses of actions” put in place, “not just for over this winter time but for the coming months and years ahead”.
Cllr John McCabe, chair of the People Select Committee, also praised the council initiatives and acknowledged that poverty could impact anyone.
Cllr McCabe added: “A lot of hard work went into that report and some of the things that you’re doing are great, absolutely spot on.
“It’s crucial that we keep meeting and talking with the partner organisations because having done it myself in years gone by, it doesn’t matter where you are with poverty, you will never ever eradicate it, it’s just a fact.
“You could be going along quite comfortably in your own life and then all of a sudden an accident changes your lifestyle or there’s an illness.
“We’re all human beings and it can happen to any of us”.
Information about cost of living support and warm spaces can be found on South Tyneside Council’s website.
Visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk to find out more.