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District Dispatch - 21 June 2023

Hello! My name is Tracie Bangert and I am the new Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing at Chichester District Council.

Councillor Tracie Bangert, Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing

I'm writing district dispatch this week to tell you more about the work we are doing to support those who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

Food and energy prices have been rising markedly over the past year. We know how tough people have been finding it and we want you to know that we are here to help. The council launched its 'Supporting You' campaign last year, highlighting the range of support that is available. This included introducing our new 'Supporting You' team, who have been working hard to make a difference to the lives of many people living across our district.

The team works with services across the council to help people access a range of assistance, including financial help to pay bills; help with housing; and health and wellbeing support.

The team has dealt with a lot of cases in a relatively short space of time, where they have been able to help people start afresh. In one case, they assisted someone who was experiencing financial hardship, debt, and who did not have access to enough food. The person also had mobility problems and was unable to get to a supermarket, or access online food shops. They also didn't have a decent cooker and couldn't afford to replace it. Due to this, one of the first things the team did was to contact Southern Water to apply for a white goods grant so that the cooker could be replaced. As a result of this, the company also placed them on the social tariff, which has significantly reduced the person's water bills. Crucially, the team also arranged for a food bank delivery so that they had enough food in the cupboard. The client is now receiving ongoing support to help with their debt issues and is one of the many local residents we have been supporting.

We are also using TellJO, which uses technology compassionately to help organisations identify customers who may be vulnerable and need extra help. We use this scheme as an early intervention solution with customers who have missed a council tax payment. Where a payment is missed, it sends a text message asking if they are okay and invites them to take part in a virtual conversation, asking a series of questions which then helps highlight any help they may need. The Supporting You team then gets in touch to help find a solution to the issues causing their financial difficulties.

The team also attend the UK Harvest Fed and Nourished Community Food Hubs. These offer people the chance to access low cost, affordable food, while helping to fight food waste. All you have to do is bring a bag along and make a suggested donation of £5 if you can. UK Harvest attend various locations across the district on each day of the month. You can find out where they are going to be by visiting the UK Harvest website (opens new window).

Alongside this, UK Harvest have also developed monthly community food hubs across West Sussex, with West Sussex County Council and Biffa. Staff from our waste and recycling team also volunteer at the events. These are designed to reduce food waste. Simply bring a shopping bag and fill it from a selection of mixed groceries for a suggested donation of £3.50. This is held at the Sylvia Beaufoy Centre in Midhurst Road, Petworth, GU28 0ET. The next one is on 6 July between 10am and 11am, so please do pop along.

Finally, if you are struggling, please don't stay silent, we are here to help. You can find out more by visiting our Supporting You pages.

Best Wishes

Cllr Tracie Bangert

Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing at Chichester District Council