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Community leaders call for cost of living support

by Gemma Melling

Concerned leaders across St Helens Borough have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt MP, calling for fair funding that will support residents still feeling the effects of the cost of living situation.

Public, private, faith and voluntary sector organisations from across the borough have come together to ask central Government for a range of measures that will give residents the help they need, after seeing an increase in demands for services such as housing and homelessness support.

The letter is signed by key leader from organisations including St Helens Borough Council, the NHS, Halton and St Helens Voluntary Community Action, St Helens Star, YMCA, The Hope Centre, Teardrops and St Helens Foodbank among many others.

The letter sets out worrying data, including:

  • More than 15,000 people needing help on housing and homelessness from the council’s Housing Assistance Centre in 2022/23, over 40 per cent more than the previous year.
  • 129 individuals had been found rough sleeping in St Helens Borough by the end of October 2023 with 63 per cent (82 individuals) new to rough sleeping. This is a significant increase on previous years where the bi-monthly spotlight count figure in 2022/23 averaged around two individuals found, demonstrating the increase in homelessness.
  • The borough’s food banks reporting they are now regularly running out of supplies as they are inundated with more and more residents requiring basic food packages.
  • GPs reporting some of their most vulnerable patients are not taking medicines as they can’t afford prescription charges.

Cllr David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council, said: “More and more residents are finding times tougher than they have done for many years, and the services and organisations that are meant to be there to offer support are increasingly struggling too. It’s a perfect storm. That’s why collectively we are calling on government to give us fair funding and the support we need to help reduce the pressure that families are feeling.

“Together we have drawn up a practical list of help we’d like to see the Chancellor include in his Autumn Statement next week. Our asks would repair and strengthen the safety net for those who need support, and would help us focus on delivering growth to provide a more prosperous future for our borough.”

The asks include:

  • A fair, long term funding settlement for local government and organisations based on need and tackling deprivation, which would enable organisations to plan and deliver services and support in confidence.
  • Ensure that primary care health funding at least matches the average for the North West, in order the meet the needs of local patients. St Helens currently has the lowest ratio of GPs and practice nurses to patients across Cheshire and Merseyside, and funding for primary care is significantly below the regional average.
  • Financial support to Local Authorities to deliver a winter response to protect increasing numbers of individuals at risk of rough sleeping this winter.
  • Provision of grants to help faith and voluntary sector organisations purchase food.

Cllr Baines added: “St Helens Borough Council and local private, public and third sector organisations will continue to do everything possible to support those in need. Our St Helens Together approach has meant collectively we are working to deliver the best help we can for residents and we would encourage anyone in need to reach out for advice and guidance on who can help you. But we urgently need fair funding from government – we can’t run essential services on thin air.”

If you need support with issues such as debt advice, food and fuel support or advice on housing you can find out more on St Helens Council’s website.

 

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