This is a question and answer piece with the charity Chance Changing Lives, facilitated by In Kind Direct, a charity which supports them. This is the first in a series of interviews which further explore the impact of the cost of living crisis on individuals and charities.
In Kind Direct is a charity focused on distributing consumer products, donated by companies, to charitable organisations across the UK—to ensure that everyone has access to the products they need to keep clean, safe and well. In the first half of 2022 alone, In Kind Direct has supported almost 3,000 charitable organisations with essentials products, such as personal hygiene and household cleaning products, and clothing. In a recent survey they conducted, 84% of the charitable organisations they work with said that they had seen an increase in demand for their services, and 82% said they had been supporting more people in recent months.
When asked about the cost of living crisis, the largest concern for the charitable network they support was the increase in running costs through utility bills and travel. According to In Kind Direct, charitable organisations are being squeezed from both the supply and demand sides of their operations, making it increasingly difficult for them to support the people who need them most.
An organisation that relies on In Kind Direct’s services, and has been feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis, is Chance Changing Lives (CCL). Chance Changing Lives was the first community pantry to open in Cheshire back in October 2018. As a membership community pantry, it offers access to food and non-food items once a week for 170 families, as well as offering many other support services, such as counselling and debt advice.
Since September 2021, CCL have seen referrals to their community pantry, from local services and other local charities, increase by 45%, with a greater proportion of those referred being people who are employed but can no longer survive on their income alone. NPC and In Kind Direct asked CCL some questions about how the increase in the cost of living is affecting their ways of working and their service users. Their responses were as follows.
How is the recent rise in the cost of living affecting your service users?
‘This unprecedented cost of living crisis has caused further harm to our already vulnerable community. Without doubt, our poorest people have already been hit the hardest by Covid-19 job losses, higher rates of death and infections, and lower rates of vaccination. We are witnessing increased attendance at both provisions, and people in in-work poverty are increasingly seeking our support. Any money saved by our members is being swallowed up by cost of living rises, especially fuel and food costs.’
How has the crisis impacted your charity and way of working?
‘We are spending 117% more on food purchases than this time last year. Our donations of food from the public are falling, as demand is increasing. We have appointed a volunteer specifically to search out the best food ‘bargains’ at local supermarkets to stock our diminished shelves.
We may have to have a cut-off point very soon as donations have slowed down to such an extent that there may soon not be enough to go round if we keep accepting new referrals as demand increases.’
What support do you need from funders, government and the charity sector?
‘Our funders supported us through the pandemic, now a similar response is needed to the cost of living crisis, which again significantly impacts those who can afford it the least. Where they can, funders should move away from a focus on new initiatives and work to fund our increasing core costs. We have food to purchase, fridges and freezers to run, a small number of staff to pay, and volunteers to recruit and train.’
For more from NPC on how to respond to the cost of living crisis, read our new guidance here.