A report out earlier this month from the respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that ‘thousands of people are struggling to make ends meet in the UK every day’.
An additional 700,000 UK children and pensioners have fallen into relative poverty - households with less than 60% the median income - over the past four years. The median income in the UK is £27,200 so 60% of that is £16,320 or £313 per week. The charity said it was the first time in 20 years that poverty in these groups had seen sustained rises. Our Sussex Uncovered 2: Bridging the Gap report, published a year ago revealed, perhaps surprisingly, that the average salary of those employed in Sussex is below the average for both the south-east and England. As many are aware, salaries themselves have stagnated in the last few years, the cost of living has risen and many more households are feeling the pinch or are ‘just about managing’. Add to that the roll-out of universal credit which has brought additional issues for many on very low-incomes, and Christmas isn’t looking quite so merry.
The ABC Fund, based in Peacehaven, provides trips and treats for underprivileged children and their families. “The aim is to put a smile on the faces of those who struggle with disadvantage - day in, day out,” says founder and organiser Anne Bickmore. The group received a £4,000 grant recently from Sussex Community Foundation to help fund 100 food hampers for families this Christmas. We visited them at Bee Moved in Newhaven, where Director Nik Burns supplied storage, a packing area and even supplied hot chocolate, mince pies and cream to sustain the team of volunteers, including students from St Bede’s. The Peacehaven branch of the Co-op kindly supplied the bags. “Our hampers were collected by social services, a children’s disability centre, Whitehawk after-school project, young carers, Rural Sussex, a local GP surgery, a women’s refuge,” says Anne. “I have just delivered one to a bereaved Mum left with three young children to bring up. She was so overcome and was welling up with emotion.”
Other groups to receive funding from us to help the people they support this Christmas include Community Advice, Support, Education in Brighton whose grant will help pay for a Christmas party for low-income families, the Crew Club, who are holding a party for older Whitehawk residents, and Time to Talk Befriending who will be providing 100 Christmas meals to be delivered by volunteers, who will befriend and heat meals at individual homes.
There is much we can do to help other people this Christmas.
Donate or volunteer at your local foodbank:
Host an international student who would otherwise spend a lonely Christmas on a deserted campus: http://www.hostuk.org/hosts/
Visit an older person who might otherwise spend Christmas alone: www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/volunteer
There are a range of opportunities to help in Hastings or Rother: www.survivingchristmas.co.uk
Or search for a Sussex charity to donate to at www.localgiving.org