Reach out for help over the festive period if you are struggling with the cost of living

By bellmannews / December 22, 2022
Child's toy house

From Aberdeenshire Council communications team –

People are being encouraged to reach out for help over the festive period if they are struggling with the cost of living at this time of year.

More and more organisations from across the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership are publishing information about warm spaces, food banks or support on offer.

It is recognised that an increase in the cost of living plus winter weather impacts are making life difficult for a lot of people across Aberdeenshire and beyond.

Christmas is famously a time of year when many struggle, but it is also harder to admit to facing challenges. Those can be the mental health impacts of the festive season or the financial ones.

Whilst no one agency can ‘fix’ the issues being faced by communities, there is a concerted effort to make sure that people are aware of support which is out there. The message – you don’t need to suffer in silence.

Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action have a new interactive Warm Spaces map for Aberdeenshire on their website which can be found here

All sorts of venues are offering warm spaces to the public in Aberdeenshire such as local libraries, halls, council venues, community centres and churches. AVA have captured all these spaces in one place and their interactive map shows you exactly where and when in your community these warm spaces are happening. The webpage also provides a form for those hosting a new warm space to let them know so they can add it to the map.

There is useful advice on the Fire Service website about staying safe during an emergency or in the winter months.

From a health perspective, a new leaflet has been published by the NHS full of tips on staying well this winter.

Aberdeenshire Council has a long-established cost of living advice page on its website which signposts to support on offer. This includes support from UK and Scottish governments, charities and council services. That includes support and advice on housing arrears, fuel poverty, school meals and uniform allowances and more. Importantly for many there are a range of food banks or community larders on offer which can be accessed by anyone.

Also on those pages is a link to the Council resilience leaflet with tips on how to get ahead of a winter storm.

Christmas itself can be a difficult time, but there are services open to support over the period.

Cllr Anne Stirling, chair of the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership, said: “This has to be tackled right across Aberdeenshire with a collective response if we are to stand any chance of providing meaningful help to people. With any crisis like this we need to work together and make sure people know what to do if they are struggling. There is no stigma to asking for help, that is why we are working together to make support available.”

Aileen Longino, AVA development officer, added: “AVA could see warm spaces springing up in communities all across Aberdeenshire as a result of the cost of living crisis so we created a comprehensive map for users to see them all in one place. Aberdeenshire is great at springing into action in a crisis, and these spaces help communities come together, and support those struggling to heat their homes. Warm spaces are comfortable welcoming spaces where folk can relax and keep warm for a few hours.

“Whilst we want to encourage people to use their local warm space if they need it, please make sure it is safe to do so given the current wintery conditions on roads and pavements. If your house is cosy, stay at home! Our interactive map captures all these warm spaces in one place, whether they’re in village halls, libraries or community spaces – each one ensuring folk of a warm welcome, when they need it. If you host a warm space that isn’t on the map, please let us know!”

Jillian Evans, Head of Health Intelligence with NHS Grampian, said: “Our guide isn’t just limited to the traditional health messages we want to share; it also reflects the current challenging times we find ourselves in and recognises that can have a major impact on people’s health as well. Prevention is always better than cure and we want to ensure everyone in Grampian has easy access to the information they need to stay well. Over 24 pages, the booklet – entitled ‘Keep Warm, Safe, and Well this Winter’ – covers everything from healthy eating to dealing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

The council’s free Live Life Essentials membership offers access to more than 50 sports venues and libraries operated by Live Life Aberdeenshire, whereby people can access showers, WiFi and device charging for free, among other benefits including some exercise sessions. Our libraries are also working with partner groups to give out knitted blankets to households as part of the ‘Cosy Bosie’ project.

In terms of work to tackle poverty and inequalities, we fund a number of partners to provide items to keep people warm as part of Christmas hampers, while there are various gift tree projects run by Homestart services, health visitors and community groups to provide items such as clothing.

Using funding provided for covid recovery, the housing service is providing £50,000 of shopping vouchers for tenants, as well as ongoing support around energy costs, welfare rights and money advice, and further funding to help with rent arrears.