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Southport single mum-of-two Helen was struggling. Her adult son suffers with anxiety and lost his job, so Helen had to cover his living expenses, as well as her own and her nine year old daughter’s.
“I have only my money to feed us and pay bills and everything and it is such a struggle every week,” she explained. The Salvation Army referred her to Food Pantry, run by Compassion Acts and part of the Southport Foodbank family. At the Pantry, members pay £5 per week to access shopping to the value of around £20, which they choose themselves and helps build self esteem.
Helen said, “After paying bills I didn’t have much money left for food shopping so the Pantry has helped me so much with a top up shop. On the first day, the help was amazing. They were all so friendly and showed me the ropes and I got free drink and a biscuit.
“I don’t get any support from anyone so the Pantry has been a lifeline to us all. We get some essentials and treats, milk, bread, fruit and veg, which I would not be able to afford every week on top of my bills. The kids are excited when I return home from the Pantry to see what bits I have got.
“Without the Pantry we would have less essentials, which would be really hard and a struggle. It is an amazing place.”
Helen advises others who are struggling, “There is help out there, the people are so nice and would help you. They also have money people to talk to if you ever need help.”
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Local grassroots charity “Compassion Acts” which is best known for running the town’s Foodbank, has been supporting a local family over the last 12 months with a legal challenge against the DWP.
Following a relationship breakdown, Sharon, a working Mum of 3 children was required to apply for Universal Credit. She worked 16 hours a week at National Living Wage and was paid every 4 weeks. As the Universal Credit system is designed to assess earnings across a calendar month, the DWP were underestimating her actual income each month. This resulted in her falling short of the income threshold to avoid the Benefit Cap and she instantly saw her monthly Universal Credit payment reduced by £463 per month. Had she been paid monthly, this reduction would not have been applied.
The Southport working Mum cared for her Gran who suffers with Dementia, did initially approach her Employer to request her income be changed to monthly but due to their payroll system, they were unable to accommodate this request.
As Universal Credit had severely reduced her income, Sharon was forced to use the Foodbank to feed herself and her family.
Our team were on hand to support her and immediately raised this as an issue and challenged the DWP directly. The team also contacted ‘Child Poverty Action Group’ (CPAG) for support and CPAG agreed with our Welfare Team that Sharon was being discriminated against and sought a Judicial Review through the High Court.
Sharon said “Given that I am working exactly the same number of hours and earning the same amount as somebody working 16 hours at national minimum wage who happens to be paid monthly I do not understand why my family's budget should be subject to the cap. It is difficult to explain to somebody not in my situation just how devastating an impact it has had and continues to have.”
The Judicial Review took place on the 13 May 2020. The Judge, Mr Justice Garnham said “It would not be inconsistent with the overall UC scheme to devise an exception to resolve the problem.”
“It is a matter of basic fairness and justice. Sharon was doing the right thing, working part time to support her family” says Chair of the Trustees of Compassion Acts charity, Allan Salisbury “However she was unfairly treated simply because she was paid four-weekly. I’m sure this wasn’t how the policy was intended but its how its been applied.
“It’s a sad reflection on the system that there is a need for Foodbanks and the benefit systems are not sufficiently flexible to meet people’s basic needs.”
“We have a good working relationship with Southport Job Centre via our excellent Welfare Advice Team. The judgement is good news for everyone involved.”
In these extraordinary times, the charity is expecting a surge in Southport & Formby residents, who may be losing jobs, in debt or are unfamiliar with the benefits system. We are here for them to help and will help through the procedures. Simply text your details to 07526 897384 or for information www.compassionacts.uk/advice
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Trustee Board Announcements
We recently bid farewell and gave a huge 'thank you' to our chair of trustees, Rev'd Richard Vernon, who is also Senior Pastor of Lakeside Church. As he steps down from the Board, due to pressures on his time, everyone in the charity assured him of their thanks and prayers. Richard has been involved with the charity or its predecessor organisations for many years and has a real passion for this kind of ministry.
Taking over the Chair of our Trustees is Allan Salisbury MBE.
We are also pleased to welcome two new trustees. Marlyn Banham and Alex Holdsworth
We will update our 'about us' section in due course.
Our Food Pantry at Grace Baptist Church in the town centre has remained open, but with massively adapted systems since the beginning of the crisis. Our wonderful team there receive great feedback from the Pantry members for going that extra mile. They are opening the shop itself now, with appropriate safety measures. This means people once again get an increased range of goods which they can select themselves. The Pantry is also taking new referrals via our 'advice & support' team only.
Foodbank Opening Details (Wednesdays from July onwards)
From July 1st 2020 we will be starting up our Foodbank session at Scarisbrick New Road Baptist Church from 1pm- to 3pm every Wednesday until further notice. It is a great central location for the town.This means that the emergency Wednesday session at Lakeside Church will no longer operate.
As a reminder, Southport Foodbank provides 3 to 5 days of food supply for people in emergency . In other words for those who who haven't eaten and/or have no prospect of accessing food in the immediate future. Sadly this could be common among any demographic or social group. Usually a professional or agency makes a referral locally - however it is also possible to self refer by calling 0808 2082138 for free (open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm). You’ll confidentially talk to a trained agent and, if needed, they’ll issue you with a food bank e-voucher.
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Help us face the "recovery phase" of COVID-19 with confidence.
In the early weeks of the crisis the numbers using the Foodbank rose by over 80% - but thankfully all of those thanked above rose to the challenge and every single day saw new donations coming in. Wonderful!
As we plan for the surge of new clients this autumn, we are now appealing for people to divert their efforts into monthly donations of funds.
As little as £5 per month, gift aided, can make a huge difference. If as a charity we know we have these sums coming in we can PLAN and PROTECT our services from the expected autumn/winter demand.
Simply set up via your own online/telephone/high street branch banking order. Our details are below. If you are a UK taxpayer and are able to 'gift aid' please return a form to us.
Account Name: Compassion Acts Bank: HSBC, Southport Sort Code: 40-42-30 Account Number: 52071665
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It’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (18 - 24 May) and though it’s good to take a moment to remember those who are impacted, this is a subject which we’re aware of all year round.
Chief Executive Richard Owens explains, “In many ways we are a mental health charity because we see people in their crisis moments. In the last year we have helped 300 welfare clients, and, through Foodbank, fed over 5,000 people.
When people come to us they are often at their lowest point but thanks to our dedicated team of volunteers and staff we’re able to help them put into place the practical building blocks to a better life, which then helps their mental health. Many of our staff and some of our volunteers undertook two days of 'mental health first aid' training oin 2019.
Our welfare team fights for benefits they’re entitled to, or help take steps to get them out of debt. And once some people are through crisis we may move them on from Foodbank to Food Pantry and our Next Steps café.
“We have many clients who are so thankful for our support, they tell us how it has halted their decline into depression and improved their physical – and mental – wellbeing.
“And we in turn would like to thank all our volunteers and supporters, everyone who has helped with food or money or time donations – your work really does help people. This year’s Mental Health Awareness theme is kindness, but I’d like to say it’s the kindness of all those who help us – all year round, not just for a week – which means we can help so many people with their mental health. Thank you.”
If you’re currently experiencing problems with debt, navigating the welfare benefits system or are struggling with the isolation or anxiety around the social/economic impact of COVID-19 and need a listening ear, text our confidential service.
Simply text your name to 07526 897384 or online via www.compassionacts.uk/advice Advisors will be in contact within 24 hours on weekdays.
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A new listening service has been launched by Compassion Acts, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Compassion Acts is a charity supporting people in need through Southport Foodbank, debt & welfare advice, Food Pantry and other wrap-around services. The Coronavirus crisis has put many more people at risk - those who were making do in employment are now devastated with loss of jobs or reduced pay.
Chief Executive Richard Owens explained, “When we help people through Southport Foodbank and our debt team, we’re not just providing food and advice, we’re offering a listening ear. Obviously with social distancing and lockdown that has been really impacted and we know that people are missing the personal touch. We certainly are. That’s why we’re launching this service. We’ll be at the end of a phone (or computer) to listen to people’s financial worries, provide a shoulder to cry on, and then direct them to the right people who can help them further.”
The confidential service is open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday by texting your name to 07526 897384 or online via www.compassionacts.uk/advice Advisors will be in contact within 24 hours.
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Can you help us to meet excess demand from families?
The Coronavirus crisis has impacted almost everyone across the world. And here in Southport & Formby people are also being hit hard. In March alone local charity Compassion Acts helped over 700 people^ access food - and that figure is rising by the day. Operating Southport Foodbank, a debt & welfare team and the Food Pantry, Compassion Acts is on the frontline every day and, as the economic situation is expected to crash in months to come, with realities of widespread unemployment, Chief Executive Richard Owens fears, “Without the certainty of regular givers we may be overwhelmed by the autumn.” Could you give the equivalent of two lattes a month and become a regular giver to Compassion Acts? Small donations of £5 or £10 a month will make a difference to someone who is desperate for food or debt advice.
In the last few weeks, during lockdown, we have helped people like James* who came to Foodbank desperate for help. He was self employed and now has nothing to live on and is unable to provide food for his 4 children. He is one of the many casual, seasonal and self employed workers we are starting to see affected by this crisis. We gave him food to feed his family, but there will be many more people like James in the months to come.
Richard added, “We are planning for the future as we come out of this crisis. We are expecting challenging times in the months ahead with many families needing advice, guidance and access to food. We’ve seen so much generosity during this crisis, not just to us but to other groups working to help the vulnerable at this time, and we’re so grateful. We’re hoping the continuing generosity of local givers will help us help others in the months ahead.”
To set up a standing order, authorise your bank to make regular monthly payments to: Compassion Acts (registered charity 1172948) at HSBC Bank, Lord Street, Southport. Sort Code 40-42-30. Account number: 52071665. If you’re able to Gift Aid (or would like an acknowledgement) please email the information of what you have set up, and we can send you a 'Gift Aid' form, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes: * not real name for confidentiality reasons ^over 80% increase on figures from March 2019
With the public’s regular donations, in the second half of 2020 we hope to:
1: Have enough capacity to meet all the needs that come in for welfare and debt advice
2: Continue to run a 5 day a week Foodbank service
3: Launch a new telephone listening service
4: Launch an additional Food Pantry in Birkdale
5: Develop the school Food Pantry in High Park
6: Run ‘next steps café’ budgeting and life skills courses
7: Re-open Foodbank Distribution Centres, which temporarily closed for COVID-19
8: Invest in more suitable storage warehouse and volunteer training facilities/premises
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MEDIA RELEASE. For immediate publication.
The charity which manages Southport Foodbank has announced plans for how it will operate from Monday 23rd March.
From that date until further notice our Foodbank distribution service will operate as follows:
Mondays 1pm to 3pm Lakeside Church (side door on car park, follow the signage)
Tuesdays 1pm to 3pm Ainsdale Methodist Church, via the right hand entrance
Wednesdays 1pm to 3pm Lakeside Church (side door on car park, follow the signage)
Thursdays 1pm to 3pm Ainsdale Methodist Church, via the right hand entrance
Fridays 1pm to 3pm Lakeside Church (side door on car park, follow the signage)
Our Food Pantry at Grace Baptist Church on Princess Street will continue to open for its members (referral only) but with a set of hygiene guidelines and a more limited service.
Although we have no plans to include home delivery options on our food parcels, we will support and facilitate some of the community grass-roots networks of volunteers delivery drivers that are emerging.
We can’t all afford to be stockpiling foods and we must look out for each other. That is why we as a charity are calling for donations of both food and finance to help us through this crisis.
Food collection points for Foodbank at Tesco, Asda and at churches throughout the area. There are collection points for the Food Pantry at Morrisons and also at Coop, Churchtown.
We are limiting our busy welfare benefits and debt advice services to phone and skype contact as a precaution – but we anticipate them becoming busier than ever as the crisis deepens. This is why we are seeking additional financial support to ensure we are well placed to deal with demand.
Donations can be made at www.compassionacts.uk
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