At Sussex Community Foundation, we recognise the worrying effect that rising costs are having on charities and are deeply concerned about what this means for the most vulnerable and marginalised people locally and across the UK. This is why we have launched our Cost of Living Appeal, to support local people in Sussex this winter.
In August, the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) survey from the Office for National Statistics revealed 89% of adults in Great Britain reported their Cost of living had risen in the last month.
Other key highlights from the survey showed:
- 76% of adults were very or somewhat worried about the Cost of living, with 45% concerned about rising energy bills
- Rising energy bills forced annual household inflation rates to rise 0.9 points higher for low-income households in the first half of 2022
- Housing, household services, transport and food saw the largest increases from June to July 2022, with the rate at which goods and services rise increasing from 8.2% to 8.8%.
- Wages also fell by 2.5% in the year from April to June 2022, however that figure falls to 3% when including inflation and excluding bonuses.
Despite Sussex appearing as a wealthy county, there is deep-rooted inequality with pockets of deprivation. People from some ethnic groups, women, families with children, and disabled people are at higher risk of living in poverty. The continued rising Cost of living will tip more local people into poverty and deepen existing poverty, disproportionately impacting already marginalised communities across Sussex.
Sussex Community Foundation Cost of Living survey
At the Foundation, part of our new strategy – coming later this autumn – commits us to regular community listening to understand exactly what is happening in our county on the ground. Many of our existing donors have been keen to find out more too.
We sent out a Cost of living survey, open throughout September, to deepen our understanding of how this unprecedented situation is affecting local organisations and our communities in Sussex. We wanted to gain more information and data to shape our funding priorities to ensure we provide the necessary support required for the coming autumn and winter months.
The team has also been attending network meetings and speaking with key partners (including local Citizens Advice) to find out directly how they and the people they work with are being affected.
We received responses from 108 organisations to our survey , 70% of which were registered charities.
Type of organisation
Survey respondents provide a wide range of activities, services and support across Sussex and 58% have an annual income of less than £100,000.
What we found
The majority of organisations reported feeling very concerned about costs going into the winter – with 80% selecting 4 or 5 on a scale from 1 (being not at all concerned) to 5 (extremely concerned).
86% of these groups are facing large increases in their own running costs and are worried they won’t be able to continue their support.
Have your organisation’s running costs increased?
Common themes included worries over the rising costs of food (especially as donations have decreased significantly), rises in rent, energy bills and fuel. Organisations also reported an increase in volunteer expenses, with smaller groups in particular struggling to reimburse volunteers who can no longer afford to cover these. The increase in staff wages was another concern in addition to the potential loss of staff from burnout and/or people seeking higher incomes elsewhere.
“Concerned about how to support staff as we cannot match the 10% inflation rate in increased salaries. We are also getting less donations as a result of the crisis, by around 50%.”
“Significant increase in food costs (food to provide hot meals in the centre and for food parcels). Significant decrease in food donations for our store cupboard items.”
“We already operate on a shoestring and have no ongoing costs beyond the bare minimum. If things get even harder we will struggle to offer volunteer expenses, but believe that no-one should be barred from supporting their community because they can’t afford a bus fare, for example.”
There was a clear emphasis on the signs of fear and panic in the minds of people being supported about what lies ahead. Groups are noticing the impact of rising costs are disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable in our communities, particularly older people, people in abusive relationships, people living in unstable or insecure housing circumstances, unpaid carers, people with disabilities and people on low incomes.
“Increase in energy bills will put our current clients further into poverty and those who are managing at the moment into food poverty. This will place our foodbank under immense strain.”
“Working with people impacted by homelessness, the cost of living crisis means extreme food & fuel poverty pushing those who have managed to move into independent accommodation facing the possibility of becoming homeless again.”
The scale of the crisis has the potential to eclipse that experienced during the coronavirus pandemic – with most people being impacted in some way. 97% of respondents thought those they worked with were either financially worse off or significantly worse off compared to two years ago.
Financial situation of beneficiaries
Concerns of beneficiaries in order ranked Rising Energy Prices, Food Poverty, Household Bills, Rent and 61% of respondents stated all of the above.
Biggest concerns for beneficiaries
“Parents with new-born babies are concerned about keeping their baby warm enough without the heating on in the house. Getting washing dry when the heating isn’t on when you have multiple children in a small house or flat with no south facing windows.”
Demand for services is increasing
67% of respondents reported demand for their services has increased, with 7.5% reporting an increase in demand of over 75%. This is happening at a time when organisations are facing rising costs and reduced donations.
Demand for services
“(We are concerned about) The increasingly desperate situation our clients find themselves in. Demand for our service continues to grow and we cannot meet the needs of all who approach us.”
“I am concerned that the funds from all sources will begin to reduce or dry up as they will be needed to spread further.”
How organisations plan to respond
84% of respondents said they plan to address these issues through additional fundraising. At the Foundation, we are particularly concerned that 12% of respondents said they would have to reduce the number of services offered and 16% said they would have to limit the number of people they support.
How will your organisation address these issues?
The message we are hearing can be summed up by one charity which told us:
“If the pandemic was a crisis, this is an emergency. There is no way out for the many who are suffering. We are going to witness food poverty and food insecurity in a level never seen before by this generation.”
Charities themselves are struggling to keep going. Another charity said:
“Please help in terms of cost-of-living funding, we are all struggling even more now (than in the pandemic) and there is less funding around. Flexibility, funding core costs and bills would be really useful.”
What is the Foundation doing about it
We have now launched a Cost of Living Appeal in response to the increased Cost of living triggered by rising fuel, energy and food costs.
Through the covid pandemic, your donations enabled us to get help quickly to where it was needed the most.
We are now asking for your support again to raise £150,000.
Those donations will enable us to give grants to organisations best-placed to maximise help to people at this time and to scale their work to meet this increased demand.
Please do give what you can. With your help, we can all make a real difference to people’s lives in Sussex this winter.
The Foundation will also be prioritising applications linked to the Cost of living crisis in our current general round – highlighting these to our donors and for our discretionary funding.
We will also continue to offer flexibility to organisations that have received funding previously from us.