What is the situation for people in Sussex?
Despite Sussex appearing as a wealthy county, there is deep-rooted inequality with pockets of deprivation. As everyday costs rapidly outpace wage and benefit growth, Sussex charities have seen vast increases in people asking for help with crisis support, energy problems and simply not having enough money to make ends meet – more than ever before.
The continued rising cost of living will tip more local people into poverty and deepen existing poverty, disproportionately impacting already marginalised communities across Sussex.
Local communities that struggled throughout the pandemic are once again seeing a major strain on budgets:
- 4% of Sussex residents were already facing fuel poverty before the recent rise in prices (71,472 people).
- In Sussex, The Trussell Trust’s total number of food parcels distributed in 2021-22 was almost a third higher than when compared with pre-pandemic levels.
In addition to attending networking meetings, speaking with key partners (including Citizens Advice) we also sent out a Cost of Living Survey to all our grantees to better understand the situation on the ground locally. This is part of our new strategy (to be launched on 1 December 2022) which commits us to more strategic ongoing community listening. We wanted to make sure any strategic decisions (particularly around how we prioritise our funding) will be shaped by local knowledge and evidence.
The survey achieved over 100 responses with a wealth of data and individual comments. Key insights include:
- Concerns in order ranked Rising Energy Prices, Food Poverty, Household Bills, Rent with 61% of replies stating all of the above
- 97% of groups thought those they worked with were either worse off or significantly worse off compared to two years ago
- And 85% of these groups are facing large increases in their own costs and are worried they won’t be able to continue their support
Biggest concerns for beneficiaries
The comments from survey respondents reflect those concerns:
“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.”
You can find our full summary of the survey results here.
The message we are hearing can be summed up by one charity which told us:
Sussex charities 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.”
Additionally, our spring and autumn 2022 grant-making rounds have each seen large spikes in applications with over 250 applications received in each round.
The autumn 2022 grants round had 253 applications (233 eligible) with a total request of £1,769,031 – hugely more than our total available funds.
We have already assessed 43 of those applications (£359,762 of requests) to being of the strongest importance for work to support those badly affected by the Cost of living crisis.
What action is Sussex Community Foundation taking?
During the covid pandemic Sussex Community Foundation, with the support of our community of partners and donors, moved swiftly and agilely to respond.
Our Sussex Crisis Fund Impact Report tells the story of that response, which over 18 months enabled £4.21 million to be awarded in 908 grants to 546 local community organisations.
We have now taken the decision to launch a public ‘Cost of Living Appeal’ with the intention to raise £150,000 over autumn 2022.
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.