Steve Darling: £1.2m to help with food and fuel costs over winter

Torbay Weekly

Earlier this summer, I got up at stupid o’clock and met two of our homeless outreach workers to shadow them as they offered support to those sleeping on our streets.

It still fills me with pride to think that on most mornings, there’ll be one of our staff approaching a homeless person saying: “Hello, I’m from Torbay Council, is there anything I can do to help?”

But it’s not just council staff supporting those most vulnerable in our community. We have a vibrant faith, voluntary and chartable sector, who have come together as never before since Covid struck.

As a coastal resort we have significant social challenges and areas of deprivation, as acknowledged by Professor Chris Whitty in his annual report published earlier this year that drew from Torbay’s experiences.

England's Chief Medical Officer highlighted the overlooked issues in places like Torbay which have higher rates of poor health and lower life expectancies.

I agree with him that we must re-invent and redesign ourselves for the modern age to recreate the sense of excitement we had in seaside towns in the past.

While we drive forward plans to rejuvenate Torbay, we must also help tackle some of the issues which have been exacerbated by Covid restrictions, the reduction in Universal Credit payments and rocketing fuel prices.

Torbay Council has just launched its Household Support Fund which will provide support to households in need.

This £1.2 million funding will help with food and energy costs and wider essentials over the winter period.

We have already began allocating some of the money via food vouchers for eligible children and young people for the Christmas period and February half-term.

We are also providing funding to families and individuals who are in temporary accommodation without access to cooking facilities.

If you are a Torbay resident and worried about how to cope financially in the months ahead, then please ask for help.

Further information about the Household Support Scheme is on the council’s website, plus information on other services and community organisations that may be able to help you.

One of the social problems we face in Torbay includes domestic abuse and sexual violence, affecting men and women alike.

In 2019, figures from Devon and Cornwall police showed that Torbay had the highest number of known cases of domestic abuse in the South West.

I’m proud that we are supporting this year’s national 16 Days of Action campaign, run by White Ribbon, which promotes the promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.

Our safer communities’ team has been working tirelessly with partners across Devon to help tackle domestic violence whilst providing a range of services to help victims get support and advice.

We are also committed to ensuring that we have zero acceptance to abuse and sexual violence in the workplace and have been training staff and councillors to become ambassadors and champions.

Our next steps will be to reach out into the community, working with sports clubs, schools, and employers to also take a stand and provide input into our domestic violence action plan.

Our ongoing commitment to tackling these issues has been recognised by White Ribbon UK which recently awarded Torbay Council its White Ribbon accreditation.

Support doesn’t just come from organisations –many people in Torbay help friends, family and loved ones.

In Torbay alone we have over 18,000 unpaid carers.

The pandemic has presented many challenges for us all but it has been particularly challenging for those caring for a family member who may be vulnerable.

Last Saturday, I visited Paignton library, where there was a day promoting carers’ rights and encouraging people to seek support.

Three out of four of us may need to care for someone at some point in our lives and it’s important that we know what our rights are as carers and what support and information is available to us.