Residents across Newham are feeling the pressures from the increased cost of living, further intensified by the long-lasting financial challenges left by the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, partners across Newham, encompassing Newham Council, voluntary, community and faith organisations, the NHS, and more, are joining forces to help. Sumaiyah Rahman who leads the Newham Cost of Living Champions and Peter Laing, CEO of the Renewal Programme, provide insights into local initiatives, whilst also urging central government for much needed additional support.
Statistically, Newham is the third most deprived local authority in London. But the concerns stretch beyond finances: the borough has the highest rates of households in temporary accommodation, with 48 per 1000 people. Furthermore, 32% of Newham children are living in food poverty, and the area has the second-highest fuel poverty rate in London.
The Anti-Poverty Alliance (APA) was established in 2020 as a collaboration of around 90 local organisations, including the Council and the NHS. As of September 2022, this partnership has introduced a series of Cost-of-Living measures, devised to bolster support for Newham residents, ensuring they can tap into the support and entitlements they need in order to cope.
Our Progress so far
To date, over 300,000 residents have benefitted from a wide range of support measures, including Council Warm Havens, increased resources via the Newham Food Alliance, the "Our Newham Money" welfare scheme, the Cost of Living One Stop Shop, Community Meals, Cost of Living Champions, and the "Help is Here" campaign. Efforts from our Cost of Living One Stop Shops, Warm Havens, Community Meals and Cost of Living champions in particular have resulted in:·
* Ten Council libraries have served as Warm Havens for residents.
* The Council has funded 21 community organisations to offer hot meals services, with many others stepping up independently to provide similar support.
* Partners within the Newham Food Alliance have provided over 8,000 hot meals for the community.
* Through the Cost of Living One Stop Shop, diverse services from the Council and community partners supported over 750 residents in just 10 weeks.
Beyond these achievement, various community organisations across Newham are also offering a wide range of support to those in need. The Renewal Programme, for instance, has provided a range of crisis support initiatives including the Stay Warm in Newham project. Jointly funded by the Cadent Foundation and Newham Council, this initiative provides help and support for residents affected by rising fuel costs. The project aims to support 3,000 residents yearly with access to warm bank session, energy related hardship grants, in-depth energy support from Groundwork Green Doctors, as well as hot meals and cooking classes.
Ms. Kumar's story stands out as a recent recipient of valuable support from the Stay Warm in Newham project. Ms. Kumar is an elderly resident living alone and is considered vulnerable due to her age and medical conditions. She is a regular recipient of the Renewal Programme’s Food Bank Service and has been struggling with high energy and water bills, and an extremely cold home. She was therefore referred to the Stay Warm in Newham project where an application was made on her behalf to the Thames Water Assistance Fund, resulting in a 50% reduction in her water bill. Staff then arranged for Ms Kumar to receive home visits from Groundworks Green Doctors, who assessed her property, provided her with personalised energy advice as well as energy-saving devices including light bulbs, radiator panels, and draft proofing. Amongst the practical support provided, Ms. Kumar has also been attending free cooking and painting sessions at the Renewal Programme - designed to help residents take care of their well-being and access the support they need.
Peter Laing expressed his concerns regarding the poverty challenges faced by Newham residents, saying: "The current cost of living crisis is having a deep and negative impact on Newham’s residents. 12 months ago we conducted a Cost-of-Living survey which revealed that 27% of respondents would not turn their heating on as a means to cope with the increasing financial burden. As we approach another winter the situation for many residents is even more concerning with costs having escalated further. Together with partners, we are determined to stand with Newham residents during these difficult times and keep providing the support needed to tackle rising levels of poverty and inequality.
How are we continuing to support residents?
The Cost of living is no longer a crisis; the pressures remain, are getting worse and are likely to do so for some time.
Throughout London Challenge Poverty Week (Monday 16th to Sunday 22nd October), we are working alongside the APA to shine a light on the invaluable work voluntary, community and faith sector organisations across the borough to tackle poverty
We are increasing all our information about how to get support including highlighting how to access the Household Support Fund.
We held a joint event with Compost London ‘Breaking the cycle of Child Poverty’ on Friday 20th October at St John’s Stratford Broadway. Keynote speakers included Sir Stephen Timms MP for East Ham. We also have a "Help is Here" Cost of Living campaign toolkit which contains promotional assets for any organisation who is helping residents navigate cost of living pressures.
We continue to encourage anyone who lives, works or studies in Newham to become a Cost of Living Champion. The champions programme gives people regular information about how to get help with cost of living. We also offer regular free training. There is information on money, food, energy and mental wellbeing. For more information on becoming a Cost of Living Champion, go to the London Borough of Newham website.
While we will continue to do all we can locally, there is need for much more action from central government. Partners are calling for the introduction of a fair funding model for local government ahead of the Autumn statement, which truly reflects the needs of residents living in areas like Newham. The Government should also deliver on its long-standing commitment towards funding the Household Support fund. This would provide meaningful support for people on the lowest incomes and reduce risk of extreme hardship over the coming year.
The cost of living crisis has had catastrophic impact on Newham residents and their daily life, hitting those on the lowest incomes hardest. In Newham, we want to continue providing financial, food and energy support to residents, navigating through those challenges to ensure they know ‘Help is here.’ For more information on Newham’s Cost of Living response visit their website.