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 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?
Thanks to our incredible community of donors, we have raised £143,675 since we launched our Cost of Living Appeal in October. We are so grateful to everyone who has supported local people through this appeal so far.
At the Foundation, we have got this vital funding to where it’s most needed, giving out £73,421 in 13 grants to organisations across our county.
One organisation that received funding was Mid Sussex Older People’s Council’s (MSOPC), who work to support older people to reduce the negative effects of isolation, marginalisation and disengagement. The charity received a Cost of Living grant to hold free community information events and to produce a newsletter signposting to local support available.
The remaining funds will be given out at our next Grants Committee meeting in March 2023.
As local organisations continue to face unprecedented demand for their services – at a time when they are facing rising costs themselves and reduced donations – we now need to go even further so have increased our target to £250,000.
If you are in a position to contribute, please consider giving the gift of a warm home for a local household this winter by donating part or all of your Energy Bills Support Scheme payment of £400.
Our TotalGiving page is open for donations.
There are many inspirational local charities providing essential support for people in Sussex. Together we can ensure they can continue to be there for when we need them. Contact Stephen Chamberlain, Head of Philanthropy to find out more.
If you need help with your rising costs, please see the council help page here.