Action Zones 

Are we all in this together? 

28th October 2021

ALL IN THIS TOGETHERI’ve heard some people talking about all of us being in this together as they have mentioned the consequences of the pandemic, Brexit, increasing fuel and energy costs etc. And yes, we are, all going through some very difficult times and we are all in the storm, together, but using the analogy of boats (being in the same boat) I think I would want to say that my observation is that there are a multitude of different sized boats, some better maintained than others, which are affected by the storms in very different ways
 
We will all be aware that the £20 per week uplift given to people in receipt of Universal Credit during the pandemic has been taken away, just as the furlough scheme has finished and we have seen enormous increases in energy costs passed down to all households. There has also been a rise in the general cost of living and a 4% rising inflation rate, with the imminent increase in natural insurance contributions, still to come
 
On average, an individual under 25 will see the biggest percentage drop (25%) in their weekly payment from £79 to £59. An individual’s weekly payment if over 25 dropped by 21% from £95 to £75. For couples, where both are over 25, the drop is 15% from £137 to £117. Whatever the percentage, a loss of £80 every four weeks, is huge and will affect the economy locally as there will be less money available to be spent in our local businesses. Some who depend on Universal Credit have described the cut as “pushing us beyond our limits” or “stretching us too far”. It means for some people, having to stretch themselves even more thinly, trying to find more work, whilst currently balancing three or four jobs
 
Yes, we are all going to feel the effect of the rise in the cost of energy and food, inflation, and, for some, National Insurance contributions, but for those in our villages who can’t earn more, are on fixed pension or benefit payments it’s going to be so very, very hard. How do you make the choice between food and heating? In families, children will often be given the food and mothers or fathers will have one meal less each day. This is something that cannot go on in the long term without serious consequences. Yes, we can all put on extra layers, wear a wooly hat and fingerless gloves to keep warm, but the cold can be a real challenge for those who are elderly, immobile or unwell. The anxiety of all this is not good for anyone to bear
 
The Pantry foodbank, run by the church in Belton, for those in need in Belton, Browston, and Burgh Castle, exists to support families and individuals in need. The Pantry is currently keeping sixteen households in the village afloat; what happens when all these cuts and increases kicks in? The Pantry will seek to meet the challenges; grateful to all the people who contribute goods or money to this enterprise. An enormous thankyou to Moorlands CofE Primary Academy for their harvest gifts donated recently (over 600 items) and for the large donation from the Belton Events Committee, which will help us in the coming months
 
There is only so much that one organisation can do to support the needy. During the early months of lockdown, neighbours looked out for neighbours; we all learnt to give and receive the help we needed. May be this autumn and winter we could once again look out for one another; if we have a surplus and are able to give to others in need, perhaps we could do this. I hope and pray that those who struggle will be able to find a way to ask for help, and receive the help and support they need
 
Yes, we are all in the same storm, but our experience of it will be different if we are in a well-resourced seagoing vessel in rough waters, compared to a small broads cruiser lacking in resources. In real life, even a well maintained boat can get in trouble in a storm. For some people, the effects of our current situation will come as a shock/surprise. Many in our village will be fully aware of their vulnerability and not be able to do much to improve their situation. In real life, a boat struggling in a storm would look for a Lifeboat for rescue, but in what direction might we look?  
Rev Rosie Bunn
 
this article also appeared in Village Voice