How HOT is addressing the Cost of Living Crisis through holistic and multi-agency
Delivery Area: Multiple areas
Values: We Care, We are Committed, We Collaborate
The Cost of Living Crisis is ongoing and continues to significantly impact people on low-incomes, benefit-support and from deprived areas. At Halifax Opportunities Trust, we’ve been actively working with a range of people through the crisis, to understand their challenges and signpost services to support them.
While the crisis is having most impact financially, with some families going without meals to pay bills, its also having an impact on overall health and wellbeing. HOT has experienced a number of instances where individuals have expressed high levels of stress and anxiety over their rising bills, which is causing further strain on their mental wellbeing. Amina* accessed HOT this year presenting a number of challenges:
- Help with utility bills as had fallen into debt.
- Due to English language barriers, she wasn’t aware of how long the bills hadn’t been paid for & was informed she was in debt around £4,000.
- The debt situation exacerbated her mental illness & as a single parent her situation became threefold worse.
HOT worked with her to change to a smart meter and provided her with fuel vouchers. We also helped her with general advice and guidance, and signposted her to both the local authority and Citizen’s Advice Bureaux (CAB) for further support.
Upon Amina’s concern of smelling gas at her property, HOT staff arranged for an emergency call out and it was ascertained that she had a kitchen appliance that was leaking, so another emergency call out was made to cap the appliance off.
This was a highly dangerous situation as she was informed that had the emergency services not been called out and the appliance not capped, then the entire property would have been destroyed with a gas explosion. And, as she lives in a mid-terrace property, the entire street would have been at risk too.
Following from this, staff supported Amina with benefit checks and any other wider support needs. We noticed that Amina was going days without food, as she said she couldn’t afford to buy any shopping and was relying on residents in the neighbourhood offering her food. The property was badly maintained and we noticed rat infestation. Upon questioning Amina, she said she was aware of this however couldn’t afford to call the council out to check. She had developed a severe skin rash due to the poor hygiene.
Support from HOT
The support offered to Amina helped build a rapport with and we signposted her to the HOT Staying Well programme to combat her loneliness, however she said she didn’t have the confidence to engage in a group setting. Regular follow up visits to check on Amina’s welfare raised further concerns regarding the deterioration of her health, so she was supported with further multi-agency support.
One morning, Amina turned up to Hanson Lane carrying a kettle and asked for staff to boil it for her as she had no electric in the house so couldn’t afford to top her meter up. She was advised that due to health and safety reasons the team couldn’t boil the kettle for her, however could offer to make her a drink, which she couldn’t understand why.
Staff at Hanson Lane often witnessed Amina’s angry outbursts as she was literally at the end of her tether and felt she couldn’t cope any more. Since then, Amina has been referred to other specialist organisations to help with managing her debt, however she now has severe ill mental health and this has worsened with the financial pressures she is facing.