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Charities and community leaders speak of extreme efforts to help struggling families during cost of living crisis

Charities and community leaders in the region today spoke of the extreme efforts being taken to help struggling families during the cost of living crisis.

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Online searches for ‘energy bill help’ have soared

Councillors say they have taken action after being told of people in the Black Country having to choose between "heating or eating".

'Warm spaces' are being introduced in community centres and other buildings to help those struggling to pay their bills to keep warm.

In Wolverhampton, a total of 30 venues will be opening their doors from October 24, while Dudley CVS is setting up 'Warm Welcome Hubs' for Brierley Hill, Dudley Central, Dudley North, Halesowen and Stourbridge.

Stafford Borough Council has also started working with Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust to set up its own spaces to help residents.

According to research of Google searches, queries for ‘energy bill help’ have soared to their highest rate in the last five years across the UK.

Pensnett councillor Rebbekah Collins has moved to set up a warm space after hearing of people choosing between "heating or eating".

Councillor Rebbekah Collins

The space will be free to attend and run every Sunday from November 6 between noon to 4pm at Brockmoor Community Centre.

Councillor Collins said: "With the current cost of living crisis we need to provide warm places, it worries me that if we don't, more people will suffer.

"I have heard people choosing between heating or eating, and the best I can do as a councillor is refer them for a food voucher.

"You are left wanting to do more, but this is something I can do to help."

Ben Cole works for a Wolverhampton-based mental health charity called Bedazzle, set up to help support schools and families.

He said: "Our experience is that if it wasn’t for schools in areas of the highest deprivation going above and beyond, the social care sector would be even more overwhelmed.

"Every week we see safeguarding personnel and pastoral teams working hours to source and signpost parents to any grants and help schemes they can find.

"Many have continued to give out food parcels since Covid.

"The impact of the pandemic is still really hitting families amidst the cost of living crisis - people having lost jobs, working through the grief of losing loved ones at a time they need them most and then the overall impact of this cost of living on parents' mental health through fear of not being able to meet basic needs."

Libraries in Staffordshire are also opening their doors to offer communities a warm space and a hot drink amid the cost of living crisis.

The learning centres have teamed up with Morrison's supermarket and Lakeland Dairies to help give people a place to get a warm drink and some food.

Victoria Wilson, left, hearing about the community work at Newcastle library from volunteer Stephanie

Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council's cabinet member for communities and culture, said: "Libraries have always been regarded as safe, welcome places; always at the heart of their communities. This winter we are emphasising that with our commitment to a warm welcome and lots of practical support and advice for everyone."

The move to open the libraries to those seeking warmth is part of the 'Here to Help' campaign, which will see systems put into place to help combat the cost of living pressures.

Ms Wilson added: "There are so many little things happening here and at our other 42 libraries which add up to a lot of help and emotional support for people, particularly those who live alone; whether it's running additional coffee mornings, putting out jigsaws on table to provide people a reason for people to sit and stay awhile, or having PCs available for people to browse and catch up on their emails."

As well as offering hot brews and food – some libraries will also offer chargers and laptops for everyone to use, helping give people a warm place to study or do business.

More details on the 'Here to Help' campaign and a wide range support on the cost of living crisis can be found at