The rising cost of living – helping families share ideas and support

Makita Mott, Community Connector, explains how Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) is bringing together local support and expertise, and helping families share ideas on how save money, keep warm, and eat healthily

Makita Mott

At Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP), we hear every day from families who are worried about the rising cost of living, and particularly about how to afford to eat and stay warm this winter. Although energy prices are currently capped, bills are too high for many families, especially as benefits have not increased with the rate of inflation. Many families are working but wages are often not enough to cover the basics such as housing, bills, and food.

We know times are tough for everyone now, and especially for families with young children, so we are working to provide some support during these difficult winter months.

LEAP’s aim is to offer events where families can keep warm, enjoy hot healthy food, meet other families, share ideas, and get free advice and support while their babies and very young children enjoy fun learning activities. We are running a series of free all-day ‘warm hubs’ over the winter months, each with a different theme for family activities. Our aim is to create a ‘home from home’ welcome for families.

Our first cost-of-living related event was called ‘Curb the Cost.’ Held in November in a local family centre, parents and carers were able to meet other families, share ideas and get free expert advice from a wide range of local support organisations. In a large family-friendly room next to the local food pantry run by Healthy Living Platforms, local organisations set up tables where people could find useful advice and come and talk in confidence.

Curb the Cost event

To ensure that a wide range of advice and support was available for families, LEAP partnered with local organisations such as Healthy Living Platform, Little Village, Repowering London, Lambeth Employment and Training Support Service, Money A and E, the Baytree Centre, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Clear Community Web, Loughborough Junction Action Group, UCL and others.

To encourage parents and carers to attend, we provided fun activities for babies and toddlers, with junk modelling, crafts, making healthy fruit skewers, and play activities to keep children entertained.

Parents and carers were able to spend time talking with each other and local experts, while their children had fun.

Families could share ideas and local knowledge on a wall mounted interactive display. Tips shared included useful websites such as Too good to go and Trash nothing, sources of support, and ways to buy, cook and enjoy fruit and vegetables.

The advice offered by Money A&E on benefits, managing debt, reducing energy bills, reducing household expenditure, how to get and give free food, and how to borrow and lend household items, was particularly popular.

Participants were also keen to talk with Repowering London about saving energy, the Lambeth Community Solar scheme, and discount schemes for low-income families.

Also present were Little Village who run baby banks supporting families with young children living on low incomes. Families can be referred to Little Village who rely on donations to provide essentials for babies and young children.

General advice and guidance on the local support services available, benefits, housing, family problems and where to get legal advice was also offered by several local support organisations.

LEAP’s ‘Digi champs’ and staff from Clear Community Web offered help with digital skills and how to find support and advice online.

Loughborough Junction Action Group got parents and little ones involved in making home-made natural body scrubs and shared ideas for other affordable gifts.

Although some parents signed up in advance to attend, others were more comfortable just dropping in. Parents seemed to enjoy having plenty of time to talk with the experts and support organisations available, knowing their children were being entertained.

We will be using the learning and feedback from this ‘Curb the Cost’ event to develop our ‘warm hubs’ and other events over the coming months.

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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