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New Forest residents feeling the squeeze of cost-of-living crisis as utility bills soar and foodbank demand remains



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LOCAL households are feeling the squeeze from the cost-of-living crisis as a New Forest support charity reported a threefold rise in people asking for help with their utility bills and food bank referrals staying at pandemic levels.

Citizens Advice New Forest (CANF) said the increases between January and May this year shows just how much inflation is beginning to bite.

The organisation added it helped 19% more people in 2021/22 than the previous year – with 6,539 clients and 17,961 issues.

The Basics Bank has seen demand increase hugely over the past year
The Basics Bank has seen demand increase hugely over the past year

CANF chief officer Alison Talbot said: "With people coming to us for help with their food and fuel, some days it feels like we are an emergency service and behind each request for help there are stories that make you see the affluent and beautiful area that we live in, in a new light.

"January to April has been a very busy period.

"We have seen a three-fold increase in the number of people contacting us about their utilities, and foodbank referrals are rising back to their pandemic levels."

She pledged CANF will continue to work with Fareshare, foodbanks and local councils to support New Forest food larders offering low-price food for households around the district.

Oliver Stanley, chair of the Lymington-based New Forest Basics Bank, said its current demand was 105 families per week, adding: "That is roughly the same level we have been at since the beginning of the pandemic.

"We have seen an increase in the demand for fuel vouchers and we are now seeing and dealing with circa 25 Ukrainian families, which has been a great pleasure.

"The Fareshare Community Larders have continued to be busy and we are seeing record numbers at both the Nedderman Centre and Pennington which we are able to cope with and is a step away from the foodbank."

Lymington and Pennington Town Council mayor Cllr James Hoare
Lymington and Pennington Town Council mayor Cllr James Hoare

Lymington and Pennington Town Council mayor Cllr James Hoare said at a recent meeting he was "very conscious" of the financial pressures people were facing, having spent some time with the Lymington larder and New Forest Basics Bank.

He said it was "distressing to see the queues of those seeking assistance grow longer", telling colleagues it was "important that we all keep our ears to the ground in order that we can signpost those in need to places they can obtain help".

He added: "I know that you all already have this approach, but it is going to become increasingly important during the next 12 months."

Coupled with the "loneliness experienced by some during the pandemic", it had "caused a greater incidence of mental illness in its many different forms across our community".

Hour-long food larders take place between Monday and Friday across the New Forest. The first on Mondays is from 12.30pm at Marchwood village hall.

Princess Anne recently met staff from Fareshare and New Forest Basics Bank (picture: Trevor Pogson)
Princess Anne recently met staff from Fareshare and New Forest Basics Bank (picture: Trevor Pogson)

On Tuesdays it is at Ashley Baptist Church at 9.30am and St Anne’s Neighbourhood Centre in Hythe from 1pm.

On Wednesdays it visits New Milton’s Nedderman Centre at 9.30am, and on Thursdays the Queen Elizabeth Reception Centre in Blackfield from 9.30am, and St George's Hall at Calshot from 12.30pm.

On Fridays it is at St Mary the Virgin Church at Bransgore at 9.30am, and both Ringwood Leisure Centre and St Mary's Church in Fordingbridge at 1.30pm.

The larder goes to St Wins in Totton for two hours on Wednesdays from 9.30am, and for 75 minutes at St Mark's Community Hall in Pennington at 1.15pm on Thursdays.



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