Charity supporting struggling Londoners says bills crisis is stopping them doing more
In a typical year, the staff and volunteers at the Cardinal Hume Centre in Victoria help more than 1,000 disadvantaged Londoners in everything from getting jobs, food, or being housed in its hostel, but plans to do more are being hit hard by the cost of living crisis.
The centre, which first opened its doors in 1986, tackles homelessness and poverty and employs experts in the benefits system, teachers, nursery workers and immigration advisers.
Director of services Louise Davies said what might seem like small steps from getting “the right advice on benefits” to having enough to feed their kids can make a huge difference to these families.
The former primary school headteacher turned-charity worked said: “This is where the cost of living comes in. We’ve got families who used to be able to do things like go to the local café, but now prices have doubled.
“The cost of food has gone up hugely and so has everything else like school uniforms and they are items we are regularly asked to provide.”
Ms Davies added: “We have been talking about extending our opening hours but we have to be careful of costs. We would like to open in the evenings, but that will bring higher utility costs and staff would need to be here.”
The centre also plans to set up a warm space on Wednesdays where parents can come while the children are at school and keep warm as well as get advice about how to heat their homes more efficiently.
Last year, staff spent around £20,000 on emergency food vouchers, which could be used in supermarkets. Charities are seeing demand for this kind of targeted help on the rise, and will need extra funding to deliver.
The Cardinal Hume Centre is one of the charities earmarked for funding in our On The Breadline cost of living Christmas appeal being run in partnership with The Childhood Trust and Comic Relief.
The centre also runs sessions for families with children aged under six where they can play and grow their own vegetables as well as cook and eat together – but they have to limit numbers as demand is high.
Chief executive George O’Neill said the problems of poverty they deal with have a long-term impact as well as immediate costs, adding: “We know that living in poor quality temporary accommodation has a harmful effect on children.
“It affects their education and mental wellbeing and it is more costly because you can be moving around and then have to travel to bring your kids into school. We did research on 21 families we work with and there is no doubt it is having a harmful impact.”
Mr O’Neill said the charity tries to do things that some see as optional extras, including taking families for days out or making sure they can buy Christmas presents for their children.
He said: “One 15-year-old boy whose mum comes here was picked for the football team but he didn’t have boots. That is a really simple thing we can do. That dignity of being able to be part of a team alongside his friends with the same kit is not a ‘nice to have’, it is essential.”
Our Christmas appeal in a nutshell
Our Cost of Living Christmas appeal, On the Breadline, has partnered with Comic Relief and The Childhood Trust, a charity that helps children in poverty in London.
Donations made into our partnership with The Childhood Trust will be given out in grants to organisations that help children in poverty in London.
Donations made into our partnership with Comic Relief will go to organisations across the UK (including London) helping people on the breadline of all ages cope with the cost of living.
How you can help
To help children affected by the cost of living crisis who live in London, donate here.
To help children and communities affected by the cost of living crisis wherever they live in the UK, donate here.