Our Christmas appeal will focus on helping the most vulnerable

Even in the good times, many people still get ‘left behind’ through no fault of their own (Getty)
Even in the good times, many people still get ‘left behind’ through no fault of their own (Getty)

In the midst of an unprecedented cost of living crisis, it is only right that The Independent’s Christmas appeal should concentrate on the most vulnerable. As the name implies, the 2022 On The Breadline campaign aims to give some real help to those who would otherwise have nowhere to turn.

The Comic Relief charity, which has decades of experience in providing practical assistance through a range of organisations, is an ideal partner to make sure that the maximum help is provided to those in the greatest need.

The Independent’s campaign to help the disadvantaged (Independent)
The Independent’s campaign to help the disadvantaged (Independent)

It should not, of course, be necessary for charities to step in to ensure that the essentials of life are provided, but even in the good times, many people still get “left behind” through no fault of their own. In bad times, such as those that are about to befall us, the need is even greater. As ever, the burden of what is sometimes euphemistically termed “economic adjustment” during a recession is not distributed evenly and fairly.

To take just one of the many grim statistics that have been circulating in recent weeks, British households are set to suffer an average drop in their disposable income of some 7 per cent over the next two years. It will take them back to levels last seen in 2013. Yet that won’t be so bad for those already on good wages, or with substantial savings.

For those who were – to borrow another phrase – only “just about managing” after the pandemic, the consequences are much grimmer – the now-too-familiar choice of eating or heating, and the need to resort to food banks. As public services struggle, many are forced to wait for intolerable periods for medical or dental treatment, and of course they cannot “just go private”.

Out-of-work and disability benefits will rise with inflation, but they are always an uncertain and inadequate source of income to cover even the basics of life. Those already struggling to survive will be joined by the ones who will lose much more than 7 per cent of their income when they lose their jobs. Increases in rent, mortgages, food and energy bills hit the poorest hardest, and the state is not always able to provide the safety net required. Those at the very bottom, such as the homeless, face a very bleak winter.

The painful paradox is that in times of general hardship, charities tend to find it harder to raise funds, for obvious reasons – but economic downturns create the greatest hardship for families. So this is not a moment to turn away from those who need relatively modest support to get them through the toughest of times.

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In the coming weeks, therefore, The Independent and its sibling publication the Evening Standard will be campaigning to make a difference to people’s lives – and will be telling the stories of those who need our help. People on the breadline are hungry and cold, and can suffer from physical and mental illnesses as a direct result. Some cannot afford to heat their homes, exacerbating respiratory conditions, while others develop malnutrition because they cannot afford to eat.

Candice and her eight-year-old daughter, who we feature in our reports, are among those affected by the crisis. Candice is diabetic, and skipping meals carries a health risk. Yet Candice still does what any mother would do – and gives the last of the food in her home to her child. She found herself in A&E being given not drugs, but some food and water. She, and those like her, should not end up in such a pitiful plight.

The Independent and its readers have always stood for humanity and compassion. This winter, those qualities are needed as much as ever. To get the appeal off to an excellent start, Comic Relief has pledged £1m to get us under way, and we are hoping that corporations, philanthropists, foundations – and you – will donate generously. Money raised will be given in grants to charities and organisations across the UK that help the people who are struggling the most.

Thank you.