Organisations from across Woking joined together for a special summit on Tuesday (27 September), as part of a pledge to support residents through the current cost of living crisis.
The summit was organised by Woking Borough Council following a unanimously agreed Notice of Motion by Leader of Woking Borough Council, Cllr Ann-Marie Barker, at July’s council meeting.
The collaborative event saw a wide range of partners share experiences and ideas that support the development of an action plan to help anyone affected by the cost of living crisis.
Held at Eastwood Leisure Centre in Sheerwater, invited delegates were welcomed by Cllr Barker, who outlined the purpose and aspirations of the summit. Cllr Barker explained that the summit was intended to bring together local charities and voluntary groups to understand how they can best work with each other and Woking Borough Council to support residents during the difficult months ahead.
Presentations followed from Citizens Advice Woking Chief Executive, Lorraine Buchanan; Woking Foodbank Project Coordinator, Alison Buckland; Woking Borough Council Chief Executive, Julie Fisher, and Strategic Director for Communities, Louise Strongitharm.
Polarising the scope of the crisis locally, Citizens Advice Woking revealed that over the past 12 months, it has seen an 81% increase in residents contacting the service in financial crisis, with a significant number of those seeking assistance for the first time residing in Heathlands Ward. In addition, Citizens Advice Woking has experienced a:
- 93% increase in referrals to Woking Foodbank and/or other charitable organisations
- 40% increase in those seeking support with energy debts
- 28% increase in residents reporting Council Tax arrears.
Meanwhile, Woking Foodbank confirmed it had received over 1,000 referrals during the summer months.
In addition, delegates explored the breadth of local support on offer to residents and identified areas in need of further development, followed by collaboratively developing an action plan that will help residents navigate their way through the current financial crisis.
Speaking about the summit, Cllr Ann-Marie Barker, said: “The rising cost of living is already having an impact on our residents, with evidence suggesting that many are experiencing financial difficulties for the first time.
“Whether it’s trying to pay the rent, put food on the table, heating your home or putting fuel in your car, individuals and families are feeling the squeeze.
“In Woking we are very lucky to have such amazing charities and not-for-profit groups which are already doing a lot to help residents. By bringing these organisations together in one place, we all have a better understanding of the scope of the local crisis, what support is currently available and developed a practical action plan that will strengthen our collective efforts and build resident resilience in the face of the challenges to come.”
An initial action plan from the summit will be reported to the Executive on 6 October 2022. The Executive will then receive monthly progress updates.
Participants included Angelic Network, Besom, Byfleet United Charity, Cllr Ann-Marie Barker, Cllr Hassan Akberali, Cllr Ellen Nicholson, Cllr Ilyas Raja, Cllr Tahir Aziz, Cllr Will Forster, Christians Against Poverty, Catalyst Support, Citizens Advice Woking, Department of Work and Pension, FoodWise, Freedom Leisure, Hygiene Bank, Knaphill Community Fridge, MASCOT, NHS, ROC Woking, South Woking Community Foodbank, St Michaels Church, Surrey Coalition, Surrey County Council, Surrey Minority Ethnic Forum, Surrey Police, Thameswey Group, The Lighthouse, Welcome Church, Woking Borough Council, Woking Bustler, Woking Environment Action (WE Act), Woking Foodbank, York Road Project.