Cost-of-living crisis: Where to find help in Portsmouth as city council launches campaign to make sure nobody is left behind
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Supported by The News, Portsmouth City Council is starting a big push to help people access vital information and services that will ensure that Portsmouth residents get access to facilities that could significantly help this winter.
As the cost of living crisis continues to cause a financial burden on thousands of households, it is expected that many people will be forced to turning to loan companies which could have a detrimental impact on families.
The council’s research has found that rising costs are hitting people in Portsmouth hard.
The recent Big Portsmouth Survey found 93 per cent of the 1,760 respondents reported that their cost of living has increased over the last few months.
The main reasons given were increases in the cost of food shopping (97 per cent), gas or electric bills (88 per cent), and fuel (73 per cent).
The 93 per cent figure is echoed in research by the Office for National Statistics, which found that the proportion of people reported that the cost of living had increased from a year ago, and 79 percent of people reported that it increased within the last month.
The city council’s survey found that more than half of people (52 per cent) who responded do not know where to get support for financial hardship as a results of increase living costs – and that is where this major push to help people comes in – with a dedicated helpline and website for Portsmouth residents facing cost-of-living problems.
Mark Sage, Portsmouth City Council’s tackling poverty co-ordinator, said: ‘With debt, it is just one of those things. The key thing is to get a free and impartial debt adviser.
‘If you go online and just look at how to get out of debt, you will find more companies wanting to lend you more money so we really want people to find a free and impartial debt adviser.
‘Some people may not be able to make ends meet and will have large monthly outgoings. That is when people will get into debt but there is help and advice to get through that.
‘We don’t want people to just think there is no help. If they are worried, we want them to talk to someone. We know things will be tough and bills will be really high but as a city we want to support each other.’
Jane Herrington, money adviser for Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘Be very careful if you are Googling debt advisers because there are companies out there just trying to flog you an expensive way to get out of debt.
‘It is hitting people very hard, particularly people that are on benefits because benefits haven’t kept up with inflation, so it is hard to pay all of these bills when the money just isn’t there.’
Mark added: ‘There are a few key messages really, but the main one is to make sure that everyone is getting what they are entitled to. A lot of people are missing out on things that they are entitled to.’
Citizens Advice Portsmouth, which is commissioned by the Portsmouth City Council, has seen a surge in people needing assistance with money management and debt.
Ian Hayter, money team supervisor at Citizens Advice Portsmouth, said: ‘We already know that Portsmouth is quite financially deprived as an area, we are probably quite low on the tables for financial deprivation and we are already seeing a high number of clients at any time struggling with money troubles.
‘It is like a perfect storm, we have got a cost of living crisis, then the cost of energy and now we have the inflation, there was always going to be people struggling from this.’
The debt and money team at Citizens Advice Portsmouth are advising anyone that is experiencing debt to get in contact with them and work out a structured plan of their outgoings and income to establish a budget plan and try and avoid getting into debt.
Ian said: ‘There are always options, it should never be a case of burying your head in the sand. Debts won’t go away, they never go away.
‘I would say there is getting advice and then there is getting good advice.
‘It is going to be difficult. People are going to find it really difficult and I don’t think there is much more people can do other than watch their spending and prioritise what are spending money on, and they get help if they need it.’
The team have access to foodbank and fuel vouchers, as well as a limited number of grants that can be distributed to people that are facing hardship, but they ultimately strip everything back to budgeting and debt advice.
Ian said that people a lot of people coming to the team are experiencing a budget deficit, meaning their outgoings and income do not match up, making it harder to pay bills, but the staff can signpost places to go for funding as well as debt advice.
He recommends that people seek free advice instead of going to third party companies for a loan, as that can have a much worse outcome.
Citizens Advice in Portsmouth can be reached on 023 9400 6600.
The new Portsmouth City Council dedicated cost of living helpline is 023 9284 1047 and more information is at www.portsmouth.gov.uk/costoflivinghub