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Lifeshare Charity facing ‘unpredicted demand’ as cost of living crisis bites 

The charity has been a shining light in the Manchester for 38 years, helping vulnerable people

As food and energy prices continue to spiral out of control, they have never been more needed.

The charity provides several services including a breakfast club on the weekend, hosting skills workshops and drop in sessions to provide a safe space for anyone in need of support.

I LOVE MCR spoke to Judy Vickers, operation manager at Lifeshare about the growing concern as pressure mounts on residents to make ends meet,

“We are seeing a big uptake in our services as we approach winter.

“For years now Lifeshare has run a breakfast club on Saturday and Sunday – but 6 weeks ago Manchester City Council have asked us to put on a Friday breakfast too.”

Judy said that the number of people attending these breakfasts has seen a sharp spike too.

“In July we were getting about 50 people attending these meals, but now that number is approaching the 90s. We had 88 people coming in last weekend coming in for food and a bit of warmth, which is a bit of a concern.

“last weekend we also gave out 34 coats, 23 pairs of jeans and hundreds of pairs of pants and socks.”

She added that she was seeing ‘lots of new faces’ on the street.

Lifeshare also provide food and clothes parcels, nappies and toiletries.

Judy was concerned at the rising numbers of people asking for food and clothes parcels, especially as it is not half term yet.

“Usually at half term we see a rise in demand because children who get food at breakfast clubs and after school clubs are missing these meals.

“Without support some of these kids aren’t eating.

“We have seen a rise this year of the use of our services before half term. This is worrying. Half term hasn’t even kicked in yet.”

“We’re having to buy more and more resources to make ends meet – and obviously that comes at a cost as prices rise.”

It is currently harvest time at schools and churches, where they donate tins and food to charities.

But there has even been a noticeable decline in donations, says Judy.

Volunteers at the Christmas project

“It’s been noticeable how parcels are getting smaller. The collections aren’t producing as much food as we’ve seen previously because people don’t have that disposable income anymore.

“Even donations from the grammar schools, where you usually get nice coffee and tuna – it’s appearing less and less as people are feeling the pinch.”

Food price inflation hit 14.6% in September, largely due to the UK’s dependence on increasingly expensive food imports from other countries.

Experts have predicted things only get worse over the winter.

Judy has said another contributing factor to people being stuck in a cycle of poverty is a lack of access to digital services.

This is often described as ‘digital poverty’.

Judy said: “We had a mum call up last week in tears the other day because her food parcels stopped arriving.

“She only had three tins left to feed her kids and was worried to death.

“She had been receiving Healthy Start Vouchers where mum’s with kids under 5 are entitled to £19 a week for baby formula and nappies – but they stopped because you have to keep re-applying for them online.

“People are having to make the very difficult choice of buying food, or buying data to re-apply for this help.

“This creates a huge problem, if you can’t get online or have no digital skills you just miss out. It’s a stressful situation if you don’t understand how the system works.

“It can be a cycle that spirals very quickly.”

The breakfast club

Not only this, but people need access to the internet to update their DWP journals in order to access benefits. If you don’t do this, you can be sanctioned up to twelve weeks worth of benefits.

Lifeshare founded the Manchester Digital Collective in 2019 to help combat this.

They are providing devices, data and digital skills. But as more things turn digital, they are hoping to expand the project to have more in-person workshops and skill sessions.

In September, Lifeshare gave out 2000GB of data and are looking for more ways to provide for people in need of digital support.

Lifeshare are looking to extend their breakfast services on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to a lunch service too by January.

They will also be offering workshops where people can pick up great skills to help them into employment.

They are also preparing to help people over Christmas.  After the resounding success of last year’s event This year’s Christmas Project will be at the New Victoria (VINCI) construction site on Corporation Street.

The charity are hosting a week long walk in service where people can come for food, warmth, three meals, doctors and nurses, entertainment, a barbers, an arts project too.

Judy said: “We’re expecting great numbers. Last year was a really beautiful event and we showed the world what’s possible when we come together and hep each other.

“We always have an open door policy. This year we are expecting unprecedented demand, but everyone who comes will get fed. People re invited who have their accommodation but can’t put the heating on come and spend the day with us to keep warm and get fed.”

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