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Monday, April 22, 2024

Council committee “horrified” anti-poverty sessions so popular

More than 2,000 residents in Redbridge attended anti-povery help sessions

More than 2,000 people attended anti-poverty outreach sessions in the east London borough of Redbridge last year.

According to figures from Redbridge Council, around 2,300 residents went along to 24 sessions held at various locations in the borough across the year.

Attendees were given advice on household budgeting and numeracy courses the council offers, and offered support on buying ovens and washing machines to reduce food and laundrette costs.

Jas Athwal Image: Redbridge Council

Jas Athwal, Redbridge Council leader, said: “The rising cost of living has been felt across the country, which is why in Redbridge we’ve supported over 2,300 local people across 24 outreach sessions and events in the last year.”

He added: “We know this help is vital for some people and we will always work to support those local people who need it most and signpost them to the services that can offer them help.”

He explained the council had also given “hundreds of warm packs” to elderly residents in the borough, fed thousands of children during the school holidays, funded food banks and helped set up a community grocery store.

While they praised the initiatives, members of a council scrutiny committee said they were “horrified” to hear that the sessions had been so popular.

Individual sessions brought in as many as 400 attendees and, in some instances, people were being turned away at the door due to capacity.

Committee member, Mushtaq Ahmed, said during the Thursday (8 March) meeting: “It is heart breaking that so many people need help and the situation is so dire.”

Fellow member, Anne Sachs, linked the borough’s issues with poverty to the “deplorably” low pay levels offered by certain jobs.

She said many salaries in the borough appeared to be below £20,000, falling short of the London Living Wage by at least £6,812.

Council data from 2022 shows that 51% of jobs in Redbridge offer the London Living Wage, trailing behind the London-wide average of 80%.

Judith Garfield, a committee member, said it was “shocking” to hear how many relied on the cost-of-living support but said the “welcoming” Ilford Community Grocery store should be celebrated.

The Clements Road shop operates as both a food bank and a supermarket, where residents can pick up a select amount of essential items – including bread, canned goods, and vegetables – once a week at the cost of a £5 annual fee.

Going forward, the council will look to help residents escape poverty in the long-term, cabinet member for finance Kam Rai said.

He said around £3.9million from the Household Support Fund had gone towards helping residents and reaffirmed the authority’s commitment to ending child poverty in the borough, which affects one-in-five youngsters.

The fund has now been extended by the government until October and the council could expect a further £1.9m, but where the money will go has not yet been confirmed.

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