There is hope and we can achieve big things in a generous city - Ewan Aitken

Lockdown showed us that, even during the hardest times, there can be hope. PIC: Contribtued.Lockdown showed us that, even during the hardest times, there can be hope. PIC: Contribtued.
Lockdown showed us that, even during the hardest times, there can be hope. PIC: Contribtued.
These are turbulent times. I never thought I would see this scale of war in Europe in my lifetime. I never thought I would see three prime ministers in two months and watch one of them trash the economy so spectacularly, all in the name of an ideology which ironically is predicated on individualism but impacts everyone collectively.

I never thought I would see the cost of food rise by as much as 40% and energy prices more than double in less than twelve months. I never thought I’d have to hear my Cyrenians colleagues say demand for emergency food is going up by more than 50% but our supply of food is dropping by similar amounts. I never thought I would see City of Edinburgh council having £1.2m of school dinner debts to write off – not from money lending or gambling but just feeding children. If we thought lockdown was hard, these next 18 months are in many ways, going to be even harder.

Like the pandemic, they’re going to be tough on us all. Even the middle class are feeling the squeeze, but for some, it will be almost impossible to cope, as the little they have has to stretch further and further and still isn’t enough to meet their needs. Recent research shows 14 million people are now experiencing in-work poverty; what they earn in employment isn’t enough to afford the basics of life; food, a warm safe home, and the ability to stay clean and clothe themselves adequately for our climate. The majority of those in poverty are in work, and the average person claiming benefits has £57 less than they need to afford the most basic lifestyle.

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How do we find hope in such difficult times? It’s all a bit overwhelming, and hard to know where to start. But what lockdown taught us is that by acting locally and caring for our neighbours, we can achieve big things in difficult times.

We are all affected by this, but some of us are in a better position to weather the storm than others. Everyone has received £400 from the UK Government to reduce their energy bill and some, like our Lord Provost Cllr. Robert Aldridge, know they need this support less than others, so are choosing to support the Keep Edinburgh Warm campaign by donating their £400.

In the six months to September, Turn2Us says applications for support increased by 57%. They have been giving out around £30k a week, at an average of £900 per grant– 150% more than last year. Donating to organisations who have infrastructure already in place to distribute emergency grants, and are already looped in with referrals, means there’s no extra cost involved in distributing emergency donations like this. So in the short term, donating to this campaign will make sure the money will become a direct cash injection for people who are struggling.

It’s going to be a difficult winter, and it will take us working together as a community to help everyone get through it. Throughout the coming months, we at Cyrenians, as well as others across the sector, will be ramping up support, and both grants and person-to-person support is going to be invaluable. We can't stop the turmoil, but those of us who can still scrape by can do a lot to help others survive it. A little help can go a long way in a generous city.