personal finance

Don’t despair: a practical guide to making a difference – from food banks to fighting fake news


It’s natural to feel hopeless today. A decade of deep cuts have already caused incredible pain, with growing poverty and crumbling services across the country. There are many people who will undoubtedly have woken up today and felt fear about the future. I have spoken to many over the past decade, from disabled people who have lost their disability benefits to those on low wages choosing between eating and heating.

It is heartbreaking to think about what another five years of Conservative government will do to those who can’t take a further squeeze.

But there is always hope, just as there are steps we can take together. Charity is no substitute for a compassionate and competent state, and campaigning for political change will be the long-term goal. But in the meantime, it is a vital tool to help the poorest families get through – and to show we care.

If you’re feeling powerless, consider donating to a cause or volunteering your time. There are a number of incredible organisations in every community, which are already working to plug the gaps left by the state, and they will need our support more than ever in the coming months.

There will a lot of scared people wondering how they will get through five years alone. Let’s show they’re not. Here are five ways you can help.

Food banks will be even more vital.



Food banks will be even more vital. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Food banks

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food-bank service, provides emergency food parcels for those in need. Many food banks are reporting being low on supplies as demand increases. You can donate goods (often through a supermarket) or volunteer your time. The trust is running a Christmas appeal to try to ensure that no child goes hungry this winter.

Hygiene banks

Many families also can’t afford deodorant or shampoo. The Hygiene Bank collects and redistributes donated toiletries, hygiene and personal care items across schools, charities and local authority services. You can donate items or cash.

Hygiene banks also provide a vital service. So help them.



Hygiene banks also provide a vital service. So help them. Photograph: Antons Jevterevs/Getty Images/EyeEm

Emergency funds

As benefits are cut, and cash-strapped local councils close their welfare services, there is often nowhere for families to turn in an emergency. The Biscuit Fund – a small group of volunteers, many with health problems themselves, raise money and can supply anything from fridges and ovens to food hampers.

Homelessness

Homelessness is a growing worry, and Crisis is one charity running an appeal to buy a Christmas place to help a rough sleeper.

You could also volunteer to work in any homeless charity shop, or become a mentor or night shelter worker (and share skills you have, such as cooking, IT and legal knowledge).

Birthday cakes for kids

Child poverty is now so deep that many families can’t even afford a birthday cake, which is where Free Cakes for Kids steps in to help. Families contact local volunteers directly or are referred by a partner organisation, such as a local food bank. The cakes are then prepared by volunteers in their home kitchens. Peppa Pig cakes, Bob the Builder cakes and rocket-shaped cakes are some favourites.

Further ideas from readers

With the help of the Guardian’s Community Team, here are some suggestions from our readers:

I plan to undertake voluntary work and get more involved in the community, whether it’s for a charity shop, a homeless shelter or a food bank. I’m also joining the Labour party to help choose the next leader.
Ben, Oxford

I will be going to the #notmyprimeminister #notmygovernment protest at Downing Street tonight. I will continue to shout about volunteering for Labour online and in my constituency. In the long term, I plan to continue pushing for a democratic socialist presence within the party. I am also celebrating the election of many BAME women MPs in London. I think they will be beacons of hope in parliament.
Holly, London

I have signed up to give a small monthly donation to the Full Fact charity after being concerned about the amount of mistruth I have seen during this election, particularly on Facebook.
Anonymous

Today is Christmas jumper day in our office. Although the mood is downcast, it is always heartening to see everyone in ridiculous gear. The first thing I did when I sat down at my desk was organise our collection for Save the Children. When I feel let down by those at the top, I think it’s important to look at what you can do from the ground up. Supporting charities, large or small, will always be empowering.
Ella Downing, Cardiff

I have increased my monthly donations to Shelter, Crisis UK, the Cambridge Food Bank, Jimmy’s Night Shelter and Cambridge Women’s Aid in reaction to the election result. If the past nine years are anything to go by, they are going to need it. I’ll be fine, personally. I think I’m the Tories’ favourite kind of person: a homeowner with a comfy salary and a secure job. I’ll probably get yet another tax cut in April. I’ve even got an EU passport as a dual national. Most aren’t as lucky as me.
Anonymous

Get involved in outreach programs. Donate clothes and unwanted things. If you can afford it, give your kids an extra packed lunch to give to a classmate who has to go without. Let’s become a loving local community.
Jenny, Pontypridd

Today, I’m allowing myself to feel anger, sadness, hopelessness and be selfish in my grief. I have written to my foreign-born friends to doubly make sure they know that they are loved and valued here. For those who want to advocate on behalf of people who are sick or have a disability, check in on them. Support them. Listen to them. Write to your MP and disability advocacy groups on what they can do to preserve the NHS.
Jennifer, Peterborough

I am so afraid for the environment, that I’m going to focus on wild gardening and organic vegetable growing, so that my little rented garden can support as many creatures and me as sustainably as possible. Hopefully, as I learn, within the slash-and-burn-and-spray village I live in, I can inspire by example.
Kat, Somerset

Additional reporting by Rachel Obordo



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