Cornwall's 'Worrying About Money?' leaflet and building momentum for change
Updated: May 11
Emma Greenwood of The Trussell Trust writes about local partnership working in Cornwall and embedding a cash first approach to food poverty.
Supporting food banks across the south west of England, I see on a regular basis the gritty compassion of numerous volunteer teams, doing everything in their power to respond to people experiencing financial difficulties, determined not to see people in their communities go hungry.
The logistical effort involved is huge, shifting tonnes and tonnes of donated food – it’s physical work, and takes an emotional toll after hearing tale after tale of hardship and crisis and feeling helpless when it's difficult to know what information or support to offer.
Against a backdrop of soaring energy costs, the cut to Universal Credit and the ongoing economic effects of the pandemic, this moment could not be more challenging. The increasing number of people turning to food banks and other forms of food aid provision for support represents person after person falling through the cracks of a safety net that is meant to support them.
Charitable food aid is a response to poverty, but we know it is not the solution.
However, despite the scale of the problem, like my colleagues Jane Yeomans of Transformation Cornwall and Sabine Goodwin of the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), I am still optimistic that things can change.
One of the benefits of the move to virtual meetings is that there seem to be more strategic conversations across a range of organisations all over the UK that shift the emphasis from re-actions to food insecurity to pro-actions. It’s easier than ever to connect with people and share good ideas.
When I first heard about the Worrying About Money? cash first referral leaflets, and the local partnership work with IFAN behind them, it didn’t take much to persuade me this was something I could get behind.
Like IFAN, the organisation spearhearing the co-development of the leaflets nationally, the Trussell Trust is working towards a future where charitable food aid isn’t necessary because everyone has enough money to afford the essentials in life. Part of this, alongside campaigning for reform of the national welfare system and the strengthening of local welfare assistance, is enabling people to be linked into advice at the earliest opportunity. We want a referral to a food bank to be a last resort after every other possible avenue of getting more money into people’s pockets has been explored.
Working collaboratively to get this leaflet off the ground in Cornwall has shown me that when we work together, we achieve more.
Alongside IFAN, Transformation Cornwall (a charity strengthening faith based social action), Cornwall Council, and other community front line support agencies, we populated the pre-designed leaflet template with key local information publishing the Cornwall 'Worrying About Money?' leaflet that has now been distributed throughout the county.
We have shared aims, but diversity of experience and approaches and it is this that has given me a glimmer of hope that a future without food banks is possible. Having cast the pebble into the water, the ripple effects we have seen are encouraging:
Over 15,000 Cornwall 'Worrying About Money?' leaflets have been printed and distributed to frontline organisations all over Cornwall thanks to Cornwall Cornwall.
Numerous organisations and frontline workers attended a virtual launch event to promote the leaflet and discuss how it could be used.
By adapting a training resource linked to the leaflet devised by the Highland ‘Worrying About Money? leaflet stakeholder group, we’ve co-created a 1-hour online training session alongside Citizens Advice Cornwall. We have so far trained 75 frontline workers based in Family Hubs across the county and plan to extend this training further to other frontline council workers. That’s 75 more people resourced and equipped to facilitate informed signposting to advice and support to maximise income and access existing financial entitlements.
We’ve held a focus group with frontline organisations across Cornwall to hear how they access financial support for the people that turn to them, including their experience of the local welfare assistance from Cornwall Council. Cornwall Council has been receptive to recommendations in our report and are keen to make changes.
We are developing this work further to see how together we can better amplify the lived experience of those who have struggled against poverty in Cornwall in shaping the support they receive.
We want to get the leaflet into as many people’s hands as possible. In doing so, more conversations are had about sustainable solutions to poverty and referral pathways into support are strengthened. More people might find themselves on a path out of poverty, rather than to a food bank.
And there is a momentum behind this resource, groups hoping to bring change to their local areas are not having to re-invent the wheel. The 'Worrying About Money? leaflets are being co-developed in local authorities across the UK, and are enabling constructive conversations around why a cash first approach is vital in reaching a future where charitable food aid isn’t needed. ScotCen has recently published a report on the impact of the leaflets.
We know that a leaflet isn’t going to change the world, but the individuals and organisations that are involved in the ripples it creates just might.
'Worrying About Money?' leaflets have now been published for over 50 local authorities in Scotland, England and Wales. Find out more at Cash Referral First Leaflets - Independent Food Aid Network UK and get in touch with Sabine Goodwin at IFAN about co-developing a leaflet for your area at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about Transformation Cornwall strengthening faith based social action in Cornwall.