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  • Desiree Ashton, Uttlesford Foodbank

Starting a cash first journey

Lessons from co-developing Uttlesford's 'Worrying About Money?' leaflet

The scale of poverty can be obvious in some areas while relatively hidden in others. Uttlesford District, the largest local authority area in the county of Essex, demonstrates just such a paradox. In the Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2019 the Uttlesford Local Authority area was ranked 297 out of 317 lower tier authorities in England based on the average rank of the LSOAs in this area (where 1= most deprived). This places Uttlesford in the upper 10% of least deprived Lower Tier Local Authorities (LTLAs) nationally. Compared to the other local authority areas in Essex, Uttlesford is ranked as the least deprived LA in the county for overall deprivation and is also one of three areas in Essex which fall into the 10% least deprived areas nationally. On the face of it, one could assume that this was a district in the South of England where residents were relatively wealthy and one that could certainly be described as a ‘leafy suburb’.

However, the experience at Uttlesford Foodbank paints a different picture. Year on year demand for our services has doubled, and since April ‘22 it has increased again by almost 50%. It’s become clearer than ever that a charitable food aid response isn’t working and so for this reason we started to collaborate with the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) to produce a ‘Worrying About Money?’ leaflet for Uttlesford. The focus of this resource is to help people and support individuals to maximise any existing entitlements and access any local crisis support in cash. With other local partners, we drew on the template provided by IFAN to create a tri-fold, double-sided leaflet detailing specific local and national routes to help.

The process has helped us to start a journey towards a cash first approach to food insecurity in our community. This means addressing the root causes of poverty so that adequate, healthy, and nutritious food is affordable for all. One fundamental element of the cash first approach is advice, which is where the ‘Worrying About Money?’ leaflet comes in. The leaflet aims to connect people to local advice and support to help people access existing financial entitlements and maximise their income. With this approach, we can reduce the reliance on charitable food aid.

The leaflet has been distributed far and wide across Uttlesford, both online and in hard copy. Through a variety of routes, we have been able to build significant awareness and knowledge of the ‘Worrying About Money?’ leaflet in Uttlesford. As well as to charitable food aid partners, we distributed the leaflet through schools, libraries, GP surgeries and pharmacies to name just a few. Working alongside the local newspaper distribution network (the Walden Local), we were able to deliver 12,000 hard copies directly through residents’ doors. We have also used the ‘Worrying About Money?’ leaflet as part of a ‘councillor pack’ alongside other resources to promote a range of local routes to help.

The Uttlesford ‘Worrying About Money?’ leaflet has enabled us to move away from just being a service provider. We are able to serve the dual purpose of meeting immediate need, by providing emergency food parcels, while also addressing the reasons why people need charitable food aid in the first place. We have also been able to use the leaflet as an opportunity to join dots between the community and community partners. Partly, this is because our ‘Worrying About Money?’ leaflet focuses particularly on signposting local agencies. This has prompted many interesting and fulfilling face to face conversations about money worries. Additionally, distribution and circulation of the leaflet has prompted conversations around the benefits of a cash first approach and it has helped cut through challenges presented by the rural nature of the district, including the role that ‘relative wealth’ plays in stigmatising and hiding poverty.


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