Cost of living: Stretched charities bracing themselves for ‘the next crisis’

'Frontline practitioners are exhausted - they have been fighting on so many levels'

Thursday, 28th July — By Dan Carrier

camden28 Image 2022-07-28 at 9.17.23 PM (26)

Sassaka Amena, pictured with Keith Morgan of Voluntary Action Camden, says austerity and the pandemic have left organisations struggling to meet demand

FRONTLINE charity staff face burnout as they try to meet the needs of vulnerable people – but demand has never let up, an expert in vulnerable people’s services has told the New Journal.

The Town Hall’s community partnership officer, Sassaka Amena, brought together 12 leading advice groups last week to host a
day-long event at the London Irish Centre in Camden Square.

She said the aim of the day was two-fold: to provide face-to-face services for those in need of help, and to build a stronger connection between the many bodies in Camden seeking to offset soaring poverty and other issues as part of the Camden Advice Network, launched in April 2020. She added that she had seen first-hand how frontline staff were trying to match spiralling needs.

She said: “Our role is to ensure we have a vibrant voluntary sector that’s able to respond to residents’ needs. We are bracing ourselves for the next crisis, caused by 12 years of austerity and two years of a pandemic.

“Volunteers and help organisations are doing all they can to help in very difficult circumstances. Frontline practitioners are exhausted. They have been fighting on so many levels.”

The network concentrates help in one place, allowing services to draw on the expertise of other bodies. Groups include the Mary Ward Legal Centre, Age UK Camden, Camden Disability Action, Somers Town Community Association and Kosmos & Somali Cultural Centre. Since 2020, the network estimates it has supported more than 20,000 people and helped get payment of over £5.2million in unclaimed benefits.

Ms Amena added: “Despite all the issues we face, we have a strong, proactive voluntary sector and it is engaging, but the reality is we are trying to serve our clients and often charities do not have the chance to look at what other groups are doing.”

The event at the Irish Centre saw more than 50 advice service practitioners from 12 different groups take part, including the Town Hall’s housing team.

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