It’s no secret that life is becoming increasingly more difficult for many people across Merseyside as the cost-of-living crisis exacerbates stringent government cuts to public services.
Struggling households are buying less food and fuel as the crisis bites, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and analysts are predicting the worst is yet to come following the energy price cap hike - which added more than £700 to the typical annual bill earlier this year.
However, a hugely important charity called Local Solutions - which launched back in 1974 and works with tens of thousands of people across the Liverpool City Region and North Wales - is continuing to fight back and help those most in need.
In just one year 111 kind-hearted home-owners welcomed young homeless people into their residences across Merseyside and North Wales, through the work of Supported Lodgings. Every young person was given their own bedroom while sharing a kitchen and bathroom as an alternative to living in a hostel and each received support from the householder and a support worker.
Incredibly, more than 90% of these young people then moved on, into independent living.
Local Solutions also carry out support and accommodation work through a service called Homeground, which provides a safe place to live for young people. Their young person hostel on Scotland Road provides essential support to 16-21 year olds experiencing homelessness and other challenges, including family breakdown, leaving care, criminal exploitation and addiction issues.
Sam was 20 years old when he was placed at Homeground. His parents had been users of multiple substances and had taken their own lives when Sam was young leaving him with severe attachment issues.
Sam began drinking alcohol when he was very young and by the time he was 17 he was alcohol dependent. He had been into rehabilitation prior to coming to Homeground but he relapsed. Sam and his key worker worked on building a positive relationship meeting up weekly with lots of talking sessions relating to his past and he was supported to follow a strict alcohol reduction plan. Sam has been given access to an alternative rehabilitation programme, he has successfully completed it and is now living a life of sobriety.
Nearly 1,600 men and women were also supported by Local Solutiona Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVA), having been identified as being at high risk of ongoing domestic abuse over the last year.
The service is aimed at reducing the risk of domestic abuse and minimising the harmful effects it can have on individuals and families, with studies showing clear and measurable improvements in safety, including a reduction in the escalation and severity of abuse and a reduction or even cessation in repeat incidents of abuse when IDVAs are engaged in situations.
Local Solutions’ IDVA service has been in operation for more than 17 years, providing counselling and support for victims plus linking them with a case manager to work out an individual safety plan, risk and exit strategies.
In addition, the charity’s pioneering Mytime scheme connected more than 4,000 unpaid carers from Liverpool and Wigan with respite breaks and activities, including overnight stays in hotels, theatre tickets, restaurant dining and access to cultural events across the city region.
More than 1,000 of those unpaid carers were further supported by Local Solutions to improve their quality of life with the provision of a range of services including the undertaking of carer’s assessments and provision of flexible support with impartial advice and information at any time of need.
Sue, from Liverpool, is just one of those who has been helped by the scheme - which has since been rolled out across the country.
She said: “It gives me time to chill out and be myself away from the hectic life I have caring for my husband and son at home and all the responsibility that comes with that.
“My husband is ex-forces and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder while my son has a rare disease. They are two very different but two very time consuming caring roles.
“A lot of the time you are thinking for two different people at once and you don’t get any time for yourself. My husband used to get a one-hour respite with a support worker each week - but that finished, so it’s just me day-in and day-out!
“It’s like becoming a mental health nurse and a care assistant overnight - it’s not something you can prepare for really.
“I’ve had two fantastic overnight stays at the Hilton, in the city centre, as part of the support Local Solutions’ Mtime scheme has given to me.
“It makes me feel well-rested, more resilient and less isolated - it’s a boost to keep you going and a reminder that there are people out there who do care.
“Without Mytime, I can 100% say there are lots of carers who would go under - being able to have some time out takes the edge off some really desperate and overwhelming situations.”
Thousands more people were helped by Local Solutions over the past year through their diverse range of services but it’s worth a final note to say that a total of 66 young families received temporary accommodation and support from key workers and co-ordinators who tailored support plans to individual needs, giving people the necessary skills to maintain their own tenancy in the community independently.
Tom Harrison, Chief Executive at Local Solutions said: “Our services may be varied but they are underpinned by five key outcomes: gaining skills and confidence, developing independence, creating stable accommodation, increasing safety and security and improving health and wellbeing.
“We have successfully hit every outcome in what has been a very inspiring year. The unconditional care shown by our teams and in our communities has provided the hope and energy needed to keep on going and empower people to reach their full potential, even in testing times.
“It has been a year where we have continued to focus on our commitment to do the absolute most with the resources available, and where we strive to connect our work directly with our outcomes.
“Once again it has been a year about people, about their dedication and values, and the desire to empower change. We want to be transformative. We want to be creative, innovative and flexible and be there to empower people to achieve their own goals and to take control of their own lives. That is our ambition for Local Solutions, that’s what drives our work.
“I am very proud of what we have achieved and all of the unseen work that goes on behind the scenes to empower people and support communities.”