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Time to put an arm around the community

As the cost of living crisis intensifies, MKBLP chair Nicholas Mann issues a heartfelt plea to the business community.

Pictured: Louisa Hobbs with (from left) MKBLP director Jerry Taylor, chair Nicholas Mann and director Simon deMaid.

AS CHAIR of Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership, I am frequently in awe of the outpouring of support from organisations across the city. Never more so than during the pandemic when businesses effectively wrapped their arms around the local community.

Time and again, we share news from MKBLP members on their fundraising initiatives and voluntary efforts to support the wider community. Personally, I have participated in charity events close to home, including donning my hiking boots to walk miles to raise much needed funds.

As we celebrate business successes and the achievements of individuals, we never lose sight of the plight of many within our community. But as we all feel the pinch of the cost of living crisis, it is tightening its grip on many more and the numbers of people needing greater support is growing at an alarming rate.

Louisa Hobbs speaks to business leaders at the MKBLP breakfast briefing held at Bletchley Park.

At the last MKBLP event we were joined by Louisa Hobbs, operations manager at MK Food Bank, who raised the stark reality of the crisis. Since the start of this year, 11,000 emergency food parcels have been distributed – a third more than in 2021 and more than in the whole of 2019. Demand in June outstripped that of January, which is when greater support is traditionally needed, leading to growing concerns for what the upcoming winter months will bring.

Over the last 18 months, MK Food Bank has supported more than 4,700 households – that’s one in 30 households, one in every school class and more than one in every street. The number of new people contacting the Food Bank each week is rising, particularly among those who are in full-time employment and are still struggling to make ends meet. Compounding this, MK Council released data earlier this month which revealed that 17,750 Milton Keynes households could be facing financial hardship – that’s one in every six.

It’s the reality of the times we are living in. Named Charity of The Year’ at the 2022 Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards, MK Food Bank plays a vital role within the community. However, as demand for their support increases, they have revealed that donations have plummeted and they now need £100,000 a year extra to help the people of Milton Keynes through this crisis.

There are many ways businesses can offer their support. From payroll giving schemes and match funding for sponsored events, to volunteering by packing and delivering emergency food parcels and supporting MK Food Bank’s new Top-Up shop initiative where people can purchase ten store cupboard items for £2 and receive advise on anything from debt management to navigating through the complicated benefits system and how to manage rising energy costs.

Support can be given in a multitude of ways and, as Louisa pointed out, generosity is the best form of marketing.

Find out more about the work of MK Food Bank. Click here.

While much needs to be done on a national level to tackle this crisis, as businesses we should not only be offering support to the local community but looking at our own employees and colleagues to alleviate the burden of the crisis as much as possible. From offering wellbeing support to childcare vouchers and using business credit cards to streamline expenses.

What we have seen through MKBAA is the parameters of success has changed for businesses. It’s not all down to financial achievements but how employers give back to their community and support their own teams.

Ultimately, this cost of living crisis is not going away but, the good news is that we live in Milton Keynes and we need to replicate how we pulled together during the pandemic and once again wrap our arms around our local community.

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