AS the cold nights draw in many local groups and organisations are looking at how best to support their community this winter – and it’s these groups Devon County Council is calling on to apply for a grant.

It’s over a year since DCC launched its Growing Communities Fund (GCF) and so far, more than £700,000 has been awarded to local projects, many of which are helping communities in numerous ways.

Grants have been awarded to 475 local groups, and of these 216 are helping to address food and fuel poverty, 281 are helping older people, 399 are addressing health and wellbeing, 313 are supporting those with mental health issues and 322 are helping families, parents and lone parents.

Initially, the GCF was set up to support proactive, effective, measurable and sustainable actions to help individuals and communities build self-reliance, improve connections, reducing loneliness and isolation and improving local people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Since then, the GCF has developed into one of DCC’s responses to the continued high cost of living.

Food and drink for instance is still the most expensive, when compared to income, for 40 years.

And although food and other non-alcoholic drinks inflation has slowed when compared to last year it was 13.6 per cent in August 2023.

The GCF aims to help local groups and organisations to become more resilient and help those in their communities’ cope with these financial pressures.

Groups which are encouraged to apply include those that bring communities together for meaningful activities and social interaction, offer local people a warm safe haven during winter or alleviate food poverty by producing or distributing surplus food and essentials or who offer communities the means to cook nutritious meals on a budget.

But regardless of the activity every group that has received or been pledged funding has one thing in common – a willingness to build self-reliance and resilience within a community.

Broadwoodkelly Village Hall for instance were able to set up a series of events aimed at combating isolation and loneliness in their small community. 

The first event was a coach trip and a spokesperson said: “Thirty-four people came on the coach outing, including a 100-year-old lady, and several new friendships were established.   

“Following on from this launch, tea and talk afternoons start on November 1 and, realising that food can bring people together, we have decided to hold Soup and Bacon lunches over the winter period and will be taking several people from the village to a local garden centre for lunch.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Equality, said: “For two years now food prices and higher energy have consistently been high and local people are really feeling the effect.

“We have seen how the Growing Communities Fund can provide vital support to local communities that make a genuine difference.

“We still have funding available, and we would particularly welcome applications for projects that support communities through this cost-of-living crisis, helping them to become more resilient, such as projects that help ensure communities are well nourished and kept warm.”

For more information, please email: [email protected] or telephone 01392 383379.