The cost of living and community power – Clare’s blog

“Towards the end of November, I was pleased to speak as part of Warwickshire’s Cost of Living Summit panel. I’d been asked where I thought we should all focus our efforts in order to help communities and citizens,” writes Grapevine CEO Clare Wightman.

“My take is this.

“Whatever your focus is – food, warmth or whatever the person presents with – that is just an entry point to the whole system of help.

Detailed visual notes reflecting discussions at the online poverty event in March 2022. Produced by artist Melissa Smith the notes show speech bubbles, images, texts and highlights - most are described in the text of the blog post.
Visual notes produced by artist and Grapevine community organiser, Melissa Smith.

“It’s an opportunity to uncover the problems that have brought them to you and an opportunity to connect them to the full array of help that will make a difference. If you do nothing else, do this.

So if we’re a library offering a warm space or a mosque offering food, we should all be able to start a conversation about four things:

  1. Are you running out of money each month?
  2. Do you struggle to pay the rent?
  3. Do you need help with council tax?
  4. Do you need help reducing your outgoings?

“Emma Bates from Central England Law Centre was recently at a local social supermarket. A woman was there with her young son.

“She seemed anxious and overwhelmed, while her son had his hoodie pulled tight and was rocking back and forth.

“She got the food she came for – and it was kindly given – but Emma couldn’t help feeling there was more help needed and more going on.

“What if that woman never returns and a chance to make a difference is gone? What if she returns again and again for food but never gets anything else?

A coloured leaflet by Central England Law Centre that offers helpful advice for people struggling with money. Click the image to visit their website for more.
Click the image to visit Central England Law Centre’s dedicated cost of living pages containing advice and support.

“Coventry’s Poverty Alliance – made up mainly of grassroots groups convened by Grapevine and Central England Law Centre – is saying the most important thing we can do right now is equip our front line.

“By that we mean everyone to have these conversations, from volunteers at a gurdwara or community pantry to Children’s Services workers at a family hub.

“It’s a counterpoint to the usual approach of specialisms connected via signposting.

“Development of training and support of this kind is just getting underway in partnership with Coventry City Council. It’s not just ‘advice first aid’ but helping people know how to start these conversations and how to manage them.

“Doing that is not necessarily easy if you are used to having a very ‘boundaried’ intervention-specific conversation, or if you are a volunteer trying to talk to a stranger about things they themselves haven’t brought up.

“Imagine if every organisation or space could diagnose, triage and either help at that point or warmly transfer (not signpost) onwards where specialist help is needed. How effective would our help be then?”

What next?

If you want to know more about the Coventry Poverty Alliance contact Clare at or Emma Bates at

Clare can be found here on LinkedIn. Follow our page on the platform by clicking this link.

Find out more about cost of living support being offered by Coventry City Council here.

Tomorrow (13 December) is the fourth and final Coventry Poverty Alliance (click this link to read more) meeting of 2022. So far 160 people from organisations across the city have signed up. Look out for more news and developments soon.