Toy donations for families affected by the cost of living

More people than ever are seeking charitable aid this Christmas because of the cost-of-living crisis but toy donations can help struggling families

the overwhelming response to Canolfan Pentre's toy appeal as tables are flooded with gifts
Canolfan Pentre overwhelmed by the positive response to their Christmas toy appeal after WalesOnline set up a wish list
Image credit: Ruth Mosalski, WalesOnline

In the winter, mental health can become a struggle and pressures of the cost-of-living crisis following the pandemic have impacted the population. So how can charitable aid make a positive difference?

Many people rely on food donation centres and toy appeals, but this winter, more people than ever seek charitable aid as they find themselves in uncomfortable positions at a financially demanding time.

The crisis has massively impacted quality of life for Wales’s residents. A recent report by Public Health Wales reveals rising costs of living have negative impacts on the population’s mental health.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) researched winter pressures last year where 220 respondents in Wales were asked how the impacts negatively affected their health or wellbeing.

Cost of living impacts at winter

Clearly, the current economic climate is a huge worry for people, and those on the lowest incomes are bearing the brunt of it

In Wales, 44% of people said their mental health was negatively affected by cutting back on energy usage. The inability to heat meals because of gas or electricity costs also negatively impacted mental health, said 18% of respondents. ONS research from February of this year found that adults who experience moderate-to-severe depressive symptoms were more likely food-insecure.

Simon Jones, head of policy and campaigns at Mind Cymru, said the crisis is having an “extremely negative impact”. Mind found three in every 50 people in England and Wales considered ending their lives due to the cost of living.

“Clearly, the current economic climate is a huge worry for people, and those on the lowest incomes are bearing the brunt of it. Yet despite the clear need – never have mental health services been more overstretched,” he says.

Mind Cymru calls for prioritisation of mental health services ahead of the 2024 Mental Health Strategy for Wales from the Welsh Government. The strategy guides work the government does to improve mental health and wellbeing in Wales. Jones says: “It is absolutely vital that those who are the most financially vulnerable are able to access effective and, most importantly, timely financial and emotional support at their point of need.”

Why is there increased demand for charitable aid?
1500% increase in crisis support since December 2020.
44% said their mental health was negatively effected by cutting down energy usage. 
three in 50 people in England and Wales considered ending their lives due to the crisis.
Sources: CASEW, ONS and Mind Cymru
How demands are rising  

For far more people this year though, cutting back on heating and food costs are just some of the impacts. Every year families access food banks and charities, but the number seeking aid this year has increased.

The Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Present Appeal distributed more than 76,000 gifts last year. They expect the number of families looking for support this year to rise as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

Key findings in a report by Citizens Advice South-East Wales (CASEW) showed they are receiving thousands more advice issues than two years ago in relation to charitable support and food banks, demonstrating households cannot afford “basic essentials”.

Ness Young, chair of CASEW said: “The findings are stark. We have seen a 1500% increase in crisis support since December 2020 with demand for fuel vouchers and emergency food parcels skyrocketing.”

CASEW said: “We have seen an increase in the amount of clients who are suffering from poor mental health as a result of the cost-of-living crisis and an inability to access mental health services because of demand.”

An anonymous female included in ONS research said: “My general anxiety has got worse, possibly because I’ve been skipping meals. I feel trapped in poverty despite working long hours. As a single person supporting my ill daughter, the emotional and financial strain is immense.”

Giving gifts at Christmas
Many children will not receive a present this Christmas because the “squeezed middle struggling with the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis
Image credit: Bob Dmyt via Pixabay
Local citizens to the rescue

Canolfan Pentre, a community centre in the Rhondda, has seen an increase in the number of people needing their services this year as spending budgets for Christmas presents become tighter. Canolfan Pentre offers community support, with the objective of combating isolation and loneliness.

WalesOnline heard of the centre’s Christmas appeal and encouraged their readers to donate gifts if they are able to. They created an Amazon Wishlist for readers to donate items and have been overwhelmed with positive response.

Ruth Mosalski, political editor of WalesOnline, is at the forefront of the partnership between WalesOnline and Canolfan Pentre. After hearing of the fundraising, and mental health support they do all year, the Christmas appeal stuck in her head. WalesOnline publicised the appeal and shared stories of people seeking aid, resulting in 800 gifts being received from the wishlist, says Mosalski.

Reflecting on increased demand for support Mosalski says: “It is a two-pronged thing. More people need help this year because of the cost-of-living crisis. But businesses and people that have previously helped them haven’t got as much money to give them.”

The demographic in need is changing she said. More people need help – the “squeezed middle”. CASEW found 45% of people in Wales will be “fuel poor” following energy price increases. This comes with stark findings that single-income households earning the national living wage will spend up to 44% of monthly earnings on rent, compared to 23% in 2021 as reported by ONS.

The response to the appeal sends a positive message at a difficult time. The Public Health Wales report found 22% of people said the crisis made a positive impact on support within the community. The work from community groups and charities means people with mental health struggles can be supported at this busy time.

Many services are overstretched and need community support. So, if you can, add a few extra tins of canned food or pick up a toy to donate next time you go shopping.

Useful items to donate in winter if you can:
  • Pre-loved, warm items such as jumpers, scarves and hats.
  • Buy extra tinned food with your weekly shop to donate.
  • Children’s toys – collection centres will usually publish what age ranges and gender they need toys for.

Find your local Salvation Army donation centre here.