FREE meals at a church are keeping people fed, watered and warm during the cost of living crisis - and the fight is on to get them the right benefits.

Throughout Worcester, various agencies have joined forces to provide free meals at St Wultstan's Church in Cranham Drive on Saturdays between 10am and noon.

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A team of volunteers serves sausage and bacon sandwiches or vegan options. People can also get themselves cups of tea, coffee or juice.

The brunches started on October 1 and have proved a hit with the people of Warndon.

Worcester News: Lesley Myatt and Trish Smith enjoy brunch Lesley Myatt and Trish Smith enjoy brunch (Image: Photo supplied by Jill Desayrah)

Vicar, Sarah Northall, came up with the idea and Cllr Jill Desayrah, Labour councillor for Warndon, organised and promoted it and wants to keep the momentum going.

There are now plans to extend the scheme with Saturday Soup between noon and 2pm for 12 weeks from the first Saturday after New Year (January 7) after sponsorship was again secured. 

Cllr Desayrah said people on pre-paid meters were paying more per watt than people on direct debit.

"The people who can afford it the least are charged the most. It's unfair.

"Some of my residents are vulnerable and finding life hard.

"I'm here to help them in any way I can - as are my amazing little group of local volunteers can."

For some, these schemes are about tackling loneliness and social isolation.

Cllr Desayrah said: "It's absolutely to address people's difficulties during the cost of living crisis."

The scheme is sponsored through Platform Housing's Community Fund and the Blakemore Foundation. 

"It's great to see them supporting the local community - everybody is suffering in this difficult time. In terms of emotional support, people become more isolated as the winter draws in.

"It's about tackling loneliness. A lot of people who come live on their own. I'm getting calls from people who are desperate, looking for help and advice. They are starting to be overwhelmed.”

"Anyone can come here. Everybody is welcome."

Cllr Desayrah is part of a cross party group of city councillors who formed a sub committee, expressly to generate ideas on ways to support people through these extremely challenging times.

It was this group who asked the council to build a “one stop shop” - its Cost of Living Crisis website.

A directory of services has been collated, including all of the Warm Hubs that have registered from across the city.

The cross-party group will continue to work together to help people, having already gained approval to fund an extra person to work at the local Citizens Advice. Bureau in the City. The other group members are Cllr Louis Stephen, Cllr Lucy Hodgson and Cllr Karen Lawrence.

Cllr Desayrah said: “Each of us is doing our bit to help people through these awful times – working together, but also individually on projects like the St Wulstan’s Saturday brunch and soup. We all hope these efforts of ours are short term, but there can be no let up until we are sure they are no longer needed.”