Selfless mum dubbed angel for helping others in cost-of-living nightmare

“Bingo and Broth” or “Quiche and Quiz” are just two events that tempt people into Sunderland’s The Pallion Action Group – but the community centre and its friendly staff offer so much more.

Manager Karen Noble is on a mission to make sure people are getting the support and benefits they need – and this is particularly important for older visitors, who might feel isolated. “It’s not just about organising activities they can get involved with: conversations might come out of that,” says Karen.

“People will tell you what they’re struggling with and how you can support them. You might find out that they’ve been given an iPad but have no internet connection, or that they don’t feel safe because some kids have been throwing eggs in the streets.

“We have a lot of older people who should be receiving benefits but they’re not. So we want to get that message out to them. They’ll go ‘No, I’m alright’ because there is a bit of pride there – but we want to make sure they get everything they’re entitled to.”

Karen is devoted to helping people in the local community because she knows what it’s like to struggle. As a young mum of two, she worked and had to battle to support her children. “I had to fight to make sure I got all the right benefits – and then people saw what I did and started coming to me for help,” says Karen.

She then started to volunteer – and found her vocation, which led her to Pallion, where her nickname is Community Angel.

Over the past month Karen has noticed more people than ever need help as fuel bills rise and the cost-of-living crisis bites. “The fuel hikes aren’t in line with people’s wages and benefits, so we’re helping as much as we can. But we don’t just want to stick a plaster over it. Do we need to get people into better-paid jobs? Do we need to upskill them?” she asks.

“There are lots of reasons why people are struggling now. They might have lost their jobs or used up their savings during the Covid pandemic. Some people are on benefits – but we’ve got a lot of people who are working hard just to put food on the table.”

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“Without funding raised through The Health Lottery we’d be operating on a shoestring – and asking our staff to do things for nothing when they’re struggling as well,” says Karen. “I think if you’re buying a Health Lottery ticket, you’re winning anyway. Even if you don’t win any money, you’re helping to fund projects in your local community. And you’re changing lives.”

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