The number of people seeking cost of living help has increased by almost two thirds in a year, a Berkshire charity has revealed.

Some 5,110 people sought help from The Cowshed charity between April 2022 and March 2023 – up from 3,156 the year before. That’s also more than double two years previously – 2,532.

The charity provides clothes and other essential items to people who need them. And although it can only provide one-off help, staff and volunteers say they can see up to 170 people a week.

Nikki Pond from The Cowshed put the increase down to the cost of living crisis. “It’s a lot of people,” she said. “The cost of living crisis has had a huge impact on the demand for our services.”

The Cowshed was one of several organisations offering advice at a cost-of-living event organised by Bracknell Forest Council on Friday, August 4. Many said they’d seen an increase in people who wouldn’t have needed help before.

Andrea McCombie from The Ark – a Bracknell-based charity focussed on disabled people and carers – said.  “We’ve had lots of carers that have managed financially for years, but for the first time they’re really feeling the squeeze.

“It’s people who just sit above the threshold for benefits help. These are people who have never had to ask for help before – they don’t know where to go and are a bit embarrassed about it.”

She added: “I can think of someone who’s just above the threshold for benefits. They get a pension but they don’t get pension credits. They have had to stop running their car, which means they’ve had an issue with shopping.

“They needed financial support to just put money into their utilities. Yet four years ago they weren’t well off, but they were comfortable.”

Reverend Michelle Porter-Babbage from foodbank Share told a similar story. She said: “They could have a nice property, a nice car and a mortgage but they are struggling with the cost of childcare, the cost of fuel bills.”

READ MORE: ‘We need this’ say pensioners at Bracknell cost of living event

Charities at the event shared information on the help they can provide. Nino Trapani from the St Vincent de Paul Society said they could give one-off financial help.

He said: “We helped a family – a lady with two children – who didn’t have a cooker and a washing machine, so we supplied that.”

And Ms Pond said: “A gentleman came recently. Three years previously we’d helped him when he was homeless – given him clothing, a sleeping bag and a tent. And now he’s coming to us through the jobcentre, and needed clothes for the new job.

“It was a nice story to hear – that we’d been able to help him and his life was on the right track.”