Pembrokeshire Action to Combat Hardship (PATCH) is a local charity with a high profile this time of year. At last Thursday’s meeting of Pembroke Dock Town Council, Tracy Olin was invited to explain what the charity does and how they can be best supported.

Tracy made it clear that while the charity’s headquarters are in Milford Haven, they cover the whole of Pembrokeshire, delivering to anyone in need all over the county. The increase in need is unbelievable, she observed. The number of food parcels required in November increased from around 540 in 2019 and 2020 to 864 this year; an increase that coincided with the removal of the £20 uplift from Universal Credit.

PATCH uses a referral-based approach to locate needy clients. “We’re very hot in not creating a dependency, because sometimes by providing help you’re doing the opposite,” Tracy told the assembled councillors.

“People are encouraged to go to the CAB to make sure they do have the help, to prevent the need for us. There is no restriction on how many times a person can come to us; it’s always based on circumstances.

“We don’t do white goods but we do offer other practical electrical items. There is a pet food bank, a baby bank; in normal times we have a hairdresser.

“We also get books to give families; art materials, cuddly toys, sweets, wrapping paper and sticky tape - because some families can’t even afford basics like that. Covid has made such a big difference.”

Tracy pointed out that mental health problems and poverty frequently go hand in hand, and one way of combatting both of these is by volunteering. Volunteers get confidence and a reference so they can get back into work.

Newly elected Mayor, Clr. Joshua Beynon commented that it was quite a reminder of how many constituents actually struggle.

Clr. Maureen Bowen asked, “how can we help?” Tracy replied that the charity benefits from volunteers, money, and transport, among other things, and that they would like to be able to reopen in Pembroke Dock.

“Bring fresh food to our bases,” she added. “Don’t assume (like some people do) that our clients don’t know how to cook.”

Later, after discussion, councillors agreed to donate £1,000 to PATCH from Pembroke Dock Town Council.