Communities: Charities and Volunteers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:29 pm on 13th February 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Opposition Whip (Commons) 5:29 pm, 13th February 2019

My hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point, and one that I was about to touch on.

In the coming school holidays, food banks will again be busy. I cannot help but ask: surely it must be possible to create a society where children do not go hungry.

Just as our food banks battle want, our churches battle the scandal of homelessness. A man died sleeping on our streets last year, simply because he had nowhere to live. The homelessness he experienced is a situation that far too many people face. I praise the Barnsley Churches Drop-In, which provides support to those who are sadly homeless. But again I say: it does not have to be like this.

Every time I visit charities and community groups, I see the amazing work they do and the real difference they make in our community, but there is another side to the story. Many of our brilliant local charities and community groups in Barnsley have been affected by this Government’s austerity since 2010. Cuts to public services have forced them to take on extra work and have put them under increasing pressure. Cuts amounting to 40% make Barnsley Council the worst affected in the country and have left it struggling to support those local charities and community groups.

What the Government do not seem to understand is that cuts have consequences. Luminar, a Barnsley charity where volunteers helped children and families affected by domestic violence, has been forced to close. The Barnsley Bereavement Support Service, which supports those struggling with the shock of losing someone close to them, is short of funding and faces closure. That is shameful.

Despite the many difficulties, so many fantastic groups—far more than I can mention here today—continue to support local people. They do so thanks to the efforts of the brilliant volunteers who work for them. They are passionate, determined and dedicated to helping others. They give so much of themselves in supporting our community. It is time that the Government supported them and gave them the proper funding that they need and deserve.

On one visit to a local community group, I saw a sign that, more than anything else, sums up the local volunteers in my constituency. It simply said, “Volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” I could not have put it better myself.