It has been said that volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy: we vote in elections once a year perhaps, but when we volunteer we vote every day about the kind of community we want to live in. I am sure I speak on behalf of many Members in saying it is a privilege to see and support the fantastic charitable work taking place in my constituency of Colne Valley, across Kirklees and across the country. Volunteers are people who through their actions make a commitment to the kind of community they want to be a part of: a community that is a friend to those facing isolation, that advocates for those without a voice, and that helps to feed families in need at the most difficult times. The dedication and commitment these volunteers and charitable workers have to this vision of a better society is invaluable.
I want to use my time today to thank just a few of the people doing brilliant work in Colne Valley and throughout Kirklees. I recently visited Clare House, a development aimed at tackling homelessness by providing accommodation and supporting residents with complex needs. In addition to providing a safe environment, Clare House offers the time and resources to help people to rebuild their lives. It is supported by Kirklees Council, but many volunteers also support it by donating their work and time.
A number of groups are also working to ensure that those in need have enough food for their families, and I have seen at first hand the wonderful work being done by the Welcome Centre, the Mission, the Women’s Centre, Holmfirth food bank and the Fit and Fed programme. The warmth of the Colne Valley people is also seen in the local groups aiming to tackle social isolation, including Clem’s Garden and Friend To Friend. In the true spirit of our local community, people are reaching out to one another to share experiences and to form friendships. Destitute Asylum Seekers Huddersfield, where I was once a volunteer myself, has turned around the lives of many who have experienced displacement and trauma. Ruddi’s Retreat and Waves are both charities supporting vulnerable children and their families. There are too many others to mention, but I am grateful to them all for their hard work and community spirit.
All these charities, and the work they do, help to provide a safety net for vulnerable people. I have seen this need grow and grow in the past eight years as austerity has pushed more and more people into poverty and difficult circumstances, but here’s the thing: I actually do not believe in relying on charity. If the Government are doing their job properly, people should not need to rely on voluntary support. These groups should not be stretched beyond capacity, and workers should not feel pressured to provide support when the Government fall short. Food bank usage should not be at its highest rate on record, homeless people should not be dying on our streets, and over 4 million children should not be living in poverty. A Government should provide access to quality education, healthcare, social care and housing for every citizen; that is their right in a civilised society. That is what I believe in, and it is what I will continue to fight for. In the meantime, I will continue to admire and support those who give up their time and resources to help others.