This week I am getting a bit political. I normally avoid politics but sometimes you just have to speak up! My subject is the cuts. Last week I heard that it is likely there will be further disruption for the local Sure Start Children’s Centres, as the anticipated NHS takeover looks uncertain. While there is no effective leadership or management it is very difficult for centres to thrive and ultimately it is the children who suffer. What so often happens is that activities are reduced to a basic provision and new initiatives are ignored. Parents no longer consider their Sure Start Centre to be the thriving, supportive and welcoming place that it once was. Important support for families is lost. In addition, centres that are often used by the voluntary sector, as is the case in London Road, Dereham, can give no assurances about the future. As a result a variety of youth clubs are left wondering whether they will still have a venue in the autumn.
It is said that where there is no vision the people perish, let’s hope that inspired, enthusiastic, imaginative, risk-taking leadership is soon installed so that our Sure Start Centres can once again be places that help to give children a sure, and secure, start.
This morning David Cameron announced plans to remove Housing Benefit for those under 25, and to limit child benefit payments to families with three children or under. He says he is just opening a debate. I would like to invite him to spend two hours at the Foodbank and consider the consequences of his new ideas on some of the young people we meet. The current cuts to benefits are leaving some of the most needy in society with very real difficulties. I totally endorse the comment made by Liam Allmark, Public Affairs Officer for Caritas Social Action Network who said “It is worrying that the government would consider introducing a further package of significant limitations and reductions to benefits when we are only starting to see the devastating impact on families from the first round of changes.”
On a more positive note I was really encouraged this week by the enthusiasm shown at the leadership meeting for the Soul Survivor trip. People were happily volunteering to take responsibility for a variety of jobs and also offering new ideas that, I am sure, will help make the week even more successful. The sense of team working was inspiring. And to cap it, the 39th young person has signed up to join us for the trip. With only five weeks to go, the excitement is building!
Arrangements for the Foodbank have taken a further step forward in the last week. The committee met with members of a Dereham care agency who were tremendously helpful. They have warehouse and office space that we can use at minimal cost, and have volunteers who can help sort and package the food. It means that our plan to become a self-sustaining foodbank from September this year is a genuine possibility. Now we need to raise at least £5000 and register as a charity. So I shall be turning my attention to writing bids in the next few weeks.
Girls Allowed was particularly informative last week. PCSO Matt Havers came to speak about keeping safe. He gave some good practical advise about dealing with unwanted attention from strangers, and reminded the girls about the dangers associated with social media sites. He was pleased to remind everyone that, although they need to consider their own safety, Norfolk remains statistically the safest county in the country.
Y-Friday went Tubing for the first time last week. The weather was kind to us and we enjoyed a superb evening skidding down the slopes and screaming to our heats content. It’s a cross between a water slide and tobogganing; speed, sunshine, water and friends – a great combination!
I am so grateful to people for the way they have turned out to things in the last week.
On Wednesday there was a good attendance at Youth Cell and a lovely atmosphere. Some of the pressures of revising for exams had lifted and everyone was chilled out. A few games of snooker and table football, and a discussion of ‘strongholds’ made for an enjoyable evening.
On Thursday we had more than expected for the anti-bullying training from Kidscape. Sue ran us through the material at quite a pace. It will be good to look through the resources again in a few weeks, with a cup of coffee and a bit more time. I think they are going to be really useful, especially some of the stuff on body language.
I was delighted to see so many at Girls Allowed for the workshop with Roughshod Theatre Company. They got us moving about and challenged our attitudes. They opened our minds to the needs of the poor around the world and the many privileges we enjoy as a result of living in this country. It really left us all with something to think about.
On Friday there were 21 young people at Y-Friday, despite it being the beginning of the holiday. We dug out a few old favourite games as part of the Jubilee party theme. ‘Knights, Damsels and Dragons’ never fails to entertain!
On Saturday there was a special service at Dereham Baptist, as both the Portuguese and English congregations came together to mark the re-opening of the building, after five months of renovation. It was quite a celebration! I look forward now to discovering how we can make use of that wonderful facility, in new ways, for the benefit of the community.
Yesterday was the Big Barbecue, put on by the churches of Dereham, with support from the town council. It poured with rain most of the time and yet the turnout was amazing. We had such a great time and so many of Y-Friday and Girls Allowed came to help. Thanks guys, you were wonderful! It was also good to have a moment on the stage to promote the Foodbank and to thank everyone for their generosity.
It has been another good week and your attendance has been really appreciated. Thank you.
What a week I have just had – beautiful weather, important new contacts, great trips and a bit of publicity on the radio.
On Tuesday Dave and I visited a site in Dereham that may well provide a warehouse and office for the Food Bank. The people there were really enthusiastic about the prospect and in addition they have a pool of volunteers just waiting for an opportunity to help. It could all be available in a few months and at a minimal cost. There are a few things to look into before it is certain, but it was such a great encouragement! I will let you know more as soon as I can.
On Thursday and Friday there was good attendance at Girls Allowed and Y-Friday. Friday also saw over 20 young people from Dereham Baptist attend a Soul Survivor taster evening in Norwich. Thanks particularly to Mike and Anita who sorted the transport, which enabled me to be free to attend Y-Friday.
On Saturday we took a minibus full of Y-Friday members to Pleasurewood Hills. The weather was fantastic and the queues were short, the ideal combination. Everyone had as many rides as they wanted. I had my annual go on Wipeout and threw in a more gentle slide down Wave Breaker. By the time we loaded the minibus for home there were a lot of sunburned and tired young people, many were soon asleep! Thanks to Ana Paula for coming with us at the last minute and being such a good sport.
On Sunday I rose early to go to Norwich for a 7.40am interview on the Emma Philpotts show on Radio Norfolk. It was great publicity for the website. I know there were at least three new listeners, my wife, and her mum and dad!