Continuing to make our communities stronger together, post-election

And breathe. Finally, it is over, and we can all get on with our work without tiptoeing around subjects and keeping our own counsel on various topics.

A general election is a fraught time for everyone, particularly those of us who work in the voluntary and charity sector, where we often deal with, support and represent the most vulnerable in society.

Unfortunately, some seek to weaponise politics to stifle debate, none more so than around elections and charities like ours can, unless we are careful, find themselves in the middle of it all.

For the last few weeks, areas that we work with on a daily basis have become the subject of debate, and despite our expertise, we have been obliged not to express an opinion for fear of being accused of being biased. Thankfully, we have achieved it.

We are happy to work with whoever wins elections, and we are already working with our two new MPs to give them a broader picture of what is happening in communities across the Bay.

Within hours of the results being returned, we had a meeting with the new Torbay MP, Liberal Democrat Steve Darling, and we will be seeking one with the new South Devon representative, Caroline Voaden, as soon as possible. (For context, we also met regularly with Kevin Foster and Anthony Mangnall).

Before the election, we published in this column our support for a charity and voluntary sector manifesto drawn up by our colleagues at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, a manifesto that gave us the opportunity to raise much-needed awareness of important issues close to the heart of communities across the Bay.

At the heart of that manifesto, the important point was made: charities underpin the country’s social infrastructure. They deliver public services. They meet needs, connect communities and individuals, and help address systemic inequality. Through decades of hard work, they’ve earned deep-rooted trust.

Our sector:

  • helps solve challenges with integrity, drive and dedication
  • has far-reaching knowledge about the people and causes they support
  • works innovatively and responsibly for people instead of profit
  • builds trust with those who are often not heard
  • mobilises, develops and empowers volunteers

 

In Torbay, we are proud of our strong communities that give us all a sense of belonging, support our wellbeing and help boost the local economy. That is why we at Torbay Communities use the slogan ‘Stronger Together’ on all our marketing material.

We have worked for ten years to bring communities together recognising that charities and volunteers are the backbone of our communities, representing and engaging as we do with people who often feel excluded.

We champion volunteers and volunteering and recognise that volunteering should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for every volunteer. Volunteering can provide skills, confidence, connection, purpose and wellbeing.

With that in mind, we work hard to reduce barriers to volunteering, particularly for people who don’t have equal access to good volunteering experiences. We want it to be easier for people in paid work to give their time through employee volunteering schemes.

In Torbay, charities and the voluntary sector deliver and advocate a wide range of services including everything from housing, health services and social care to education and advice.

We work alongside the NHS, Torbay Council and other statutory authorities to help deliver a society where everyone can live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. And to do so we need the recognition and support of the central Government, whoever is in power.

In a nutshell, we are asking our new MPs to lobby on behalf of communities across Torbay to

  • Engage with the charity and voluntary sector when policy-making
  • Ensure fair and sustainable partnerships
  • Make sure every voice is heard
  • Focus on building strong and resilient communities
  • Place real value on volunteers
  • Support a thriving charity sector
  • Make public giving easier

 

Immediately after an election is a good time to reinforce all the above messaging, something that we have started with Steve and will continue with Caroline at the first opportunity.

UPDATE: Pharo, a 19-year-old asylum seeker whose story we featured in this column in three parts a couple of months ago,  has achieved the first part of his dream to one day help rebuild his country by starting a degree in engineering at Birmingham University.

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