The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 15th February:
This week in Parliament there was a debate on charities and community groups, which provided a great opportunity to discuss the brilliant examples in Barnsley.
There’s BIADS and Butterflies, for instance; two fantastic local groups I met recently that provide outstanding support for people living with dementia in our community.
I’ve visited our local foodbanks, and seen the support they give to so many people across Barnsley.
And I’ve visited the Barnsley Churches Drop-in project, which provides support to those who are sadly homeless.
It’s humbling to see the amazing work these groups do, making a vital difference to the lives of so many people in Barnsley.
But apart from discussing the incredible work they do, the debate in Parliament also provided an opportunity to raise the challenges they face.
Because there’s another side to the story: the damaging effect of this Government’s cuts – cuts that have had a devastating impact on groups in Barnsley.
A few months ago, the Prime Minister had the audacity to claim that austerity is over.
She should tell that to Luminar, a Barnsley charity which helped children and families affected by domestic abuse, but which has now been forced to close.
She should tell it to the Barnsley Bereavement Support Service, which supports those struggling with the shock of losing someone close to them, but which is now struggling for funding and facing closure.
And she should tell it to the charities, community groups and foodbanks across Barnsley which see the impact of austerity every day, in poverty on the rise, families going hungry, and people forced onto the streets.
I’m always so humbled to meet the brilliant volunteers working in our community.
They are passionate, determined and dedicated to helping others.
On one of my visits to local community groups, I saw a sign which simply said: ‘volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless’.
That, more than anything else, sums up local volunteers here in Barnsley.
So this week I challenged the Government to do more to back local community groups, charities and volunteers here in Barnsley.
They give so much of themselves in supporting our community, it’s time this Government supported them.