I was so pleased to be back in Durham on Thursday evening but if I thought for even a second I was going to have a chance to put my feet up I was wrong.
Along with all the usual meetings I have been lucky enough to see some of the fantastic volunteer and community work that is going on in Durham at the moment. What is clear from the last few days is the huge number of Durham residents who happily commit tins of food, money or their precious time to do their bit for the area. I have always known that we live in a very generous area and it is heart warming to see people contribute, often from very restrained budgets in the light of vicious LibDem/Tory Government cuts.
On Friday I begun the day by visiting Tesco in Durham’s Market Place to help present pupils of Newton Hall Infants School with sports equipments raised through the ‘Tesco for Schools & Clubs 2012’ campaign. The children seemed over the moon with their new equipment and, following a summer of sport, I’m sure it will be put to good use. I then visited Meadowfield to open a new hospital which aims to provide state of the art rehabilitative mental health treatment. The facilities there are really good and I was pleased to see this new facility in Durham.
On Saturday I joined Sainsbury’s staff at the Arnison Centre store to encourage shoppers to donate spare food items to FareShare’s million meals campaign. Shockingly, 13 million people in the UK live in poverty and many of them are turning to food banks to meet their family’s daily needs. FareShare’s campaign aims to get enough donations for 1 million meals; the food collected in Durham will be is distributed by local charities to local families and individuals in need.
I was delighted to support this campaign and hope that they can surpass the amount they made last year. However, I am extremely worried that whilst we continue to hear about the dire straits many families are in the LibDem/Tory Coalition are announcing yet further cuts to the incomes of struggling families.
We have yet to see the impact of the most recent announcement of £18 billion in cuts to welfare due to come in 2013. Surely with so many people struggling to meet their most basic needs now is not the time to be announcing yet more cuts on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.
Today, I spent the morning volunteering at St Cuthbert’s Hospice to mark National Hospice Week. Now is a fitting time to say thank you to all the hospice volunteers who do such a demanding job providing palliative care to those in need. The volunteers I met at St Cuthbert’s were clearly very dedicated and hardworking and it was a pleasure to spend the morning with them, I learnt a great deal.