Jane Basham – What type of society do we want to live in?
Babergh was recently voted one of the UK's best places to live and most folks would agree. After 25 years of living in the area, first Glemsford now Hadleigh, that includes me too.
Yet sadly, there is also much misery on our doorstep. It's easy to forget or ignore that these are tough times for people who may live just down your road or be standing in front of you in the queue at the Post Office.
I had a desperate call two days before Christmas from a woman concerned about her granddaughter - let's call her Susan. Aged 20, Susan has learning difficulties and problems with mental health. Her Job Seekers Allowance had been stopped back in October resulting in her being homeless and she was now 'sofa surfing' - sleeping each night on the settee in the living room of her siblings one-bedroomed flat.
Getting help so close to Christmas was impossible. An appointment was made with a disability rights charity at the very start of the New Year. Their advice and intervention means Susan now receives Income Support. After making contact with a housing scheme for homeless young women, I'm hoping Susan may soon get a place of her own there, close to her grandmother.
I know from having led a local legal services charity how vital the role of this specialist disability rights work is. It faces huge - often urgent - demands yet receives little local financial support. I now work with homeless young people and adults with mental ill-health and learning difficulties. So I know first-hand how ‘supported living’ schemes, like the one we hope Susan will eventually call home, are under stress. They face growing demand for their services at the same time as their budgets are cut.
We should be pleased that so many people find Babergh a great place to live. But let's not delude ourselves that comfort and security are available for or enjoyed by all. As Ghandi once said, ‘The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members’. People like Susan.
We have a choice. We can see people like Susan as the problem, or we can see them as people with problems needing help with solutions.
We have a choice in May - we can vote to ignore or forget the desperation and misery amongst us or vote to make security available to all.
Parliamentary Candidate for South Suffolk – Labour Party
Mobile: 07811 064522