These are challenging times for our country and our community.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought disruption to almost every aspect of our lives. Our health, our financial security and our day-to-day interactions with friends, family and neighbours are all impacted. I know many people will be worrying about how they are going to get through it.
As a local MP, my priority is to support the many individuals and organisations who are working flat out to help our community. I have been heartened by the speedy and comprehensive response of charities, community groups, churches, mosques and others in Bradford South to this crisis.
All over the constituency, people are coming together to help one another. Buttershaw Together is a collective of community organisations and churches consisting of The Sandale Trust, Buttershaw Baptist Church, Footprints Family Centre, the Parish of Mary Mother of God, and Shelf with Buttershaw churches; all serving Buttershaw, Horton Bank Top, Woodside, and parts of Low Moor and Wibsey.
They have been delivering hundreds of school meals, making wellbeing calls to vulnerable people experiencing social isolation, and preparing and delivering hot meals to self-isolating older people.
Lidget Green Walking Club has adapted the way they deliver services to meet the new demands of the crisis. As Mazhar Ellahi, Centre Manager says “our services to older people have had to change from being centre based to an outreach service - ee are ringing our community to help them cope with this isolation and providing assistance with whatever they need whether it’s a food delivery or medicines".
Other organisations are producing resources to help us make the most of our time at home. Sports Works, based in Low moor, are helping people look after their physical and mental health from home. They have created a YouTube series of home exercises that anyone can do.
I know for families with children this is a particularly tough time. There are many sources of support out there. The Bierley Life Centre, for instance, has created home activity booklets for children and parents including arts and crafts and home cooking.
Religious groups, including churches and mosques, are reaching out to their local communities to check on vulnerable residents.
And of course, as we adapt to our new socially distanced world, you can now stream religious services online. This will be of particular comfort over the Easter weekend.
The work these groups are doing is absolutely vital, but due to the crisis charities and other community organisations face an increasingly difficult situation. They are dealing with increased demand at a time when many of their usual funding sources are drying up.
People understandably cut back on donations during difficult periods and independent funding groups are also struggling. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations estimates that the sector will experience a £4.3bn loss in income over the coming three months.
If you can, I hope you will consider supporting the community groups in your area, for instance by donating or volunteering safely. This will make a great difference locally. But, the sector as a whole needs government support to get through this crisis.
Alongside other MPs, I wrote to the government calling for an immediate cash injection into the charity and voluntary sector. I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of a £750 million package of financial support but unfortunately this will not go far enough. We need to see more support in the coming weeks and months and beyond this crisis.
It’s also time to look at how we can ensure long-term funding for our charities and community groups, that have proved to be so vital.
I know that despite the challenges, we will get through this together. If you need assistance, there are people and organisations out there ready to help. If you can offer your time or money, it will be greatly appreciated. Here in Bradford, we look after each other.