One measure of the quality of our society is the way in which we look after the weaker and more disadvantaged among us.
Given the present economic environment it seems increasingly to depend on the goodwill of individuals. On visits around the constituency I’ve been reminded recently about the large number of ways in which local folk use their time and talents to help those who are less fortunate.
It seems to me that we have a careless and incompetent government at Westminster when folk are unable to feed themselves. And with more cuts to welfare payments on their way it is clear that nothing is going to change for the better soon. I am however heartened by the way in which volunteers staff the food-banks which are springing up all over the country and the generosity of those who give both food and cash to keep them going. I’m also encouraged by the fact that some of our supermarkets are joining in and making donations easy.
Attending public events like local galas and shows in recent weeks I have been reminded of the contribution of first aiders. They provide a valuable and reassuring presence at public gatherings, and they can also act as first responders within the community at large. This is particularly important in rural areas such as my constituency when the nearest ambulance might be on another call and quite some distance away.
Last week I visited a new project in Montrose. The Well Bean Café has been developed by Angus Alcohol and Drugs Partnership team, local service providers and people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction to offer people a safe and relaxed, alcohol and drug free venue to meet and socialise. Why would that be necessary? Because those whose lives have been wrecked by drink or drugs need help to rebuild their lives in a social context. Isolation is not good for any of us, and I applaud those who are trying to help.
I often wonder what we can do to help those caught up in disasters around the world. Undoubtedly simply giving money to major charities helps but it’s difficult to see what is being done with the money, and governments never seem to respond fast enough. I was therefore very interested to hear about the Shelterbox charity which is supported by local Rotaries. These big green plastic boxes can be stockpiled around the world and despatched very quickly to an area of need. Each contains a large tent, cooking equipment and sundry other items which will enable life to go on, and aid workers to be accommodated, in places where natural disasters have destroyed buildings like hospitals.
To all those who are prepared to help others who are less fortunate, whether far away or close to home: thank you.