Chief Executive's blog: November

Rosemary Macdonald talks about Universal Credit and inspiring stories

WE have seen a lot of talk about Universal Credit since the Budget and the hardship it has inflicted on families.

I know from talking to counsellors at groups such as Cornerstone in Warminster that they do whatever they can to keep people off Universal Credit because they will be worse off. I’m pleased that the extra money allocated by the Chancellor will cut the time people have to wait for their benefits but there will still be people living on less money.

There are many charities working hard to support people in Wiltshire who are relatively destitute. I say relatively because compared with people in areas of real poverty, such as Africa, Wiltshire is a well-off place.

That’s not to say there isn’t hardship here, but there are people driven from those strife-torn countries because they cannot afford to eat or clothe themselves or their families. That is a real definition of destitution.

The people I also feel concern for in this country are those families who are working so hard but are only just keeping their heads above water, they are only just managing. Those who are in real poverty get help, maybe not as much as they ought but help nonetheless. But these families in the next band above just don’t get the same level of support.

It’s all a matter of perception and I think we need a proper definition of deprivation so that we can agree what is an acceptable standard of living and work together to support that.

 

THERE has also been a lot of talk this year about public trust in charities, with many, many newspaper column inches devoted to an apparent breakdown.

I was heartened to listen to Deborah Allcock-Tyler chief executive of the Directory for Social Change, talk about the issue.

She is right in saying that there has been no decline in the public support for charities. More people than ever before are volunteering and donations to charities are on the increase. That looks to me like the public’s trust in charities is still very strong.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult for people to defend charities on social media because they are afraid they will be shouted down. The media also bears responsibility for this situation.

The media should be talking more to the huge number of people who have contact with charities, and in these times of austerity that number is going up and up all the time. All these people who are being helped and there is no shortage of trust.

I think we should challenge people who talk down charities because I see every day fantastic work that is going on all over the county.

 

I SAW no better evidence of that than at the first Wiltshire Community Pride Awards in Swindon, which was a wonderful event that left me uplifted for the rest of the day.

I was so pleased that David Rowlands, chairman of trustees at The Harbour Trust in Swindon, was given a lifetime achievement award. He has done such a lot for so many people in Swindon and turned around the lives of refugees who have arrived with nothing but the clothes they are standing up in.

These are people who have fled from some of those areas of deprivation I mentioned earlier and were helped before they got anywhere near Universal Credit.

There were many other wonderful stories at the awards that really affirmed my faith in human nature. It was a really good first event that the Wiltshire Community Foundation was delighted to support, and I hope it continues.

 

THE thing that gave me the most pleasure this month was seeing Ellie (pictured below), our right-year-old Westie, bounce back from surgery on a ligament in her knee. The vet had told us that if we hadn’t opted for the surgery she’d have been lame and would have to be put down. I knew she was back to her old self when I came home to find her sitting on the back of the sofa watching out of the window for me.