Chief Executive's blog: March

Rosemary Macdonald muses on challenges for society and reflects on an award.

TWO newspaper articles have caught my eye in the last few days that made me reflect on the pace of change that is reshaping our daily lives – not always for the better.

The first was a piece in The Times Magazine on Saturday about how Dutch teenagers are the mostly balanced and happy on the planet. This is attributed to the fact their parents have straightforward, honest discussions with them about the important things from a very early age.

Dutch culture is all about raising happy and independent children and they have conversations about sex, bullying, aspiration and the choices you make in life, so the teenagers grow up feeling trusted and responsible for their own actions.

Also, the Dutch work a shorter working day than we do. They all finish at 4pm, which gives them more time for family life. It made me think about the pressure that’s put on our world in Britain, where things have become so expensive families have to work more and more hours in order to keep food on the table and pay the mortgage. If you live anywhere in a medium-sized house, chances are you cannot afford to do that on one salary.

There is this feeling that we have got to get people into work because work is the answer to every problem. But I am not so sure it is any more. We see children coming into school who are unable to read and haven’t got a decent vocabulary and are never talked to by the parents. I’m sure in many cases it is because people don’t have time to be a parent.

I had the luxury of having the time to be  a parent and I look back now and realise how lucky I was. There is a constant pressure on parents and less and less money. I feel like our society is really creaking now and it can’t continue, we need to have a big rethink.

The other article that struck a chord was in The Guardian about how we are becoming a cashless society because of the increasing use of contactless cards and phone payment. It prompted me to look in my purse and I found no notes and just £6.84 in coins – and that was only because I needed the change for parking later.

I, like most people, use contactless almost all the time because I have the wherewithal to do that. My brother-in-law, who lives in Shanghai, told us recently that he couldn’t pay with a card in a shop there because they only accepted payment a phone app. This is common with many stores in the cities but less so in the rural areas where there are people wo are excluded from commerce because they can’t connect.

The same is happening here, where people who have had to set up bank accounts to receive benefits do so at the Post Office because it is cheaper. But they find Post Offices near them are closing, so what do they do? What about older people who don’t have the technology or those unable to afford to buy newer phones or to replace phones rendered useless by in-built dysfunctionality?

Consequently, if there is less cash around that is going to affect charities who rely on collecting tins and buckets or groups who collect money from activities like packing shopping bags. Charities are going to have to rethink how they do things.

We are being hit by changes at such a rate, and so many changes all at the same time. We, as a society can cope with change, but we need to think carefully how we tread.

 

I WAS very proud to collect a British Empire Medal from the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Sarah Troughton at Salisbury Cathedral at the start of the month, just a few hours after prime minister Theresa May had been there.

The BEM is for hands-on charitable work that make a difference to the area where you live. Standing at the front listening to the citations for the other seven recipients was very humbling.

The people up there had worked tirelessly in their areas or field. There was one working in mental health one supporting victims of crime, there was even one chap aged 80 who had re-roofed his church hall single-handed. These were people who were selflessly dedicated to their communities, so I felt very blessed to be alongside them.

I don’t often get embarrassed but listening to my own citation, it seemed like quite a long list of activity – quite a lot I have forgotten about!

I was so pleased my husband Fraser, my daughter Lizzy and sister-in-law Sue were there with me. I was overjoyed to receive it, but I look upon the award as a thank you to the whole charity sector in Wiltshire.

Pictured: Rosemary Macdonald with her BEM at Salisbury Cathedral and, below, with husband Fraser and Lord Lieutenant Sarah Troughton