Opinion: Volunteer for life not just The Big Help Out

It was heartening to see that over 55,000 people took part in voluntary activities on the Monday following the Coronation called “The Big Help Out”, writes Labour Group leader Dennis Jones.
Foster Care Fortnight, May 15-28Foster Care Fortnight, May 15-28
Foster Care Fortnight, May 15-28

It made me stop and think and, to my surprise, it’s 50 years this year since I undertook my first volunteer role.

Imagine that? Half a century! OK, I haven’t done it every year since then but, as one who is utterly devoid of any skills, ability, or talent, I have found volunteering a great way to help others whilst keeping myself occupied.

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So, volunteering it was then. In no particular order, I have been a Samaritan, a reader for Talking Newspapers and the RNIB when they were in Bakewell Rd. I interview potential victims of modern slavery for a subdivision of the Home Office, the Single Competent Authority and transported them to places of safety, plus training as a debt counsellor for the Salvation Army, my wife’s church here in Peterborough.

At the very start of Covid, I was fortunate enough to be invited to volunteer at the foodbank in Dogsthorpe but please don’t get me started on how usage has gone up by over 37% since.

Although I have received a special responsibility allowance for chairing the Corporate Parenting committee as a councillor, I volunteer, along with some of my fellow corporate parenting committee colleagues, for a ‘champion’ role. Mine is the recruitment and retention of Foster Carers.

This month – from May 15 to May 28 – it is Foster Care fortnight.

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Now for the advertisement: If you are interested in finding out more about how you can support Foster Carers or, even better, consider becoming one call 0800 052 0078 and tell them I asked you to. Or get in touch with me, please and I will be delighted to hear from you.

Seriously, one of the most important things we can do is keep our looked after children closer to their home environment to keep in touch with family, friends, and education. The least disruption to their lives the better.

And now for the political bit. The days of decent funding from central government to authorities such as ours are long gone. Each and every one of us will need to do more with less. It saddens me and I promise that I and my party will fight that at every turn. Decent funding improves and increases life chances and helps us to build a fairer, more equal society that I passionately believe in.

Becoming a councillor has made me genuinely appreciate how fortunate I am. I love calling on my past experiences to help me become involved and informed about my ward and my city.

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I hope you got involved in the Big Help Out. I hope you will also take the opportunity to find out more about Fostering. It takes many forms and there may be something that suits you and your lifestyle.

Just as importantly, I also hope you share my wish for a fairer, more equal society where some of the volunteering roles I have done or do one day no longer need to exist. We can only hope.