When I lived in Italy I came to appreciate a commonly held view that for things to remain the same, then some things have to change. In recent weeks I have visited a number of organisations who are doing things differently in order to make sure they can continue to provide their life changing services to the most disadvantaged people in our community.
What all these local organisations have in common are a strong sense of purpose, open minds, and the ability to reach out and make common cause with other people in different types of organizations - from businesses, charities, to our much valued public services as well as private individuals.
I have a lifelong interest in trying to help homeless people back into the community. We are fortunate to have a number of organisations here who help people on this path. Volunteer groups such as the Truro Homeless Action Group, who cook breakfasts every morning for homeless people, as well as professionally led charities such as St Petroc’s, who enable people to get themselves off the street and onto the next stage of their lives. Last week I visited Glen Carne near St Agnes and saw firsthand the life transforming supported living opportunities which they provide to men of all ages on the final stage of the path, overcoming substance abuse, mental health problems or adjusting to life after prison. They do this by providing person-centred support, advice and training for the men who live and work at Glen Carne. From there, men are prepared for the next step into independent life, employment and helped to develop the self confidence that goes with contributing to society.
Some say that all people who work in businesses are only interested in making money, that companies cannot both create wealth and provide a public service, and that the private sector, in which they include not-for-profit companies, co-ops, mutuals and charities, should not provide public services. What matters to me about any organisation that seeks to provide a public service are the values of the people who work in the organisation, their accountability to the public and the quality of what they do make a positive difference.
So, as Cornwall Councillors debate the future of vitally important public services for which they are responsible, I urge them to make their decisions based on evidence and for the common good of the people of Cornwall.
Like many people from here, such as Passmore Edwards, who have had the honour of representing people in Westminster, I believe that education, employment, equality of opportunity and hope for a better future are the rungs on the ladder out of poverty. Cornwall Councillors and staff have a great deal of influence in enabling people up that ladder and I hope in the days and weeks ahead they will put personal prejudices aside, embrace healthy debate and then agree what they can do together and with all others who want to make a positive difference for people in Cornwall.