It was a great pleasure to join Volunteer Cornwall at the annual volunteer of the year award celebration. It was great to see volunteers of all ages and abilities being celebrated for their work in the community. I was as ever astonished at the sheer range of voluntary work that takes place in Cornwall, from cultural and educational activities to help and support offered to vulnerable people in their homes or in hospital.
Listening to the contribution that those nominated have made was both inspiring and humbling.
I can't think of an aspect of our lives in Cornwall that volunteers are not involved, particularly supporting our vital public services. From monitoring CCTV cameras in town centres to working alongside staff at the Royal Cornwall Hospital to being first responders at a road traffic accident or if someone collapses in the street, volunteers are at the forefront of community safety. Volunteers are also the backbone of community sport, in clubs in every corner of Cornwall, encouraging and supporting children and adults to reach their potential. The whole column could be taken up with examples!
Last year and again this summer I spent time with the volunteers of the future, local young people, from all backgrounds and parts of Cornwall taking part in the National Citizenship Service programme. Every one of the young people I met found it a thoroughly challenging and worthwhile programme and were proud of what they achieved. Some have already started regular volunteering as a result of their National Citizenship Service experiences, all had learned more about how to work together to make a positive contribution to their community.
Volunteering need not be a regular commitment over a long period of time. As the winter nights are drawing in and temperatures are dropping, it is very important that we all prepare for winter and help our neighbours and friends who might need a helping hand to do so. Especially, elderly neighbours and friends, many of whom might be worried about recent increases in energy bills. Some may also feel isolated.
During the many years I have worked with the wartime generation, I have observed how difficult it can be to persuade those that most need it to take the help that is available. Every year, many millions of pounds of benefits go unclaimed. There is much scaremongering in some parts of the national media about changes to benefits that I am very concerned that it is putting some people off from finding out what they are entitled to. So you can help family members, neighbours or friends, I have produced a guide to what is help available. This information can be obtained by calling my office on 1872 274 760. CAB Cornwall offer benefits advice and can be contacted on 08444 99 41 88.
While last week I cautiously welcomed the better news about our economy, and do believe we have turned a corner, I very much appreciate what a tough winter this will be for many of my constituents.