Five things Boris must do to help Suffolk charities

Boris Johnson took over as prime minister on Wednesday. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA

Boris Johnson took over as prime minister on Wednesday. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA - Credit: PA

Suffolk’s Deborah Watson has recently started Wednesday’s Child, a new social enterprise to help those with experience of eating disorders. Here, she outlines key ways new prime minister Boris Johnson can help the county’s charities.

Debbie Watson has launched Wednesdays Child to help those struggling with mental health. Picture: W

Debbie Watson has launched Wednesdays Child to help those struggling with mental health. Picture: Warren Page - Credit: Archant

Here beginneth a new chapter.

Beyond the campaigning, the conversation and the competitive pitching, now we face a new era in which Boris Johnson takes the role of prime minister.

Whatever your views on his political stance on Brexit and, indeed, what you might have felt about Theresa May's effectiveness during her tenure, it's time now to look forward - and to be clear about our aspirations for the road ahead.

If you happen to be at the helm of, or involved in, a voluntary sector organisation, that's more significant than ever.


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I take a first-hand perspective on this, having launched a social enterprise in the final few weeks of May's period in office.

Having for a long time worked in voluntary sector PR and for organisations with charitable status of national and international scale, I'm minded that we're now existing under a PM who led the Lord Mayor's Fund, and is perhaps seen as someone mindful of charities and their need.

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Is that true? Should we take that for granted?

Should we assume he's going to have any more commitment to, and knowledge of, the amazing work contributed to society by voluntary sector organisations?

Clearly, the answer is no.

I think in any walk of life, assumption is dangerous and thankfully, most of us who go into the creation of, and leadership of, voluntary and community-based organisations do so because they are absolutely resolutely committed to making change - and powering through to see this happen.

That's certainly the case with myself and Wednesday's Child.

A social enterprise, its core focus is on assisting those who are experiencing, recovering from or supporting someone with eating disorders.

It arrives into the voluntary sector space at a time when Suffolk - and indeed, many counties around the UK - are desperately struggling to meet the needs of those with eating disorders, but other mental health issues too.

The answer could on the one hand be for someone like myself to critique the healthcare system, wait for a new prime ministerial strategy,and wonder why on earth the approximate tally of 15,000 people might be contending with eating disorders in our county alone.

Instead, I believe that lived experience, carefully curated project ideas appropriate to a particular community and a real and relevant topic of need could, and should, open doors to make changes and deliver outcomes which sit alongside statutory services...however reduced they may have become.

If you listened to Wednesday's last PMQs with Theresa May, you'll have heard reference to comments like those from MP Bob Blackman, who reminded us of some of the things which had been achieved in the last three year reign, saying "prevention is better than cure".

That's a pertinent message for sure, and one which will ring in the ears of so many of us looking at what we're delivering through our organisations.

So this week, as Boris begins his tenure, I have five key requests I'm hoping of him under his chapter:

? 1 - Be unrelenting in support of Suffolk's voluntary sector organisations, who are doing so much to bridge the gap in what services are being provided and produced within society

? 2 - Give campaigning organisations and individuals with lived experience the chance to share their dialogue far and wide - ensuring mental health experiences are a topic of conversation throughout our world

? 3 - Recognise that voluntary organisations cannot maintain their incredible power and provision on love and goodwill alone. We will need the access to funds and resource to be able to deploy our valuable contribution

? 4 - Do everything possible to make sure that 'the corporate world' recognises well led, robust and credible voluntary sector enterprises as being every bit as full of talent and commercial service offerings as any PLC in today's world

? 5 - Champion the idea of a country which realises that mental health is very much a part of our world, and that kindness and compassion goes such a long way in aiding the recovery of others. One day of volunteering, one kind gesture, one commercial donation - it all matters to help us have impact in such an important space.

For more information about Wednesday's Child, feel free to email me on debbie@wednesdayschild.co.uk'Never before has the voluntary sector been more important than it is today'

Chris Abraham, chief executive of Community Action Suffolk, added: "Something which should be top of Boris Johnson's mind as he embraces his new role as prime minister, should be that never before has the voluntary sector been more important than it is today.

"Throughout Britain, and experienced throughout Suffolk in our work at Community Action Suffolk, we are seeing more people in crisis, suffering health issues, needing support, facing isolation - all things that the charity and voluntary sector are stepping up to deliver services for.

"Our arena is providing the very social connections and activities which keep people well and allow them to play a role in our society, through work, raising families, and educating young people.

"There's no doubt that it's a difficult time for the sector with regards to funding, so recognition of this should be shown by the prime minister.

"We would like to see announcements regarding the Shared Prosperity Funding as being an important option to bridge a gap which will be lost from previously used European Structural Funding.

"Local authorities will also need to look at their role in that picture. They'll need to address how they can work with the voluntary and community sector to continue to combat some of the issues society faces.

"Finally, I would want to see our government getting more behind supporting corporates to enable their staff to give time within, and for, the community.

"We should see more support for campaigns which embrace the idea of helping employees - and indeed, those throughout our society - to volunteer more easily within the networks and neighbourhoods which matter to them most."

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