2017 is going to be an interesting year for Community Lincs as we struggle with the questions what should we be doing and how are we going to pay for it. This is our 90th year and it feels as if our services and skills are going to be in more demand than ever before. Helping self-reliant and compassionate people to set up Good Neighbours Schemes, commissioning new services to reduce the isolation experienced by older people and working with communities to plan for their future economic and social needs are all massively relevant right now. Particularly in rural Lincolnshire where it’s so hard to access services and jobs; and now with the Brexit referendum having thrown so much up in the air I fear that the needs of rural communities will become even harder to see.
We recently surveyed our service users and beneficiaries to assess what they knew about us and how they valued us and I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed by the response. It wasn’t so much that they didn’t appreciate and value what we do, it was more that so few people took the time to let us know what they thought. I have to consider whether this was because they really didn’t like what we were doing but were too polite to say or whether it was because we just don’t figure largely enough in their universe, when I really think that we should.
I certainly do, I love having my children near me, all the good food and wine, time off from work to relax and a bit of peace and tranquillity. But it hasn’t always been so and I appreciate every privilege that I have in my life now. I was reflecting on this recently having read a post on a friend’s Facebook profile which read thus:
Some thoughts as we enter the holiday season. It is important to remember that not everyone is looking forward to Christmas. Some people are not surrounded by large wonderful families. Some people can’t buy their kids one present never mind a full living room or some people will get into debt trying. Some of us have problems during the holidays and are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. For many it is their first Christmas without a particular loved one and many others lost loved ones at Christmas. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now.
Last week we welcomed over 100 business women to the second Women’s Enterprise Day #WED_EM16. The event was once again held in the splendid Belton Woods Hotel and we were all thoroughly spoiled – by the speakers as well as the food. Delegates at the Global Entrepreneurship Week event were encouraged to make the most of the packed day, which featured six high-flying speakers, nine special workshops, a “living library” of experts, artisan trade stands, networking and lunch.
Keynote speaker Lincolnshire Co-op Chief Executive Officer Ursula Lidbetter MBE, who was recently presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Lincolnshire Business Awards kicked-off an inspirational day.
The EU referendum, austerity budgets and the associated reassessment of whose responsibility it is to deliver different services and support has led to uncertain times for the voluntary sector, including Community Lincs. Our own annual grant from the County Council was pulled this year as a direct result of this turbulence and we have found it increasingly difficult to win funds from the Lottery and other trusts and foundations. This has added extra weight to our regular review of current delivery and plans for the future.
As a local charity we have reflected the needs of Lincolnshire’s communities for nearly 90 years. Our aim has always been to help local people to help themselves through advice, training, practical support and connection with the powers that be. This approach is very effective at creating confident people and connected communities and has led to all sorts of locally provided volunteer based services such as Good Neighbours’ Schemes, Community run swimming pools and hundreds of effectively run Community Buildings.
I have been mulling over what to write about for quite a while now and looking back at my previous blog posts it’s clear that it’s usually something that is relevant to me personally. This being the case I cannot get away from the thing that I have been trying to avoid for fear of saying the wrong thing – the EU referendum.
Everywhere you look you see the great and good extolling the virtues of the EU followed by others saying it’s the worst thing since the Third Reich; and in between all there appears to be is a lot of mud-slinging and spurious ‘facts’. How on earth is any sensible person supposed to come to an informed decision on something of such monumental importance? The outcome of this referendum will have reverberations that go on for generations and the best that our politicians can do is call each other liars and belittle the integrity and intelligence of the population.