With the Westminster Parliament still in Summer recess, it has been a good opportunity to get out and about over the past few weeks visiting various organisations and groups within the constituency and attending a number of community events. The recent weather has certainly made that an even more enjoyable undertaking than working away from Westminster normally is.
I say ‘enjoyable’ because engaging with community groups invariably is precisely that. By definition, you are meeting with individuals or groups who are highly committed and motivated in all that they are doing, notwithstanding the fact that, sometimes, the information which is imparted at such visits can sometimes give pause for thought or even be quite harrowing.
One such visit I made recently was to the Inverurie Foodbank in support of their ‘End Hunger in Aberdeenshire’ campaign. They are lobbying for change to make sure everyone has enough money for the essentials we all need, while providing emergency support for those in crisis.
Sadly, it’s a service where demand is increasing due to the current Cost-of-Living crisis. It’s a sobering thought that while the general perception of the North-east is that we are a relatively prosperous region, there are not only pockets of deprivation, but there is now a very real and increasing general need for such support among our communities.
I also paid a visit to the North-west Aberdeenshire Citizens’ Advice Bureau to meet the team there and hear from them at first hand of the issues and challenges they deal with on behalf of clients. In a typical month, through their efforts they manage to save around £100,000-£150,000 for their clients, through maximising benefit incomes and minimising financial outgoings. That’s a huge amount for a small area of the North-east, but the hard work of the team there provides a lifeline for those who seek their help.
As I said in my last column, so I won’t dwell on the point here, highly-respected figures such as Martin Lewis have described the current situation as “a national crisis” and while we wait for the UK Government to come out of its self-imposed paralysis of the current Conservative Leadership contest, I shall continue to do what I can to get direct and practical support for those who need it.
Elsewhere around the constituency, I was honoured to give a speech at the 100th anniversary event held by the Friends of Insch Hospital. It was a very well attended event which underlined just how important the hospital is to the local community. I have indicated my very strong support to the Health Secretary and NHS Grampian for the hospital as well as for the proposals drawn up by the Friends of Insch Hospital to restore inpatient beds on a near-term basis. I hope that these proposals are ones which will be able to be taken forward by NHS Grampian.
I was also able to drop by Huntly Fire Station and meet those involved in the humanitarian effort to take fire appliances which are no longer in use here across to Ukraine. It was great to hear about the work first-hand and to know just how much it is valued by the recipients of the equipment.
If you need help from the foodbank, or are in a position to donate or volunteer, please get in touch via Aberdeenshire North Foodbank | Helping Local People in Crisis