The Politically Speaking column with Tracy Brabin MP

Community Cycling: Here I am pictured visiting Streetbikes at Spenborough Running Track.
Community Cycling: Here I am pictured visiting Streetbikes at Spenborough Running Track.

I was distressed to learn recently that a vital free service in combatting loneliness and isolation in north Kirklees is facing difficulties.

It was brought to my attention after a constituent called my office for help in getting to St James’s Hospital to visit her husband who is battling cancer.

Being partially sighted, she is unable to travel alone and is concerned she will not be able to navigate the hospital’s labyrinth corridors unaided.

Various phone calls led us to Kirklees Connections, a National Lottery funded charity whose Batley and Spen arm operate out of Jo Cox House. And while they are one of the few places that offer a lifeline volunteer driver service that many people rely on, they are really struggling and describe their services as “at risk”.

Attracting volunteers is their main issue, and alongside a lack of funding for their travel companions, it is beginning to have a serious impact.

Their befriending service is also struggling with a “drastic” fall in volunteer numbers over the summer months.

Since they launched the service in November last year, they have matched 65 volunteers with a friend – that’s 65 lives significantly improved.

This type of service, as their oldest user who is 103 will no doubt attest, is absolutely vital in combating loneliness and bringing friendship to those who society has forgotten. For some, it provides the only human contact they get.

At a time when local councils are facing unprecedented Government funding cuts and libraries and other community resources are under threat, there are fewer places for people to go and the voluntary sector is increasingly having to take up the slack.

That’s why it’s more important than ever that we all play our role in defeating a hidden epidemic that affects 9 million people throughout the UK.

All Kirklees Connections are asking for is people who can spare as little as one hour per week of their time.

As manager Christine says: “That one hour can make a huge difference to someone’s whole life.”

To find out more about how to volunteer, or if you know someone who could benefit from the service, call 01484 415465 or email christine.wilson@yccuk.org.uk

While we’re on the subject of fantastic charities, I was delighted to discover this week that the amazing Spen-based Streetbikes has made it to the final of the National Lottery Awards.

For the uninitiated, Streetbikes is a community group who use recycled bikes to encourage people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to get into cycling.

Having seen first-hand what they do for people who would likely never get the chance to ride a bike, I really can’t sing their praises loud enough.

To ballot closes on July 27th, so if you want to support Streetbikes you’d better get in quick at http://www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards/health

To see what it’s all about for yourself, Streetbikes are at the Spenborough Running Track each Saturday and always welcome new faces.