During a year of extreme stress to our local economy and society I have been inspired by the way people in Wiltshire have pulled together. Neighbours and friends, charities and churches, town councils and businesses have mobilised and cooperated to help the isolating and the vulnerable.
The end is in sight for the virus itself but the economic and social damage of the pandemic and the lockdowns will be long-lasting. This damage will exacerbate the profound social problems we already have in Wiltshire - often out of sight, but no less real for that. Too many people in our towns and villages are lonely, struggling with addiction or debt, facing unemployment or mental ill-health. Too many families are breaking up. Too many children are victims of neglect and abuse. Too many older people are isolated or poorly cared for. And too many young people are anxious - stressed by social media, tempted by drugs, worried about their exams and their future employment.
To tackle these challenges, we need more than government action to restore the economy and support public services. We need to maintain the community spirit which has marked the crisis so far. And we need to strengthen the professional support that is available to people in crisis - the charities that provide specialist advice and help on the range of challenges that people face.
As the MP for Devizes, Marlborough, Pewsey, and all the towns and villages round about, I want to help create a new source of financial support for the projects that help local people to help each other. I have asked the Wiltshire Community Foundation to establish a new Fund - the Devizes Constituency Community Fund - which will receive donations from people in the constituency, and direct the money to local projects. The DCCF is a non-partisan initiative, initiated by me as the MP not as a party politician.
The first local project we hope to support is Love Devizes - the successor organisation to the Devizes Covid19 Support Group which played such a major role during the national lockdown last summer. You can read more about Love Devizes on its Facebook page here.
I hope you will feel moved to support the Devizes Constituency Community Fund Appeal, which seeks to raise money for Love Devizes and other local causes. Visit https://localgiving.org/appeal/DCCFund for more information.