in Community Safety

The point of councils (and politics): 1. Making a difference

I hadn't wet myself, honest. It was the sponges.

With all the negativity around politics at the moment I can easily forgive people who think we’re all as bad as each other and in it for ourselves. And with that attitude, it’s easy to start wondering why on earth I still persist in my politician-lite role as a councillor – unlike Stephen Byers it has never given me the opportunity to earn £5,000 a day and never will. But if I was wavering then last Saturday was a superb illustration of why it’s worth doing what I do.

The council and partners hosting a Junior Citizen ‘fun-day’ for young carers at Battersea Fire Station on Este Road. I’ve written about Junior Citizen before, and it is incredibly well-developed in Wandsworth. We’ve been running Safer Citizen for a few years and this, we believe, is the first scheme aimed at young carers.

There are 170 young carers registered in Wandsworth, that is, 170 people under the age of 18 who have some responsibility for caring for a family member. There are probably a few thousand more who aren’t registered. And it’s quite humbling for the vast majority of us who never have to think about a caring responsibility until well into adulthood to think of those children who are taking on responsibility far beyond their years.

Me, by one of the young carers!

The day on Saturday was for carers aged 5-10 (and yes, there are five year olds taking on that sort of role) and along with the usual Junior Citizen safety scenarios, teaching the children how to keep themselves and their homes safe, there was an element of fun. So the children did some cooking, saw a simulated fire rescue from the tower and got to throw wet sponges and try and soak some of the volunteer firefighters (and one unfortunate councillor, who at least got to dress as a firefighter and got a picture of me out of the deal).

And it the day the children were given wasn’t enough, the work of all the people involved topped it. Although it was council funded (and supported by some incredibly dedicated and able officers) it was supported by the Fire Brigade, who assisted with premises and huge numbers of firefighters and senior officers, the Metropolitan Police, who sent along plenty of SNT officers (and police cadets) so the children could meet their local team, the Ambulance Service and plenty of volunteers.

And that’s the point of councils, and politics, the opportunity to make a real difference.

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