John Ross If we all give a little it can add up to a real difference
The recent changing of the clocks brought a welcome extra hour of sleep, but it also highlighted the fact that “the nights are fair drawin’ in” as winter quickly descends upon us.
For many people these dark nights with their autumn celebrations, such as Halloween and Bonfire Night can be really good fun, and with the big two - Christmas and New Year - just around the corner, it does help take the sting out of those chilly winter nights.
At my age, I think I would have been pushing it if I had gone ‘trick or treating’, but I enjoyed having local children call in to tell their oneliner jokes, some of which seem to have been around forever.
I love watching fireworks at any time and even though the kids are grown up I can’t wait to cover the front of the house with Christmas lights. (Truth be known, I would keep them up all year round if my wife would let me).
I still get excited to see what Santa has brought me on Christmas Day, and the chance to share presents, good food and quality time with family and friends means everything to me.
In fact, I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to enjoy all of these celebrations to the full. But not everyone can.
There are large numbers of our fellow citizens who find day-to-day living a constant battle, and it’s those less fortunate that I would urge you to consider as we enter what can be, for some, the hardest of seasons, both physically and mentally.
This includes low-income working families and those on benefits, and in too many cases their problems have been exacerbated by the introduction and roll out of Universal Credit, which has led to many recipients having to wait more than six weeks before payments are made.
I know very few people from any group in society that would have enough savings to keep going for that length of time with no income.
The latest news that 30,000 disabled people could lose their entitlement to non-meanstested benefits, with those worst affected losing benefits of more than £7000 if disallowed for PIP, is devastating and will only increase the number of people who will face even further hardship, through no fault of their own.
Between April and June of this year councils had received 42,005 applications for crisis grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund, and families with children account for more than a third of those applications.
As we approach winter and the festive season, this will bring more unbearable challenges to many families. The need for warm clothing to combat the severe weather, and increases in heating and lighting costs, will see many resorting to food banks simply to survive.
Food banks are already supplying shortterm energy meter tokens for families who are unable to take food which needs to be heated as they cannot afford both.
It is hard to imagine the mental anguish of parents who can’t afford to provide even the simplest of pleasures for their children, and meanwhile society every day churns out adverts which show a lifestyle few will ever enjoy.
But we can all help ease the pain for many of these families. Food banks will gladly accept donations of a whole range of consumer items, and if everyone adds a couple of products to our weekly shops, it soon mounts up and makes a very real difference.
Many food banks are also accepting toy donations and local faith organisations will also accept toys and games, as will the Salvation Army and Goodwill as well as shelters, day care centres, hospitals and children’s homes.
Our police and fire services, and a whole range of charity shops, also accept clothing donations.
Everyone in society benefits from all of us taking care of each other, and most of us have needed a helping hand at some time in our lives.
What better way to repay those who have helped us than by offering support to others in their own time of need?
We can all help ease the pain for many families, it soon mounts up and makes a very real difference . . .
Concerns Councillor John Ross