May 2016
Family Charity Service
Picture, GARAS Director
Twice a year our Family Service focuses on a donation to a charity, one local and one international. Sunday 8th May saw this year's focus on a local charity, GARAS, Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, and we were lucky to have their director, Adele Owen, with us to tell us about them. Adele pointed out that although we hear in the media of many millions affected by fighting, we need to remember that each account is a family or individual and she gave us examples of several they've helped. (Return to top)

She told us of one father, a trained civil engineer, who had to travel between war-torn Alleppo in Syria and the British Embassy Libya many times to make an asylum application to the UK. When it was granted he had to travel back to Libya again to get the papers, then return to Alleppo to make all the travel arrangements from a war-torn area within 28 days or lose the permission. GARAS met him in the UK and found him lodgings and a job as a civil engineer in Wales. They also helped him subsequently get permission for his wife and children to join him and make the travel arrangements for them through the Red Cross. (Return to top)

She told us of frequent visits from Gloucester to Standsted Airport, sometimes several times a week, to receive people and bring them back to facilities arranged for them in Gloucester. One involved a young child who gave her a hand-drawn poster of thanks which she displayed, and another was a small child for whom they provided a 'Woody' puppet from Disney's Toy story to help normalise his new environment in Gloucester. They help refugees settle and find work as well as providing English lessons. (Return to top)

Men's Breakfast
Picture, Men at Breakfast
Our last Mens Breakfast in March had raised the difficult question of how much of the available NHS budget for drugs should be spent on one or two individuals to prolong their life for a relatively short time, compared to using that money to save more people for longer. This month, as a rare follow-up, we invited as our guest a local member of parliament, Bill Wiggin, to give us the political point of view. (Return to top)

Bill explained that it's a very difficult question because we all want to preserve life wherever we can, especially if it's our own or a near relative, but unfortunately there's a limit to how much money (and other resources) is available so someone has to decide how to ration it. He suggested that's best done by doctors rather than politicians, so its important that politicians work to ensure we have the facilities for training and keeping the best doctors. He suggested that argument applies to nearly all other aspects of life. For example, the market for newly trained workers including doctors is now world-wide. Many newly trained workers are tempted to go off to other counties where they can earn much more than in the UK, so politicians need to focus on keeping us safe and legislating in ways that help improve people's standard of living to retain our workers. (Return to top)

Bill is on record as declaring he would vote to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum, so it wasn't surprising that he quoted as an example a doorstep visit he made at the last General Election to a voter who said he wasn't voting for Bill but for the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Asked why, the voter cited immigration from the EU. When asked to explain more, the voter said workers from poorer EU countries work harder than him and accept lower pay than him, so they threaten his standard of living and UKIP are in favour of withdrawing from the EU to reduce such immigration. (Return to top)

We also asked Bill what had happened to 'The Big Society' that he'd explained on his last visit to us at the start of the last coalition government. He said the present government still welcomed the involvement of charities in public services, their bidding for contracts would be welcome, but charities don't usually have enough money to offer to take on big projects. (Return to top)