This article appeared in the Friday 11th October 2019 edition of the South London Press.
As some South London Press readers will already know, when I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Lewisham Deptford in 2015 I also became chair of local charity Deptford First. I could see straightaway that the charity had well-established roots in our community, but felt that it had the potential to be even better.
Deptford First was formed as a charitable trust in 1979 by then-MP John Silkin, Canon David Diamond (former Rector of Deptford) and Roger Norman (former editor of the South East London Mercury).
When John died in 1987 his successor, Dame Joan Ruddock, became chair until she stood down from Parliament in 2015.
The trust has always sought to support local initiatives and to assist individuals who have fallen through the gaps in what the state and other organisations can provide. We also seek to bring together the people and organisations who support our community via networking and information sharing. There is no doubt that John, Dame Joan and the other trustees did a huge amount of good over several decades, but by the time I took over its activities had started to wind down.
Instead of perhaps recommending that Deptford First had run its course, I saw an opportunity to build on its solid foundations. Since 2015 I have recruited an excellent new team of trustees who have been helping me to reinvigorate the charity and we have recently launched our first big funding project, the Community Chest Fund.
Through the fund we are working with partner organisations – currently 999 Club, Deptford Reach, Bench Outreach and Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network – to provide small grants to local people who cannot access help through other channels. Each grant is used to fund a specific, one-off expense, such as money to travel to a job interview, winter coats for children or money towards white goods for a newly rehoused family.
We want to ensure that Deptford First is a consistent and sustainable source of funding, so we are asking people to sign up for regular monthly donations. Even as little as £2 a month could make a big difference to someone’s life. One-off donations are of course also very welcome, but we are encouraging people to give a smaller amount more regularly if they can.
Years of austerity and cuts to local government funding have taken a huge toll on our community and left many of my constituents in financial hardship. Our hope is that we will be able to generate support for the local community from the local community by asking residents to support their neighbours in need.
If you would like to find out more about the charity, read some of our case studies or make a donation, please visit www.deptfordfirst.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.