COLUMN: The Big Society - return to the world of my childhood

Stephen Phillips MP.
Stephen Phillips MP.
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Our latest column by Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Stephen Phillips:

A couple of weeks ago, I paid an interesting and extremely worthwhile visit to the new Alternatives Pregnancy Advice Centre on Boston Road. Pregnancy and sexual health is something that many of us, including me, find difficulty in talking about with our own children. I know that many parents, teachers and carers also find it a difficult issue to discuss with young people generally.

These are, however, some of the most important things which those growing into adults – but not quite there yet – need to know about. Unplanned pregnancies; decisions to become sexually active too young; the pressure to have a baby before you are ready; all can change lives forever.

Our new centre in Sleaford is not there to take the place of parents or guardians, as the staff made clear to me. It is there to give advice and support to young Sleafordians who might find it difficult talking to those with parental responsibility about these things. Without the support which the centre is able to offer, they run the risk of making bad choices with long-term consequences. Although counselling and advice should be handled very carefully, I am therefore very supportive of the work which Angeline Hennessy-Thompson and her team do.

All of them are volunteers of course, giving up their time to try to help our young people. I am fortunate in meeting many people like that across the constituency. Teachers, who give up their time after school to run the sort of clubs to which I had access to when I was growing up, parents who run football teams to ensure that kids don’t just spend their time in front of the box, whole communities who support village facilities, like the swimming pool at Billinghay, which simply wouldn’t exist without their efforts.

Two years ago, at the election, my party talked about the Big Society. People asked me what it meant then, and some still do now. I can’t really explain it any better than anyone else, other than to say that it’s a return to the world which I recognised as a child. But I also tell people not to worry too much, since it seems to me that it’s the sort of world that we have here in and around Sleaford. A world where people aren’t just out for themselves, but where they have a genuine desire to help their community be a better place.