Letter: Mid Sussex not immune from austerity

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I salute the efforts of Father O’Brien, Mid Sussex is not immune from the effects of austerity.

I should like your readers to know more about how local churches support those in need at a time of austerity.

Despite living in a relatively wealthy part of the country there are now more than 10 street sleepers in Mid Sussex and hundreds who find putting food on the table a daily struggle.

We should thank those who work hard to help fellow citizens struggling to find a home, keep it and feed themselves and their families. Today St John’s Church in Burgess Hill stands out as a beacon. Through its clergy and parishioners there are people in Burgess Hill whose plight is lessened.

In a true spirit of collaboration and partnership St John’s is currently active in many ways to help people. I should like to highlight some. It operates a food bank. And this year on top of regular activity in a team including other churches, the Lions and Burgess Hill Town Council, is helping distribute over 200 food hampers this Christmas; Every Tuesday morning offers a drop in centre run by West Sussex Credit Union for people who need financial advice. This month the church will distribute over 3,000 Christmas cards and leaflets to homes in the parish to advise of the help a Credit Union can offer; Each Wednesday evening provides cookery classes, in partnership with Sussex Oakleaf, for people in assisted living or sheltered accommodation; and On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday offers low cost lunches.

The intention is to open on other days in 2015.

But it’s not a time to stand still and more assistance is planned for various groups early in 2015.Working with local agencies and traders a scheme called “Plate on a Slate” is to be introduced. Homeless people will receive a credit for a small sum to spend on a hot meal and drink over a few days.

And in action that recognises growing national concern about mental health there will be an “Awareness Week”, in alliance with other churches. This builds on the existing “Stroke Club” held on Monday afternoons. St John’s is paving the way.

Its advice on how to run a “Food Bank” is freely available on the church website and that of the Diocese of Chichester, and only recently was called upon for the establishment of a food bank in Hove.

As an individual, rather than a politician, I for one salute the efforts of Father O’Brien and his parishioners at this special time of year.

Greg Mountain

Parliamentary Candidate - Mid Sussex Constituency Labour Party