Organisations that help people get the advice they need in tough times have never been more needed. At the Reading Advice Network AGM on 9th November I was asked to give the closing remarks. Here is a summary of my speech:
“I remember meeting Richard to discuss the formation of the Reading Advice Network a few years ago and feeling that if we could get this off the ground it would be of genuine value. I think the last few years have shown why we need RAN.
We’re collectively, as a town, facing an extremely difficult situation. You don’t need me to tell you that because you’ve come from the sharp end; you know exactly what people are facing. As Councillors we also know that it’s really tough, and it’s going to get tougher. It’s really tempting in tough times, however much we try and avoid it, to retreat into our own little worlds and fight our corner. To some extent we have to fight our corners. You’re very passionate about your work; I’m very passionate about Whitley. But it’s also dangerous, because what we’re facing we can only face and get through together. If people are going to get the advice they need to get them through the next 6 months, 12 months, 2 years, however long it’s going to be, we’re going to have to pool resources; we’re going to have to pull together.
We’re all going to make mistakes. But by being together, by talking to each other, by learning from each other, I think we’ll make fewer mistakes, and we’ll have a bit of grace, a bit of forgiveness when we do make mistakes, because we’ve got that underlying goodwill, that underlying knowledge that other organisations can help.
I don’t know many other places which have an organisation like RAN – I think we’re fairly unusual. It’s a tribute to the vision of the trustees, and also the farsightedness and co-operative nature of the voluntary sector in Reading.
There are difficult times ahead, but I’d rather face them in Reading than pretty much anywhere else. That’s down in large part to our advice organisations. I’m really proud of you – thank you so much, you’re a big part of what makes Reading Reading.
There will be people who look back in six months, twelve months, a couple of years’ time and will be able to say “my life is better because I was able to get the advice I needed”. I know that’s been true for me. Some years ago my life was made much better by advice from one of the organisations in this room. It changed the trajectory for me and my family. That’s something many hundreds, probably thousands, of people are able to say. If you can keep going like that we’ve got a really good chance of coming through this with people with us, protected and supported. Ultimately, what we want is for people to thrive and enjoy life, but if you haven’t got the basics, if you haven’t got the things that advice can give you, you’ve got no chance of thriving.
So thank you for everything you do. Reading would not be the same without RAN and without your organisations.”