Caroline Kenyon

CarolineKenyon

Caroline is the parliamentary spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Lincoln. She stood as they party's candidate in the 2017 general election in the city.


I have been speaking to Simon Hoare, CEO of ACTS, who told me: “One lady who usually donates food to Lincoln Food Bank in her weekly shop, never ever thought she would be in a situation where she would need help herself. A lot of people who have never had to use a food banks before, are having to do so.”

Some may know I am in London for the duration of the lockdown, caring for my 90 year old mother. I am missing Lincoln badly – what a lovely surprise it was on VE Day to see the Red Arrows overhead. A wonderful reminder of home.

It was very good to catch up with with the indefatigable Simon Hoare on the phone yesterday. Some may know Simon and his briliant team at the Alive Church which runs Lincoln Food Bank and countless projects to support those with least in our community, always in such a constructive way.

Lockdown poses so many problems for people, but especially for those on very low incomes who have relied on food banks in the past, or who suddenly find themselves out of work as a result of business closures.

Demand is running high. In April, Lincoln Food Bank gave away 10 tonnes of food, signifcantly more than normal, and that was from their own food stocks.

However, they have seized the nettle.

“People get referred by agencies to food banks by a paper referral form,” explains Simon. “Those agencies’ doors are shut, so where do they go? Key workers can’t give you a paper form when everyone is working from home.”

They realised they needed to create an online system which would be paperless and contactless. “We did that in the first week of lockdown – I learned a lot about coding! I did have a tremendous amount of help from some very clever people.”

Food collection at the Lincoln Mosque

Another good outcome has been the collaboration with other food banks – Community Larder and Lincoln Food Bank decided to work in partnership and operate more closely, as well as Lincoln Central Mosque’s new food bank which is also using the online referral system.

“The city council has been brilliant too,” says Simon, “they opened up the phone lines so if people are in need, they can ring and the council will fill out their online referral for them.”

Another challenge was how to get the food to people. “In the old way, they would come to the Food Bank to pick it up. That’s fine if you’re allowed out of the house but there are many who are self-isolating or shielding and also have no money. If you’ve no money, can’t get out of the house and have no one who can deliver. So we’ve started a delivery service and in the first 25 days, 40% of food parcels had to be delivered.”

Luckily, last year Lincs Van Hire had very kindly donated a van on a long lease. “The city council has also seconded vans in the afternoons and Dial A Ride has been helping too.

“What’s been amazing is the number of individuals and businesses who have said to us, what can we do?”

Simon describes how they have been able to help one family.

“Through befriending phonecalls once a week, we learned their income had severely dropped and that they were struggling. The parents were very worried about how they were going to feed their children. We’ve been able to help with food when otherwise they would have gone hungry. One of their sons is at a critical stage with his studies and had no laptop. With a few calls, we got him a donated laptop. Now he can study at home.”

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Caroline Kenyon is the Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Lincoln

Caroline is the parliamentary spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Lincoln. She stood as they party's candidate in the 2017 general election in the city.

I agree with Karl. That made you sit up! Well, I ALMOST agree with him – he says this election is about more than Brexit. Let me tweak that a little – this election SHOULD be about more than Brexit.

You will not be surprised to learn that we diverge completely after that. His assertion that Parliament has blocked Brexit is 100% untrue. Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement was passed on the second reading by a majority of 40! It was his own choice to pull it and go for an election.

So here we all are again, poor old Brenda from Bristol must be in despair. And in the absence of a People’s Vote, this general election is turning into a proxy referendum, however much politicians from Labour and Conservative talk about the NHS or housing or education.

Because the massive elephant in the room in this debate has to be Brexit. All the lavish spending commitments made by both parties might as well be written with bonfire night sparklers.

The government’s own analysis shows that Johnson’s ‘deal’ which is actually just a divorce will take a huge 6.9% off our GDP (that’s the nation’s ‘turnover’).

If you think austerity has been bad, indeed, it’s been agonising for many – and I fully acknowledge that mistakes were made in this regard by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition – it will seem like a walk in the park by comparison with what could be coming our way.

And we could still, after all this wrangling and toing and froing, end up with the horrific prospect of No Deal next year when the so-called transition period runs out.

So let’s make it really simple. Let’s press the stop button, remove ourselves from the black hole of Brexit which has sucked so much energy and joyfulness from our great country and take stock of what needs fixing, nationally and in Lincoln. Then let’s roll up our sleeves and get on with it.

When I stood in the 2017 election, I think many thought I’d disappear off afterwards. But I didn’t. I’ve got stuck in, founded the Lincoln Food Summit to help tackle practical issues relating to food poverty, helped a number of local campaigns from Stop Veolia and the proposed animal rendering plant in Skellingthorpe, got involved with the Business School at the University and also working on a very exciting new tourism project for the city.

As an entrepreneur, I’m a doer, otherwise I’m not in business. I will bring my energy and commitment to this wonderful city. Thee are so many things I want to do. I want to focus on the economy, bringing investment to Lincoln, generating great quality jobs where people are properly remunerated and feel valued.

I want to make Lincoln a place that doctors and nurses want to come to – we have some of the hardest to fill vacancies in the NHS nationally – so that people can access the help they need, so that, for example, children with anorexia don’t need to go hundreds of miles from home for treatment.

I want to inspire locals and business to come together to help make Lincoln a greener, more environmentally friendly place to live and work.

If we leave on the 31st of January, it’s only the end of the beginning. Switzerland has been negotiating with the EU since 1971. What a legacy for our grandchildren.

So let’s come together and exercise our democratic choice to start to do all these things we want to do to make the country a better place – for everyone.

Caroline is the parliamentary spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Lincoln. She stood as they party's candidate in the 2017 general election in the city.

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