West Briton column 21 February 2013

Last Summer saw over one hundred thousand London 2012 Games Makers, including many from Cornwall, help ensure that the world saw the UK at is best. New figures indicate that their volunteering may leave a further lasting legacy- more and more people are now freely giving up their time to help others.

Figures released by the Cabinet Office last week show that the proportion of people volunteering at least once a year has increased from 65% in 2010-11 to 71% in 2012. The number of people volunteering regularly has risen by 9%. This equates to millions more people volunteering across the country. As usual, the South West is leading the way, with an above national average 9% increase in volunteering over the same time period.

I have the privilege of working closely with many voluntary groups who everyday make a difference to the lives of others, and last week was able to join local volunteers highlighting one of the most pressing issues we have to deal with as a society, and as a world- violence against women and girls. As part of the global ‘One Billion rising’ campaign the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (WRSAC) Cornwall organised a flashmob outside Truro Cathedral on Valentine’s Day which saw hundreds of local people come together to dance to highlight gender-based violence. I was delighted to join in and pay tribute to the local women, and men, who work to support all those affected by violence against women and girls and campaign tirelessly to raise awareness of victims here and around the world. I am pleased that as a result of the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Teresa May’s personal leadership, Home Office funding is being provided to core services to support victims of rape and sexual violence.

The sexualisation and exploitation of children, especially girls is a very real problem here and we can all play our part in preventing it from happening. It is particularly important for parents, carers and teachers to inform themselves of the risks and take steps to prevent harm.

In Parliament I and a group of colleagues work to raise awareness of the issues and take action. Last year, I was pleased to help amendments to the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 pass into law, which will make it easier for the police to prosecute individuals who abuse children and vulnerable adults as well as increasing sentences for perpetrators. The Government’s cross-departmental action plan to tackle violence against women and girls, was developed utilising experience of local police officers and charities in Cornwall. Full details of the action plan can be found through http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime/violence-against-women-girls/strategic-vision/

I will continue to work on these issues alongside the first class police and Cornwall Council teams, charities and volunteers that are striving to better protect women and girls. Given the passion, commitment and now growing numbers of the volunteers campaigning against sexual violence in all forms, I am hopeful we can start to really make a difference.


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