Thursday, 8 April 2010

Small Businesses and Domestic Violence

What an interesting day!
This morning was a meeting with the Federation of Small Businesses, with a wide ranging discussion covering Gordon’s proposed NI (that is National Insurance, not Northern Ireland) increase, aka a tax on jobs, to the iniquities of our planning system which is in urgent need of reform, to the gap there is in government support for business between the start up businesses and the INI emphasis on particular sectors including export. A lot of ideas were exchanged across the table; this is how formulation of government policies can be responsive to the needs of people, in this case small businesses, some of which can grow. We should not forget that Randox, one of our major pharmaceutical employers grew out of a young student’s PHD thesis.

In the afternoon we brought Theresa May and Owen Paterson to Antrim to meet with Womens Aid, who do great work with victims of domestic abuse. I thought I was well aware of all the facts and figures in this area, after many years of work in the Equality and Human Rights Commissions; but all of us present were chilled by the detailed statistics on domestic abuse of older people. We need joined up government where statutory agencies and the voluntary sector can work together fully and funding can be sorted on a less piecemeal basis.

And then I and my team spent the evening knocking doors in Lagan Valley – some of them were handing out leaflets at railway stations from early morning – and the footmiles are mounting up. One encounter that touched me was a gentleman, not young, but not old, a little careworn, who was at his car in his driveway: he took my leaflet with politeness, but no enthusiasm. He pointed to his jacket lying in his boot and said ‘I’ve been wearing that jacket too long.’ We need a change of government to bring regeneration of the economy and get jobs back for people who want to work.

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