The parable of the Good Samaritan is a template that many people, including myself, aspire to live their lives by. This parable was told to those of us who joined the street pastors in Torquay just before we hit the streets last Friday night. This was the first time our street pastors have been out around Torquay harbourside since the pandemic hit. Street pastors are Christians who, without judging anyone, are there to support vulnerable people round the harbourside. When I’ve been out previously with them, I saw them supporting people who, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, were incapable of looking after themselves and were at risk of criminal, sexual exploitation or medical problems..
As we walked around the harbourside and the pastors engaged with the door staff, it was evident from their warm wishes how much these baseball-capped angels have been missed since the night time economy has opened up again.
During the evening, we assisted a gentleman whose mobility scooter had failed, but he somehow lacked the means of contacting a family member for assistance. While we waited for the cavalry to arrive, he recognised me as a long standing Liberal Democrat councillor and enthused about the recent Chesham and Amersham by-election result. He commented how the Liberal Democrats were now a force to be reckoned with since, if they could achieve such a massive swing in the southeast of England, surely the heartland of Liberal Democrat support in the west of England is now on course for revival.
Friday was thankfully a quiet night for the street pastors, but it is testament to this voluntary service that one of their number, Trevor Staveley, was recognised in the Queen’s honours list for services to vulnerable people and to the promotion of safer streets in Torbay.
In my taxi home, I was recognised by the taxi driver and he mentioned the positive impact having taxi rank marshals had made to the harbourside in Torquay.Tthe security staff were able to impose their presence on the rank and reduce the amount of queue jumping and flash point for fights.
Living with a physical sensory or learning disability has its challenges, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fulfilling life and contribute to society. I am registered blind myself and occasionally face discrimination and have challenges undertaking many activities that other people take for granted. I hope this gives me a unique perspective in being able to empathise with people with other disabilities.
It can be difficult for some people to understand the challenges other people experience if you don’t have a disability yourself. National events like Learning Disability Week help to raise awareness of the issues faced by those with disabilities.
A host of coordinated events were taking place in Torbay last week to link in with the national event and to celebrate the work and the services provided to support people with learning disabilities in our communities. Events such as gardening workshops, drama performances and music sessions took place across the Bay thanks to the collaborative efforts of a number of local community and voluntary organisations. It was a tremendous way of enabling people with learning disabilities, their families and those who support and work with them to come together to meet or make new connections.