'Poverty is on the increase,' warns Leeds welfare chief

The local welfare board chief executive outlined the problems it is encountering at the charity's dinner


Times have never been more challenging for Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, chief executive Liz Bradbury told its 140th anniversary dinner on Sunday at the city’s Reuben Vincent Hall.

“Poverty is on the increase and many in our society don’t have enough money to get by on,” Ms Bradbury told 240 LJWB supporters.

“We know tomorrow is not the same as yesterday and the past cannot predict the future. But if our past is anything to go by, we will have continued success.”

She described the welfare board as “one community working together with over 150 staff and 220 volunteers, hoping to make a difference and change lives”.

Noting the growing demand for services, LJWB fundraising director Jonathan Straight added that, at a time when many communal organisations were struggling, “we are celebrating because we can.

“Our strategy is to prevent extremes and crisis and to empower everyone in our community who is in need. We are no longer about hand-outs, today we are about hand-ups.”

Service user Becky Teiger-Marcus recalled contacting the welfare board four years ago to ask for help.

She had lived with a compulsive disorder all her adult life and in 2012, a combination of work issues and personal problems triggered a massive flare-up of symptoms, leaving her unable to work and incapable of looking after herself — a prisoner in her own home.

Within hours of making the call, a mental health leader came to her home, assuring her she would be supported with professionalism and confidentiality, a promise that was kept. 

“I was treated with dignity and respect and empowered to help myself get better,” she said.

Keynote speaker Michael Portillo, the former Tory minister turned broadcaster, said politics and TV were his dual ambitions as a boy.

“I remember being very impressed by David Frost when he came to my sixth form at Harrow County School for Boys. He’d led a very glamorous life and I was quite interested in people who made documentaries.”

On working with Margaret Thatcher, he said: “On the upside, no one was more stimulating — she was on fire all the time, a dynamo, a revolutionary. She could also be very unreasonable. I didn’t mind if she yelled at me. However, we all stood up to her and she liked that. She loved a good row.” 

After she stepped down as leader, the party was “completely rudderless, drifting and afloat”.

Mr Portillo said Theresa May had been “very bold to call the general election — and bold for her to come from an audience with the Queen and stand in Downing Street and reject the interference by the European institutions in the British election. There are echoes of Margaret Thatcher in that boldness.

“On the other hand, May was a believer in Remain and now she’s leading us to Brexit. In Thatcher’s case you would never have found that she had one opinion one day and a different opinion on the same subject the next.”

But he did not think too heavily in political terms nowadays. “I’m too busy making railway programmes.”

The dinner raised £50,000  towards LJWB’s general budget. “To keep the charity going each year we need to raise £1.2 million to break even beyond our statutory income,” Ms Bradbury said.

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