Since standing as a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate in 2010, I have worked with charities and social enterprises supporting some of the UK's most vulnerable people. These outstanding organisations help homeless people move into accommodation, employment, education and training, rehabilitate offenders, support people who have been long term unemployed into work and help children in care find their forever families. What's strikes me about the EU Referendum debate is how little has been talked about how the EU helps us be a kinder and stronger society and country.
Every year, the EU spends over €1.5 billion in the UK tackling disadvantage and spreading opportunity through the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund targeting areas of deprivation and real need. This vital funding has created real social change; for example, between 2007 and 2015, 521,000 people who are long term unemployed have been helped into jobs and 533,000 disadvantaged young people have been helped to enter employment, education or training. In 2005, after the collapse of MG Rover, the EU helped fund an emergency job-finding taskforce for the 6,000 staff made redundant.
Over the next five years, EU funding will help people into employment, support the disabled, ethnic minorities and ex-offenders and help people into apprenticeships. Examples of projects funded include the Bad Boys Bakery helping inmates in Brixton Prison become bakers when they are released around and Social Farming which is a rural project helping change the lives of people living with disabilities.
As employees, the EU has helped us too; it's given us the right to not work more than 48 hours a week, it's enabled men and women to have equal pay and it has ensured that workers have holiday pay.
Not only has the EU helped us build a kind and strong society at home, it helps us build friendships with countries who were once our enemies. Europe is historically the continent that has most been at war; virtually every decade before the EU was founded, a European country was at war with another. Winston Churchill said that our task was to "re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom." Europe has been at peace for the last fifty years and the EU has also seen the end of dictatorships across Southern Europe, helping democracy and human rights flourish.
So, let's remember what the EU has done to help us as a nation be kinder and stronger both at home and abroad and Vote Remain.