Labour leader Keir Starmer visits Southwick's Austin House
published on 28 Apr 2022
The Salvation Army in Southwick welcomed Labour leader Keir Starmer during his visit to Sunderland this month.
Sir Keir sat down with community manager Graham Wharton, who runs the Austin House Family Centre, and representatives from the SARA Project (Southwick Altogether Raising Aspirations), a multi-agency initiative aimed at supporting the Southwick community to tackle issues such as crime, mental health and unemployment.
As part of the visit, arranged by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness, the opposition leader met young people who have benefitted from the project and had a tour of the area.
Graham said: “It was great to welcome Keir Starmer to Austin House and to highlight the great work The Salvation Army is doing with other agencies to support the community.
“The SARA Project brings together the local authority, police, social services and community groups here at Austin House. We act as a community hub, and a bridge, offering a listening ear to people within the community and then connecting them to the relevant agency.
“At The Salvation Army, our aim is to give people a hand up and the opportunity to thrive. I described it to Sir Keir as a ‘smorgasbord’ where we have different options, so people have a choice and agency over the decisions they are making and the help they receive. I said people need to be ‘Mad’ – Make a Difference within their lives and communities!”
Austin House in Shakespeare Street runs a number of projects ranging from a Daily Bread Café - providing nutritious food to the wider community, a food bank, fitness classes, kids' activities, community days and trips out during the school holidays. They also have an Employment Plus service to help people find and stay in work.
Keir Starmer said: “It was brilliant to join the Salvation Army at the SARA centre in Sunderland. Their amazing work bringing together the police, council services and neighbourhood groups is a great example of working together in the heart of the community.
“Tackling anti-social behaviour is mission for me. As a former Chief Prosecutor I've seen the blight it has on communities, which is why the work here at SARA is vital.”
Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner said: “The Salvation Army brings life-changing support to Sunderland, and it was great to show Keir how this works on the ground.
“We’ve seen too many families hit by austerity, we know poverty and deprivation is going to rise as the cost of living crisis worsens, and the work of The Salvation Army is going to be more important than ever. I’m proud to be supporting these efforts and working with others to ensure residents have their voice heard and can find help when they need it.”