Paul Taylor, Head of Development & Support for East England, met Jo Cox MP and worked with staff and volunteers to help make Jo’s vision of ending isolation and loneliness a reality.
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It is an honour and a privilege that Royal Voluntary Service has been chosen as one of the charities to take forward the excellent work Jo Cox was doing before her tragic death. It has been a very hard weekend; it is one thing to see a place like the Market Square on television but quite another to find yourself there as I did on Saturday afternoon, surrounded by the grief of a community who loved and valued Jo so deeply. However, I was also struck by was the resilience and cohesion of that community and a sense of wanting something positive to come out of such a profound tragedy.
When I first met Jo around six months ago, she invited us into her new constituency office in Batley. Having only recently moved in, “spartan” is probably the word that best described the office but Jo sat us down, made sure we all had a hot drink and a biscuit and then told us that the main thing she wanted to do was listen. Once she had listened, she offered ideas on how she could help, including heading up a re-launch of one of our key Home from Hospital services. Jo worked so closely with us; spending freely given time with staff and volunteers, learning about their work and issues.
Jo also gave us the chance to work with her at the strategic level; representatives from Royal Voluntary Service and other partners were working with Jo on engendering a Parliamentary Commission on Loneliness. I know that all partners remain committed to this Commission still happening despite last week’s tragic events.
Her memorial fund reached over £1million in less than four days - a fantastic achievement but no real surprise given the massive regard Jo was held in both locally and nationally. Clearly we would all rather that things were otherwise and that we still had Jo’s energy and belief powering our work along but we will work with her family to ensure that a fitting legacy will survive her. We all offer massive condolences and heartfelt sympathy to Brendan and the family and applaud their fantastic work to channel their grief into sustaining Jo’s legacy.