Happy New Year, I hope that you had an enjoyable and safe festive period!
I am excited to be back at work in Parliament, having already directly asked the Government multiple questions since being back.
The mental health of children has been a long-term priority for me, not least because of the huge
local need, but also in my previous role as Health Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, and now
as Education Spokesperson.
As our children have been returning to school, I know many parents like me are concerned about the
prospect of schools having to partly or fully close due to staff shortages caused by Covid. As Omicron
continues to spread rapidly, many children face being off school with the virus. Our children cannot
afford to lose yet more face-to-face education. The lockdowns have been so damaging for both
their learning and their wellbeing.
This is why I continue to press ministers to ensure our schools are safer and to ensure that measures are put in place to reduce Covid transmission. You can see below how I have been holding ministers to account, in particular, to ensure clean air in our classrooms. In the winter months, having the windows and doors open all the time, or teaching lessons outside, is simply not practical and is uncomfortable for pupils and teachers alike.
Local meetings, events and news
Visit to Collis School
I was delighted to visit Collis School and hear about how wellbeing is at the heart of all that they do
with their pupils. They have a fantastic wellbeing room with cushions, coloured lighting and music allowing every child to have dedicated wellbeing time each week. I was also told about the great new school dinners and the thriving after-school club attended by over 100 children, run by a police officer on sabbatical. Thank you to Mr Hogston for showing me around and to all the children who asked stimulating questions at the virtual assembly!
EAL Friendship Group English Language Lessons
I enjoyed my time at the EAL Friendship Group’s English language course at the ETNA Centre. The charity provides free English lessons for people who have English as an additional language and aims to bring people together from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious, economic, political, ethnic and social backgrounds, while breaking down barriers and celebrating differences and learning from one other. Thank you to Ruth and the enthusiastic group of women I met from around the world. You are all welcome in our community.
The Real Junk Food Project
The ETNA Centre in Twickenham is also home to The Real Junk Food Project, who provide an award-
winning pay-as-you-feel surplus food café & stall. Their mission is to take food that was heading for
the bin and turn it into nutritious and tasty lunches for the community. The café was doing a roaring
trade when I visited and I look forward to seeing them continue their great work over the coming months.
You can see the photos on my Facebook page here.
Visit to Richmond Furniture Scheme
Just before Christmas, I visited Richmond Furniture Scheme, the local furniture re-use and up-cycling charity providing affordable furniture for those in need. The work they do is fantastic, collecting 100 tonnes of furniture a year. Council grants are available for those in need to buy discounted furniture.
This small, dedicated team includes 40 volunteers of all ages. The scheme is good for the planet, wellbeing and tackling poverty. If you have any unused items of furniture, are looking for pieces for your home, or would like to get involved and volunteer, this is a great charity to support!
You can find more photos of my visit here.
Support available this winter
For many local residents, this winter has been particularly difficult, especially so due to energy prices. Local residents are eligible to apply for grants of up to £170 towards their annual energy bill through the Council’s Fuel Grant Scheme to protect residents at risk from fuel poverty.
This fuel grant is open to all on benefits or low income, including pensioners. The closing date to apply is Thursday 31 March 2022. More information is available here.
Additional grants are also available from the Household Support Fund for food, bills and other essential items, via Citizens Advice Richmond and Richmond AID. See more information on this here.
Standing up for you
Highlighting the Government’s failure to support schools and children
Children have been failed throughout the pandemic by the Government. Through the press and in Parliament, I have put pressure on the Government to provide more support to schools in their battle against Covid. I highlighted the unacceptably slow roll out of vaccines for teenagers and urged the Government to provide air purifiers in classrooms. The Government must set out a clear plan. You can read my comments in the full Mirror article here. I also spoke specifically on air purifiers and the Government’s failed promises on this in the Guardian here and have recently tabled Written Parliamentary Questions on this topic.
Challenging the Education Secretary to ensure clean air in all classrooms
Last week in Parliament, I challenged the Secretary of State for Education, following the announcement that only 8,000 air purifiers would be provided for over 300,000 classrooms. It has been widely known since the outset of the pandemic, that air purifiers are one of the most effective and cheapest way of reducing Covid transmission in in our schools. This is why the US and Germany implemented air purifiers many months ago.
I specifically asked the Secretary of State if he will publish the data from classroom CO2 monitors that show only 8,000 need them. I also asked why the Department is recommending Dyson air purifiers when there are cheaper alternatives available.
You can watcha the full clip of my question here.
Latest Covid Numbers
In the week 31st December to 6th January, there were 2759 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 1392/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 1575/100,000 and England-wide rate of 1708/100,000. These figures show a fall in case numbers in our borough and across London but a rise across England as a whole compared with two weeks earlier.
Data source: https://www.datarich.info/covid-19/
Covid testing available to all
To book your free rapid lateral flow COVID-19 test or find your nearest take-home testing kits collection point, visit: https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/
These tests are for people NOT experiencing symptoms. If you have any of the main Covid-19 symptoms you should arrange a PCR test here.
Walk-in and pop-up vaccination clinics
The nearest walk-in clinics for vaccinations are:
- Teddington Health and Social Care Centre from 10th to 14th January 2022.
- Harlequins Rugby Ground from 10th to 16th January
- Boots, Kew Retail Park
- Whitton Community Centre from 10th to 12th January
Details of which vaccines are being offered and eligibility criteria are available here.
West Middlesex University Hospital Vaccination hub is open 7 days a week and appointments can be booked here.