I know many of us have been enjoying the glorious weather this bank holiday weekend, seeing family and friends for the first time in many months, as coronavirus restrictions ease. It was very good news that yesterday was the first time since March 2020 that zero Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded. With the spread of the so-called Indian variant across the country and, in particular, in neighbouring Hounslow, we must maintain caution.
I was heartened to see the success of the mass vaccination event at Twickenham Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday. It was an emotional sight to see hundreds of young people queuing to get jabbed. I am immensely grateful to NHS staff and volunteers for organising this event at very short notice and ensuring all 15,000 doses of vaccine were used. I will be pressing local health leaders to run further such events, as supplies of vaccine allow, given there is clearly strong demand.
I am also aware a number of local residents who tried to access the stadium were left disappointed, after battling traffic jams or queuing for some time, once it was announced in the afternoon that the event was open to all (initially it was only open to those who live in the NHS North West London area which includes Hounslow but not Richmond). When I learned of the event on Friday, I expressed my dismay to NHS managers that the event was not officially open to Richmond residents, given its location, and given many residents are crossing the borough boundary everyday for schools and essential services. I will continue to make the case with the NHS.
I also raised the question of teachers and other key workers who live locally but work in Hounslow being prioritised for vaccination with the vaccines minister in the House of Commons last week, when confusion arose over travel restrictions to Hounslow.
Watch the full question and answer here:
I reiterated my request in a follow-up letter to the Secretary of State for Health and also requested that those who live on the Richmond/Hounslow borough borders be included in surge vaccination.
Across the Twickenham constituency (which includes Teddington, Whitton, the Hamptons, St Margarets, Strawberry Hill), a total of 36,804 people have had two doses of the Covid vaccine and 66,157 first doses have been administered. https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/covid-19-vaccinations/
Latest Covid Numbers
In the week May 22nd – 28th, there were 42 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 21.2/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 28.9/100,000 and England-wide rate of 30.9/100,000. These figures represent a rise in our borough across London and across England as a whole.
Data source: https://www.datarich.info/covid-19/
Covid testing available to all
All residents in the borough are now eligible to book a free rapid COVID-19 test in Twickenham, Hampton & East Sheen. Book now: www.richmond.gov.uk/book_lateral_flow_test
In addition, three pharmacies in Twickenham and Teddington are also providing free supervised tests. Full details available online and again, please book in advance.
A free ‘Community Collect’ service – providing take-home testing kits is available at Twickenham Civic Centre and St Mary’s University Broom Road sports campus and selected pharmacies. Find the nearest collection point to you: https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/
The test is for people NOT experiencing symptoms. If you have any of the main Covid-19 symptoms you should arrange a PCR test here:
Last chance for EU Nationals to apply for settled status!
EU nationals living in the borough are reminded that the deadline for applications to the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is the 30th June. Those who have not applied by the deadline will lose their legal rights to live, work and access benefits in the UK.
The entire Brexit process has been hugely disruptive to EU nationals who are part of our community, leaving them uncertain about their rights to live, work and access services in the borough. I urge any EU nationals and eligible non-EEA nationals to apply for EUSS. I also ask everyone that knows an elderly or vulnerable EU national to check if they know about the deadline.
I also raised my concerns with the Home Secretary recently about the large number of applications that are still awaiting processing. Sadly, she didn’t have a response. Watch the exchange here:
Listen to the London Fire Brigade talk about Public Sexual Harassment
In response to Sarah Everard’s death, London Fire Brigade firefighter, Georgina Mann, based at Twickenham fire station, shared her expert knowledge, her personal experiences about Public Sexual Harassment and what the Fire Brigade is doing to help create safe spaces.
The 19-minute long Talk Richmond episode can be listened to here or by searching for ‘Talk Richmond’ on your podcast application. https://www.richmond.gov.uk/news/podcast
Local meetings, events and news
Park Lane Stables Update
I was dismayed to hear that Park Lane Stables Riding for the Disabled, have no option butto leave their home in Teddington. Park Lane Stables is an integral part of the local Teddington community. Much loved by local residents, the work of the PLS in providing therapy and support for those with disabilities, especially children, is a lifeline. Despite a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign which exceeded the £1m target, the charity has been unable to come to agreeable terms with their landlord to purchase the site.
Before Christmas I wrote to the landlord requesting he extend the lease. In recent days I have been in contact with Natalie O’Rourke, the manager of the stables, and with trustees of the Park Lane Stables RDA charity. I have made it clear to all involved that I stand ready to help them in any way I can.
Link to a statement from the stables here:
Visit to Teddington Rugby Club
Thank you to Teddington Rugby Club for welcoming me to their Sunday morning training session in Bushy Park. It was great to see lots of girls playing rugby with great enthusiasm. Teddington Rugby Club is supporting the community bid for Udney Park playing fields which would give the club much-needed additional space for training and matches. I have already expressed my full support for the community bid and I hope the girls I met have a chance to play there soon.
Richmond Council agrees updates to its SEND Futures Plan
Following the success the council and I had in lobbying the Department for Education to plug the enormous local deficit in funding for special educational needs and disabilities, I am pleased to hear that a new SEND futures plan has been agreed by the council. Supporting children with SEND and tackling the gap between spending and funding was one of my key election pledges.
Read about the additional funding we secured back in March here:
To view the SEND Futures Plan click here:
Visit to The Purple Elephant Project
It was a privilege to meet Jenny Haylock, Founder and CEO of The Purple Elephant Project, which provides play therapy and art therapy to children and supports families in need. Play therapy provides a safe way for children to explore thoughts and emotions which are too difficult to express in words. The charity provides its services from their base adjacent to Chase Bridge School next to Twickenham Stadium and through outreach at local schools.
The Purple Elephant Project is currently recruiting for a chairperson and new trustees. If you feel you might have the right skills to contribute to this worthwhile cause please contact Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit to Chase Bridge Primary School
I was given a tour of Chase Bridge Primary School by two year 6 students, then grilled by pupils on the school council and the school bloggers on everything from elections to my most exciting moment as an MP. It’s a fantastic school with wonderful facilities and charming children.
Cross-party parliamentary group for South Western Railway
I participated in the cross-party parliamentary group for South Western Railway. MPs had the opportunity to meet the new Managing Director for SWR and I raised with her the Shepperton line service to Hampton and Fulwell, and expressed my concern that the Hounslow loop train is still not stopping at Whitton outside peak hours.
Supporting the return of Parkrun
I was disappointed to hear about the delay to the return of Parkrun. Parkrun began in Bushy Park and the business is based within the constituency and holds two regular events in Bushy Park and Crane Park. I contacted the organisers of both events and offered my support. I have also been in communication with the Parkrun management team, Richmond council and Royal Parks to help broker a rapid return of the events.
Other local visits and meetings:
- I supported Homelink Day Respite Centre’s cake sale for dementia awareness week. Homelink Day Respite Centre in Whitton provides precious support for carers, offering respite care to those with dementia and other complex needs – https://twitter.com/munirawilson/status/1398762769219035142
- I hosted a roundtable session with disabled people, their advocates and the Minister for Disabled People. It is so important to hear direct from service users about their experiences. The Government must listen and improve the PIP process. Read more here:
Standing up for you
Calling for the PM to consult the bereaved on Covid public inquiry
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that a public inquiry would be held into the Government’s handling of the pandemic, I called on the Prime Minister to ensure bereaved families would be consulted on how the public inquiry would work.
With over 127,000 people having tragically lost their lives, I argued that it is crucial the families of those who have died are consulted on the inquiry’s chair and terms of reference.
Watch my exchange with the Prime Minister here:
Questioning the Health Secretary on the failure to test people before being discharged from hospital into care homes
Following the explosive evidence from Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser, to the House of Commons Health & Social Care select committee, I questioned the Health Secretary in relation to claims that he had misled government, parliament and the public about the policy to ensure no one was discharged from hospital into a care home without being tested for Covid.
His response was non-committal and unclear on what the policy was and he failed to apologise to the families of the bereaved.
Watch the full exchange here:
Support for those self-isolating
I challenged Matt Hancock in the House of Commons to finally commit to paying people’s wages to stay at home to self-isolate, and provide practical support in terms of accommodation and support for dependants if necessary.
Unfortunately, the Secretary of State said that he disagreed with me.
I have been calling for proper self-isolation support for months now, yet the Government has only just started trialling additional practical support in a few pilot areas. Why has it taken this long when self-isolation is so critical to breaking chains of transmission?
More information here:
Challenging the restrictions on non-professional singers
The late and unexpected update to guidance, restricting non-professional singing to 6 people indoors has come as a blow to choirs. Many groups have implemented extensive safety measures and research shows indoor singing is no more dangerous than exercising indoors. I believe guidance relating to indoor singing should be brought into line with indoor exercise. I have written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport urging a rethink.
Read the letter in full here:
Pressing the Mayor of London for a stronger local police presence
Following several serious violent crimes in the borough, Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney, Leader of the Council Gareth Roberts, and I wrote to the Mayor of London calling for a greater police presence across the borough. Read our letter here:
Israel and Gaza – I urged the government to do more to broker an immediate ceasefire
I am pleased that a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas appears to be holding but I was utterly horrified by the scenes which unfolded in Gaza over the past month. The UK Government was absolutely right to condemn Hamas’s rocket attacks, but they must also condemn in much stronger terms the completely disproportionate response from the Israeli Government, which resulted in the loss of hundreds of civilian lives in Gaza, including at least 63 children, coming on the back of sustained breaches of international law for many years.
I called on the Government to suspend arms exports to Israel. Watch the exchange in full here:
Response to the Queen’s speech
Just nine words in the Queen’s Speech were devoted to social care, despite the Prime Minister’s promise on the steps of Downing Street 22 months ago to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”, and there was still nothing on unpaid carers. Instead, reform of the social care systems keeps being kicked into the long grass.
The Government needs to stop postponing and initiate cross-party talks as soon as possible so that millions of people around the country can receive the care they need and deserve.
Read my comments on this and the need for a plan to train nurses and doctors for the future in my speech in the House of Commons on the Queen’s Speech here:
Air pollution petition delivered
Thank you to everyone who signed my air pollution petition. I received the backing of hundreds of you for my campaign urging the Government to put safer legal limits on air pollution, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.
I delivered the petition to the department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Read more here:
Although I’ve now delivered this petition to the Government, this campaign is far from over. I will continue to represent the views of local residents in fighting for action on air pollution, so that everyone has access to clean air.