Each week I'd like to take a moment to celebrate and recognise the hard work of those who have done so much to help us get through this difficult and troubling time. Thank you to everyone who nominated their Gower Hero!
This is just the first wave of Gower Heros and I will be announcing more each week.
If you have someone you'd like to nominate, you can do so here
This week's Gower Heroes are:
Briony King is a 5 year old little girl who has worked hard throughout lockdown to share a smile in her community. Despite sheilding with her disabled mum away from her dad who is a key worker her first concern has always been the welfare of others. She's decorated pictures for people to display in their windows and made rainbow keyrings to give away as gifts. She's contributed towards the collection of food and toiletry items for the Gorseinon food hub by asking for donations and emptying the cupboards in her own home. She took her own toys and put them on a table in her front garden so local children could take a toy to cheer them up. She recently organised a share a smile event, an event she thought up herself for where she placed balloons and treat bags outside her house and invited local children to come and collect them. All she asked for in return was a smile and a wave. She's managed to do all this at just 5 years old, while still helping her mum with day to day activities like cooking and cleaning.
Sally’s kindness and care is exemplary, she goes above and beyond to support others. Starting a new business in lockdown has been an exciting new challenge for Sally and her focus has been about bringing happiness and love to others through her incredible cupcakes and sponges. Sally has delivered her cakes to those that are shielding across the Gower, she’s had orders from all other the U.K. to take treats to loved ones whose family members live far away, this has even included orders from Australia and Dubai. Sally will say things like “your mum won’t eat a whole box of scones, how about I take a few each day for a couple of weeks!” This means that the family member knows that someone will be checking in and sharing love with their mum and dad when they are so far away! Sally has baked cakes and treats to give a thank to nurses, doctors, pharmacists and others carers bringing a smile is her ultimate aim! When we’ve had tough days Sally has turned up at the right time with a box of treats to brighten our day. She really is one in a million!
During the COVID 19 pandemic she had brought all communities together and provided support for those in need.
She is consistently working to help Gower businesses especially during this time when businesses are struggling.
Nothing is to much to ask of her and she’s always looking out for people.
Natalie and her business which is based around supporting and promoting people and business around Gower has truly been an inspiration and support to a lot of people.
At the start of the Covid pandemic Natalie set up a support group on social media “we are Gower Covid 19”
She has provided information, offered support, advice and humour to over 1500 members every day.
Natalie is a mum to 5 boys 3 of which are of primary school age and so life is busy but this hasn’t prevented her putting time and energy into supporting her fellow Gower residents.
I would like her receive recognition for all her hard work.
For her dedication to keeping the community up dated, motivated and inspired and for spending each day throughout lockdown thinking tirelessly of others and keeping our spirits high.
I am nominating Nat as she’s always such a bright positive person. Throughout lockdown she has kept everyone going on the Facebook group with her morning messages in various different languages!! ???? She always makes me smile with her funny last thoughts of the day. We all need a positive person to keep us going through all this and Nat is that person. Always asking everyone if they are ok or if they need anything. She replies to every single comment on the Facebook group without fail and Is always caring, kind and positive. On a personal level
Nat always cheers me up. How she finds the time with 5 boys never ceases to amaze me !! Nat is a true hero ????
Natalie has set up a COVID 19 Gower page on Facebook and posts everyday without fail! It really lifts spirits especially for someone like me who has been shielding! She is so caring and puts others first!
Thank you Natalie for making a very tough time more bearable! You humour Witt and general caring nature hasn’t gone unnoticed xx
So friendly and supportive, keeping me informed and up to date with everything and such a fantastic sense of humour too. No limit to this lady's talent. Can't think of anyone more deserving.
Exceptional work carried out during lockdown / covid 19
With her own large family Natalie has managed everyday to ask how everyone is feeling and if they need any help
If they have asked she had responded quickly and efficiently
I don’t think you could ask anything more of her
Natalie is a busy mum of 5 ,however she took time to set up a covid community face book page ! Every day nat greets the members with a morning and evening message ! Her messages support well being and offer a sense of community at these challenging times we’ve endured! Thank you nat ,we’ve got a place for daily check ins and check outs ! You are a motivator and speak from the heart ????
This lady set up We are Gower COVID-19 Mutual Aid & Community Page.
I have never met her but she wakes us up each morning with a Good Morning in a different language and sends us to sleep with a funny joke every night. She has looked after us ,communicating everything and ensuring that if any of us need help she will find it and communicate to the group !
I have not seen any aggressive or distasteful comments on this group which shows the respect this lovely lady commands !
A True Gower Hero !????????????????
She has kept everyone’s spirits up during the last 13 weeks. Despite being a very busy Mum with 5 children. She promoted and kept small businesses throughout Gower in touch with each other. She sent daily morning and evening posts checking on everyone’s wellbeing. She has simply been amazing.
Because her daily, thoughtful FB posts bring people together, make them feel listened to and also share valuable information regarding all things community and COVID-19 related
Since Natalie set up her We are Gower app to showcase local businesses, she has given businesses in Gower the opportunity to highlight their services on a easy to use app.
Since lockdown Natalie has set up We are Gower COVID 19 page, which gives people the opportunity to speak about their feelings at this difficult time. She posts every morning and evening since the lockdown and takes the time to answer every post with concern and care. She always ends the day with a funny post to cheer people.
She is a wonderful mother to five sons and has overcome many difficult obstacles in her life but she always has a positive outlook which she shares with people on her posts.
We have had an amazing response to covid in Gorseinon. From prescription runs and leaflets drops to the food hub. In addition to flooding that has hit some residents more than once over the last few months. Kelly has been at the centre of this, organising everything and going above and beyond in all situations whilst also working and caring for a family of her own. She will always lift others up and sing their praises but gets very little recognition for all the work she puts in herself. An absolute credit to Gorseinon
Thank you to every Gower Hero!
Justice for Windrush, changing of lockdown rules in Wales, Welsh Affairs committee, bringing Gower Businesses together - Weekly update 26/06/2020
This week the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, spoke to the House of Commons about the work the UK Government are doing to put right the immense wrongs done to the Windrush generation. The injustices that these people, who answered a call to help rebuild Britain after the war, have been forced to endure is nothing less than utterly shameful and the slow response of the UK Government in putting these injustices right and issuing British passports and compensation is criminal. In light of the shocking banner we saw flying over the Etihad football stadium this week, the response of the hard right and even the Foreign Secretary to legitimate Black Lives Matter protests, the disgusting replies to the Conservative Party’s Father’s Day tweet which showed a black father and son, and the Prime Minister’s previous racist comments and the hostile environment created by this UK Government, it is clear that deep cultural reform is needed across the board, not only in the Home Office. I took the opportunity to raise this with the Home Secretary in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Thursday saw the latest meeting of the Welsh Affairs Committee, when I and other members questioned Rebecca Evans in her role as Finance Minister in the Welsh Government, and Ken Skates in his role as Economy Minister. We covered intergovernmental relations in responding to Coronavirus, the economic implications for Wales, and the support available for business during and after the pandemic. There have clearly been some differences in how the Welsh Government and the UK Government have responded to the crisis, but I know that First Minister Mark Drakeford and his team have done everything they can to help keep the people of Wales safe - and that will continue to be their guiding principle as we begin to tentatively end parts of lockdown.
On Friday, along with Gower’s Senedd Member, Rebecca Evans, I hosted a webinar for Gower businesses on digital marketing run by the Google Digital Garage team and attended by the Federation of Small Business. These are very difficult and unusual times and businesses have been remarkable at finding new ways to continue working. It was great to bring together some of our amazing small and medium sized businesses to talk about the innovative ways they’ve kept trading through lockdown.
As you will know, this week, non-essential shops in Wales began to reopen in the biggest changes to Welsh lockdown so far. It's important to note that we still have the 2m social distancing rule here in Wales, despite the changes that have taken place in England. But if we can stick to the guidance, and the virus continues to decline, the Welsh Government will issue guidelines to help the tourism industry to put in place the necessary measures to allow them to reopen, which will be welcome news for many small businesses in Gower who rely on tourism for a large part of their income. I’ve felt incredibly lucky - especially on sunny days! - to live somewhere like Gower, where I could enjoy the most beautiful part of Wales whilst respecting the guidelines and staying local. It's great news that if we can stick to the current guidelines for a few more weeks, we might soon be able to welcome tourists back safely to this fabulous corner of the world.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open, my staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as the demand has increase, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Stay local, keep well, and remember – keep washing your hands!
On Tuesday this week, we marked 4 years since our Labour colleague and friend Jo Cox was so cruelly and brutally taken from us. We remember her for her compassionate politics, her determination to make the world a better place, and her selfless dedication to the values that she held dear. Jo was an inspirational politician and I continue to think of her every day as I work to make a small difference in my little corner of the world.
As you will have seen, today the Welsh Government have announced upcoming changes to lockdown in Wales. From Monday, non-essential retail will be able to open with physical distancing in place. The ‘Stay Local’ guidance will end in just under three weeks time, and people will be able to travel anywhere for any reason. The First Minister has also given an early warning to sections of the tourism industry e.g. self contained accommodation that the Welsh Government will consider easing restrictions on tourism in the next three week review. It's really important to note that all of these things depend on the virus staying under control - so it's more crucial than ever that we continue to follow the guidelines on social distancing in the meantime, to ensure we don’t compromise our hard won gains and risk our progress. You can see further information about the changes here.
On Tuesday, I spoke in the opposition debate on free school meals. It is truly scandalous that in this day and age, in one of the richest countries in the world, children are going hungry. And it is not, as some would have us believe, due to the fecklessness and profligacy of parents, but rather due to countless policies that have seen the value of work decrease and a minimum wage that cannot hope to provide for all of life’s necessities. The Welsh Labour Government committed weeks ago to continuing free school meals throughout the summer and now, after cries of outrage from both the opposition benches and the Government’s own back benches, a campaign by international football star Marcus Rashford, and public backlash, the UK Government have been forced to concede that actually, yes, we need to support our most vulnerable families and their children. I cannot understand why it took them so long.
There was another ridiculous move by the UK Government this week with the unnecessary, counter-productive, and purely distracting merge of the Foreign Office and Department for International Development. The Department for International Development does such important work around the world, in humanitarian terms and with wider geo-political consequences. Supporting education programmes for children, especially girls, promoting vaccinations, and supporting family planning practices all have an impact on the security of our world. This distraction ploy will not work; we know there have been widespread UK Government failings relating to the coronavirus from the scandal around protection for care homes to inadequate provision for continuing children’s education. We will continue to call the UK Government out on these failings and hold them to a higher standard.
It’s cervical cancer awareness week this week, and although routine screenings such as smear tests have been put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, people concerned about possible cancer symptoms are being urged to contact their GP and get themselves checked out. Cancer referrals are worryingly low, and as a Member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer, I know how important it is that we all make sure we get any symptoms checked out immediately and do not wait. Public Health Wales have announced that they intend to resume routine cancer screenings in July but emphasise that tests and treatment for cancer are still available. Please, if you notice any symptoms that concern you, do not wait and contact your GP.
It’s also Loneliness Awareness Week and various studies have found that over 9 million people in the UK of all ages are either often or always lonely and that disconnected communities could be costing the UK economy a staggering £32 billion every year. The health risks are shocking, with loneliness as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness has been found to increase risk of death by 29%. It’s clear that this is a significant challenge facing us, and the coronavirus has focused us more clearly, I think, on the importance of maintaining our family and community connections in general. We benefit so much from contact with other people – it’s good for our mental health to have that sense of togetherness and we need to work harder to ensure that no one in our society is left outside the connections we make.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open, my staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as the demand has increased, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Stay local, keep well, and remember – keep washing your hands!
Carers week, the return of sport, and expressing solidarity with Black Lives Matter - Weekly update 12/06/2020
This week is Carers’ Week and new figures released show that 4.5 million people in the UK have become unpaid carers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is on top of the already 9.1 million unpaid carers who were already caring before the outbreak. In Wales, the Welsh Government acknowledged the importance of the role of unpaid carers in 2014 with their Social Services and Wellbeing Act which gave carers an equal right to have their needs assessed as those they care for. This is incredibly important as the majority of carers report poor mental health as a result of the impact of caring in their day-to-day lives. 78% reported not being able to take time away from caring, and even though they’re caring for someone they love and cherish, time away for themselves is incredibly important to reset and focus on themselves. 77% reported experiencing stress, 72% reported financial consequences, and 70% reported it having a challenging impact on their other interpersonal relationships. I’m pleased that the Welsh Government are establishing a Task and Finish Group of carers’ representatives to consider current levels of support and future actions in order to help unpaid carers access support that they need.2
On Tuesday at 11am, Parliament paused and many of us knelt in Old Palace Yard to remember George Floyd and to reconfirm our commitment to fighting racism in all its forms wherever it’s found. It is now 2020 and the fact that racism is still alive and kicking in our society, even here in the UK, is sickening. We all have to do more to stamp it out. We must listen to those who experience racism on a daily basis, we must assess how our own actions can be more anti-racist, and we must be more willing to engage with those who are trying valiantly to make our society truly value merit, achievement, and kindness. I will continue doing all I can to support anti-racism in every aspect of life.
This week, the Welsh Government announced that in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, they are recommending, but not making mandatory, the wearing of three-layer face coverings in situations (such as on public transport) where social distancing is not possible. However, the evidence remains clear that the best way to protect yourself and others against contracting the virus is to maintain 2-metre social distancing and to practise good hygiene with frequent hand washing, so it's important we don’t allow the use of masks to lull us into a false sense of security and get sloppy about other aspects of protection!
I was able to take part in the Welsh Affairs Committee this week and put a series of questions to the participants. The Welsh Government has provided bespoke sectoral support to those industries hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and it is vitally important that the UK Government takes note of this and equally supports the creative industry in the UK as a whole. I’m not sure we fully appreciate the economic importance of this sector to our economy. The creative industries broke the £100 billion barrier in 2018, worth a whopping £130 billion. But we’ve also seen a growing awareness of the importance of cultural institutions to our mental and community health. I don’t think any of us could imagine lockdown without the television and radio programmes, the theatre streams to our homes, and the books that have provided us with entertainment and a break from the scary reality of the pandemic. Local radio stations have also provided those confined to their homes with the information and support that they needed to help them through this crisis and provided an important lifeline to the outside world. We must protect these industries and the employment they provide and encourage the UK Government to do the same.
As a former women’s rugby international, I am also concerned that while the Government is talking about being able to bring back sporting fixtures, this is seemingly only really targeted at men’s sport. It's important that there is sufficient support in place for other groups - including women’s and disability sports, to prepare for the time when they too can recommence training and playing. Sport brings £9.8 billion to the economy, and this health crisis has shown us how important it is that everyone has access to the means and ways of keeping fit and being able to enjoy themselves in a game of sport with others. We cannot let the progress we have recently made to increase diversity and inclusion in sport be lost to the pandemic.
On a personal note, Monday marked an important milestone for me with the third anniversary of my election as Gower’s MP. It’s been a busy three years, with the Brexit negotiations, a second snap General Election, and now the unprecedented effects of Coronavirus, but I remain incredibly proud to represent this wonderful corner of the world in Parliament and am determined to continue fighting on your behalf for the issues that matter to us. I have so enjoyed getting to know so many of my brilliant constituents over the past three years and I am so grateful for all the support you have shown me.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open, my staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as demand has increased, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Stay home, keep well, and remember – keep washing your hands!
Parliament returned this week as MPs were recalled to London after recess. Jacob Rees-Mogg and the UK Government took the decision to end hybrid proceedings and require MPs to be in the Chamber and to vote in person. He seemed to be under the impression that if we weren’t in the building, we weren’t working. Now, I don’t know about Jacob, but, like so many of you, I myself have regularly spent 12-hour working days at my kitchen table over the past couple of weeks - speaking in hybrid Parliamentary debates, working on constituency casework, and attending meetings via zoom. Forcing MPs to return effectively disenfranchises the constituents of those who are shielding or have caring responsibilities at home, as they are unable to attend. It also puts at risk the health of the thousands of people who work on the Parliamentary Estate. We should be setting the example on how to protect employees. Instead, we risked giving license to bad employers to put their employees at risk. I am deeply disappointed with the Government's reckless decision.
At the start of the Parliamentary week I had the opportunity to question the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, on the issue of access to medicinal cannabis for children. I am furious that despite his promises, families across the country are still denied this access. Teagan Appleby - who many of you will have heard me mention before - has been in intensive care twice in the last 10 weeks because her family have been unable to pay for the medical cannabis that they need to keep her alive. Families of epileptic children have seen their health and welfare put on the backburner first by Brexit, then a general election, and now the coronavirus. The sums of money we are talking about that would allow them to get a prescription on the NHS (as they are now legally allowed to do) are tantamount to what the Secretary of State’s Department spends on paper clips. He needs to right this wrong now and ensure that these children are given access to the medication that can help them so much.
I also spoke during Welsh Questions when I asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he could explain to the people of Wales why he is standing by while the UK Tory Government short-changes our incredible, hard-working carers by taxing the one-off thank you payment from the Welsh Government. The hypocrisy of the Welsh Tories who are going out to clap on their doorsteps and then allowing the UK Government to take away from an already underpaid and undervalued group of people is appalling. Our carers have continued to carry out their duties at great personal sacrifice to care for our vulnerable and often elderly loved ones and the Welsh Government are rightly acknowledging this. Our carers deserve better.
As you will have seen, this week the Welsh Government announced its plans for schools to return. They propose that all schools will start the next phase on 29 June, with the term extended by a week to end on 27 July. In the next academic year, beginning in September, the autumn half-term break will be extended to two weeks. In each school, year groups will be split into different cohorts, with staggered starts, lessons, and breaks to try to limit the number of pupils inside school buildings in small spaces at any one time. Smaller classes will support social distancing as well as providing dedicated time with teachers and classmates. Further education colleges are also intended to reopen for face-to-face learning with appropriate measures from 15 June. The Welsh Government will publish guidance to support schools and further education institutions next week with advice on managing facilities and logistical arrangements. It’s important that we bring children back into schools but that we continue to follow scientific guidance and only bring them back when it is safe to do so.
We have all been shocked this week as we watched the appalling scenes from America in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police. These events have shone a light on the racism and hatred experienced by many - including in our own country – but particularly the racism experienced by Black people across the world. This is something we all need to face up to and address.
The Welsh Government has taken steps in Wales to understand why people from BAME communities are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus as new evidence shows that they are four times as likely to die from the illness. A new risk assessment has been launched to help protect BAME key workers in our NHS and social care as they continue to carry out their essential jobs.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01792 899025. My staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as the demand has increased, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Stay local, keep well, and remember – keep washing your hands!