On Monday, it was International Women's Day 2021. In Parliament, I raised the issue of women’s mental health in the question session with the Department for Health. The UK Government have launched a call for evidence to improve the health and wellbeing of women in England and women are being encouraged to share their experiences of the health and care system. The pandemic has seen us make dramatic changes in how we live, and the impact of these changes has been especially sharply felt by women. The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that mothers are only able to do, on average, a third of the uninterrupted paid work hours of fathers, so it’s no wonder that 60% of women are finding it harder to stay positive day to day compared with 47% of men. The Minister tried arguing that this was not a health question, as if mental health does not come under the remit of “Health”, but mental health is inextricably linked with physical health. It’s time the UK Government started respecting mental health and ensuring it is fully integrated into all health questions.
I also contributed to the Budget debate, but I am concerned that the UK Government’s rhetoric of levelling up is not translation into action. For all the fanfare around the Budget, the money pledged is a drop in the ocean next to the billions cut from local authorities and local services over the past decade. 750 jobs on an economic campus outside of London do not make up for the loss of over 30,000 civil service jobs across the United Kingdom—civil servants with experience and institutional knowledge are leaving in droves as they are increasingly undervalued. How can we hope to fix regional inequality when the opaque, centralised approach employed by the UK Government to distribute those funds pits region against region? We are told that the UK Government are driven by a desire to level up, but their actions are led not by evidence, but by ideology. They have a responsibility to the people of the UK, who have worked so hard over the last year and have suffered through 10 years of ideologically-driven Tory austerity.
I am proud to be amongst the first 100 MPs to demand decisive action on the climate and ecological emergency by supporting the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. In 2015, the historic Paris Agreement was signed, holding world governments to keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C. As a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 showed, just that extra half a degree of heating could expose tens of millions more people worldwide to life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding. Half a degree may mean the difference between a world with coral reefs and Arctic summer sea ice and a world without them. This is not a problem that we here in the UK are protected from. We’ve seen more serious and more regular flooding across South Wales in recent years, including in my constituency, and have seen the terrible impact this has on people. Alarmingly, we are not even on track to limit temperature increases to 2°C. According to the UN, current policies will lead to around 3°C of warming by the end of the century - but it could easily be 4°C or more. There is still time to prevent these catastrophic levels of heating, but only if we are prepared to take unprecedented action now.
You may have seen today’s announcement that from tomorrow (Saturday 13th March) Covid-19 restrictions will begin to relax slightly in Wales, with more scope for meeting outside, participating in outdoor sports, and a roadmap for the reopening of non-essential retail, as well as a return to school for more children. I know these changes will come as a welcome relief to us all, but we need to make sure we keep sticking to the rules as they change so we don’t lose any of the hard fought progress we have made. 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.
Keep well and remember – stay local, observe social distancing, and keep Wales safe!