Mixed messages from the UK government, the Immigration Bill, & an update from the APPG on Cancer - Weekly update 22/05/2020
Understandably, given mixed messages from the UK Government and a number of unclear news reports, there has been some confusion this week around the rules on social distancing and lockdown in Wales. The Welsh Government are still asking that we only go outside for essential purposes. Remember to stay at least 2 metres away from anyone outside of your home and wash your hands as soon and often as you can. You can exercise outside more than once, but you still cannot travel to take exercise. The police are working hard to ensure that we all remain safe during this difficult time, but they are still issuing fines to those who break the lockdown regulations. You can remind yourself of the guidelines here.
I was pleased to be called to speak during the discussions in the House of Commons on the immigration part of the EU Withdrawal Bill this week. I find it extraordinary that even in the midst of this current pandemic, the UK Government still doesn't seem to recognise, or care about, the incredible contribution that so many immigrants are making to this country. Our key workers are caring for our loved ones, keeping our transport services going, and keeping us supplied with essentials - yet, by the UK Government’s own reckoning they are low skilled and therefore low value. The UK Government is pushing this Bill through when the British public are distracted. They’re hoping we won't heed the concerns of organisations like MacMillan Cancer Support who fear that the UK Government’s plan for a points-based immigration system will have a real detrimental effect on our health and social care system, which, as we’ve seen in recent weeks and months, is already under record pressure. We sometimes forget that the crucial jobs of the health service are not only found inside hospitals – there is care in the community, specialist nurses in different medical centres, and nurses in palliative care homes. We need to ensure that social care workers and nurses are included on the shortage occupation list, exempting them from the visa salary threshold. We must also ensure that everyone already here knows that we value the incredible contribution that they make to our country each and every day.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and it couldn’t have come at a more important time. This has been such a difficult and stressful time for so many, with financial fears for the present and the future and the uncertainty of unemployment among those forced into lockdown and unable to work from home. I’ve heard some truly heart-breaking stories from people who’ve had to say goodbye to loved ones over the phone, and had to plan small funerals without the opportunity for friends and family to say goodbye properly. And then there are our wonderful key workers, those who might have their own fears about catching the virus, but nevertheless are turning up to work each day to keep us fed and cared for. It must be really hard for children too, forced to stay at home, away from friends and extended family, perhaps feeling anxious about what’s happening in a world they no longer recognise, perhaps not understanding why they have all these restrictions. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure mental health support is properly funded and available to all those who need it, and I was really pleased this week to see the Welsh Government announce £3.75 million of funding for mental health in schools that will include new support for children under the age of 11. It's so important we continue to invest in mental health support for our young people during these very difficult times.
Last weekend I should have been doing the Moonwalk with a group of friends in support of breast cancer. It’s disappointing, of course, as it’s such a fun event - so we compromised and did a socially distanced walk within the regulations around our beautiful Gower. The Moonwalk raises such a lot of money for an important cause. It’s hard to believe that it started out in 1996 as just 13 women power walking the London Marathon in their bras to raise money and awareness for breast cancer and look at the thriving multi-million charity event it is today! As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer it’s a really important event for me. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with about 1 in 8 women diagnosed with it during their lifetime. Happily, there’s a good chance of recovery if it’s detected at an early stage, therefore it’s vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always have any changes examined by a GP. For information on symptoms, see the NHS website here.
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 home, keep well, and remember – keep washing your hands!