NURSES AND NURSING STUDENTS
I signed a letter to Matt Hancock today calling on the Government to waive the £120 registration fee nurses have to pay to the Nursing and Midwifery Council every year. I think our nurses, who are working so hard for us right now, should not have to pay fees to do so. I am also writing to the Department of Education today asking them to refund summer term university fees for third-year nursing students, whose final term of training was not delivered so that they could be rushed into service in hospitals. These students have not received any bursaries for their degree courses; they should not have to pay university tuition fees to be working on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic.
EXTENSION OF FURLOUGH SCHEME
I join my Liberal Democrat colleagues in calling on Government to extend the furlough scheme beyond June to give businesses time to recover from the lockdown. Many will struggle to recover their former business position quickly and many others will still be restricted in their activities even after lockdown is partially lifted (pubs, restaurants, etc.) We need to avoid mass redundancies by extending business support schemes.
I spoke with Richard Deverell, the Director of the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens about a possible reopening of Kew Gardens in the near future. He is keen to reopen as soon as they can do so while assuring the safety of both visitors and staff. He told me they are developing plans to reopen on a limited basis, contingent on government announcements he hopes will come this week. He says that "Initially (and probably for quite an extended period) we will have all indoor and congested venues closed (e.g. glasshouses, Children’s Garden etc) other than a few toilets. We may limit access to certain groups initially and require online pre-booked tickets with timed slots through the day to minimise congestion at gates." He would like to assure all residents and members that they will re-open as soon as possible.
TRANSPORT FOR LONDON
TfL has launched a London Streetspace programme that will rapidly transform London’s streets to accommodate significant increases in cycling and walking when lockdown restrictions are eased. With London’s public transport capacity potentially running at a fifth of pre-crisis levels, millions of journeys a day will need to be made by other means. TfL plans will rapidly repurpose London’s streets to better serve walkers and cyclists. This will involve:
Rapid construction of a strategic cycling network, using temporary materials, including new routes aimed at reducing crowding on public transport
Wider footways on high streets that will facilitate a local economic recovery, with people having space to queue for shops as well as for others to safely walk past
Creating low-traffic neighbourhoods right across London to enable more people to walk and cycle as part of their daily routine, as has happened during lockdown
TfL has also asked me to remind everyone that public transport is only for people making essential journeys. The lockdown has not been lifted and the government is still asking everyone to stay at home this May bank holiday, do not travel and save lives.
SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY REFUNDS
The managing director of South Western Railway has written to me to say that they are working their way through all of the refund requests they have received as rapidly as possible and have taken on extra staff to help. Currently the average time for a claim to be processed is around 33 days. People who are still waiting for the promised December strike compensation will also receive their refunds as soon as they can be processed.
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
One of my duties as a member of the Public Accounts Committee has been to serve as Lead Member for its enquiry into Special Educational Needs. Our report, published this week, is highly critical of the provision and supervision of special needs education. It is clear that the current system is not providing adequate support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. Local authorities are unable to meet their needs due to financial pressures and a lack of sufficient support from the Department for Education. Key findings in the report include:
1. Many children with SEND are being failed by the support system.
2. There are significant unexplained disparities between different groups of children in the support they receive.
3. Too many pupils with SEND are excluded from school, meaning their education is disrupted.
4. The Department relies too heavily on periodic inspection for assurance that children, particularly in mainstream schools, are being properly supported.
5. Mainstream schools have little financial incentive to be inclusive of pupils with SEND.
6. There are not enough state special school places in some parts of the country, meaning local authorities must cover the high cost of places in independent special schools or spend large amounts on SEND transport.
The report recommended a number of steps the Department should take, including further study of how needs are identified and increased oversight of SEN provision. It also advised that the department should work with schools and other stakeholders to revise funding mechanisms so schools are not dis-incentivised to accept SEN pupils.
If you live in Richmond or Kingston Borough and your child has special educational needs, Achieving for Children has just posted information about how the Covid-19 outbreak is affecting assessment of special needs and provision of support. You can see the new information here: https://kr.afcinfo.org.uk/pages/local-offer/information-and-advice/covid-19-updates-and-resources/frequently-asked-questions/services-for-children-and-young-people-special-educational-needs-and-disabilities-in-kingston-and-richmond-during-covid-19
CLEANERS AND NANNIES
Cleaners and nannies have been told they may return to work in domestic settings as long at all the members of both their household and their employer's household are well and free of coronavirus symptoms. There is guidance on how to do so safely here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/social-distancing-in-the-workplace-during-coronavirus-covid-19-sector-guidance#working-in-peoples-homes-as-a-tradesperson-cleaner-or-nanny
MENTAL HEALTH VIRTUAL Q&A
Kingston Council is staging a virtual Question and Answer session on mental health next week. A panel of mental health professionals will offer advice on how you can look after your mental health and wellbeing during these challenging times. The panel includes:
Danni O’Connell: Project Coordinator for ‘People Can Kingston’. This is a new service focusing on helping people with learning disabilities, mental health and autism.
Annette Brown: Community Learning Manager for Kingston Adult Education. Her main responsibility is running the mental wellbeing provision for Kingston residents.
Daniel Barrett: Director at Thrive LDN. This is a citywide movement to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all Londoners.
Katie Harrison: Principal Policy and Projects Officer in the Health and Social Care Team at London Councils. The team develops guidance, policy, and lobbying related to adult social care, children's social care and public health issues.
You can submit any questions you have on mental health as part of the session. All questions will be treated in confidence and asked anonymously by the chair of the discussion. Please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Monday 11 May. The session will be pre-recorded and available to view during Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 18 May).
YORK HOUSE GOES GREEN FOR SOCIAL CARE WORKERS
York House in Twickenham will be lit green tonight to show support for those working in social care. For the last few weeks, the Council building has been lit blue on Thursday evenings as part of the national 'Light it Blue' campaign to show thanks to the courageous NHS staff. This Thursday, as well as recognising the vital work that NHS workers are doing, York House will be lit green to reflect the continued dedication and hard work of all social care workers.
Richmond Council will resume highway maintenance and improvement schemes from Monday 11 May. The Government has confirmed that all highway maintenance works are considered critical to the borough’s economic recovery and should continue. Initial works to recommence include:
Clare Lawn Crescent, East Sheen – w/c 11th May 2020.
Boileau Road, Barnes – w/c 11th May 2020.
Queens Road, Richmond – w/c 11th May 2020.
Ham Gate Avenue, Ham – w/c 11th May 2020.
Clavering Avenue, Barnes – w/c 11th May 2020.
Barnes Avenue, Barnes – w/c 25th May 2020.
Ham Street, Ham – w/c 25th May 2020.
The Council is also currently preparing an Action Plan of measures to support walking, cycling and physical distancing in key locations across the borough. Further information on this will be available soon.
Please look out for my special newsletter on air quality improvement tomorrow. I wish you a very pleasant bank holiday weekend, and reiterate the request that you enjoy yourself at home as the lockdown remains in place.