Richmond Park News: 10 September 2021
It will be twenty years tomorrow since the World Trade Center in New York was destroyed by terrorists. As always, my thoughts are with those who lost loved ones on that day, including some British families. On behalf of the residents of Richmond Park I send my heartfelt condolences to all of them, and to all victims of terrorist atrocities.
Twenty years later we still have a great deal of work to do combatting intolerance and violence. Our withdrawal from Afghanistan means even more of this work needs to be done indirectly, through diplomacy, intelligence and promoting peace in every way we can. I thank everyone who is doing their part in this work, no matter how big or small, whether here or abroad. We may not have had the success we hoped we would see by now, but we must not give up.
SOCIAL CARE REFORM PROPOSALS
The Government announced its long-awaited proposal to reform social care funding this week. The plan introduces a new tax, the Health and Social Care Levy, to be added to National Insurance Contributions. The Government estimates that the new taxes will raise around £12 billion a year, which will be ringfenced for health and social care. Details of the levy and what the new revenue will be used for are set out here.
The reforms include:
The introduction of a cap on personal care costs of £86,000.
Increasing the upper capital limit from £23,250 to £100,000. If your assets are over £100,000 you will have to pay for your own care.
Increasing the lower capital limit from £14,250 to £20,000. If your assets are below £20,000 your care will be paid for by local authority funding.
For those who have capital valued between £20,000 and £100,000, the local authority may fund some of their care, but they may have to contribute up to 20% of their chargeable assets per year.
Increasing in line with inflation the amount of income that care recipients can retain after contributing towards their care costs.
While I welcome the attempt to begin much-needed social care reform, I am concerned that this proposal does not address the most pressing problem - the 120,000 vacancies for social care workers. It does not improve pay and conditions for care staff so we can recruit and retain them. It does not fill the enormous black hole in funding supplied to local authorities for social care. And it does not address the challenges faced by unpaid carers.
The Government needed to address the care work staffing crisis with a cash injection to local councils of the size needed to meet their duty of care to vulnerable residents, and a reduction in other barriers to employment. Instead the Government has imposed a vaccination mandate on care home workers as well as a new immigration system that makes it difficult for employers to recruit key workers from overseas, branding them as 'unskilled.'
I was able to ask a question about care home staffing shortages at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday. I told the story of a constituent who has been personally affected by this issue. A care home has informed my constituent that they will be unable to take her son because they are losing staff due to the government requirement for all staff to have two Covid-19 vaccinations.
This requirement is exacerbating the existing recruitment crisis caused by the underfunding of care and hostile immigration policies. You can see my question asking whether the Government would ease the burden on care homes by rescinding the vaccination policy, and the vaccines minister's response, here.
The Government has a great deal more work to do if it wants to properly fix the social care system and integrate it with the healthcare system. I hope they will listen to experts in the sector and to service users about where the most pressing problems and barriers to care lie, and make a good faith attempt to include all parties in finding solutions.
OPPOSING THE ELECTIONS BILL
I spoke out against compulsory voter identification earlier this week because the very small amount of fraud that occurs does not justify creating such high barriers to voting.
The number of legitimate voters who will be put off from voting by this bill is much higher than the number of fraudulent votes that will be prevented.
Many of the voters who will be disenfranchised by this measure will be lower income voters and persons of colour, and I am appalled at this attack on their rights to vote. You can see more about my reasons for opposing this bill in this video.
FEWER SOUTHWESTERN RAILWAY TRAINS FOR RICHMOND PARK CONSTITUENTS
As many of you will be aware, Southwestern Railway recently published a proposed new timetable for this area that included fewer trains coming through Richmond, North Sheen, Mortlake and Barnes. I am vociferously opposing these cuts in service. We should be trying to get more people onto public transport and out of polluting vehicles; making rail travel a less attractive option will not help.
If you would like to help me make the case against these cuts, there are two things I would ask you to do.
The first is to fill in Southwestern Railways' consultation survey here, to make your views known to them. I spoke about this issue in the House yesterday, pressing the Government to abandon this ill-conceived idea. You can see my question to Minister of State for Transport Chris Heaton-Harris, and his response recommending filling out the Southwestern Railway consultation in this video.
The second action would be to sign petitions against the cuts, including this petition organised by the local Liberal Democrats. Twickenham MP Munira Wilson and I will be using the petition response in our fight to protect our local rail services.
OPPOSING THE UPCOMING UNIVERSAL CREDIT CUT
Up to 9% of families in my constituency will be worse off at the end of this month when the £20 uplift to Universal Credit is removed, including 14% of families with children. I strongly oppose this cut to benefits because of the effect I know it will have on lower-income families in Richmond Park. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a new estimate that the Universal Credit cut alone could force 500,000 people, almost half of them children, into poverty. You can see more information here.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE UPDATE
This week I had a meeting with Historic England to find out more about the Bridge’s listed status. I was reassured to hear that they continue to be constructive and collaborative partners in the pursuit of a long-term solution. While the Bridge is an aging structure, they are clear that from a technical standpoint, they have no reason to believe that it cannot take modern traffic patterns. Rather, it is a case of ensuring the Bridge is repaired in the correct way, technically-speaking, and that enough money is assigned to repair it. They also explained that destroying the Bridge and constructing a new one would not be a less-expensive alternative to repairing the existing structure.
The meeting underlined to me how important it is that the Government is forthcoming with the money it is prepared to commit. With that in mind I was pleased to co-sign a letter to the Chancellor this week with Fleur Anderson, MP for Putney, Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford and Isleworth and Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith. We called on the Chancellor to intervene and provide central government funding, given the Taskforce's lack of urgency in resolving this matter.
I was particularly keen to make the point to the Chancellor that the Bridge’s closure is environmentally damaging, limiting the ability of Londoners to access public transport and increasing car journeys. The impact this is having on air quality is devastating. At a time when we are rightly focused on our net zero commitments, we must act urgently. To read our letter, click here.
HAM HOUSE ON ANTIQUES ROADSHOW - AIRING THIS WEEKEND
Over the summer Ham House welcomed the team from Antiques Roadshow to the estate's gardens. If you would like join the Antiques Roadshow experts in exploring the histories behind Ham House's treasures you can see the episode at 8pm on BBC One this Sunday.
THE POPPY FACTORY
Today I had the pleasure of visiting the Poppy Factory in Richmond which has, since 1922, been supporting veterans with health conditions into employment. The first veterans that the organisation supported were wounded, inju