I was so sorry to hear today that the young minke whale that appeared near Richmond Lock, and later in the river between Ham and Teddington, has had to be put down. British Divers Marine Life Rescue and representatives from Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme concluded that it would not survive and that the best course of action would be to end its suffering. While glad that these groups, assisted by river authorities, were on hand to do their best for this beautiful creature, I am sure I speak for all of my constituents in saying how sorry I am that the whale couldn't be saved and restored to its natural habitat.
THE QUEEN'S SPEECH
Today was the State Opening of Parliament, with Her Majesty the Queen sitting alone on a single throne in the House of Lords for the first time in her reign. It was reassuring to see the traditions of the State Opening maintained after the turbulence of the past year, for the country as a whole, but also, of course, for the Queen personally.
This year's Queen's Speech proposed a number of changes to property rights. I welcome reforms to leasehold laws that will make it easier and fairer for leaseholders to extend their lease or buy their freehold. But I have grave concerns about the proposed changes to the planning system referenced in today's Speech. These changes will further erode the power of local authorities to act in the best interests of their communities through the planning process. I believe deeply that residents should have a say in what happens in their towns and villages. The Government's Planning for the Future white paper centralises power in a way that takes control away from them.
Earlier today I spoke with the BBC to comment on the Government’s legislative agenda. While I welcomed their commitment to skills training, I have grave concerns about proposed measures designed to consolidate power in the Government's own hands. I will work to preserve the integrity of our democracy by opposing both the plans for voter ID cards and the bill to repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act. You can see my interview here.
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK -- HELP ME SUPPORT RICHMOND MIND!
It's Mental Health Awareness Week, and I am running the Richmond RunFest Kew Gardens 10K Run this weekend to raise money for Richmond Mind. Richmond Mind does vital work helping my constituents and I am eager to do everything I can to support them. If you would like to make a donation to them by sponsoring me you can see my fundraising page here.
The Mental Health Foundation’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year is ‘Nature’, inspired by research throughout the pandemic showing that spending time outside was one of people’s top coping strategies. Kew Gardens is home to an amazing variety of natural environments, so it's the perfect place for me to mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2021. The Mental Health Foundation lists some top tips on connecting with nature here.
Richmond Borough Mind’s helpline offers a safe place where you can speak to someone who will listen, offer you support and guide you to further help if needed. The service is for anyone over 18 years old living in the borough. The emotional support line is available on 0203 137 9590.
Mind in Kingston is planning to resume outdoor face to face services soon, but will continue to provide services by phone and/ or video as well. If you need support, advice or information, you can call them on 020 8255 3939, leaving a message if they aren't able to pick up your call.
The online service Good Thinking is a free virtual resource provided by Thrive London, Public Health England and the NHS. It aims to provide digital mental wellbeing support for London through online quizzes, workshops, podcasts and activities, To visit the website, click here.
If you or someone you care for need immediate mental health support in a crisis, you can call the Southwest London and St George’s Mental Health 24/7 Mental Health Support Line on 0800 028 8000. If required you can then visit the 24/7 Orchid Mental Health Emergency Service at Springfield Hospital in Tooting to receive specialist care from expert mental health professionals.
I encourage all of my constituents to reach out for help if you are suffering. There is good support available for you and no one should feel they have to struggle on alone.
VISIT TO ALSTOM DEPOT WITH THE RAIL INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
This week I met with representatives of RIA (Rail Industry Association), London Overground, Alstom (formerly Bombardier) and the Alstom depot staff. I was given a tour of the depot site where Alstom provides maintenance services to London Overground. RIA and Alstom senior staff talked to me about the biggest challenges facing the rail industry right now and what they need in order to provide more sustainable transportation. They want us to:
Put rail travel at the heart of a green economic recovery
Encourage an increase in rail freight
Invest consistently in the future of transport instead of stopping and starting improvements such as rail electrification and digital signalling
Support UK rail manufacturing as a global export industry
It's been over a year since the Rail Network Enhancement Plan was published and there has been no action so far. I will be writing to the Government about this and about supporting forward-thinking organisations to grow our rail transport system as part of tomorrow's economy.
DEAF AWARENESS WEEK VISIT WITH FERAS AL MOUBAYED
Last week I met Feras al Moubayed of AMB, a deaf awareness and BSL (British Sign Language) training company, to discuss Deaf Awareness Week. Feras explained that because BSL is a language like French, German or Welsh, some BSL users may not necessarily be fluent English readers. Interpreters are needed for deaf people whose first language is BSL to be adequately supported in courts, and when accessing healthcare and government services. Because of the shortage of interpreters, it is imperative that government and NHS websites offer their content in BSL so that deaf people can access information independently.
I am going to look into this issue in Parliament itself too, where BSL interpretation is improving but still patchy. Although I was pleased to see the recent addition of sign language interpreters to the House of Commons broadcast, we need to do more to ensure that press conferences, announcements and public meetings offer simultaneous translation into BSL.
Cllr Nancy Baldwin from Richmond Council joined the visit and undertook to ask the Council's to put more BSL content on the council website too. You can see my effort to sign my greeting to Feras here.
This week, I would like to spotlight the work of Rebecca Saunders, who launched Seekology in late 2019 on George Street in Richmond. Seekology is an independent business promoting independent beauty and wellbeing brands, including many from the local area. Her products include luxury bedding, pyjamas, skincare and aromatherapy products.
Rebecca has worked incredibly hard to keep afloat during the pandemic including hand delivering to customers across the Richmond borough and offering free skincare consultations. Rebecca prides herself on championing other local businesses, too. She is the Enterprise Nation local leader for Richmond and her team includes several people from the broader Richmond Borough.
Seekology has reopened inside Bhuti on Hill Rise. You can see the website here.
I would also like to shine a spotlight on Swiss Bread, a popular bakery based in Ham. The bakery’s motto is ‘A young company for an old tradition’, and young the bakery certainly is. Swiss Bread had its first day of business on the first day of lockdown in March 2020. Nevertheless, staff persevered and did a wonderful job of providing takeaway and delivery services. They are now providing outdoor service too. Staff have been praised for their positive attitude and wonderful service.
If ever you feel in the mood for a freshly baked croissant or cinnamon roll, I encourage you to visit Swiss Bread and support another wonderful local business. You can learn more about Swiss Bread here.
If you would like me to shine my Community Spotlight on you or someone you know, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
FOSTER CARE FORTNIGHT
With Foster Care Fortnight starting next week, I wanted to offer some information to any constituents who have thought about fostering. You can find out more about foster care by attending a virtual information session hosted by Richmond and Kingston Councils' children's service – Achieving for Children (AfC). AfC is hosting three one-hour long online information sessions next week where you will have the opportunity to find out more and ask questions.
· Fostering Information Session on Wednesday 12 May at 12.30pm
· Fostering Information Session on Thursday 20 May at 5.00pm
· Family Link Fostering Information Session on Thursday 13 May at 11.00am
Family Link fostering is when you provide an overnight short break service for children and young people with disabilities.
Please register your interest in attending by emailing: email@example.com
Foster carers are needed from all walks of life to look after children of differing ages. Whatever your background, culture, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or relationship status, if you can recognise and empathise with the need for security and nurturing – you could be the right person to be a great foster carer. If you are at all interested, or simply want to find out more, please do not hesitate to visit www.afcfostering.org.uk for more information or call 07894 229 788.
NEW EXPERIENCES FOR BOOK LOVERS FROM RICHMOND LIBRARY SERVICE
Richmond Library Service has done an amazing job of supporting local residents throughout the pandemic, offering you comfort and connection through literature. They work with The Reader to bring literature to life in your home, or wherever you are. The Library service has asked me to let residents know about two new programmes they are offering.
Their new Page Turner sessions will bring residents a wonderful shared reading experience. There is no need to read anything in advance, just join the sessions ready to explore new stories, which will be read aloud during the session. Choose an online session to suit you, and use Zoom to Join a meeting (Meeting ID: 932 9515 1184). You don't even need to book in advance!
Tuesdays - 10 to 11.30am
Wednesdays - 2 to 3.30pm
Thursdays - 2 to 3.30pm
They are also running a new programme called Novel Steps, where readers can explore the beautiful borough of Richmond Upon Thames while discussing a range of novels. Participants will meet each month for a friendly and informal small group stroll, to chat about books, life, the universe and everything while getting some fresh air and gentle exercise. Trained leaders will guide you around planned routes across Richmond borough.
Date: Final Thursday of each month
Time: 10am to 11am
Location: Various meeting points around the borough.
Price: Free but booking is essential
More details on Novel Steps are available here.
CITIZENS ADVICE WEBINARS FOR EU/EEA CITIZENS
Citizens Advice hosts regular Webinars for EU/EAA citizens in Richmond on the practical implications of Brexit. The video of their latest Webinar, on how to apply for British nationality, is now available on their website here. It covers who is eligible to apply for British nationality and how to make an application.
SEWING ANGELS SALE TO BENEFIT BARNFIELD RIDING FOR THE DISABLED
I am delighted to promote a fundraising activity organised by Sewing Angels to support Barnfield Riding for the disabled. Many of my constituents have told me what a huge positive impact Barnfield's programme has on its disabled participants, and the wonderful Sewing Angels of North Kingston are now turning their clever and creative hands to helping them.
The Sewing Angels will be selling their wares on Saturday 22 May from 10am-3pm outside Spragg’s Builders (corner of Kings Road and Burton Road, Kingston. ) Their hand-crafted items include bunting, aprons, cards, silk pillowcases, gift bags, shopping bags, back packs, eco make-up wipes, face coverings and more. 100% of the takings will be donated to Barnfield Riding for the Disabled
Please do come along and support this worthy cause - two of Barnfield’s horses will
be paying the stall a visit too!
You can see their poster to share it with friends here.
CAN YOU HELP KINGSTON COUNCIL IMPROVE ITS WEBSITE?
Kingston Council would like to talk with residents about their online experience with the Council website. If you would like to take part in research to help them improve the website and online services please look for more information and the link to participate here.