On Wednesday I led a Westminster Hall debate on Maternal Mental Health. I spoke about the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of expectant and new mums and asked the Government to prioritise investment in services that provide mental health support to expectant and new mothers.
In the lead up to the debate, I produced a survey for people to share how their experience of being an expectant and/or new mum was impacted by COVID-19, and how this affected their mental health. I received over 11,000 responses to this survey in just over 3 days, showing how important this issue is.
I want to thank everyone who contributed to the survey. Reading the thousands of personal and complex stories that you shared has not only been extremely moving, but has reinforced why it is so important to look beyond the numbers and provide a space for expectant and new mothers to voice their experiences.
Even before the pandemic dominated public resources, maternal mental health was chronically underfunded and understaffed. We need more health visitors, more midwives and better training throughout the health service to identify and support those who are struggling. I believe the survey and debate also highlight the importance of preserving face to face visits by health visitors, and reinstating in-person mother and baby groups and antenatal classes as soon as possible.
I am calling on the Government to provide the funds necessary to ensure that the system is capable of protecting new and expectant mothers’ mental health. You can see some of my remarks in the debate here, and the full transcript of the debate, starting with my opening speech, here.
RICHMOND PARK MOVEMENT STRATEGY - CONSULTATION RESULTS
Royal Parks recently released the results from its Movement Strategy consultation in Richmond Park. The report can be viewed here.
The consultation feedback indicated support for the measures and a desire to see less cut-through traffic in the park. As a result, the measures introduced last year will be kept in place for the coming year while additional data is monitored.
Overall I welcome this decision. Reducing the use of Richmond Park as a cut-through route will enhance the experience of using the Park for the majority of its users. It will become a safer environment for walkers, cyclists, young families and those with disabilities. It will enhance the biodiversity of the natural environment and protect our wildlife. I also support the decision to review the measures after another year as it is important that observations are made in a state of relative normality.
Clearly, there remain issues that need to be resolved. The displacement of traffic to certain parts of the park is a cause for real concern. This point is identified as a common response theme. I hope Royal Parks will give this their full attention and endeavour to find workable solutions.
I was concerned to read that many respondents reported that the scheme has made it harder to access the park. I fear this could be prohibitive to the elderly, those with small children and disabled people. A lower proportion of disabled respondents, or those with a health issue, supported the scheme than non-disabled respondents. I expect Royal Parks to look into this fully. It is critical that the park remains accessible for those with limited means of mobility. Interactions between cyclists and less mobile users also need to be addressed.
I believe the park should remain open, accessible and safe for all and I hope Royal Parks will continue to work hard to ensure this.
Over a third of the UK population has now had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and vaccination rates in Richmond Park are encouragingly high. Vaccine supply is increasing sharply from this week, so we will be vaccinating even faster in the second half of March, with eligibility age dropping even as second doses are made available to those who were vaccinated early in the programme.
People aged 55 and over can now book their own vaccinations at a mass testing centre. People on the Learning Disability Register are also eligible to book online, along with all health and social care staff, all care home staff and residents, anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable, and anyone who is the main carer for someone at high risk from coronavirus.
There are mass testing centres at the Harlequins rugby stadium in Twickenham and the Hawks Road Clinic in Kingston. If you are in one of the above categories you can book your vaccination here.
The vaccination programme, combined with the lockdown, is clearly working. Case rates in Richmond are still low, though we have not yet seen the effect of reopening schools in the data. I urge all of my constituents to do their part to prevent another increase by getting vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE REPORT ON TEST AND TRACE PROGRAMME
On Wednesday, the Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, received a report on the performance of the Test and Trace system run by Baroness Dido Harding. The report concluded that there is still no strong evidence to judge the overall effectiveness of the programme. It is unclear whether the Test and Trace system's contribution to reducing infection levels has justified its high costs.
On the BBC News on Wednesday I questioned why there isn't more evidence to show what effect Test and Trace has had in reducing transmission of this virus. If you want to scrutinise the PAC report on Test and Trace yourself, you can see it here. And you can see my remarks about the report on the news here.
STAG BREWERY DEVELOPMENT
This week Richmond Council sent the Greater London Authority a detailed response to the updated transport documents for Reselton’s amended planning application for the Former Stag Brewery, which Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is now deciding upon. As you may know, I have joined Richmond Council in opposing the size and scale of this development and raised serious concerns about how it will impact the community. Anyone who would like to see the Council's detailed response can find it here.
JOIN ME FOR A DISCUSSION ABOUT THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORT IN LONDON
On Wednesday 24 March, at 7:00pm I will be hosting a Zoom panel discussion about what transport in the capital might look like in the future. I will be joined by Caroline Pidgeon AM and Peter Morris, Chief Economist for Ascend/Flightglobal. To see more information about this event or to book a place for yourself, please click here.
PROTECTING SKYLARKS IN RICHMOND PARK: FILM BY CLARE BALDING
Visitors to Richmond Park are being asked to help protect endangered skylarks. Richmond Park is one of the few and best breeding areas for skylarks in Greater London, but these ground-nesting birds are easily disturbed by dogs and Park visitors. Friends of Richmond Park patron Clare Balding, presents a new film asking visitors to help protect the skylarks. She urges fellow users of the park to keep dogs on leads and stick to the footpaths in the nesting areas of the Park during the spring.
In the film Clare Balding, a well known dog lover, meets dog owners, bird experts and the Park’s Manager Simon Richards, and explains why signs and fencing have been installed to alert Park visitors to breeding skylarks. The film is available here. For more information about the threat to skylarks from the RSPB please click here.
WEBINAR FOR RICHMOND RESIDENTS FROM EU COUNTRIES ON BRITISH NATIONALITY
EU nationals living in the borough are invited to attend an online webinar to help them understand how to apply for British nationality. The virtual event will be held on 31 March at 2.30pm. Attendees will be able to find out who is eligible to apply for British nationality and learn about the application process.
The event will be delivered by Citizens Advice Richmond as part of a package of support, funded by the Council, aimed at enabling EU residents to get impartial, expert advice on nationality matters and options available for them. Although the event is free you do need to register to attend. You can also sign up for e-updates from Citizens Advice Richmond.
The deadline to apply for the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is 30 June 2021. The Council believes that there are still many people who are eligible for the EUSS who have yet to apply, in particular vulnerable citizens such as older people and non-EEA nationals. The Council is urging all residents from EU countries and eligible non-EEA nationals who want to stay in the UK to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible.
COVID-19 VACCINE SURVEY
Kingston Council wants to hear from residents to understand how they feel about the coronavirus vaccines. They have worked with Healthwatch Kingston, the NHS and Kingston Voluntary Action to develop a short, anonymous survey to gather views from communities across the borough.
By sharing your thoughts, you can help them ensure they can answer any questions or concerns Kingston residents may have in future work on the vaccine rollout. Please take the survey and share with your friends and neighbours.
KINGSTON PARENT CARER FORUM
Kingston Parent Carer Forum (KPCF) is part of a national network of forums aiming to give a voice to families who have children or young people with a special educational need or disability (SEND). The Forum is made up of local parents who are passionate about improving the local facilities and activities for their children. Meeting regularly with a wide range of agencies and service providers in Kingston, including the council, children’s services, health, and education they are able to give feedback on the availability, quality, and effectiveness of services in the borough, and to challenge when changes or improvements need to be made. Your voice can make a difference. Learn more and join the Forum to have your voice heard, or support them by following their Facebook page.
GREAT SEED SWAP
The Great Seed Swap Day, hosted by Kingston Environment Centre, will take place on Sunday 4 April. This means you have less than a month to collect seeds! For more information on how to get involved visit the Seed Swap Kingston Facebook page.