This week both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor were issued fines by the Metropolitan Police for attending a party in No 10 during lockdown. I am, yet again, dismayed at the behaviour of those at the most senior levels of Government, who violated their own lockdown laws, while people right across the country were making enormous sacrifices.
Neither Boris Johnson nor Rishi Sunak is fit to hold office. If they had any decency, they would offer not only their half-hearted apologies to the public, but also their resignations. If the Prime Minister will not do the right thing, then it is up to Tory MPs to call a vote of no confidence and remove him. Alongside my Liberal Democrat colleagues, I will continue to apply pressure to the Conservative Party to do so.
OFF-SHORE PROCESSING OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN RWANDA
The Government yesterday released details of plans to open asylum processing centres in Rwanda. This would see a proportion of asylum seekers arriving in Britain relocated to a facility in Rwanda while their applications are processed.
This hostile policy stands in direct contradiction to Britain’s proud history of offering refuge to those who need it most. It projects an entirely different image of our country than the one I would wish to evoke. The plan would also do nothing to tackle to the real issues regarding immigration, including the ongoing failure of the Home Office to provide an effective, timely and fair service. This plan would treat vulnerable people with cruelty, and cost taxpayers billions at a time when the a cost-of-living crisis is really beginning to take hold and we need to spend more on supporting our own citizens.
Along with my Liberal Democrat colleagues, I have continually voted against the introduction of hostile immigration policies, including the measures that the Government is pushing through in the Nationality and Borders Bill. I am extremely disappointed, and disturbed, by this latest development and will continue to hold the Government to account over such erosions of human rights commitments.
FREE OYSTER CARDS FOR UKRANIAN REFUGEES
At my most recent constituent coffee morning, it was suggested that travel across London should be made free for Ukrainian refugees. I thought this was a great idea - it is vital that Ukrainians face minimal barriers to settling in to life in London once they arrive, and are able to make use of our excellent transport system to reach employment opportunities, schooling, and other public services.
I was therefore pleased to write to the Mayor of London this week, asking him to consider providing Ukrainian refugees with free Oyster cards. I look forward to the Mayor’s response and I hope for some positive action on this. You can read the letter here.
SPRING FESTIVAL WISHES
Yesterday marked Tamil New Year, also known as Puthandu. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my constituents from the Tamil community a happy and healthy new year - I hope you had a joyous time celebrating with friends and family.
Tamil constituents might also like to know that, following a recent meeting with the British Tamil Foundation, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Layla Moran wrote to the Foreign Secretary to highlight human rights violations in Sri Lanka. I was very pleased to sign this letter too on behalf of the large Tamil community in my constituency. You can read a copy of the letter here.
I also wanted to send my best wishes to Sikh constituent who celebrated Vaisakhi, the Punjabi New Year, yesterday, commemorating the history of Sikhism.
And I hope my Christian constituents enjoy their Easter festivities with friends and family on Sunday.
I wish everyone in Richmond Park constituency a pleasant and relaxing long weekend.
OXYGEN YOUTH CLUB
John Trend, the director of Oxygen Youth Club, which I had the pleasure of visiting recently, asked me to put out a call for volunteers for them.The volunteer roles they are recruiting for are:
Mentors: Anyone who is willing to give time to listen to a young person and help them explore the challenges they face and ways through them, could sign up for their mentoring programme. They ask for a commitment of two hours per month for a period of two years to enable the relationship to develop. Training is provided and mentors are supported through regular training and meetings with other mentors to share best practice.
Shop volunteers: They are particularly looking for anyone with availability on Wednesdays and occasional Saturdays. Please click here.
Oxygen is a wonderful provision for our local young people, and I encourage anyone who feels they have time and energy to give to them to contact John about helping with this important work.
NHS PARLIAMENTARY AWARDS
I was pleased to have the opportunity this month to nominate some of our local NHS teams and clinicians for this year's NHS Parliamentary Awards. These are awards given by Parliament to exceptional individuals and services working in or with the NHS.
There are ten categories, covering key areas such as mental health and primary and community care, as well as a Lifetime Achievement award for someone who has contributed to the success of the NHS for 40 years or more and the Rising Star award for someone who has, despite being young in their career, made a significant contribution to our local service.
We are lucky to have many outstanding teams in this area and I was happy to hear about a great deal of important and compassionate work I was not aware of before. I received many recommendations for nominations from constituents and NHS organisations and am pleased to announce that I have selected and put forward the nominees below:
The Excellence in Healthcare Award: Respiratory Pulmonary Nodule Service, Kingston Hospital
The Excellence in Mental Health Care Award: Catherine Sellars, Specialist Forensic Community Team Manager, Southwest London St George's Mental Health Trust
The Excellence in Urgent and Emergency Care Award: Acute ED Frailty Team, Kingston Hospital
The Excellence in Primary Care and Community Care Award: Karen Cutting, Principal Medicines Optimisation Pharmacy Technician, Southwest London St George's Mental Health Trust
The Future NHS Award: Proactive Anticipatory Care Programme, Southwest London CCG
The Health Equalities Award: Gracie Holt, Learning Disability Liaison Practitioner, Kingston Hospital
The Nursing and Midwifery Award: Jane Gwynne, Paediatric Diabetes Clinical Nurse Specialist, Kingston Hospital
The COVID Response Award: Covid Medicines Delivery Unit, St George's University Hospitals
The NHS Rising Star Award: Fauzia Cullasy, Assistant Psychologist, Kingston CAMHS, Southwest London St George's Mental Health Trust
The Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr Frances Bates, Parkshot Medical Practice (ret)
I congratulate all of these nominees, and on behalf of my constituents I thank everyone who was put forward for these awards for their exemplary service to our community.
VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING -- MAY 4
My next Virtual Coffee Morning will be on Wednesday, May 4, at 10:00am. If you would like to join me for a brief update followed by questions and conversation with constituents, please sign up here.
LOCAL POLICE UPDATE
The local policing team has sent this update on their recent activity.
In Kew, police recently tracked and recovered a stolen vehicle after a resident spotted their car being driven away from the Kew Green area. Officers searched a man moving away from the vehicle and found items believed to be used in the commission of the theft. He was arrested and remains in custody.
Local neighbourhood Officers have been at Richmond Station with British Transport Police in order to disrupt county lines, and help keep Richmond safe. Officers did 33 stop & searches and 14 individuals were found with Class A and Class B drugs. One was found with a knife. One male was found who was wanted for arrest.
Local licensing teams together with neighbourhood police teams have delivered ‘Ask for Angela’ and WAVE (Welfare and Vulnerability Engagement) Training across the four boroughs of the South West Command Unit during the month of March. People who feel unsafe, vulnerable or threatened can discreetly seek help by approaching venue staff and asking them for ‘Angela.' Training sessions were delivered to 151 people from 75 different businesses and organisations across Wimbledon, Kingston, Wandsworth, Twickenham and Richmond.
Counterterrorism led an investigation that resulted in a man from Canbury ward in North Kingston being jailed after an explosive chemical find. The defendant admitted to two offences and was jailed for three years and seven months at Southwark Crown Court last week.
The Canbury team has been out on patrol in response to recent reports. There have been a number of scams around parking machines on our borough. The police remind us to be aware of who is around you when using ATMs or parking machines.
The East Sheen team has been visiting businesses to talk about scams and securing software.
The violence suppression team, which works across Merton, Kingston, Richmond and Wandsworth, announced that in March the team completed: 38 Arrests, 17 weapons area searches, 4 Vehicle Seizures, ensured over £7000 was seized, carried out 24 stop and searches leading to weapons seizures and 15 stop and searches leading to drug seizures.
If you want to speak to your local team about crime in your area or to ask them to help with a local issue please do get in touch. You can find contact details here. Always call 999 in an emergency. If you’d rather not speak to us directly you can report information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or on their website.
LOCAL SOCIAL CARE UPDATE
I was delighted to hear this week from Kingston councillors Diane White and Margaret Thompson, who are, respectively, portfolio holders for Children, Young People and Families and for Adult Social Care and Health. These are two large portfolios, taking up almost 65% of Kingston council tax income.
Both departments have been externally recognised as outstanding in their work since the Liberal Democrats took the leadership of the council four years ago. Among the achievements are a rating of ‘Outstanding’ for children’s services provided to Kingston and Richmond by Achieving for Children. Only a handful of councils are rated this highly for children's services.
Kingston and Richmond also support looked after children until they are 25. Some councils leave 18-year olds unsupported after they leave the care system, but we ensure continued foster parent care, supporting them in finding university places, living accommodation and offering Council tax relief until they are 25 if needed.
In adult social care, Kingston is building a state of the art dementia care home, replacing unsuitable housing and building strong links across the NHS, GPs and the council so that they can support vulnerable people in their transition from hospital to independence. Independence and strength deteriorates very quickly in hospitals so it’s important to be able to work together efficiently.
Richmond Council was recently rated the best in England for supporting vulnerable adults aged 18 to 64 to remain independent in their homes and not move into a care home, amongst other achievements highlighted in the Adult Social Care Annual Report 2020-21.
We should all be extremely proud of what we doing for the most vulnerable residents in our area. Top quality social care is something both Richmond and Kingston councils are committed to, and one of the many things that makes this such a wonderful place to live.
Refugees Welcome in Richmond is collaborating with the Vineyard Community Centre to host a weekly social Hub for Ukrainian guests and hosts at the Vineyard Cafe (2a The Vineyard, Richmond TW10 6AQ). The first two hubs will be held on Tuesday 19th and Tuesday 26th April 2-4pm; then from May they will run every Friday 2-4pm.
It’s a great venue with plenty of space, cafe facilities and garden. They hope that this will help people connect with other hosts and guests. It will also allow guests to speak their own language, and access support from volunteers at Refugees Welcome in Richmond and the Vineyard Centre.
A constituent has written to let me know about an emotional support service for people affected by war in Ukraine offered by the Existential Academy. This is a free English-language service staffed by UK-based psychotherapy trainees in their final years of training. The Existential Academy is a little different from other counselling services -- their courses have a foundation in philosophy and psychology, and their motto is 'bringing philosophy to the community'. They are offering up to eight confidential 50-minute sessions free of charge via phone or zoom. If this sounds interesting you can find out more about their programme here.
NHS CARE OVER EASTER
Local NHS leaders have asked me to remind people that the NHS is here for them if they need urgent care over the Easter holidays.
GP practices will let their patients know how to access urgent medical help between 8am and 8pm, with contact information also available on practice websites. People can also visit 111online or call 111 at any time, where they will be asked some questions about symptoms on the website, or by speaking to a fully trained adviser on the phone. Using 999 is for emergencies and should only be called if the situation is life-threatening. You can see more at the bottom of this page.
They will also be offering Covid-19 vaccination clinics across South West London providing first, second, booster, and spring booster vaccinations along with vaccinations for 5-11 year olds. More information on these clinics including locations and opening hours can be found on the Southwest London NHS website.