"Perseverance will get you anywhere." That was the message tweeted back to Earth from the surface of Mars by the Nasa rover Perseverance when it landed there yesterday.
We have succeeded in the challenging task of getting the pandemic back under control by persevering ourselves, maintaining a difficult lockdown and rolling out our vaccination programme with impressive speed and competence. I am looking forward to the Prime Minister's announcement on Monday about reopening schools, and further information on their exit plan from Covid-19. But until we are truly safe we must continue to work hard to combat the virus on all fronts - by staying home, wearing masks and getting vaccinated in our turn.
SMALL BUSINESS SURGERY
Today I held my second small business surgery for local firms struggling as a result of the pandemic. While I was immensely grateful for their time, it was deeply distressing to hear of the challenges they are facing on a daily basis. One thing that was clear was that our hospitality and creative arts industries are in dire need of urgent support. I’ve spoken with tour operators, travel companies, restaurateurs and music agents and it is clear that they desperately need additional government support, or they risk extinction in the summer.
When the Prime Minister announces his roadmap back to normality on Monday, it remains likely that these sectors will be at the back of the queue in terms of when they can re-open. However, the Treasury will be expecting them to re-pay their loans and grants in the coming months, something they simply will not be able to do. I will therefore be lobbying the Treasury to ask that special consideration is given.
LETTER TO THE DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, ENERGY AND INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY
Following my small business surgery last week, one thing that became very clear was that the information and advisory services for small businesses trying to make sense of the UK-EU Trade Agreement are unfit for purpose. I have therefore written to the Secretary of State urging him to overhaul the system both in terms of the information on GOV.UK and the advice provided by the Trade Support Service. Given the dual-challenges of Brexit and the pandemic, it’s absolutely critical that we do all we can to support those struggling to remain afloat. You can see my letter here.
VACCINATIONS NOW AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE OVER 65
If you are over 65 and you haven't had your vaccination yet you are invited to go to the government website to book one here. You don't need your NHS number and you don't have to be registered with a GP surgery already. All health and care workers, and people on the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable list who haven't had a jab yet, can also book on the national website.
An additional 1.7 million people across England have recently been identified as being at a greater risk from COVID-19. People on the new list who have not already received their vaccination will now be prioritised for one. If you are on the new list, you will be sent a letter from NHS England in the next few days. You should wait to hear from your GP or the NHS about your vaccination.
SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE NEWLY ADDED TO THE SHIELDING LIST
Richmond Council will be sending a letter next week to all Richmond residents who have been added to the shielding list, setting out the support available to them. Additional Council staff have been seconded to the Community Hub and the Adult Social Care hub so residents receive a quick response to any requests for help. You can reach the Community Hub by phone on 020 8871 6555 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kingston residents who have recently been advised to shield can access support, food and medicine deliveries, as well as befriending services, from Kingston Council. All support is available through the Kingston Stronger Together Hub.
VACCINATING SOCIAL CARE WORKERS
Some of my constituents have written to me with concerns about low vaccination rates among care home staff, who are all eligible for the vaccine and can book themselves one on the government website here.
While Richmond and Kingston have some of the highest uptakes in London, they are not as high as we would wish. I asked our local NHS leadership about this issue and was told that they are working hard to correct this. Care home staff are being offered vaccinations in their workplaces, at local clinics and at the national vaccination centres, some of which have extended hours to accommodate shift workers.
The Southwest London NHS is also:
working closely with local authority colleagues to identify care home staff
supporting local engagement events, providing clinicians to answer questions about the vaccine
conducting work to understand the reasons for low uptake
setting up webinars and shared information on specific issues, like women’s health and fertility
offering messages and materials for care home operators to use in their internal channels
providing weekly newsletters with key messages about the vaccine
If you have a friend or family member who works in the social care sector, please encourage them to protect themselves, their patients and their families by booking a vaccination here.
RAIL ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BRANCH REPORT ON EDEN PARK TRAGEDY
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has published a report into the fatality of a blind man at Eden Park train station on 26 February 2020. There remains a shameful lack of urgency in the Department for Transport’s efforts to install tactile paving at our train stations. Network Rail’s stated aim of full provision by 2029 is inadequate and signals a profound lack of empathy for those living with a disability, who are forced to navigate unsafe transport systems. I have urged the Department to bring forward its timetable for safety renovations, and uphold its commitment to providing accessible transport for all.
HEALTHWATCH RICHMOND COVID-19 WEBINAR
On Tuesday, 2 February, Healthwatch Richmond hosted a live webinar with a panel of experts answering questions on everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine. The panel included:
Dr Patrick Gibson, GP Clinical Chair Richmond, NHS South West London CCG
Tonia Michaelides, Locality Executive Director (Richmond & Kingston) NHS South West London CCG
Julie Risley, Chair of Healthwatch Richmond (Event Chair)
Mike Derry, Chief Officer Healthwatch Richmond
Shannon Katiyo FFPH, Director of Public Health
The event was recorded live in front of 315 attendees. If you missed the event you can watch the recording via this link.
EMERGENCY APPEAL FOR FOOD DONATIONS FROM RICHMOND FOODBANK
The team at Richmond Foodbank is in urgent need of food donations to ensure they can continue to support the local community. If you can, please consider making a donation at one of their drop off food donations site. Read more here.
FREE DEVICES TO COMBAT LONELINESS FOR VULNERABLE RESIDENTS
Vulnerable residents in Richmond upon Thames can apply for easy-to-use video communication tablets, which allow people with little to no technological experience to keep in touch with their loved ones and carers. Richmond Council is providing Alcove Video Carephone devices to vulnerable and clinically vulnerable people in order to provide virtual care and health and wellbeing support.
The Carephone is a secure device that can be easily used by those who would otherwise be at risk of social isolation to make video calls with family, friends, care workers and other approved service providers. The devices help care workers perform tasks that do not require face-to-face visits and also keep vulnerable people in contact with their loved ones without the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
If you think you or someone you know would be eligible and benefit from a Carephone, contact email@example.com.
NEW TALK RICHMOND PODCAST: COVID-19 VACCINE
In the latest episode of Richmond Council's Talk Richmond podcast, Jim Millard meets Dr Patrick Gibson for a detailed discussion on the coronavirus vaccine, including the differences between the vaccines and how long protection lasts for. Listen here: https://www.richmond.gov.uk/council/news/podcast
VIDEO FROM CAROLINE KERR
I encourage Kingston residents to watch Council Leader Caroline Kerr's latest video, where she discusses the vaccination programme for Kingston residents. Caroline reports that 90% of people who have been offered the vaccine in Kingston have had it now, which is very good news indeed. Watch her video here.
RAINBOW FLAG OVER GUILDHALL FOR LGBT+ HISTORY MONTH
Kingston Council will fly the rainbow flag from the Guildhall on 26 February to mark LGBT+ History Month.
The Council first flew the flag from the Guildhall in 2019 in celebration of Pride month, which was repeated in 2020. The Kingston LGBT Forum also has some great events throughout LGBT+ History Month, which you can find out more about on their website.
SUPPORT TO INSTALL SOLAR PANELS IN YOUR HOME
Having your own solar panels can help reduce your energy bill and power your home with clean energy. Kingston Council is working in partnership with the Mayor of London to make the transition to clean energy as cost effective and hassle-free as possible for residents and small businesses. Solar Together is an initiative that keeps the cost of installing solar panels down by collective purchasing. Find out more at www.solartogether.co.uk/kingston.