The theme for this year's Children's Mental Health Week (February 1-7) is Express Yourself. I hope that my young constituents will find creative ways to share their feelings, thoughts and ideas this week.
I have heard from many of my constituents that their children are struggling this year, with anxiety about Covid-19 and social isolation added to the issues troubling them. I am advocating for better care for children with mental health challenges, addressing this with the NHS, schools and the national government. We must work together to increase support for them; we cannot let our children fall through the cracks.
Parents can find resources to help children express themselves here and there are borough-specific mental health resources in the Richmond News and Kingston News sections below. Let's all try to help young people this week by making a special effort to see, hear and respond to their efforts to express themselves, in whatever way they are able.
During the Petitions Committee debate on the stamp duty holiday yesterday, I also spoke about the ongoing scandal regarding dangerous cladding. The impact that the failure to remediate flammable cladding is having is enormous and must be resolved. Government must provide funding not just to help leaseholders but also to support the housing market. There are many flats, including in my constituency, which are unsellable, and thousands of families across who can’t move. I believe government money and attention would better be directed towards solving this issue.
SUPPORTING CHILDCARE AND EARLY YEARS LEARNING
Since lockdown began again, I have heard from many constituents who work at or have children attending nurseries and other early years settings. I know that they have not received the support they should have to enable them to continue doing their vital work caring for and educating our children.
One of the issues that nursery teachers have brought to my attention is the difficulty of accessing asymptomatic testing for their staff, as schools are able to do. I have written to the Health Secretary about the subject in this letter. I have also raised it with the Education Secretary, the Business Secretary and the Equalities Minister, as supporting childcare and early education is an issue they share responsibility for addressing. I will keep pushing for more support for this sector.
STATE OF BRIDGES IN BRITAIN
The RAC Foundation, a transport policy and research organisation, has released a report revealing that local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales have identified 3,105 bridges as being substandard and unable to carry the heaviest vehicles on British roads. This was 1.6% up on the year before. Councils reported that, as of Autumn last year, 190 bridges across the UK had fully collapsed in the previous 12 months, with a further 30 having partially collapsed. Despite these horrendous numbers, the RAC Foundation also reported that analysis shows a large decline in the number of bridges being assessed for scour damage as a result of river flow, an issue that we certainly are all too familiar with.
We know that much of the current stalemate at Hammersmith Bridge is driven by financial matters as local authorities simply do not have the cash reserves to fund major infrastructure repairs that central government expects them to manage. It is clearly not a workable arrangement. I hope the Department for Transport is aware of these devastating numbers and decide to take a more proactive and willing approach in providing the financial assistance where necessary. I fear that if not, the kind of disastrous episode we’re witnessing with Hammersmith Bridge could become commonplace across the country for many years to come.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE MENTAL HEALTH SURVEY
The Barnes Community Association and Hammersmith Bridge SOS group have teamed up to create a survey looking into how the closure of Hammersmith Bridge has affected residents' mental health. They are eager to hear from as many people as possible, so do please fill it in here if you've been impacted.
HAM GATE TOILETS PETITION
In just two weeks we’ve managed to amass an incredible 738 signatures on our petition to reopen the toilets at Ham Gate, Richmond Park. With 1000 in our sights, let’s keep building on the momentum. If you haven’t already signed, please do so here, and if you have, please pass onto friends and family.
Richmond Council held a virtual public meeting last night on October’s ULEZ expansion, with representatives from TfL at the meeting. For those who weren’t able to attend but are interested in seeing what was discussed, the entire video has been put online. You can view it here. I will also be providing more information on how my constituents can prepare for the change in the coming weeks and months.
The British Society for Immunology has produced a very informative, comprehensive and easy to understand guide to Covid-19 vaccinations. I would recommend that any constituents who would like to know more about how the vaccines work take a look here.
CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH
Residents are reminded of the support services dedicated to young people and children’s mental health in Richmond borough:
· Off The Record, Twickenham, is a free drop-in counselling (currently online), information and sexual health service for young people aged 11–24 living, working or studying in the borough of Richmond.
· Richmond Borough Mind has been offering workshops online, focussing on the anxieties young people face going back to school or moving to new schools following the lockdown period.
· Information and services for 13–19-year-olds on sexual and mental health issues, drugs and alcohol and relationship problems can be accessed on the Getting It On website.
· Kooth.com is an online mental wellbeing platform designed for young people experiencing issues with their emotional wellbeing, such as anxiety, low mood or stress.
· This document is a helpful summary of services available in the borough for children and young people.
· The Single Point of Access number means young people can find the right kind of services or support for whatever is concerning them. The number is 020 8547 5008.
Limiting screen time and encouraging a good night’s sleep are important factors to help mental health and wellbeing. Excessive screen time can impact on how much sleep someone gets, which in turn can impact on mental health. Find out more tips for good mental health at Every Mind Matters.
CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH
Kingston Council has collected all of their resources to support children's mental health on this page: https://www.kingston.gov.uk/mentalhealth-young I would recommend that any parent with concerns about their child's state of mind either look at the resources there, or signpost their child to the page (for older children and teens.)
RAISING AWARENESS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
COVID-19 has heightened the issues of sexual abuse and sexual violence. Kingston Council is very concerned about the levels of violence and abuse that may be hidden by the lockdown.
Support services for victims and survivors of sexual violence in Kingston can be found on the DV hub webpage, or by calling 020 8547 6046. Other services include Survivors UK (support for male rape and abuse victims), NSPCC, Rape Crisis South London, Galop UK (support for LGBT+ survivors) and the Police.