BACK TO SCHOOL
I was delighted to see all the children going back to school yesterday - it is most heartening to see restrictions on children being reduced. I hope that their return inspires adults to adhere closely to all of the Covid-19 guidance currently in place. No one wants to see children sent home from school again because we lifted our measures too soon.
If you are a parent whose child went back to school yesterday, I would ask you to consider whether you can walk or cycle them to school. This will help keep traffic and pollution to a minimum while we try to stay off public transport for a few more months to keep infections from rising again.
Children are being tested for Covid-19 at school this week and next week, and will then be tested at home. Some of our community testing centres are located in secondary schools and may be unavailable this week while the schools manage this transition. I would ask constituents to be patient and use alternative community testing sites, such as Kingston University, Civic Centre in Twickenham or Sheen Lane Centre.
With studies showing that mothers have done more than their share of extra childcare during lockdown, it seems fitting that children went back to school on International Women's Day, providing much-needed relief to those who were trying to home school their children while working from home. But we must address the causes of the childcare disparity itself, both cultural and institutional, to say nothing of all the other areas of inequity for women.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE: ENVIRONMENTAL TAXES
One area of inequity I am determined to put right is the VAT on reusable period products. The Government recently acknowledged that sanitary goods are a necessity rather than a luxury and removed tax from disposable products. But they have left in place the VAT on the most sustainable option - washable period pants. These are currently taxed as if they were clothing, which raises their price and discourages women from switching to the more eco-friendly product.
I will continue challenging this until the Government fixes this anomaly, as part of my commitment to reducing plastic waste and landfill with effective policy-making. The Government urgently needs to review how all sustainable products are treated in the tax system. You can see my remarks about this in the Public Account Committee yesterday 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.
Peter advises the aviation industry on trends and analysis and is a regular media commentator on issues connected with aviation policy and industry trends. Caroline is the Deputy Chair of Transport for the Greater London Authority, in which capacity she studies the long term changes in travel patterns and needs that will exist in a post Covid world. Together we will discuss transport in London post-Covid, asking what it might look like, and considering how Londoners might use it.
To see more information about this event or to book a place for yourself, please click here.
In my Community Spotlight this week, I would like to highlight one of my constituents, Lynn McAllister, who has published a book for 9-13 year olds on the pitfalls of safeguarding children when it comes to technology. The book is called ‘Pixie Van Dimple and The Wrong Kind of Artificial Intelligence’.
In Lynn’s own words, “The character experiences a cyberbug infiltration after spending too much time online.. a cautionary tale, but a topic that is serious from the perspective of online safety and screen time & safeguarding - the 'danger' could be from many sources." If you would like to learn more about the book you can do so here.
Digital citizenship is essential for our children in the future - they need to be empowered, familiar and competent in the ever developing digital environment, which includes online safety and harms. The impact of technology on our children and teenagers is an important ongoing discussion, and with the Online Harms Bill currently making its way through Parliament, I look forward to further public debate on this issue.
As always, I have enjoyed reading your nominations for the community spotlight, and look forward to reading more. If there is an individual, business or organisation you would like to spotlight, please send details to Charlotte.Weir@Parliament.uk
Please note - last week's spotlight on Sheen Primary included a copy of their fundraising flyer, which contained a faulty QR code. You can see a corrected version here.
SPRING IN RICHMOND PARK
Royal Parks has written to say that as well as the usual daffodils, cherry blossom and ducklings you may see mud where there used to be grass in Richmond Park, and some areas fenced off or closed to the public. Their teams have been putting up fencing to protect the endangered skylarks that nest on the ground from March to September. They are balancing the need for space and social distancing with work to protect the wildlife and to also help the landscapes regenerate after a winter like no other. Please be careful to avoid the fenced off areas and help the Park bloom with life this spring.
SOUTH LONDON LISTENS
South London Listens is the first phase in a new mental health prevention initiative to help tackle the mental health impacts of Covid-19 in South London. NHS Mental Health Trusts and commissioners together with local authorities, Healthwatch, Public Health England, Citizens UK, Black Thrive and other community partners have come together to find out how Covid-19 has affected the mental health of our communities and to find solutions.
4,700 South Londoners have already taken part in listening events in their neighbourhoods, schools, faith groups and community groups. Now the group has launched a new online community survey and want to hear how Covid-19 has impacted your health. The survey takes less than 10 minutes and your feedback will help inform practical solutions for tackling the biggest mental health challenges we face.
You can take the survey here.
NEW KINGSTON AND RICHMOND YOUTH VOICE PODCAST
The Kingston and Richmond Youth Council has launched their new ‘Kingston and Richmond Youth Voice Podcast’. The podcast aims to ensure that the voices and opinions of young people in the borough are heard.
The Youth Council has released the first episode in a series of podcasts that will continue throughout the year focusing on important issues facing young people such as climate change, teenage relationships and youth centres. The first episode is presented by Isabella Topley who interviews UK Youth Parliament Member Joe Crabtree on the issue of climate change. They discuss if residents are doing enough in the fight against climate change and how to make a positive difference in our local areas. Isabella and Joe also discuss how young people can encourage their schools to do more in the fighting against climate change.
As well as being the Richmond upon Thames Youth Parliament Member, Joe is a climate activist who helped to organise the 2019 Richmond upon Thames Youth Climate Summit with Sir David Attenborough.
Listen to the podcast via Spotify here. Search ‘Kingston and Richmond Youth Voice Podcast’ within Spotify to find the podcast.
SAYING 'NO MORE' TO DOMESTIC ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE
During this 'No More Week' (March 7-13) Richmond Council would like to remind residents of the support services available to those experiencing domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Domestic abuse is any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender of sexuality. The abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual or financial.
In an emergency, always call the police on 999. For confidential support and advice call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
All Boots pharmacies are Safe Spaces for those at risk or suffering from abuse. Victims can subtly ask for help by asking for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) and a trained pharmacy worker will know what it means and will offer a private space where they can talk to the victim to see what support is needed.
If you are a female survivor of sexual violence and need support, contact Rape Crisis South London on 0808 802 9999 (Open daily from 12 to 2:30pm, and from 7 to 9:30pm). If you are a male survivor, contact Survivors UK on 020 3598 3898.
For further information and support services, click here.
POST-LOCKDOWN BRIEFING FOR RICHMOND BUSINESSES
Businesses are invited to a briefing to find out more about the latest Government guidance on the road out of lockdown. Three briefings are being held for businesses in the Retail, Beauty/Close Contact and Hospitality industries. Hosted by the Food and Safety and Trading Standards officers for Richmond, Merton and Wandsworth councils, the events will give business owners / managers, an opportunity to find out more about the latest rules, what they need to do to keep their staff and customers safe, and understand what support is available to help them. There will be an opportunity to ask questions.
Businesses based in any of the three boroughs, can register for the events below. The events will be hosted on Zoom. Use the links below to book onto the most relevant event for your business.
NO SMOKING DAY IS THE PERFECT TIME TO QUIT
You can join thousands of others by calling it quits tomorrow, Wednesday 10 March, on the UK’s annual No Smoking Day. Richmond Council and its Public Health team want to remind residents that - with the right support - quitting doesn’t have to be stressful and research shows that people who quit smoking have less anxiety, depression and stress than those who continue to smoke. Additionally, your health will improve, you will save money and you will be protecting those you love from second-hand smoke.
Research shows that you are up to four times more likely to quit successfully if you use a local stop smoking service. The Council’s Stop Smoking Service offers free support from specialist advisors who can offer you tailored evidenced support and recommend the most effective smoking cessation products to help you quit smoking successfully. You can also access information and support if you have chosen to vape or need help quitting other tobacco products such as Shisha.
Stop Smoking London has developed a helpful new guide: how to quit smoking and stay calm in the process.
LIBRARIES TO REOPEN!
In line with Government guidelines, Kingston Council will start to reopen libraries and the adult education service, moving from the current predominantly digital offer to a combined physical and digital service. Surbiton and Hook Libraries are offering Ready Reads by appointment, 4 days a week, 10 - 2pm. They will also resume the community library service, delivering items to the most vulnerable residents.
At the end of the month, New Malden, Kingston and Tudor Drive libraries will be offering Ready Reads and PC Access by appointment.
From 12 April all of the above branches will reopen to the public for limited browsing, PC Access and education where needed.
More details about library reopening can be found here.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON KINGSTON'S HIGH STREETS
As the Council's focus moves to the potential reopening of high streets, they are keen to hear ideas and thoughts about the future uses of high streets across the borough. They are encouraging everyone to be part of the conversation. Ideas can be posted at ‘Let's Talk Shop’ and there are already suggestions being posted by residents about what they’d like to see. I am keen to do all I can to support the success of our high streets, and I encourage all of my constituents to engage in this conversation.