Weekly Round Up

I was pleased to be on the panel at the launch of the No Place Left Behind report from the Commission on Prosperity and Community Placeholding on Monday, where we discussed the importance of giving communities new powers in efforts to ‘level up’ left behind neighbourhoods. Top-down projects rarely work because their leaders simply cannot understand the specific needs of local communities and cannot implement effective tools to enact change. The importance of local knowledge and lived experience should not be underestimated. I found it striking that the report noted how important it was for people to live within a short distance of good quality shops for groceries and that this can boost the wellbeing of constituents. In order for this to happen, we need to look at business rates and ensure that in poorer parts of the country, we are not hindering growth before it can even begin by placing shop premises financially out of reach for local sellers. I look forward to continuing these discussions.

On Wednesday I was able to put a question to the Home Office Minister on the epidemic we are facing of violence against women and girls. I agreed with the recent police report recommendation that violence against women and girls be treated with the same degree of importance as countering terrorism. Resources are a huge factor in this. We cannot expect police to fight this epidemic with the paltry resources that they currently have at their disposal. If this Government are serious about countering violence against women and girls, then they need to give the police have the tools to do the job. The Home Office must ensure that there is a national programme to tackle this and that local forces are not simply left to deal with this epidemic of violence themselves.

It’s once again been a busy week on the Committee for the Health Bill. We’ve been looking at transparency and independent scrutiny of local services. It is so important that patients can see where money is being spent in their local health services and how decisions about provision are being made. For that to be the case, there must be independent scrutiny with access to the appropriate information and the ability to challenge decisions that are at odds with the needs of the community. The NHS faces many challenges, but more transparency will help us identify areas of difficulty and implement the necessary change to make improvements.

We have also been looking at the important issue of workforce planning and the importance of training local people. Fairly recently, the Government expanded medical training places in parts of the country where there is a low take-up, and to which people are not moving to work. We know that if we train people locally, they stay local and if the Government would like a quick and easy way to level up—however they want to define it—that is it. If we want our young people to stay in their local areas to work, we need to offer them the jobs and training that enable them to do so. It’s not fair that for young people to get a job they have to move away from their homes, their families, and their friends. It’s also not fair on their local communities who lose that talent and youthful enthusiasm! We need healthcare workers within our communities but that only happens when we offer the training and provide the jobs to build that care within the community.

I have introduced an amendment to the Bill on end-of-life care which we discussed this week. As someone with a longstanding interest in this issue, I believe that this Bill must make provision for anyone with a terminal illness diagnosis to be offered a conversation about what the diagnosis means to them and how the health service can support them at the end of their life. At this point, a patient’s needs are not merely medical, so the conversation needs to include support on understanding and deciding on their treatment, on support for their mental wellbeing, financial and practical support to ensure that they are prepared, and support with their social relationships. These conversations are by nature incredibly difficult, but they are also necessary. Healthcare does not stop because medicine can not save us and clear guidance on what this means is vital to ensure that all patients are treated with respect and dignity until the end.

I was pleased to join the Advanced Construction Skills Centre launch today with the Mayor of the West of England, Dan Norris. The £9 million investment in this Skills Centre is a wonderful opportunity for the young people in South Bristol and I am pleased that higher apprenticeship courses will be offered alongside construction courses for trades in wood, brick, and plaster for both young people and those looking to retrain or build on their current qualifications. We need centres like this around the country to develop our vocational capacity, to provide young people with the trades and skills that will help them into well paid jobs, and to show a commitment to ensuring that learning a trade is given the same level of investment and respect as learning in an academic setting. Both are vital for the prosperity of this country and both are needed to help our towns and communities recover from a decade of austerity and the pandemic.

If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing Karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 0117 953 3575.