I had a fascinating start to my week with a roundtable on rebooting tech skills with the Fabian Society and Microsoft UK. We saw during the pandemic how the digital divide widened for young people living in low-income families. Tech skills are now vital for most careers and opportunities will be lost for many bright and innovative young people if they are not given the change to develop those skills. The world of work is practically unrecognisable to the one that our parents would have entered and the skills that are young people learn have to keep up with the new demands.
I was pleased to speak on the issue of a National Eye Strategy in Westminster Hall this week. For those living with sight loss from birth, and as many others find out, sight loss later on in life can be devastating. It affects work, how we travel through the world and how we interact with those around us. There is not only the physical impact, but the effect on our mental health, and on confidence, which is crucial for how we live our life. The Royal National Institute for the Blind estimates that there are more than 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK. Shockingly, at least half of that sight loss might be avoidable. Those who have treatment for sight loss and eye conditions often find it transformative and life-enhancing; however, people with sight loss are waiting too long for that vital treatment, with more than 24,000 ophthalmology patients waiting over a year for treatment in 2022. The Government must step up and put in place to help patients access treatment and eye units recruit and retain staff and to put in place measures to ensure that preventative measures are well supported.
I had a great time at Compass Point Primary today. It’s Share a Story week and I was able to read two of my favourites: Reckless Ruby and Giraffes Can’t Dance. Reading stories to children is so important. It’s important for their education, of course, but it’s also important for their socialisation and their imaginations. Reading with a parent or loved one is a shared moment of pleasure, it’s a feeling of safety and being loved, and it’s about more than just listening. Children are able to let their minds create these wonderful worlds that authors start building for them. It’s a skill we should teach them early and never let it be destroyed.
This week also saw the release of new unemployment figures. They showed a 6% increase in total unemployment and 8% increase in youth unemployment. I’m deeply concerned by the rapid increase in the number of people in Bristol South who are currently out of work. Every number in this statistical release is a person, a household, a family who are now struggling to make ends meet because they are without the dignity of work. We all know that the cost of living crisis was created in Downing Street. Ever since the Tories disastrous Budget under Liz Truss we have been forced to live with higher mortgage rates, stagnating economic growth and a government that spends more time fighting amongst itself than fixing the problems we face.
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