Justin Tomlinson MP

Justin Tomlinson MP

MP For North Swindon

Swindon Advertiser Column - Brexit Britain Punching Above Its Weight

Despite continued strong employment statistics, close to a record high, the underlying growth in long-term sick, including amongst young people, remains a major concern. The reasons behind this are varied and complex, but I wanted to touch on two areas where action could and should be taken.

Firstly, having served as the Minister for Disabled People, I am aware that 1 in 5 people have either a disability or a long-term health condition - the majority will develop during working age, rather than from birth. We now spend around £60bn per year providing financial support for those with disabilities or long-term health conditions, but frustratingly that is often it.

I have repeatedly called for better signposting to local support groups for those with registered conditions on any of the Benefits. For example, when applying for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because of a mental health condition, why are we not signposting all the available formal and informal support groups within that claimants’ local area? At the same time, many of these wonderful support groups struggle to identify people who would benefit from what they have to offer. A clear case of the left and right hand not joined together. I will continue to press on this as we can’t simply presume that providing a level of financial assistance is sufficient - we need to be making sure, wherever possible, that wider support is offered.

Secondly, I read a worrying report of the decline in graduate traineeship schemes, both in numbers starting and completing. This is directly because of an increasing presumption of ‘working from home’, which leaves too many starting their career to work in isolation, without (experienced) peers to help them progress, pass on work or guidance. Whilst I absolutely understand the benefits of online meetings where people are based across the country, day to day work, especially for younger people, will always be better and more productive in a traditional work environment. These worrying statistics must be a warning to employers who in some cases have been too quick to dismiss traditional working environments.

Life is full of ups and downs, if we leave people in isolation, whether navigating a change in health condition or starting their work career, then we know the long-term sick figures will continue to get worse. This can’t be ignored, and I will continue to push on both these points in Parliament and with employers.

On a more positive economic note, figures show the UK has shot up through the United Nations trade rankings from seventh a year earlier, to becoming the world’s fourth-largest exporter. The UK has overtaken France, Netherlands and Japan – now only behind China, US and Germany. Brexit Britain continues to punch above its weight, with over 70 new trade deals struck, rapidly falling inflation, near record employment and interest rates set to fall, the economy is positively turning.

Finally, I was delighted to hear that the Government has announced £35 million over the next five years to boost grassroots cricket and help get one million more young people active by 2030 - improving their physical and mental health.

As a huge cricket fan, I am delighted that the Government is working to get even more young people involved in the game and I look forward to seeing how Swindon Cricket Club can benefit from the funding.

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