Being an MP and the Minister for Disabled People has given me the opportunity to meet some incredible people and charities who do fantastic work supporting and advocating for people with disabilities. I recently had the privilege of speaking to Becky Maddern, who is an inspirational figure, not only working tirelessly to support her own son Benjamin – who has complex disabilities, but also passionately advocating for other children with disabilities and their families.
Becky recently got in touch with me to highlight concerns that play parks across Swindon do not have provision for children with additional needs, meaning that those children and their families find it difficult to use them. She wants to make sure that all children have the opportunity to enjoy parks, and that local Parish Councils consider and provide for all children within their parks.
I was delighted to hear that she had a very productive meeting with St Andrews Parish Council to discuss the issue. I was keen for her to have similar discussions with other Parish Councils in Swindon and, as such, have written to every Parish Council in the Borough to bring the matter to their attention and to recommend that they meet with Becky to better understand the issue.
I hope Parish Councils do take the opportunity to meet with Becky, and that going forward they will consider the needs of children with disabilities. As Minister for Disabled People, this is certainly something I will work on at a national level.
By now, many of us are well-acquainted with virtual online meetings, whether an important meeting for work or a quiz night with friends. It’s fantastic that the digital world has allowed many events to continue despite lockdown and social distancing.
One event that will still go ahead is UK Parliament Week, which will move online this year. UK Parliament Week is an annual festival taking place over the first week of November. It engages with people from across the UK, and provides an opportunity to learn more about democracy and Parliament. The events are extremely popular, with over 1.2million people taking part in Parliament Week events last year. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Parliament Week - a great opportunity to celebrate our thriving democracy and to look ahead to the next 10 years.
Over the past few years, I have taken part in many Parliament Week events, including welcoming Guides, Brownies, and Scouts to my office for a mock election, visiting schools for my interactive assembly, and visiting UK Research and Innovation. Although I will be unable to attend any events in person, I am looking forward to participating virtually. If anyone has any events that I can help with or participate in, I would encourage them to get in touch.
Finally, over the Summer the national was in awe of Captain Tom Moore and his incredible fundraising efforts – for which he received a promotion to Colonel and a knighthood. I was pleased that, earlier this week, Sir Tom became the very first recipient of the Government’s new Veterans Railcard. The new railcard comes as part of the Government’s pledge to support our veterans and their families, and will provide an additional 830,000 veterans, who are not covered by existing discounts or railcards, up to one-third off most rail fares.