As the father of two young daughters, I know the worry and anxiety becoming a parent brings. However, I can’t imagine the worry and anxiety for those parents whose new-born babies are seriously ill.
Parents whose child requires an extended stay hospital often must choose between going back to work or staying with their child while they are in hospital. Parents who opt to stay with the child may then have to take unpaid leave, finding themselves in a difficult financial situation.
To tackle this situation and ensure that parents don’t have this added financial stress, the Government’s 2019 election manifesto included the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill, which would introduce up to 12 weeks of extra leave and pay for parents of babies in neonatal care along with statutory pay for parents of babies in neonatal care.
I supported premature and sick baby charity Bliss’ campaign to ensure that the Government fulfilled its pledge – so I was delighted that the Bill was granted Royal Assent earlier this week. This will make a huge difference to parents going through a very difficult time and allow them to stay by their child’s side without having to worry about the financial implications. While it won’t be implemented immediately, I will support any efforts to speed this up and ensure that parents receive this vital support as soon as possible.
There was also good news regarding the economy this week, with the Office of National Statistics confirming that inflation had fallen to 8.7%, and our economic growth forecast has been upgraded by 0.7 per cent by the International Monetary Fund. This was followed by the welcome news that fuel prices are set to fall this year.
In the face of economic difficulties caused by Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, we have acted decisively, delivering a £94 billion Cost of Living package over this year and last, worth £3,300 per household on average. We will continue to do all we can to support families through the current cost of living challenges, focusing on our pledge to half inflation and grow the economy.
Finally, this week myself and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland wrote to BBC Director General Tim Davie to express our concerns regarding proposed changes to BBC Radio Wiltshire services.
The move towards regional presenters will lead to the loss of knowledgeable and experienced local presenters. In addition to this, the move towards regional coverage will mean most of the content will not be relevant to Swindon’s listeners.
BBC Radio Wiltshire is a huge asset to Swindon and the surrounding area, not only providing information but also allowing us to celebrate the achievements of local people and organisations – it is vital that it is able to continue its brilliant work.
The popularity of BBC Radio Wiltshire is quite clear – like local radio stations across much of the country, it outperforms 5Live, Radio 3, Radio 6 Music, and sometimes even outperforms Radio 1. When there are changes to schedules and coverage to local radio, there can be wider implications – including the loss of listeners – which could lead to cuts to even more local services.
Robert and I are very much calling for the proposed changes to be reconsidered to allow for more locally based programming via the excellent BBC Radio Wiltshire.