I was particularly pleased this week to see the publishing of the Pet Theft Taskforce’s recommendations. Tackling pet theft has always been an important priority for me and sadly, we have recently seen a rise in pet theft, particularly dogs, in the UK. The theft of a dog not only causes great distress for the owner but has a devastating impact on the dog as well. With 2,000 dog thefts reported to the police last year, it is an issue we simply have to crack down on.
In May, the government formed the Pet Theft Taskforce to investigate the rise in this terrible practice and recommend any necessary measures to address it. The taskforce’s recommendations included creating the new offence of dog abduction. I was therefore very pleased that the Government has confirmed it will deliver this new offence through the Kept Animals Bill, which is currently going through Parliament. As it stands, dog theft is treated as a loss of property - which really doesn’t reflect the importance of dogs to their owners. The new offence will recognise the distress that dog theft causes, as well as increase the courts ability to hand down more targeted penalties and stricter sentences for pet thieves. Pets are part of the family, and having campaigned on pet welfare for a number of years, I’m pleased that this change in the law reflects this.
Elsewhere, I continue to ensure that the Governments plan for jobs continues. As a Minister, I helped to form these policies during the pandemic and one such strand is the Kickstart Scheme. This £2 billion scheme incentivises businesses to create quality work placements – for those aged 16-24 who are at risk of long-term unemployment – and give them the skills, experience and opportunities they need to succeed in the workplace. Young people are our future, and to succeed as a nation we must ensure that opportunities are there for young people to thrive and excel. It is therefore fantastic that an average of more than 3,400 young people have started Kickstart jobs each week over the past month alone, and I know this is benefiting people here in Swindon. The scheme was recently extended for young people to apply to jobs up until March 2022, so anyone who is local and on Universal Credit should speak to their Work Coach to find out what exciting opportunities are available.
The Kickstart Scheme comes as part of the government’s wider Plan for Jobs, the goal of which is to get people (not only young people) back into work following the devastation of the pandemic and I am delighted that this wider Plan for Jobs is progressing well too, with figures released this week revealing that the number of people in employment rose by 160,000 in October - this record figure is well above pre-pandemic levels. In fact, the unemployment rate has fallen by 0.5 per cent, with 1.17 million job vacancies now available.
On a final note, as people begin to look ahead to Christmas, I want to highlight the Christmas Cardathon being run by local charity Care Home Volunteers. The initiative asks people to send in cards which are then distributed to care home residents across Swindon. This is a fantastic way to spread a little joy this Christmas and is a very small gesture which could really brighten an elderly residents day. For some care home residents, it may be one of the only card they receive – so please consider writing one extra card this year. To get involved, send your cards by the 6th December to: Care Home Volunteers, c/o First City House, Cheney Manor Industrial Estate, 114 Darby Close, Swindon, SN2 2QG.