Justin Tomlinson MP

Justin Tomlinson MP

MP For North Swindon

Swindon Advertiser Column - Supporting Young People Through Difficult Times

As we navigate our way back to normality, these are very different times for our younger residents.

For those now seeking work, it was announced this week that an impressive 260 young people a day are taking up new jobs as part of the Government’s Kickstart scheme. The scheme offers fully funded 6-month high quality placements to 16-24-year olds who are claiming Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment. Employers will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer contributions. With under-25s accounting for over half of the jobs lost since the start of the pandemic, it is entirely correct that they are an area of focus as part of the Government’s plan for jobs. Already, 200,000 Kickstart jobs have been created with a number of different companies and employers taking part, including Marks and Spencer and Pizza Express. These placements will allow young people to earn while they develop important skills which can help set them up for a successful and rewarding career.

Normally at this time of year students would be busily preparing for their GCSE or A-Level exams - however, things are a little different this year. As a result of the disruption students and learners have faced due to the pandemic, the government has agreed that many exams and assessments cannot be held this year in a way which is fair. So, rather than exams, teachers will assess students based only on what they have been taught so that the school or college can determine their grade. Teachers will be able to grade based on information gathered throughout the year from work that has already been completed, mock exam results, homework, or in-class tests. These changes will allow students to be assessed fairly, based on what they have been taught, and with extenuating circumstances taken into consideration. As ever we wish all the students the best of luck.

Today would have been Captain Tom Moore’s 101st Birthday, and to mark the occasion the charitable foundation set up in his name are asking people to take part in the Captain Tom 100 Challenge. The idea is for people to come up with their own 100 challenge to be completed over the weekend. The challenge can be anything you like – keepy-uppies, lengths in the swimming pool, baking 100 cakes or writing 100 letters. It was incredible to see how people responded to Captain Tom’s fund-raising efforts last year as he challenged himself to complete 100 laps of his garden. He was the epitome of community spirit and a beacon of positivity during a very difficult time. The 100 challenge is an excellent way to celebrate his legacy and achievements, and it would be wonderful to see as many people take part as possible. As part of the 100 Challenge, Great Western Rail’s Captain Tom train will be undertaking the “Captain Tom Centennial” - a 1,500 mile journey with 100 stops at stations across the GWT network. The train is due to call at Swindon station at 1912 this evening, before leaving for Swansea at 1915, and again at 1824 tomorrow evening, leaving for Weston-Super-Mare at 1825.

Finally, the UK vaccination programme continues at an impressive pace - 33,959,908 have had at least one dose and 13,581,076 are now fully vaccinated. It has also been announced that an additional 60million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been purchased to help support the booster COVID-19 vaccination programme beginning from the autumn to protect the most vulnerable ahead of the winter – crucially everything is being done to make sure as we return to normality that is how it will stay.

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