As readers of my column may be aware, I have been supporting the fantastic campaign by Benjamin’s Smile and Activity Alliance to make sure new and refurbished play parks include accessible / inclusive equipment. The campaign has been led by local resident Becky Maddern, who was inspired by the lack of accessible equipment for disabled children – including her son Benjamin.
Becky and I recently met with Luke Hall, Minister for Local Government, to discuss how we can encourage more local authorities to install accessible equipment. Becky was brilliant, explaining why this was so important and Minister Luke Hall has agreed to write to all Council's to encourage them to include accessible / inclusive equipment in new and refurbished play parks. In addition to this, we will work with Councils and play park equipment providers to review and strengthen the guidance on what should be included in new and refurbished play parks.
This is a brilliant result for Becky and Activity Alliance’s campaign, which will not only transform future opportunities for disabled children in Swindon, but across the country as well. A proud day for a Swindon campaign that has made a difference!
One of the best things about being an MP is that I get to experience a great variety of interesting visits and activities. This week I got the chance to ‘break ground’ on the new Arkell’s pub at Tadpole Garden Village, which means I put the very first spade in the ground to mark the start of the building work.
Arkell’s is Swindon’s oldest business, running for 187 years. The latest addition to their list of Swindon pubs will be a huge community asset to Tadpole Garden Village, and I look forward to seeing it develop.
On a different note, I am a huge advocate for apprenticeships – they allow young people to develop vital skills and gain important experience at the start of their career, whilst earning at the same time. Businesses benefit as well as the apprentices, as it allows them to invest in the skilled workforce they need for the future.
This week the Government announced that, in order to encourage and create more apprenticeships, employers of all sizes in England can now claim £3000 for every apprentice they employ as a new starter before the 30th September.
The announcement builds on the extensive action already underway to protect, support and create more jobs – which has an emphasis on young people, to reflect the impact the pandemic has had on them.
Finally, the impressive roll out of the UK’s vaccination programme continues. In total, 75% of adults have now received their first dose, and nearly half have received both doses. We remain on track to offer a first dose to all adults by the end of July, as well as vaccinating all adults over 50 with both doses by 21 June.
To ensure people have the strongest possible protection against COVID-19, appointments for second doses have been brought forward from 12 to 8 weeks for the remaining people in the top 9 priority groups who have yet to receive both doses.
I may sound like a broken record but it is so important that you do get your jab – people who are vaccinated are less likely to be admitted to hospital due to the virus or to die from it; and there is growing evidence that vaccinated people are less likely to pass the virus on to others.