Acid Attacks

We have seen a worrying increase in reports of attacks using acid or other similar substances as offensive weapons. Of course violence of any kind is unacceptable, but there is something particularly troubling about these kinds of attacks. Corrosive substances cause severe burns and serious tissue damage. All too frequently, victims’ lives are altered forever. Nobody should have to go through the kind of mental and physical trauma they suffer.

I have heard from victims and survivors, including from Truro, and they are at the heart of the new plan to tackle these appalling crimes that, as Home Office Minister, I announced in Parliament last week.

While mercifully there are relatively few attacks, I am acutely aware of this growing problem and I refuse to let those behind such attacks spread fear through our society. The law in this area is already strong, with acid attackers facing up to a life sentence. Meanwhile, by law, suspicious transactions involving sulphuric acid must be reported to police.

But there are ways we can and will improve. The plan I announced in Parliament is wide-ranging and a comprehensive cross-Government review of our response to this profoundly concerning phenomenon.

Earlier this month the Home Office, with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, hosted a conference which brought together a range of organisations and people united by a determination to make a difference, from law enforcement, from Government, from the medical sector, mental health experts and representatives of the retail industry. Because there is no one simple answer, this joined-up approach has informed this action plan.

And we need to make sure that when these attacks do take place, victims are given the care and support they need; from the initial medical response to giving evidence in court and throughout the recovery process.

Drugs Strategy

Drugs destroy countless lives. They lead to crime, violence and disorder on our streets. They are one of the creeping and corrosive threats to our society that we must do more to tackle. But I am also determined to do all I can to protect the most vulnerable, who too often become the victims. I am proud to have played my part in the development of the Government’s new drug strategy which sets out how we will tackle the deadly impact of drugs, including substances like spice or fentanyl.

Drugs are illegal because they devastate lives. They are illegal because traffickers target vulnerable people all over the world and exploit their misery. They are illegal because of the agony caused by those solely focused on their next fix.

Last year, the Psychoactive Substances Act introduced a blanket ban on so-called ‘legal highs’, meaning back-yard chemists can no longer dodge the law by making small changes to the make up of dangerous drugs.

Being tough on drugs is vital, but it cannot be all we do.

It is vital we protect the vulnerable – to prevent them falling into the cycle of drug abuse and to help them turn their lives around. Doing so will spare countless families the agony of seeing a loved one’s life destroyed. It could save lives. And it will reduce the burden placed on our public services, in particular the police and the NHS.

While drug use is falling we are not complacent and are redoubling our efforts to prevent children taking drugs.

The new post of Recovery Champion will travel up and down the country, meeting NHS staff, police officers, teachers, community groups and local authorities, who all have a vital role to play in enabling people to live their lives free of drugs.

First Published in the West Briton 18/07/17

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Last week Cornwall welcomed inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission who jointly carried out an inspection of our local area. Under the Children and Families Act 2014, the government placed new duties on our local health, social and education services that provide for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

The inspection will evaluate how effectively the local area identifies the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities, and meets the needs of these children and young people so that their chances of participating fully in society improve.

Improving the lives of the most vulnerable people in our community is I believe amongst the most important roles of Cornwall Council. Our public services working effectively in partnership with local businesses and charities as well as families and carers is essential for improving lives. This is especially true when public finances are tight as we all want to see public funds spent on improving the opportunities for children and young people with special education needs and/or disabilities.

Central government has its role to play too and I am pleased that an ambitious project which will help support vulnerable children and families in Cornwall has been awarded almost £2m from the Government’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.

The project, developed by Cornwall Council in partnership with health organisations, is one of 24 projects across the country to receive funding from the Department for Education’s £200m programme which has been set up to encourage local authority children’s services to innovate their practice and the way they deliver services.

This new and additional funding will help transform the way education, health and social care services work together to better meet the needs of children, young people and their families.

First published in the West Briton 12/07/17