Working to promote the teaching of swimming in schools

I participated in this year’s annual CoastSafe Forum at the Maritime Museum in Falmouth. It was led by local police officer, Truro Crime Manager, Andy Mulhern who is also the RNLI Community Safety Advisor. The forum brought together a wide range of public sector bodies and charities that work together to ensure that we are all doing everything we can to prevent people drowning. A lot of good partnership work is being done locally and the number of people dying in the waters around Cornwall’s shores is falling.   

Andy’s key request to me was to ensure that the government enables all primary school aged children to be taught to swim and stay safe in and around water. 

So, following the forum, I met with Ministers to take up the local concerns raised with me. I was not alone in making the case for vital changes and am delighted with the announcement last week, that Primary schools in England are set to receive extra support and improved guidance to help make sure all children can swim confidently and know how to stay safe in and around water. 

Working in partnership with Swim England, the Department for Education and Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport announced extra help for schools to make sure every child knows how to swim and be safe in and around water by the end of primary school, supported by the £320 million PE and Sport Premium. 

To coincide with the announcement, Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Sports Minister Tracey Crouch have also backed a pledge by Swim England – signed by the likes of British Olympic swimmer Steve Parry – calling on teachers and parents to do all they can to ensure children are taught swimming and water safety at primary school. 

The extra support will help deliver the government’s sport strategy ‘Sporting Future’, which committed to ensuring that every child leaves primary school able to swim. It includes: 

  • using the PE and Sport Premium for extra lessons for children who have not yet met the national curriculum expectation after core swimming lessons, and extra training for teachers on water safety and swimming techniques through courses provided by Swim England; 
  • extra guidance, provided by Swim England, will be available to help schools deliver safe, fun and effective swimming lessons; and a drive to boost partnerships with independent schools to offer the use of facilities, coaching and other forms of support to schools in their area. 

The measures announced follow a government-backed review of swimming and water safety in primary schools, which found that swimming standards vary in schools, despite being compulsory on the national curriculum. 

Steve Parry, Olympic bronze medallist and Chair of the Swimming and Water Safety Review Group, said: 

“Since my competitive days I’ve been championing the need for all children to be taught swimming and water safety at primary school. Along with Swim England and the Swim Group, we have been working to raise awareness of the issues and provide support for all those involved in the delivery of curriculum swimming and water safety. 

Ensuring our children are able to enjoy the water safely is everyone’s responsibility. That is why it’s great to hear the government is raising awareness of the issue and pledging its support. We want everyone – schools, parents, lesson providers, decision makers – to do likewise and pledge to support schools to achieve our joint vision.” 

This announcement is part of a drive to tackle childhood obesity and help children to lead healthy, active lives, with more than £1 billion invested in schools through the PE and Sport Premium to improve PE and sport since 2013. 

It comes after the Education Secretary announced a cross-government school sport and activity action plan that will consider ways to ensure all children have access to quality, protected PE and sport sessions during the school week and opportunities to be physically active throughout the school day. The action plan will be launched in spring 2019. 

First published in the Falmouth Packet 31/10/18

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Removing barriers to disabled people on our high streets

Shopping is an integral part of our day-to-day lives, from heading to the local shops or supermarket to get our groceries to looking for clothes and gifts on our high streets and villages. 

Sadly, there are often barriers that prevent shopping from being an enjoyable experience for disabled people and those with health conditions. 

A poll by disability organisation Purple found that more than half of the disabled people they surveyed were concerned about overcrowding. A similar proportion said they had left a store or abandoned a purchase because of a poor customer experience. 

Many people often choose to shop online thanks to advances in technology, but poor access can extend to the internet. For example, some people miss deliveries because they haven’t been given enough time to answer the door. 

While these issues are felt even more acutely in the fast-approaching peak Christmas shopping period, inadequate access isn’t limited to the festive season. 

A lack of provision of facilities such as Changing Places toilets can mean that disabled people might just choose to stay at home, rather than getting out and socialising, while poor staff awareness can make shopping more hassle than it’s worth. 

Businesses that don’t make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled customers not only risk breaking the law, but they are also missing out on the £249 billion spending power of disabled people and their families. 

In my experience, most businesses aren’t intentionally excluding their disabled customers – they just need more guidance to help them become more inclusive. Many people tell me that they are worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. 

That’s why I’m joining forces with Purple for the UK’s first ever accessible shopping day on Tuesday 13 November. The day will see retailers – in store and online – introducing new measures to make shopping a more inclusive experience, sending a powerful message that they care about all their customers and that their business matters. 

It’s often the small changes that can make a big difference to people’s experiences. Providing staff with disability awareness training and making simple changes such as having quiet hours or clear walkways can all help improve the shopping experience for disabled customers. 

More than 100 national retailers are already involved with Purple Tuesday, including some of the UK’s most recognised names such as Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and Argos. 

Purple Tuesday is a significant step forward in showing retailers how important it is to recognise the needs of their disabled customers. Purple have produced a website of free information, tools and marketing materials so any retailer can join in and serve all their customers well.  

You can find out more about Purple Tuesday at www.purpletuesday.org.uk . I hope that more local retailers will join Purple Tuesday so that they can benefit from the spending power of disabled people and their families and show that Cornwall’s businesses are playing their part in building an inclusive community. You can share your experiences on social media using #PurpleTuesday. 

Celebrating our renewable energy achievements

The glorious weather of this year’s summer seems a distant memory as we wrap ourselves up against the chilly winter weather. The changes we are seeing in our weather are a poignant reminder of how our climate is changing. 

Storms of a different nature have been in the news recently as we remember the global financial crisis.  2008 will be looked back on with interest for many years to come. Not only was Barack Obama elected as the first black USA President and China hosted the Beijing Olympic Games but something remarkable also happened in our Parliament. 

The UK’s landmark domestic Climate Change Act passed into law with near unanimous cross-party support, setting an ambitious legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. A radical political consensus on climate action was achieved, and has been preserved ever since. 

A recent report from the London School of Economics presents a clear case that this ground-breaking act has been instrumental in advancing climate action globally over the past decade – and has provided a framework through which the UK has led the world in reducing emissions, while continuing to strengthen our economy. 

But we must never be complacent. The case for climate action is unequivocal and we must continue not only to drive emissions reduction at home, but overseas too. 

As a key part of our Industrial Strategy, we are investing more than £2.5bn to support low carbon innovation through our Clean Growth Strategy ensuring that the UK continues to lead the way in cutting emissions while creating well paid jobs. 

Our low carbon sector now supports almost 400,000 jobs across the country, and the sector is still growing. These businesses include Kensa, the UK’s most popular ground source heat pumps brand, and Carley’s Organic, which produces chutneys, mustards and pickles in a dedicated organic eco-factory. I am proud that both businesses are based in my constituency. 

By 2030, the UK’s clean economy has the potential to support up to two million jobs whilst generating £170bn of annual exports. 

Creating electricity from the hots rocks beneath Cornwall is something I have been supporting for a long time and I am excited that the first commercial drilling is due to take place in United Downs this autumn. This innovation could contribute significant amounts of carbon free energy and more well paid jobs. 

Cornwall already hosts a wealth of renewable energy resources including wind, solar, geothermal and marine.  Cornwall now contributes more than 768 MW of sustainable energy generation to the UK energy mix, with approximately 25 per cent in local ownership, including 8 MW of Council-owned solar panels and more than 1MW owned by community groups supported by England’s first community energy revolving fund with £2.5 million council funds. 

There are 200 community groups around the country already generating their own energy to the benefit of the local community. A great example in Truro & Falmouth is Transition Ladock and Grampound Road which was awarded £500,000 to install low carbon technologies in the community. 

The power sector too has been truly transformed in the last 10 years thanks to the direction of travel established in the Climate Change Act.  Five years ago, dirty coal accounted for 40 per cent of our electricity, now this figure stands at 7 per cent, and through our Powering Past Coal Alliance will be eliminated altogether. 

In the place of coal an unprecedented level of investment in renewables means that we now have the biggest installed offshore wind capacity in the world. Indeed, official statistics show that 2017 was a record-breaking year for renewables – with over 50 per cent of electricity produced from low carbon sources – an impressive 29 per cent coming from renewables. 

Between 1990 and 2017, the UK reduced its emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds – the best performance in the G7 on a per person basis proving that economies can be grown in a clean, green way. 

Long term government planning is the key to our ongoing success. Too often, governments are constrained by spending targets or the threat of upcoming general elections, and it was precisely this short termism which the Climate Change Act overcomes. 

Business, community and public bodies all have a role to play but so does each and every one of us. Small changes in our daily routine can add up to significant benefits for our environment. Climate Vision, a local organisation, has produced ten pledges – actions we can all make to our lifestyles to reduce our environmental impact. 

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published a special report that assessed the impacts of 1.5°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels and related emissions pathways, following the higher level of ambition set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Government has asked the UK Committee on Climate Change to provide new advice on how soon we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero. 

The Latin “conservare” means to preserve, and, as a Conservative, I am working hard to leave our environment in better shape than we found it. This is a huge challenge requiring us all to play our part and take collective action but I am confident we can meet this challenge head on and deliver. It only will be benefit but future generations too. 

First published in the Falmouth Wave November edition. Similar article published in the West Britain 18/10/18

Supporting jobs at Falmouth Docks and other local businesses

I have been celebrating with A&P their success in winning a valuable ten-year MOD contract that will secure skilled employment in the docks and could enable investment for the long term in our port infrastructure.  A&P have a large supply chain of local businesses that provide goods and services to their operation so the benefit of the new £239 million contract will be felt far beyond the dock gates. 

Small and medium sized businesses are the life blood of our local economy so I listen carefully to their ideas and concerns. Two concerns often arise from our conversations; not being paid on time and the cost of utility bills, especially energy, water and telecoms. 

Following on from actions such as improvements in access to quality business advice and finance for small businesses and the appointment of the small business commissioner, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy unveiled more policies last week. 

While over the past five years the amount owed to businesses in late payments has halved, we need to make sure all our small businesses are treated fairly.  So, a new consultation seeks ideas on how best to close this unacceptable gap.  

This will help identify the most effective way possible to tackle this issue once and for all and ensure small businesses are on a level playing field with their larger counterparts. 

According to BEIS, nearly a quarter of UK businesses report late payments as a threat to their survival, and research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) indicates that tackling a late payment culture could add £2.5bn to the UK economy and keep 50,000 extra businesses open each year. 

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Late payment is the biggest challenge affecting small businesses and it is good to see the government getting serious about this issue, especially when it comes to large firms paying their supply chains promptly. The voluntary prompt payment code is not working when it allows signatories like Carillion to pay on terms of over 120 days, so we want to see a new tough and transparent compliance regime being proposed.” 

While government is leading the way in paying its bills on time, it aims higher with a target of 90% of invoices paid within 5 days.  I am asking Cornwall Council to review its policy to enable faster payments. 

The government also announced an independent review of utilities regulators to ensure that they are fit for purpose.  It is essential that regulators develop resilient utilities, able to face the challenges and opportunities of our time as well as improve outcomes for customers.  While it has become easier to switch energy suppliers, I believe that smart regulation and smart new technology could make it even easier. All too often loyal customers have inferior deals to those offered to new customers, so it’s important that we take action to prevent people and businesses paying more than necessary and enable more switching to low or no carbon suppliers of our energy.  

First published in the West Briton 11/10/18

Supporting Music in Local Schools

When Parliament is sitting it does so Monday to Thursday and some Fridays. As a result, my time at home is usually restricted to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Consequently, I inevitably prioritise urgent issues that need my immediate attention.  

When Parliament is not sitting and is in Recess, I have much more time to meet with local people, listening to what they want to tell me and working together to improve the quality of our lives here. 

I also have the opportunity to join a wide range of community events.  

I love music so very much enjoyed the 30th Anniversary concert of the Nankersey Choir at the Methodist Church in Falmouth. Joined by the Mousehouse Choir we raised the roof with the combined voices singing Trelawney. The choir gives its talent and time freely and raises significant sums for local good causes. 

On Saturday evening I joined a service at Truro cathedral, commemorating the life of David Frost, composer, conductor of the Cornwall Youth orchestra, music teacher and much more. He touched the lives of many local musicians of all ages and made a terrific contribution to the musical life of our community, including working with the Duchy Ballet and Duchy Opera. The event was both a great tribute to this special person and highlighted the amazing talent and rich musical culture and heritage we enjoy here. I certainly will never forget the Bolster procession! 

I want to do everything that I can to enable children to have the opportunity of music making at school, so I was pleased to meet with the leaders of the Cornwall Music Service Trust recently. The Trust employs more than 1000 music teachers and enables many local children to learn a musical instrument, sing and participate in all sorts of ensembles, groups and bands. I thoroughly enjoyed their annual concert last year. While they receive a significant sum from the £800,000 public funds that Cornwall Council receive for music education, they also fundraise to enable more young people to enjoy the benefits of music making. As our economy grows, I want to ensure that we invest more funding into music making in schools. I will be raising this with the relevant Minister next week. 

As regular readers will know, since being elected in 2010 I have campaigned for more funding for our local schools. While funding is increasing, I know there is more to do to ensure that our children, young people and teachers have the resources needed for a balanced and well-rounded curriculum. Thanks to the hard work of our local teachers and young people, supported by parents, standards are rising in our schools and the recent good exam results show this.  

Last week I was pleased that the Schools Minister responded to my request to visit Cornwall to meet with school and college leaders to listen to their concerns and good ideas. He has visited several times and we had a constructive, robust discussion on a wide range of issues. 

 First published in the West Briton 04/10/18

Investing in the future of our NHS

Ensuring the long term, sustainable funding of our NHS is one of the most pressing and potent political issues facing the country. Demand for NHS and care services only continues to rise as our population changes, as we live longer and new treatments and technologies are developed. 

The Government has worked closely with the NHS to agree a five-year plan of increased funding, with agreed additional investment of at least £8 billion in real terms throughout this Parliament. In addition, the Government has now announced that it will invest a further £20 billion by 2023/24 to transform health and social care so it can improve treatment and deliver better care for patients. 

More money than ever before is being spent on mental health services. I have worked alongside our local NHS to secure investment for a new specialist inpatient unit in Bodmin which is now under construction. This will mean that children and young people do not need to travel out of the county to receive vital care. 

Following the death of two students on the Penryn Campus who took their own lives after their battles with mental health issues, I have secured assurances from the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and local Clinical Commissioning Group that they will work with the University to provide more support to students who are experiencing mental illness. 

While investing more money into the NHS and securing Cornwall’s fair share is important, so too is ensuring it is spent wisely. So, I was pleased that the Government has recently set out plans to enable the NHS to make significant improvements in technology and purchasing. 

A new NHS app will be piloted in 5 areas in England from next month, ahead of a planned national roll-out in December. Patients will be able to download a test version of the app, allowing access to booking GP appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions, access to their medical record, 111 online access for urgent medical queries, data sharing preferences, organ donation preferences and end of life care preferences. 

More than £200 million will also be invested to make a group of NHS trusts into internationally recognised centres for technological and digital innovation. The funding will support new Global Digital Exemplars in acute, mental health, community and ambulance trusts in England to set a gold standard of innovation for other services to follow. 

A new HealthTech Advisory Board, chaired by Dr Ben Goldacre, will highlight where change needs to happen, where best practice isn’t being followed, and will be an ideas hub for how to improve patient outcomes and experience and make the lives of NHS staff easier. 

Our hospitals operate dozens of systems each that don’t talk to each other. GPs, social care, pharmacies and community care are on different systems. Systems crashing is a regular occurrence. The social care system is not at all integrated, when its integration is vital. 

The generic technology available outside the NHS is a million times better. Now is the moment to put the failures of the past behind us, and set our sights on the NHS being the most cutting-edge system in the world for the use of technology to improve our health, make our lives easier, and make money go further. 

A modern health service shouldn’t involve 234 separate trusts spending time and money negotiating different contracts and prices for the same thing. An example of this price variation includes the lowest priced 12-pack of rubber gloves costing 35p, while the highest priced cost £16.47. That’s why the Government’s work to centralise how the NHS buys goods and services is crucial. 

By streamlining the process and freeing trusts up from having to do this, we will save staff valuable time, save huge amounts of money and be able to reinvest the savings into patient care and frontline services 

The Department of Health and Social Care anticipates the new supply chain will generate savings of £2.4 billion over a 5-year period, all to be ploughed back into frontline services. 

 First published in the Falmouth Wave October edition