Getting young people with special educational needs and other disabilities the support they need is something that is very close to my heart as someone who struggled with dyslexia and dyspraxia at school. And in Parliament today I raised the Sir Bobby Robson School in Ipswich which will open its doors for the first time in September to youngsters with social, emotional and mental health needs.
I’ve had the privilege of being asked to become an Associate Governor at the School and I know that the excellent team at the School are working incredibly hard to welcome pupils in the best way possible given the particular disruption caused to vulnerable youngsters by Covid-19. They plan to take an almost therapeutic approach to helping them integrate back into school life with a clear focus on pupil well-being.
I called on the Secretary of State to provide the Sir Bobby Robson School and other special schools with the support and any external expertise they need to do this and ensure vulnerable young people have the brightest possible future.
I’ll continue to raise this issue on the Education Committee as well and I hope the Secretary of State will look closely at what exceptional support can be provided to get vulnerable young people’s education back on track with a particular focus on their well-being.
I’ve been contacted by the leadership of the Hospitals Trust asking me to share with them some of the messages I’ve received from constituents opposing the removal of elective orthopaedics from Ipswich Hospital and the creation of a new orthopaedic centre in Colchester. I hope none of you mind but I printed off some of the comments that have been made on my page just to give them a flavour.
They say the reason they want to see these comments is so they can address my constituents concerns. As you will see from the letter below the only way these concerns can be addressed is by the plans being 100% taken off the table!! In a matter of days almost 7,000 of you have signed the petition opposing the plans, I think there is a high chance this could be over 10,000 come the weekend.
Today I used a question in the Chamber to acknowledge the incredible efforts of Tavis Spencer Aitkens’ family to bring about positive changes following Tavis’s tragic death at the hands of gang violence.
Tavis’s step mum, Helen, has recently qualified as a youth worker and alongside Tavis’s father, Neville, they have set up the Reflections youth club in Ipswich to help prevent young people falling into crime.
I asked Justice Ministers to join me in recognising the work of Tavis’s family and the importance of bottom-up community action targeted at tackling the causes of knife crime and gang violence. And I’m glad the Minister responded by underlining the importance of cohesive communities to root out gang violence.
These crucial grassroots initiatives aimed at tackling the underlying issues behind crime must go hand-in-hand with a zero tolerance approach to crime. And I’ll continue to raise both elements of this approach in Parliament going forward.
I’ve also spoken to Tavis’s mum, Sharon, about the positive difference she would like to make. And I’ll support this in any way I can.
I share many of the concerns of beauty salons in Ipswich that they won’t be allowed to re-open on 4 July as expected at the same time as hairdressers and other businesses. And I raised this in the House today with Work and Pensions Ministers.
Many beauty salons around the county have sadly already shut their doors for good due to the hardship caused by Covid-19, and this has also caused a number of job losses. Beauty salons need to reopen as soon as possible to avoid more irreversible closures and more job losses, and the uncertainty over the July 4th date has only increased the challenges they are facing.
The beauty salons I’ve been in contact with, like the Beauty Academy in Ipswich, are already well-placed to reopen as they have high levels of hygiene and sanitisation as part of their procedures already. And I urged Ministers today to protect jobs in beauty salons, including by reconsidering the July 4th date. At the very least, local beauty salons need certainty as to when they will be able to reopen so they can plan effectively as businesses. I’ll keep raising this issue at the highest levels to get beauty salons this clarification as soon as possible.
If you agree with me and believe that elective orthopaedic services should not be relocated from Ipswich Hospital to a new centre in Colchester then please sign this petition.
Well done to Orwell Ahead for establishing it, almost 4,000 have already signed it. PLEASE SIGN HERE:
I have now received an email in response to my letter to City University about the wind tunnel. I am glad that it looks like the appropriate work in relation to the Orwell Bridge will now take place next month which should allow the timetable regarding the introduction of the new speed limit that will help keep the bridge open during windy spells to be hit. This is all rather protracted but I will continue to keep my eye on things and update.
Once this final validation is secured that its safe to keep the bridge open during windy spells with a new 40pmh speed limit then we will move a big step forward towards ending the chaos associated with constant bridge closures
There was a debate in Parliament today on a petition about recognition for our NHS Staff and their exceptional efforts during Covid-19. Many have written into me calling for them to be recognised and it was a privilege to use this moment in the chamber to thank our local NHS and social care workers on behalf of our whole town.
As well as recognising our NHS and care staff I was also able to thank in the House the pupils and staff at Ipswich School and Northgate Highschool who made thousands of pieces of PPE for our local frontline NHS staff, and the landlord of the Lattice Bar Pub in Ipswich who opened his doors to NHS staff even when the pub faced significant challenges of its own due to Covid.
Many have also been in touch calling for frontline NHS and care staffs’ pay to be increased. I do think it is important that the Government recognises the strength of feeling around this issue in the country and gives this careful consideration at the earliest opportunity.
Following my speech in Parliament yesterday on the proposals to remove elective orthopaedic surgery from Ipswich Hospital, I raised the matter again today by calling for Parliament to have a full debate on the matter.
I won’t stop raising this issue and how I believe it would be detrimental to many people in Ipswich to move hip and knee surgery further away from them to a centre in Colchester. This issue deserves national attention and I’ll keep knocking on the doors of power to get this recognised.
The local Clinical Commissioning Group is expected to make a final decision on the proposals on 14th July and it’s urgent the voice of the overwhelming majority of people in Ipswich is fully heard before that decision is made.
Following my joint letter with Cllr Ellesmere earlier this week, in Parliament yesterday I raised again how I strongly believe the plans to transfer elective orthopaedic surgery from Ipswich Hospital to a new centre in Colchester are not in the interests of the people of Ipswich. I asked Ministers to meet with me to discuss in detail my concerns and those of many Ipswich residents.
Around 700,000 orthopaedic patients have had their surgery postponed across the country due to Covid-19, and I built on our letter by stressing how important it is not to move key orthopaedic services away from people in Ipswich when we face this unprecedented national challenge. The people of Ipswich and Colchester both deserve first-rate hospitals to take on the challenges ahead and top quality care close to where they live. Stripping one hospital of what can only be described as core services at this time would be a fundamental step in the wrong direction.
I’ll continue to raise this issue at every opportunity in Parliament to urge Ministers to consider intervening and to call for the money currently earmarked for the proposed orthopaedic centre to be spent equally between Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals so the number of delays and cancellations to hip and knee surgery can be cut in both towns.
It was also a privilege to use this moment in the Chamber to thank our local NHS staff and social care workers in Ipswich for all they have done over recent months. And I also raised the importance of tackling the mental health challenges caused by Covid. The mental health impact of the virus will be with us for a lot longer than the virus itself and we must be ready to address this issue over the long-term.
This is not an easy time for young people who are just getting on the employment ladder and today I raised the situation of local apprentices on the Education Committee. 350 of Suffolk New College’s 450 apprentices are currently on furlough and there is significant concern that many of them may not have an apprenticeship to go back to. We must look at what we can do to ensure that apprentices can complete their qualifications and don’t fall behind.
There are also many fewer businesses offering apprenticeships next year which will significantly reduce the funding colleges like Suffolk New College receive for the teaching element of apprenticeships they provide. Even before Covid-19 there was a general recognition that more investment was needed in apprenticeships and technical education, but due to the virus further education colleges are now facing a particularly acute impact on their finances.
In response to me on the Committee today, the Chief Executive of the Association of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, underlined how about £2bn of colleges’ income is at risk for the next academic year out of a total £7bn.
This comes at a time when our further education colleges couldn’t be more important for getting young people well-trained and into our economy. And I will do everything I can to support all our colleges and further education providers in Ipswich. I will support more funding for them to meet these unprecedented challenges wherever possible.