This week has been difficult for many and rather confusing as the lockdown restrictions changed for England but not for Wales. We need to continue to follow the Welsh Government guidelines and only leave our homes for exercise, to go shopping for essentials, and to meet medical needs. It is still not allowed to travel for exercise and as we’ve seen from police reports, they are continuing to issue fines to those who break those restrictions. I know it’s difficult and with the weather being as glorious as it is, it is hard not to think about spending the day at the beach with fish and chips and ice cream, – but we must stay strong and remember our vulnerable loved ones and our hard-working NHS staff who we are doing this for.
I started off this week with a virtual meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harms during which we heard evidence from the Advertising Standards Authority. They regulate most adverts across the press, radio and TV, on the internet, and email and text messaging among others. Their code states that gambling ads must be socially responsible and must not portray, condone, or encourage gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social, or emotional harm. They have been continuing to regulate advertising during the coronavirus pandemic and it’s vital that they are able to remove any advertising that encourages irresponsible and dangerous gambling.
My thoughts on gambling also appeared in a Guardian article this week on YouGov research which found that nearly 5 million British people have experienced harm linked to gambling, with an estimated 2.7% of adults in Britain problem gamblers. This is considerably higher than the figures of 0.7% cited by the Gambling Commission. The report is deeply concerning and policymakers, the Gambling Commission and gambling support services must take note of these findings and take action to ensure that adequate support and regulation is in place. The report also found that nearly half of all addicts were not receiving treatment, with poorer people, women, and those from a BAME background the worst affected. We must work to remove the stigma associated with gambling problems and raise greater awareness of the availability of support in order to reach those who need it.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week and it’s come at a good time for us to think about how our daily lives contribute or detract from our mental health. There are many aspects of this crisis that will be detrimental to people’s mental health, from the financial worry and job insecurity to the fears for ourselves and loved ones at risk from the virus. It’s also a time to consider how we support our NHS staff who see difficult and tragic events even during normal times, but particularly now during this pandemic. But there may be some aspects of this lockdown that are actually having a positive impact on our mental health that we should try and keep once the crisis passes. Perhaps it’s more exercise as we take advantage of the opportunities to leave our home for daily walks, or without the daily commute we’re finding more time for an old or new hobby. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and this week is a reminder that we need to take care of it just as we try to eat our five fruit and veg a day and take regular exercise for our physical well being.
I attended a virtual meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics, and Wellbeing on the impact of the virus on the industry this week. The coronavirus has obviously led to the closing of most businesses, if not all, within this sector and they will most likely be among the last to reopen, difficult as it is to maintain social distancing both on the premises and through the offering of services such as haircuts and manicures which, obviously, cannot be done at a 2-metre distance. The beauty industry was worth nearly £30 billion to our economy in 2018 and so it is essential that we find a way to get this industry back up and running as soon as it is safe to do so. Hairdressers and beauty salons are also vital in the fight against loneliness and poor mental health as many people use salons, not just for the physical aspect of having a nice haircut or a manicure, but for the contact with other people who will happily have a good natter about anything and everything. It will be a challenge but one that those working in the industry are already trying to figure out so that post-lockdown, we can all once again enjoy a professional haircut instead of having to rely on our partners, parents, or children for an enthusiastic attempt!
I am continuing to distribute donations among frontline workers in Swansea East thanks to the generosity of all those keeping the donations coming. Our Swansea Together team passed the 10,000 meal milestone this week which is quite astonishing. This week I’d like to thank Bulk Vending Systems for their donated goods and The Swans and Cardiff City FC for their help in distributing the goods. In keeping with this week’s mental health awareness theme of kindness, I hope this is one element of the coronavirus that will stay with us once the crisis has passed, that we continue to give to those in need and that we continue to work as a community to tackle the challenges that come our way. We have an absolutely fabulous community here in Swansea East and I am so proud to represent it.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. As always, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. My staff are continuing to work from home, and are as always, here to help in whatever way they can.
I hope you all keep well and remember – stay home, save lives – and keep washing your hands!