This week is Carers’ Week, during which we recognise the invaluable work our carers do, both paid and unpaid, in homes up and down the country caring for our loved ones. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the work that carers do into the spotlight and an astounding 4.5 million more people have become unpaid carers over the last couple of months, bringing the total to 13.6 million. We must ensure that more is done to help support them in their caring, not only with the actual duties that they carry out, but also to ensure that their wellbeing and their mental health is looked after.
When we look at unpaid carers, we have to as well think about children. During the 2011 census, data collection showed that Wales had the highest proportion of carers under 18 in the UK. Approximately 30,000 young people under the age of 25 have caring responsibilities and experience the added social isolation and detachment from their classmates and contemporaries that many carers feel. Several news reports have highlighted that many do not understand young people may have caring responsibilities as some were criticised, for example, when out doing the food shop during lockdown. We must raise awareness of the challenges faced by our young unpaid carers, and seek to find ways to make their lives easier.
I had hoped to be called to speak during the Justice Questions session in Parliament on Tuesday, but unfortunately, time constraints meant I missed out. I was planning to raise the issue of the 250 Welsh women who are in the prison system in England. Many of them will have children who they will not be able to regularly see. The new proposed women’s centres must be located in South West and North Wales with ample capacity so that Welsh women can stay in contact with their families. I have written to Lucy Frazer MP, the Minister for Prisons, to impress upon her the importance of support for women across Wales in the criminal justice system. We must ensure that those in the criminal justice system maintain their connections to their friends and family and their local area to improve their chances for a better future upon their release.
I was pleased to meet with the National Hairdressers’ Federation in my capacity as Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing this week. As well as being able to gleam a few tips on hair maintenance during the lockdown, I was able to discuss with them our concerns for the industry in light of the pandemic and mandated closures of salons and how we can support the industry to reopen safely. There may well be many who think that this industry is a trivial concern – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a multi-billion pound industry – in 2018 their total contribution to the UK’s GDP was a whopping £28.4 billion. Not only important in economic terms, they play a huge role in the wellbeing of the local community that they serve. Loneliness among the elderly, and indeed, a growing part of the adult population as a whole, is a huge concern and hairdressers, with their ready smiles and chit-chat are a fantastic undervalued resource in our campaign for better mental health and support. We must ensure that the industry has the guidelines it needs early enough to allow them to plan for reopening as soon as it is safe to do so.
Today, I met with the Electrical Safety First team as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Online and Home Electrical Safety. The Electrical Safety First team are campaigning for stronger regulation of online sales of electrical products. We all know the disappointment of receiving an item we’ve ordered online which does not live up to our expectations, but faults with electrical items can prove deadly. 1 in 10 Brits have received an electrical shock or experienced an electrical fire caused by a product bought online. Anyone can sell electrcial products over various online marketplaces, and while Electrical Safety First recommends consumers only buy from known and trusted retailers, many are drawn by the huge discounts available on other sites. Electrical products bought online must be held to the high safety standards that are required by those selling on the high street and regulations must ensure that these are adhered to.
As you may have seen, the Welsh Government now recommends wearing three-layer face coverings when out in public, although it is not being made mandatory in Wales. The evidence remains clear that the best way to protect yourself and others from this terrible virus is by maintaining a two-metre distance and practising good hygiene by washing your hands often. People who are symptomatic must self-isolate for seven days and get a test, not going out during this time, with or without a face mask. You can keep up to date with further Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page.
It’s been another week of incredible generosity from our wonderful community. It was great to see the very generous donations from Princes Gate arriving with our local radiotherapy and pathology teams and at the Orchard Street clinic this week. It was also lovely to see the kind donations from Beauty Banks dropped off at Ty Olwen Hospice, Morriston Renal Care and A&E, and Orchard Street Clinic. It’s just a small gesture of appreciation but I’m so pleased to see people’s eyes lighting up (I can’t see their smiles behind the masks!) and I hope that they know how proud we all are of their fantastic work and that we appreciate them immensely. Thank you to everyone who has donated and to all those key workers who are working so hard to keep us all going during these difficult times.
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 local, save lives – and keep washing your hands!