I was disturbed to learn this week that gambling addiction is on the increase in the Armed Forces. One of the biggest challenges that those in the military face is getting that addiction recognised, as it is often seen as merely a weakness, rather than an addiction. To date, it is an offence to borrow money in the forces, but we know from the volume of case studies we see that every single week, disordered gamblers borrow money and will even steal to fund their addiction. For those leaving service, it is evident that there is a worrying lack of support. Many find the transition back to civilian life very difficult, and mental health support falls far short, resulting in veterans being up to four times more likely than any other cohort to experience gambling-related harm. With over 10,000 veterans thought to be suffering from or at risk of gambling-related harm, more really needs to be done to address the causes. Gambling becomes a coping mechanism, blocking out the anxiety, the anger and the loneliness. With an industry ready to prey on these vulnerable individuals, we need far better regulation to provide protection. Our Armed Forces personnel and veterans do so much to keep us safe and we must ensure that we return the favour both during their service and once they leave.
I discussed issues around the gambling industry and the dangers posed to people by the lack of strong regulation on Times Radio this week. The gambling industry consistently invoke the threat of the black market whenever they feel threatened by regulation. We know there’s a black market and we know it needs tackling, but that shouldn’t stop us from tackling the problems that exist in the legal gambling market as well – especially as that’s how the vast majority of people access gambling. We heard the same tired argument when we tried to impose limits on FOBTs, and they didn’t win the argument then. This is nothing more than scaremongering by an industry putting profits before people, and I simply won’t let them get away with it.
On Thursday, I was able to question Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, the Leader of the House, about what he could do to facilitate a statement from the Department for Transport. I wrote to the Transport Secretary on the 28th January regarding an external assessment into DVLA home working potential but I have yet to receive an answer. Since the letter was written I have received further correspondence from employees about a new positive case at the Call Centre resulting in 40 people from two different zones being sent home to self-isolate and about waist measurements being demanded of staff for “health and safety home working eligibility criteria”. The response from Rees-Mogg was poor; we know that some people are not able to work from home, but that does not mean that people should sacrifice their health in order to carry out this work. And the reports of waist measurements being required by management are insulting and demeaning. The UK Government must do more to ensure their agencies operate under the strictest of Covid guidelines and are not putting added stress on employees during these difficult times.
I was so pleased to ‘virtually’ attend a celebration of music for people with dementia, ‘Thank you for the music!’ this week. This has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone, but for those living with dementia and separated from their families in care homes, I cannot imagine how they must be feeling. Music has a really important role to play in wellbeing and it brings us such joy, comfort, and happiness. It was a pleasure to hear from relatives about the impact music has on their loved ones and how it is able to bring them moments of clarity in a world that is increasingly difficult for them. Thank you to DJ and BBC radio presenter Lauren Laverne for this lovely hour and thank you to all the care home staff, musicians, music therapists, and community and charitable organisations who bring music to those who need some joy.
We have been busy again keeping people fed with huge support from Morrisons and the local community. This week we delivered eggs, loaves of bread, tins of beans, desserts, and crosswords for our Wednesday lunches and will also be delivering 100 hot roast dinners on Sunday. If you know anyone who needs some support, please do get in touch.
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 team and I are here to help. And remember – stay home, observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!