I was pleased to meet with the Reading Agency on Monday – a charity which is focused on using reading to deliver social change, help tackle inequality and promote health and wellbeing. They are running a Summer Reading Challenge – a free scheme to encourage primary school children to read over the summer – with the target of reaching 1 million school children this year. Research has shown that reading is more important to children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education or social class and instilling this enjoyment early is key. Reading shouldn’t be a chore or merely a homework task – it should be a way of children being able to explore the world, or a different world, to enrich their imagination, and to find an enjoyable way to spend half an hour here and there. It doesn’t even have to be a solitary activity – reading together can be a great way to share a fabulous story! To find out more about the Summer Reading Challenge, visit the Reading Agency’s website.
On Wednesday, myself and my fellow officers from the Gambling Related Harm APPG, Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, Ronnie Cowan MP and Richard Holden MP, met with Minister Whittingdale about the Gambling Review and what the APPG would like to see. It’s so important that this Review considers how our analogue regulation can be adapted to adequately protect people online and that it is stringent enough to ensure that problem gamblers are protected while allowing people to continue enjoying gambling as a hobby. We simply want to ensure that gambling companies are not allowed to continue getting away with predatory behaviour towards people who need our help: people who companies know can’t pay.
I was pleased to meet with Jane Fahy, the Retreat and Counselling Programme Manager, from the Gordon Moody Association this week. This year the Association are opening a new treatment centre for women, a group that we don’t often associate with gambling, let alone a gambling problem. This puts obstacles in the way of women reaching out for help – shame that they’ve succumbed as well as embarrassment. We need to start a national conversation on mental health aimed at removing the stigma around addiction and mental health – particularly relating to gambling. It takes bravery for people to accept that they have a problem and even more bravery to reach out for help. We must do more to remove the stigma of doing so, so that we can help more people beat addiction and help others prevent it becoming a problem.
This week the Tory Government announced their programme for the coming months with the Queen’s Speech. It falls far short of the ambition and vision that we need after the impact of a decade of Tory austerity and the Covid pandemic. If Britain is truly to be a leader on the world stage, we need to be a leader at home. That means really dealing with the inequalities that exist – reforming the social care system, supporting the NHS, ensuring that our key workers who have done so much to keep our country going are paid fairly for the important work that they do. This Queen’s Speech was an opportunity for change – a vision for a better future. Instead we have once again been given superficial promises and a lacklustre attempt at real levelling up.
I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who voted for Welsh Labour at the elections last week and to all the wonderful campaigners and volunteers who helped out on polling day and before. I was delighted to see Mark Drakeford returned as First Minister and I’m looking forward to working with him for the people of Wales. In light of the work ahead as Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour, I have decided to step back from my role as Keir Starmer’s PPS. It has been the proudest moment of my career to co-chair the campaign that saw Keir Starmer elected as Labour leader, and to serve as his PPS for the past year. But stepping back from this role is the right thing at this moment, coming as it does after some trying personal times and an ever-increasing workload as Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour. I have enjoyed every minute and look forward to supporting Keir the best way I can in the months ahead.
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!