The menopause revolution has continued this week! I spoke to ITV Sharp End about the importance of this campaign and of giving women a voice. Menopause has been a taboo subject for so long, but we have to start talking about this and take this subject seriously. I explained that I would be looking at doctors’ training, employment resources, and education in particular to see how things could be improved to support women, help keep them in employment, and help them live that little bit more comfortably in our society. The lack of knowledge and understanding around the menopause is seriously harming women and I have my own personal experience of that. We know how to express certain symptoms, especially around mood, but not how to express others, leading to misdiagnosis of the menopause and treatment for conditions that we are not experiencing. Education is crucial for those experiencing and who will experience the menopause, those who will have to diagnose it, and for those in society who will not have to experience it but should know how to support their family, friends, and their employees.
From the menopause to beauty and wellbeing on Wednesday – I was pleased to lead a debate in Westminster Hall this week on the beauty and wellbeing sector workforce and have an accompanying article featured in Politics Home. As co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing, I am well aware of the struggles that the people working in the industry have faced during the past 15 months. Uncertainty around closures and the absence of financial support, coupled with lack of respect for the industry and those working in it, have hit the sector hard. We have seen businesses failing and those that have survived facing an uphill struggle as the country slowly begins to open back up. This industry has always contributed greatly to the UK economy and supported a substantial workforce. A British Beauty Council report, “The Value of Beauty”, published in 2019—before the pandemic—determined that the industry was worth up to £30 billion a year and supported 50,000 businesses. Figures from the UK Government’s “COVID-19 Response”, published in February 2021, show that in 2019 the industry provided more than 560,000 jobs, 85% of which were done by women, many of whom were working flexibly.
Even now that businesses are able to reopen, continued restrictions mean that many are still struggling. Large events, weddings and holidays being scaled back or cancelled has caused a huge deficit in demand, and salons are still operating at only 70% capacity to observe social distancing requirements. While demand for hair appointments and beauty treatments has declined, demand for wellbeing services such as massages and holistic therapy has grown significantly, which is hardly surprising given the increased stress levels that we have all experienced over the past year. As someone who has used massage over the years as a therapy to maintain my mental health, I completely understand why people are seeking those services. I find it sad that because of the pandemic and, in all honesty, the failure of the UK Government to take the industry seriously and support its workforce, the services are just not there. The gap seems set to continue, as the closure of training schools during the pandemic and limited opportunities to gain workforce experience means that the number of newly qualified professionals entering the sector is significantly lower than normal.
The APPG on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing has already launched an inquiry into post-Covid recovery for the sector, looking at how businesses can recoup their losses and how the highly skilled workforce can be retained. There are so many risk factors for the industry that Government support is key to combating them. Financial support for the sector during the pandemic was woefully lacking compared with that given to other customer-facing industries. The UK Government must now ensure that support is available to businesses for as long as social distancing measures are in place, given their effect on how many staff and customers can be in salons, and therefore on profits. Promotion of the industry is also needed to encourage young people to follow this career path so that there is a full and flourishing skill base. Beauty and wellbeing practitioners play a vital role in supporting our physical and mental health, and many people use the treatments instead of visiting a doctor or to complement their medication. I’ll continue to champion this sector.
I was pleased to be able to put a question to the Secretary of State for Transport on Thursday about the DVLA. Our constituents are telling us that the office is not safe – I asked the Secretary if he would be willing to accompany us to the site if he were so confident that it was safe! He droned on about experts and health regulations and blamed the workers at DVLA for their strike action harming the interests of vulnerable people but refused to put his money where his mouth is and come and speak to people at the DVLA with myself and other local MPs. This Tory Government continues to demonstrate a shocking failure of leadership.
This week we mark Armed Forces Day and the Covid pandemic has demonstrated once more the importance of all our servicemen and women. Our Armed Forces have a much more varied role than many of us give them credit for: the engineers helped build the Nightingale hospitals, medics and dentists were involved and are involved in the testing and vaccination programme. Abroad they continue to protect vital shipping lanes from piracy, they work to promote humanitarian work in countries across Africa and Asia, and they provide essential support during hurricane season in the Caribbean. Saturday is a day when we can remind ourselves of all the work that they do and to say thank you.
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!