I was pleased to be able to speak in the Chamber this week during Home Office questions. The Centre for Social Justice have recently published a report “It Still Happens Here” showing the serious problem that modern slavery poses in the UK. An estimated 90,000 victims of modern slavery are unidentified in the UK and with England having entered a new, month-long lockdown, it is vital that the UK Government put in place stringent measures to ensure that victims are identified and rescued. It is appalling that modern slavery is a feature of our society and the UK Government must do more to tackle it.
On Tuesday I was pleased to chair a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm on the effects of lockdown. We all know the toll lockdown has taken, especially on our mental health. But for those fighting a gambling addiction and with no social life, friends and family, or work to distract them, many will have fallen back into the habit. I know that for many people losing the routine and structure of their daily lives was very disconcerting. We heard from experts across the spheres of gambling agencies, the Advertising Standards Agency, and academics. It was an interesting discussion and particularly important now that England has entered another lockdown and we are looking ahead to a quieter than normal Christmas.
I was pleased to continue discussions on gambling during a University of Sussex Labour Society event along with Matt Zarb-Cousin, the spokesperson for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. It’s always interesting to discuss issues facing society with young people and to hear their views – and it’s vital that we talk to them about the dangers of gambling and the support that is available. We aren’t against people having fun and a bit of a flutter, but we want to promote a healthy attitude towards gambling that recognises the importance of being responsible , the same way that I don’t want to see gin and tonic banned but I wouldn’t want to see someone drinking them for hours on end every day!
I was pleased to join another group of energetic young people at a Young Fabians event on women’s health. The Young Fabians are a fantastic group who have been struck by the impact of the Covid pandemic on women’s health and want to see it given more prominence in public discussion. I’m certainly not going to disagree! In particular, we talked about access to contraception which young women have found more difficult during the pandemic, having a significant impact on both their physical and mental health. With the ‘Stay at home’ messages and concern for not overwhelming the NHS, research has also shown that fewer women were likely to see their GP about worrying symptoms relating to cancer. More widely documented has been the impact on expectant or new mothers with restrictions having to be put in place during ante- and post-natal appointments, restrictions on access to hospital during labour for partners, and the impact of Covid-19 on maternity leave. There are also concerns that women will be more impacted by the economic effects of Covid-19, putting subsequent pressure on their mental health These are all important issues and it’s so important we keep talking about them so that we can ensure there is support for all in our society.
On Friday, it was another young people’s event with Aberystwyth Labour Students members. We talked about my work in Welsh Labour and the campaigns I have been a part of – as many will know I am particularly proud of the Funeral Fund which has now been rolled out across the UK – and my experiences in Parliament. Having been a Member of Parliament since 2015, there are a number of experiences worth discussing, but I’m really happy that since I was elected, we’ve seen the diversity among parliamentarians broaden, which provides for interesting, varied, and relevant debate. I’m proud to represent my little corner of the world, and I hope I inspired some young people to pursue a career in politics and work on their own campaigns, hopefully for Welsh Labour!
With the impacts of coronavirus continuing to bite, businesses and employees are struggling across the country. This week the Office for National Statistics reported on the rising unemployment rate, with 16-24-year-olds particularly affected. We’ve seen a slightly slower rise than the whole of the UK, but between June and August this year, the unemployment rate rose by 3.8%. This week being Talk Money week, it’s really important that people do not suffer in silence and reach out for help when they need it. It can be really awkward and embarrassing discussing money, but it’s time we learnt to have these conversations. The Money and Pensions Service offer support on having those conversations and Citizens Advice Cymru are there to help with everything from budgeting to navigating the benefits system. There is no shame in struggling in these truly unprecedented times so please do reach out for help as soon as you need it. Of course, my office is also available should you need to get in contact with us.
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 – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!