Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Autumn Budget 2017

It’s not an easy time to be Chancellor trying to balance the books but last week’s Autumn Budget brings some good news for Cornwall.
Unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975, and here in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, unemployment has almost halved since 2010. The next step is to get wage rates up and last week, the budget did more to help people on low incomes.  The National Living Wage is up by 4.4 percent, and more people on low incomes have been taken out of tax altogether.
The Government is also abolishing Stamp Duty for first time buyers, and local businesses will benefit from a business rates package.
Meanwhile, on the NHS, the Chancellor has announced £6.3 Billion of additional funding for frontline NHS services and upgrades to NHS buildings and facilities. Elsewhere, the freeze on fuel duty will continue, and the Government has committed to cut down on single-use plastics.
Finally, it is great that the Chancellor announced £36,000 of Libor funding for the Cornwall Air Ambulance. I have been backing this bid.  I can remember when the Cornwall Air Ambulance began in 1987. It was a great example of Cornwall's "one and all" approach because people in Cornwall really rallied behind the idea.  It was the first air ambulance in the UK and now many other parts of the country have followed Cornwall's lead.  Since 1987, it has completed more than 26,000 missions and saved many lives and it’s great that it now has this government support.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Challenges faced by adoptive parents


We recently had an addition to our family with the birth of Alice, my first child.  The last eight weeks have been a wonderful but all consuming experience as we take on the commitment of parenthood.

Over the last few months I have also come across a couple of cases locally regarding the challenges faced by adoptive parents and the children they take under their wing.  For those children who have a difficult start in life, an adoptive home can be a real lifeline.  They benefit from a loving home environment of their own and can achieve great things.  Those who take on the great responsibility to become adoptive parents deserve special recognition for the love and support that they offer.  We should acknowledge the work done by adoptive families here in Cornwall, and by organisations such as Adoption UK.
 
Work has been done in recent years to try to remove some of the barriers that can be placed in the way of would be adoptive parents.  However, there are also concerns around the nature of post adoption support for some families.  Some of the children who have a difficult start in life also have particular challenges to overcome.  Some will have been scarred by chaotic home environments in early life.  Some will have been affected in the womb by drug or alcohol addiction that can have later impacts on mental health.  We need to make sure that we make it easier for adoptive parents who take on these responsibilities to have the support they need.
 
Some can feel that the system spends too much time and effort assessing children which can become a barrier to accessing support rather than the gateway to support that it should be.  Parents complain that they are often referred for generic solutions like "play therapy" when it is clear to them that different interventions are required.  At the other end of the spectrum, simple things like a small amount of respite care to help families with children who develop challenging behaviours can be surprisingly elusive and families feel that they end up being "sign posted" to someone else for more assessment.
 
Money is made available to Local Authorities to provide some support for individual children who are adopted but I think there is a case for reviewing how decisions about such funds are made.  In other areas of social care, we have introduced the concept of personal budgets where the individual has much more say over how the budget allocated for their care is spent.  I think we can learn from that when it comes to directing support around adopted children.  Adoptive parents are often best placed to understand what help or interventions a child needs and what wider support the family needs.  So perhaps we should spend a little less money on relentless assessments to ascertain eligibility and instead allow at least some of the budget to be spent at the discretion of the adoptive parents?  

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Accelerated Access Pathway

Last week, the Government announced a new fast-track route into the NHS for breakthrough medicines and technologies. This is good news, and will speed up the time it takes for patients to benefit from ground-breaking products for cancer and dementia among others. Known as the “accelerated access pathway”, it will be introduced in April 2018 and will ensure that products with the greatest potential to change lives could be available up to four years earlier.
 
This is good news for patients. Additionally, it will cement the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to develop new drugs and medical technology. It will guarantee future collaboration between the life sciences sector and the NHS, and additional benefits will include the creation of new jobs.

I regularly meet the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, and the provision of pioneering new treatments is often a subject of much discussion. Most recently, I asked the KCCG about access to continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) for young people with diabetes. CGM measures blood glucose levels continuously throughout the day and night. It displays levels and alerts patients to “highs” and “lows”.
 
For children in particular, it is difficult to ensure that they check their blood sugar levels regularly. Additionally, I have heard various parents say that the traditional way of testing leads to a loss of sensation in the fingers. CGM allows children to go about their lives as normal, and its technology is so advanced that it can send alerts to the patient, and their parents or guardians via their mobile phones. This is reassuring for all concerned, and I am pleased that its availability is something that is being actively considered. It is something that I will continue to fight for.
 
In my weekly constituency surgery, I often meet patients with rare conditions who come to me about the provision of new treatment and technology that they believe will improve their quality of life tremendously. I welcome last week’s announcement, and I hope that it will benefit many patients here in Cornwall.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Remembrance


This year, I will be attending Remembrance Sunday services at Hayle and Illogan.
 
Last week, Syrian troops retook Daesh’s last remaining city. Daesh/Isis is a barbaric group that has terrorised the region. Whilst many problems remain, particularly in Syria, intervention by British forces has helped.
 
This has led to the news that RAF jets may be able to begin withdrawing. Air Commodore Johnny Stringer, commander of UK operations in Iraq and Syria, said that the UK could being withdrawing RAF jets from the campaign as early as next year.

 There is no doubt in my mind that the difficult operations in recent years have made the public far more conscious of sacrifices made by our armed forces. We owe those who have given up so much at such a young age all the support they need to help them build their lives back, especially those who suffered life changing injuries during those terrible conflicts. Charities such as Help for Heroes, the Army Benevolent Fund and the Royal British Legion do just that, helping people recover not just from the physical but also mental difficulties that come from being exposed to war.
 
2017 marks the centenary of the Battle of Ypres/Passchendaele, Britain’s main Western Front offensive of 1917. The battle ended in November 1917, with the capture of the village of Passchendaele by Canadian troops.
 
The French Government has been awarding the Légion d’honneur to D-Day veterans from many different countries as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War.  The Légion d’honneur was established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte and is France’s highest distinction and is awarded in recognition of both military and civilian merit. Second World War veterans from across Cornwall have been presented with the Légion d’honneur, and as of June 2017 the French Embassy said that there were just 100 more to be given out.
 
Remembrance Sunday is always supported by the various Cadet groups, Scouts and Brownies. It is great to see these movements going from strength to strength.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Half Marathon for Carn Brea Leisure Centre

Like many people who grew up in this part of Cornwall, I have fond childhood memories of Carn Brea Leisure Centre. It has been an essential part of the local community for well over forty years. I have been running since I was nine, when I first joined Cornwall Athletics Club. Throughout my twenties I was running for Cornwall and at the peak of my fitness I was running around 80 miles per week. It was a big part of my life, and a lot of it revolved around training at Carn Brea.
 
At any given time, there are over 1000 children learning to swim at Carn Brea. It is therefore great news that the management team have secured funding from Sport England to refurbish the pool and deliver other maintenance and improvements.
 
Work has already started, and will finish at the end of the year. It will ensure that facilities are sustained for existing users, as well as the next generation of swimmers. Carn Brea is Cornwall’s first Charitable Trust Leisure Centre, and provides health and wellbeing facilities in the heart of our local area. I am pleased to hear that during the pool refurbishment, facilities including the gym, running track, café and fitness classes will still be open.
 
We now need to focus our efforts on raising the remaining funds needed. I hope that the fundraising campaign will be a real community effort, in the true spirit of Carn Brea. For my part, I will be running a half marathon this weekend. My fundraising page can be found at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GeorgeEustice

 Alternatively, if you support Carn Brea but don't want to sponsor me, you can contribute directly to the fund raising appeal via the Trust's website at: https://www.carnbrealeisurecentre.co.uk/
 
I am saddened to hear of the death of former Falmouth and Camborne MP Candy Atherton. She was the MP from 1997 to 2005 and latterly a Cornwall Councillor. I debated her many times and, although we had different views on some issues, there was no doubting her passion and she made Cornwall her home. My thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill


Last Friday, I was one of the MPs that stayed in London to vote for the Bill to protect emergency workers and ensure that it passed its second reading. In the end, there was a consensus on all sides of parliament and a vote was not required, meaning that is has now passed to the next stage.
 
I think that strengthening the law to protect staff in our emergency services who are just doing their job is now needed.  In the current internet age, there has been a coarsening of our society with more people showing aggression and intolerance and more people finding themselves on the receiving end of abuse.  We see it in the nature of some of our political debate with intolerant attitudes which can undermine freedom of speech.   
 
We have also sadly seen an increase in abuse and physical attacks aimed at front line staff in our emergency services.  This is totally unacceptable. The great strength of our emergency services stems from the men and women who work in them and the commitment they bring. We owe emergency service workers a debt of gratitude for the courage, commitment and dedication they demonstrate in keeping us safe and this needs to be reflected in the law.
 
The Bill would create a statutory aggravating factor. This means that when a person is convicted of a specific offence, the judge would have to consider the fact it was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor in determining the sentence within the maximum allowed for the particular offence. It will also create a new aggravated version of the offences of common assault and battery when committed against an emergency worker and extend the maximum penalty.

The Bill covers all emergency workers, including police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and certain healthcare workers including ambulance personnel and it sends a very clear message that our society will not tolerate assault on the emergency services.  Sometimes, despite the nature of politics at the moment, parliament is capable of coming together in unity to deliver changes that matter.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Universal Credit

 
Reforming the welfare system and supporting people back into work go hand in hand. For too long, too many people were left languishing on benefits and trapped in a life of poverty.  Helping them go back to work has been one of the primary objectives of the Government in recent years and the results are showing. Unemployment has fallen, and the job market is stronger now than it has been for many years.
One of the most powerful schemes in recent years has been the policy of creating work experience opportunities for young people. The most important step to getting a full time job for school leavers is gaining experience. Lots of local employers have done their bit by offering unpaid work experience to school leavers and I have seen numerous cases where, after that short trial period, employers are so impressed by the young people joining their team that they move things around to try to find them a permanent place.
Another change that has been rolled out is the introduction of the Universal Credit to replace other out of work benefits and Housing Benefit. Previously, many believed that they were better off on the dole. If a job didn’t work out it was difficult to get back on benefits support. If income went over a certain threshold, people lost all Housing Benefit or tax credits resulting in employees being unable to work more than sixteen hours per week for fear of being worse off. Universal Credit has changed that.
Universal Credit offers a tapered support so that there is a single benefit payment which is withdrawn gradually as income rises.  It will always pay to work more hours but if something goes wrong, the support will kick back in automatically.

Recently, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said that he is determined to ensure that those who need support earlier in the month will get it. He announced that guidance is being refreshed to ensure that anyone who needs an advance payment will be offered it up front. Claimants who want an advance payment will not have to wait six weeks, and will receive their advance within five working days.