Parliament returned from recess this week and the UK Government took the decision to end hybrid proceedings and require MPs to be in the Chamber and to vote in person. This decision effectively disenfranchised the constituents of MPs who are shielding or have caring responsibilities at home, as they are unable to attend. It also puts at risk the health of the thousands of people who work on the Parliamentary Estate. While some workplaces are beginning to open, we need them to put the health and safety of their employees first, and by unnecessarily abandoning remote working without properly ensuring the safety of MPs and Parliamentary staff, the UK Government is giving license to bad employers to do the same with their employees. I am incredibly disappointed with the Prime Minister’s decision and would urge him to reconsider.
We saw truly appalling images from America this week following the murder of George Floyd by police officers. Racism is a terrible scourge and now, more than ever, it is our responsibility to face up to and address the systemic discrimination that exists not just in the US, but across our own communities. There was worrying evidence published this week that Coronavirus disproportionately affects those from BAME communities, and I am pleased that the Welsh Government has brought in new risk assessments for those working in our NHS and social care in order to better protect our heroic key workers.
As you will have seen, there were some changes to lockdown measures here in Wales this week. Those who have been shielding for the last three months can now exercise outside and meet others from a different household, providing that meeting takes place outside and social distancing and strict hygiene is practised. With fewer coronavirus cases, the risk of transmission outside is lower than it was, but people should still be cautious and maintain the 2-metre distance at all times. It’s been an incredibly difficult time for those who have been shielding, particularly for those who live alone, so I’m pleased that they will once more be able to go outside and meet with loved ones.
Schools in Wales are due to open to more pupils on 29 June, with the summer term being extended by a week to 27 July. In each school, pupils will return in phases and year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons, and breaks to ensure that only around a third of pupils will be inside school buildings at any one time. This will allow them to better practise social distancing while still having the necessary time with their teacher and classmates. Welsh Government will publish guidance next week on how schools can manage the logistical challenges and cleaning. The next academic year will begin as normal in September, but the autumn half-term will be extended to two weeks.
You may have seen across my social media feeds that I am celebrating our ‘Community Champions’ – those who have worked so hard during this crisis to continue to provide a service to those who need it and to support our community through this difficult time. It’s been wonderful to hear about all the great things people are doing across Neath and to be able to celebrate them publicly. Please do get in touch if you know someone we should be celebrating!
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch, please do not hesitate to drop us an email on email@example.com or call us on 01639 630152. My staff are working from home to comply with the social distancing measures, but, as always, we are here if you need our help.
I hope you stay well, enjoy the weekend and, remember – stay local, protect the NHS and save lives.