As we mark National Carers Week, I want to recognise the important role of carers in our society – and call on the Government to give them a better deal.
The coronavirus pandemic has helped us recognise the true heroes of our community. In that group of unsung heroes, this week we should focus on Britain’s 6.5 million carers without whom our NHS and social care system would have been overwhelmed.
National Carers Week is especially poignant for me, as much of my life has been spent caring for close relatives.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis has sparked protests across the US, and across the world.
We should not be surprised. Black people the world over face discrimination, harassment and racism, sometimes on a daily basis. No wonder people are angry. And while there’s been some progress over the years to tackle such racism, there’s still gaping racial inequality in our society, which shames us all. And should anger us all.
So I hope we will all show our personal solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaigns – and not dismiss it as something only relevant for the US. Here in the UK, in recent times, remember Windrush. Stephen Lawrence. Grenfell. Mark Duggan. There’s still so much to do to tackle the scourge of racism in the UK.
Last month, I co-wrote to the Chief Executive of The Royal Parks asking them to reopen Richmond Park to commuter cyclists as soon as possible, and I'm pleased to say that the park will reopen from today (Tuesday, 2 June), albeit partially for now.
The joint letter, also signed by Sarah Olney MP, Cllr Caroline Kerr and Cllr Gareth Roberts, raised concerns that as the Government lifted the coronavirus lockdown, without this vital artery for residents in Kingston upon Thames to commute by bike into central London, more people would be attempting to use public transport.
Richmond Park partially reopened for cyclists on weekdays, before 10am and after 4pm.
At this time of crisis, it is essential that we get children back into schools across the Borough of Kingston at the earliest opportunity because each day that children are stuck at home, the disadvantage-gap grows wider, and the most vulnerable children risk falling through the cracks.
However, we must ensure that schools are safe for children to return en masse. The evidence around coronavirus transmitting less easily between children is not yet conclusive and I fear that the Government might be more anxious about parents returning to work than keeping children safe.
Whilst we all understand the need to lock down to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, we must also ensure that we're looking after our mental health as well as our physical health. That’s why now is a good time to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
We all feel the stresses and strains of everyday life, and some of us have deeper underlying mental health issues to cope with. Connecting with people can make a big difference, and for me, in these difficult times, what makes the difference is spending quality time with my wife and children.
Being there for someone can sometimes be the most important step, and that’s why the Mental Health Foundation's theme this year couldn't be more appropriate: Kindness.