I thought I might tell you a bit about my day-to-day life when I am in the constituency during recess to give some flavour about what happens when Parliament is not sitting.
On Thursday (7th April 2022) my day began with a coffee whilst reading and answering some emails, before driving to Hastings Old Town for a visit to Roebuck Day Centre which is run by Aspens Charities. This is a place for people on the autistic spectrum where there is a focus on giving people the skills that they need to lead their lives as independently as possible, including work, leisure, and self-help skills, as well as social and community ones. The Centre offers creative workshops, and I was really bowled over, not just by the amazing staff, participants, and variety of creative offers, but also by the products made and sold (I did buy one or two things myself!).
I spoke with people at the Centre who really enjoy and benefit from the support they receive. It was a delight to hear about and look at the work people were doing; graphics and animation (the storylines and talent shown were really impressive), baking a cake for the first time, listening to a person playing an instrument that they had only just started to learn six months ago, and looking at the ceramics, jewellery and other crafts, including bags (‘Special Operations’ is the make) all painstakingly made by people who attend the Centre. All these creative workshops end up with the products being offered for sale and people can pop in to have a look and purchase them (more information online here: www.aspens.org.uk/roebuck-day-centre). I was really struck by the sense of purpose, care, and dedication shown by the staff in ensuring that these young people have an opportunity to learn and improve their skills. The result is beautiful objects and delicious cakes, chutneys, and jams that the public can buy. A sense of achievement for all – and, of course, this goes towards the financing of the Centre too.
There are many people with learning disabilities, including autism, who would love to be employed. People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are affected differently and there is a range from people who are high functioning requiring few supports to those who are low functioning with higher support needs. However, most need to build up their confidence and develop social and community skills which can be a barrier to social inclusion and employment. An organisation like the Roebuck Centre helps and supports people in developing their skills and confidence. If people with ASD have the appropriate support, work is a realistic option for them – they have so much to give and should definitely have the opportunity to do so.
I had a lovely time and came away feeling really upbeat!
Back to the Office, grabbing a sandwich on the way, for a look at the notes taken during the meeting East Sussex MPs had with County Councillors the day before to see if there were any follow-ups required before attending an NHS and System Briefing between NHS representatives and East Sussex MPs. We do this meeting every other week and it is a great way of communicating with our local NHS Commissioners. We discuss core NHS services, how our local hospitals are performing, and what issue there are (e.g., relating to elective surgeries, targets in cancer treatment, diagnostics and so on), as well as primary care services and vaccinations. In this meeting issues including workforce pressures and the ‘Easter Plan’ were discussed. The Easter Plan will ensure that the required NHS capacity is in the right place over the Easter weekend. It gives an opportunity for MPs to raise issues on behalf of constituents and the NHS an opportunity to highlight issues with the MPs that we may be able to help with at a central government level.
Back to emails and briefings, following which I attended a virtual meeting with Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy. This briefing was to discuss the newly announced Energy Security Strategy, which he described as a ‘long curve plan’. He was pleased that the Strategy had been widely well received, and in summary, will focus on offshore wind, nuclear power, and the ramping up of North Sea oil and gas production due to the rising global energy prices caused by increased demand after the pandemic and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. I raised Dungeness, which is currently going through decommissioning, but has the infrastructure for an SMR (Small Modular Reactor) and we should be considering re-using the power station for this. I also asked for an update on the Crown Estates, which play an active role in the UK’s offshore wind sector. Finally, I wanted an update on the Round 4 Offshore Wind Leasing, what the situation is off Hastings and Rye coastline, as well as about increasing our grid capacity – ‘smarter’ ways are being considered.
Before going to meet a friend for a catch-up (she also happens to be a fantastic head teacher in Hastings and Rye), I read some briefing notes on the cost of living, housing, and the benefit system amongst other local issues ahead of a meeting with Hastings’ Citizens Advice 1066 the next day.