On Friday, at my new Keirby Walk Office, a packed MPs surgery allowed me the chance to meet and assist constituents with a wide range of problems. I look forward to repeating these on a regular basis. Sunday saw me attending the increasingly popular 10k run. This event, enjoyed by thousands, has become a highlight of the year. I have to admit I did not take part in the run itself but I was a very enthusiastic spectator! I take my hat off to the two thousand plus runners who put so much effort into raising funds for a variety of worthy charities. Feedback from the runners from out of town, was that the Burnley event is one of the best on the circuit. The route certainly seems to show off some of our local beauty spots.
This week I was also delighted to attend the AGM of the Burnley Building Bridges organisation. Founded in 2001, this group has been hugely successful at promoting understanding and respect between communities and encouraging close links between different faith groups within our town. I commend them for their work; long may it continue.
As ever, I was glad to support the Armed Forces at the town centre event on Sunday afternoon. The rain held off and a good time was had by all. I have always believed it to be really important that we publically acknowledge the contribution made by service personnel past and present and also that we appreciate the veteran support groups that operate so effectively in our town. I had a lovely conversation with a very smart veteran of the Royal Nursing corps, who kept me enthralled with her memories of her overseas service.
Having read through over 100 suggestions, and after much deliberation, I have finally chosen the subject for my Private Member’s bill: I intend to try to help carers by making provision for them to be exempt from hospital parking charges. During recent years, I have met with carers from across the constituency from different backgrounds, all of whom had different stories to tell but all with one thing in common: their willingness to support a sick person, whether it be a child with cancer, an elderly person with complex needs or a person attending hospital for regular treatments such as chemotherapy. All of these carers often have reason to be parked at hospitals for long periods and can incur charges which they can often ill afford. It seems to me that it is time we put an end to this ‘tax on illness’. I presented the Bill to Parliament for the first time this week, with the second reading scheduled for 30th October 2015.
Continuing on the theme of care, I was pleased to have the opportunity to raise some very serious concerns on behalf of constituents, with the Royal College of A & E Consultants this week. I have also joined the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health and attended my first meeting. I believe that for far too long, mental health has been the ‘poor relation’ of the health service, this despite the fact that mental illness is a growing problem, affecting people from all communities and all age groups. It was really useful and informative for me to meet with staff from Mind, Rethink Mental Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Interestingly, there was consensus at this cross party meeting that the recent changes to welfare have exacerbated the problem. With further drastic cuts to Welfare already announced by the Conservative Government, this must be a serious cause for concern to so many people.