From Helen Whately <[email protected]>
Subject Learning to live with Covid
Date August 2, 2021 3:42 PM
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Your regular update on my work for Faversham and Mid Kent

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** Learning to live with Covid

For the past 18 months our lives have been determined by Covid.

It has cancelled plans, pushed businesses to the brink, and taken loved ones from us. While the pandemic is far from over, our phenomenal vaccine rollout has put us in a position where we can begin to learn to live with the virus.

Thank you to everyone continuing to work or volunteer in our local vaccination centres who’ve helped make this moment possible. Over 2.2 million vaccinations have been given out across Kent, with two thirds of adults in the county having received both jabs.

I know just how important easing restrictions has been for local businesses – especially our pubs and the hospitality sector, and in making life worth living again for so many people.

In the months ahead I’ll continue supporting people and businesses affected by Covid and do everything I can to help our local NHS and councils through these crucial next few months.

More than at any point in the pandemic, people need to use their judgement to help keep the virus under control. Everyone can play their part by taking up the offer of being vaccinated ([link removed]) and getting tested ([link removed]) regularly.

It’s up to all of us to think about how our actions and decisions can keep ourselves and others safe. If we’re on a crowded train or busy shop, then wearing a face mask is the sensible thing to do. Check the latest guidance ([link removed]) to see what you can do to help.

We have our freedoms back, let’s use them carefully.

** Supporting our NHS
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It's wonderful to see the dream of a Kent Medical School ([link removed]) finally become a reality

In the NHS’s history, no year has been as tough as the last.

To mark the NHS's birthday, the Queen awarded the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom in recognition of their service over the past 73 years.

We now have over 45,300 more staff in the NHS compared to a year ago, including nearly 9,000 more nurses and over 4,000 more doctors. Thank you to each and every one for their extraordinary efforts over the past year.

Following the pay review bodies’ recommendation, NHS staff will be getting a 3% pay rise – worth on average £1,000 per year for nurses, with porters and cleaners receiving around £540 extra per year.

** More money for our schools
It was fantastic to open the new Art and Technology Block at The Abbey School ([link removed]) recently

Schools in Faversham and Mid Kent have been allocated £59 million by the Department for Education – up £4 million on last year.

This is on top of pupil premium funding in Kent increasing by 7 per cent to £64 million. Minimum funding levels will mean that every primary school will receive at least £4,265 per pupil, and every secondary school at least £5,525 per pupil.

I’ve heard first-hand that our fairer funding formula is already making a difference to schools that have historically been under funded.

This month has also seen a number of our schools take part in virtual visits to Parliament – including The Holy Family Catholic Primary School in Park Wood and Oaks Primary Academy in Shepway.
This month we published plans for decarbonising travel ([link removed]) , which includes plans to boost electric vehicle charging points

** End of the road for temporary closures

Many people told me the temporary road closures in Faversham were making it harder to get to shops and services in the town.

I’m pleased Swale Borough Council has listened to me and others, including the Faversham Traders Association, and dropped plans to make these closures permanent.

We should be making it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle around the town. But changes need to work with local people, including shop owners and traders.

I know the closure of the A2/A251 junction is causing huge problems. I've stressed to Kent County Council how important this junction is for accessing the town and asked for an update on when the work will be finished.

** Building back better in health and social care

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I set out in Parliament what we've been doing to support carers

Last month saw our Health and Care Bill introduced to Parliament.

The Bill will help us better integrate services and give people the care they need closer to home. This is an important step – along with plans for social reform – in helping us build back better from the pandemic.

I know this continues to be a hugely difficult time for carers. I recently met some of the team from Crossroads Care ([link removed]) in Kent, who told me about their amazing work providing respite care and support to those caring for friends or family.

As we moved to Step 4 on our roadmap, more people are now able to visit loved ones in care homes, subject to local restrictions.

** Backing our tourism businesses
With the new CEO of Leeds Castle, Helen Bosner-Wilton

It was great to visit Leeds Castle again recently to meet their new Chief Executive.

I know the past year has been incredibly tough for tourism and hospitality businesses. I’m glad the Government has published a new strategy to help the sector back on its feet.

Our hospitality strategy ([link removed]) includes £352 million in extra support, plans to make it easier for our pubs and restaurants to offer outside dining, and action to help the sector to go greener by reducing emissions and cutting single-use plastics.

With summer here, and restrictions eased, there’s never been a better time to support our local hospitality businesses. For some inspiration take a look at Visit Kent ([link removed]) .

** New autism strategy launched

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Setting out our plans for a new autism strategy

As Care Minister I’ve been leading work to develop a new cross-government autism strategy.

Our new strategy ([link removed]) will improve society’s understanding of autism, help autistic people get the right support at the right time, and help more autistic people live their lives to the full.

It was great to meet people from the Kent Autistic Trust ([link removed]) again last month for an update on their work supporting people with autism.

The Government has recently launched a consultation on how the how the benefits system can better meet the needs of disabled people and people with health conditions. More information can be found here ([link removed]) .
Pet theft is a huge worry for many people. Take our survey here ([link removed]) to help stop more pets from being stolen

** Stockbury roundabout set for upgrade

Following on from a public inquiry, The Department for Transport has given the green light to a major junction improvement scheme at Stockbury roundabout.

This junction is in desperate need of an upgrade so this news is going to be welcomed by commuters fed up of sitting in traffic.

But I know that for people in Stockbury this will come as a huge blow as there are very real concerns that the village could be cut off as a result of the works.

I’ll continue to work with local councillors, the Parish Council, and Kent County Council to find ways of improving access to the village – including pushing for a new bridge over the A249.

** Shepway regeneration plans taking shape
With people from Golding Homes to see how plans to redevelopment Cambridge Crescent could benefit the local community

I called into Shepway earlier this month to see for myself how plans to redevelop Cambridge Crescent could benefit the local community.

The proposals announced by Golding Homes would see Cambridge Crescent turned into 240 new homes, an updated shopping area, and new public spaces.

While investment in new housing and facilities is good news for the local community, people need supporting during these changes. I'll stand up for anyone who feels their concerns are not being listened to.

I will continue to work with Golding Homes and Maidstone Borough Council to make sure this development makes life better for people in Shepway.

** Flexi fares become a reality
New Flexi Season Tickets ([link removed]) went on sale last month

Last month saw the introduction of new flexible season tickets for train passengers.

I’ve been campaigning for fairer fares on our railways, with a ticketing model that better reflects how people live and work, so I'm pleased to see this become a reality.

Under the new scheme, people can purchase a season ticket allowing travel on any 8 days in a month. I know this will be welcomed by people who travel to work a couple of days a week.

For commuters from Maidstone, a flexible season ticket could save them £832.00 per year on travel to London, with commuters from Faversham saving £1,414.40 per year.

** An update on Faversham creek bridge

Work to restore Faversham’s creek bridge is continuing.

A permanent replacement bridge is not just needed to help people get around the town, it's also vital for regeneration work around the creek.

I recently secured a meeting with the Maritime Minister, Robert Courts MP, along with Kent County Council and Peel Ports to discuss a way forward.

I’m pleased KCC and Peel Ports have agreed to work together towards the restoration of the bridge. The aim is to find agreement around funding and maintenance costs so we can make this project a reality.
Football may not be coming home this summer, but huge congratulations to the England team for everything they achieved. Good luck to all our athletes representing Team GB!

Please remember to keep yourself and others safe. Latest coronavirus guidance can be found here ([link removed])

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