Thoughts this week have been with the Royal Family after His Majesty the King’s cancer diagnosis. The family is, of course, in a unique position and whilst it may be hard for us to imagine their daily lives, it is clear that they have had a very tough time recently and this news may put some of the minor tensions into perspective. I am sure we all wish his Majesty the very best with his treatment and many good years ahead. He has quietly and effectively assumed the role. His openness and honesty about being unwell can be of great benefit to the British people as the importance of health checks and early diagnoses are highlighted.
As half term approaches for many schools, thoughts are divided as usual between hoping our teachers can get some rest from the excellent and at times exhausting work they do; and appreciating the great deal of juggling the school holidays can mean for many working parents throughout the year. Eight million of the families most in need will receive a cost of living payment in February which will help and also marks the end of that scheme as we move towards a more sustainable model with costs and inflation coming down. Help is also on the way with increased free childcare provision for younger children – criteria for eligibility and other information are on the Government website.
Details are being released of the Government’s plan for NHS dentistry which I know is an issue of availability in some areas here as well as across the country, especially as we came out of COVID with some dentist visits and working practices changed because of it. Building on pension changes to encourage professionals to work for longer, dentists will be offered incentives to take more NHS patients, similar to a suggestion I pushed for which would see more NHS patients as part of the dentists’ contract. There will be incentives to move to areas with shortages which Somerset could benefit from and more education about dental hygiene in schools. As always with recruitment issues the positive changes will take a little time to filter through but it seems like the basis of a good plan thatbI have lobbied hard for and we can continue building good local healthcare partnerships and looking at suitable sites for new practices or practice locations in South Somerset.
The manhunt for Abdul Ezedi has again brought the immigration system under intense scrutiny and quite rightly. Acid attacks are a particularly hateful crime and I very much hope the full weight of our justice system is brought to bear soon. The Church has been criticised because of its role in supporting asylum seekers who convert to Christianity. I am sure that there has been nothing but the best of intent in thisbut it is perhaps an example of how the independence of the legal system needs to be protected as well as our laws giving unambiguous direction to that legal system and being strong enough to achieve what our sovereign Parliament as the seat of people’s democratic will sets out. Certainly the church leaders from our patch are of very high integrity and contribute a huge amount to the community and I would not like to see them dragged into this.