At the Community Roadshow last week the Communities Secretary launched the Open Doors project. This project will link landlords with vacant retail units to community groups offering vital services to young and old. The project will see empty shops being opened up to community groups offering services to the most vulnerable in our communities. There are currently over 27,000 premises lying vacant in England’s town centres which can be transformed into vibrant community hubs. This work builds on the £1.5 billion package of support offered in the Budget to support our high streets, including a business rate cut and a new Future High Streets Fund.
On Monday I met with Deborah Fisher, Director of independent living and crisis response at the British Red Cross, to discuss hospital discharge services and social prescribing. Social prescribing is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. The BRC currently support 65,000 people across the UK on their discharge from hospital and offer a number of services including transport, guidance with personal finances and loneliness. We discussed the need to promote the voluntary sector as genuine partners in the community care landscape to ensure integration is part of the discharge pathway as well as making sure that prevention strategies receive genuine investment.
It was fascinating to attend the UK BioIndustry Association’s rare disease workshop on Tuesday to hear more about the access landscape for rare disease medicines. The assessment process for rare and ultra-rare medicine was changed in 2017 with claims that the changes would provide quicker access for patients to the most cost-effective new treatments. This has been shown not to be true and there have been a number of high-profile cases of medicines for rare disease patients not being made available to NHS patients. Alternative assessment methods need to be explored.
Last week, the Public Accounts Committee held an evidence session looking at how prepared government departments are for the changes required at the UK border after our exit from the European Union. We discussed a range of issues including ports and I was happy to have confirmation that Defra, HMRC and the Home Office have been and continue to hold conversations with all 135 ports and airports to discuss the potential impacts on both themselves and their customers.
On Sunday, I took part in services in the constituency at Kingsteignton, Dawlish and Shaldon to mark the centenary of the First World War Armistice. It is important that we honour and recognise those who have served our country and those who have sadly lost their lives in service to the country.
I attended the Devon Association of Governance conference in Exeter. DAG is the association representing more than 3,000 school governors, trustees, directors and clerks across the Devon Local Authority. Keynote speakers included representatives from Ofsted South West, the Regional School Commissioners Office and representatives from Devon County Council.
On Wednesday I attended an event at the King’s Fund exploring the current state of social care. Dame Katie Barker, member of the upcoming social care green paper advisory group and former Chair of the Barker Commission, Sarah Pickup, Deputy Chief Executive of the Local Government Association, and Simon Bottery, Senior Fellow in Social Care at the King’s Fund, were on the panel discussing options that could be in the Green Paper and the way forward for reform once the Green Paper has been published.
I was delighted to hear that work will begin at the end of November to build a reedbed filter system at Stover Lake to keep the water clean and provide a valuable habitat for wildlife. The sustainable scheme is designed to capture and filter water runoff from nearby sites before it enters the lake.
My next surgery is on Friday 30th November at 2pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.