Herald Column January 24th 2019

Not that you would believe it from the media but there was life beyond Brexit and No Confidence motions at Westminster last week. Amongst the rather overlooked debates, I initiated a very worthwhile airing on the state of children’s social care with some very strong contributions from both sides of the House of Commons.

Whilst much of the focus has been on the state of adult social care and the pressures from an aging population on the NHS, financial constraints on local authorities has left councils facing a £2bn shortfall for children’s social care. Despite record levels of funding going into this area more than 75,000 children are in care in England, which is the highest it has been since the early 1980’s and many have more complex and demanding problems. You can find a link to the full debate on my website.

Also on Thursday afternoon I took part in a debate on ‘Mental health first aiders in the workplace,’ another issue which found widespread cross-party support. The profile of mental illness has certainly risen greatly in recent years and whilst there is still further to go, the stigma attached to it has greatly diminished. Far-sighted firms are now doing much more to look after the mental wellbeing of their employees as happier workers not surprisingly tend to be more reliable and productive ones too. Just as the Government are now looking to train more staff in schools to recognise mental health problems in students and direct them to appropriate support it does seem sensible that we encourage more businesses to have people trained to look out for employees going through the same problem and support them accordingly.

Away from the Commons I attended the first day of the Shoreham Air Show crash trial at the Old Bailey although most of it was spent outside of the court room whilst lawyers argued over the admissibility of evidence and the swearing in of jurors for what is likely to be at least a 6 week trial. I was however able to speak to many of the families of the victims to check that they were being well supported and happy with the way things were going after such a long wait for the case to come to court.

Last year I did of course take up with the Prime Minister and Justice Ministers the inequity of legal aid not being available for legal representations for the families at the forthcoming inquest, and I am confident that problem is about to be resolved. In the meantime it was very reassuring to see the excellent police family liaison officers at the court in force and to hear from the families what a great support they are continuing to be. It was very fitting therefore that he head of the FLO’s from Sussex Police was recognised in the New Year’s Honours list recognising the fantastic and difficult job that they do.