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27th Nov, 2021

Robin Walker's Westminster Diary

Worcester Editorial 24th Oct, 2020

Worcester MP Robin Walker writes for the Observer…

I KNOW what a tough time it has been for our arts and culture sector which plays such a vital role in making Worcester such a unique and special place so I was very pleased to see the rescue package from the Culture Recovery Fund launch last week with four grants to Worcester organisations – the Cathedral, the Museum of Royal Worcester, Dancefest and Museums Worcester. Whilst I welcomed this initial support for much prized heritage and cultural attractions, I was concerned that our theatre and the wide programme of activities it supports was not included in the first tranche of funding. Having contacted colleagues at DCMS and the Arts Council about it, I was therefore doubly pleased to see the second tranche announced over the weekend with £244,000 for the Worcester Live Charitable Trust, which supports the Swan, the Henry Sandon Hall and the Huntingdon Hall.

More widely I know that constituents are concerned about the number of Covid cases and keen to avoid another debilitating lockdown. The good news is that the number of cases in Worcester remains well below the national average and we have been placed in category 1 as a medium risk area, the lowest level of risk with the lightest restrictions under the new three tier system. This doesn’t mean however that the challenge of the pandemic has gone away and it is more vital than ever that people take sensible precautions such as regular handwashing, wearing masks in public spaces and respecting the rule of six. If we are to keep schools and the economy open we need to all play our part in controlling the virus and I know that the vast majority of people in Worcester are doing just that.

Even with this lower rate the pressures on our NHS and social care are enormous and sadly we are seeing more hospital admissions. It was welcome news recently to see our hospital come out of quality special measures and with all the pressures they have been facing, it is testament to the hard work and dedication of the whole team that they have done so. I have been pressing colleagues at the Department of health to support them with more funding for nurse placements and more capital for expanding the A&E, so it was good to see the confirmation of £2.5m to start work on the latter and to hear that nurses placed in the acute trust from our university will get extra support from the Government. Another positive announcement on the health front was the confirmation of a £26 million investment in mental health to transform dormitory style wards into units with individual rooms and en suite facilities.

Amidst all the focus on a physical health pandemic, it is vital we remember the importance of mental health. One way in which we can do so is by supporting the local initiative for a Wednesday wave, where people can take a moment to wave through the window to people who might be self-isolating at home or living in care homes without the benefit of visits. Reaching out in a safe way to those at risk of isolation is a good way to show support to some of the most vulnerable people at this difficult time and I am delighted that this local Initiative by the Vamos Theatre company, who are based at the Swan, has received national and international attention.

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