MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK
Today is the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week, which could not be more timely. Lockdown has been hard on many people, especially those who are alone, those whose home is not a happy home, and those who have reason to be especially fearful for their health or their loved ones’ health. We should each take a moment this week to consider our own mental health and see if we need to take some steps to improve it by reaching out for help, or using self-help resources. Here is a good place to start: www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-public-on-mental-health-and-wellbeing/guidance-for-the-public-on-the-mental-health-and-wellbeing-aspects-of-coronavirus-covid-19
This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness. So in addition to reviewing your own mental health care, the Mental Health Foundation is asking us all to consider what we are doing to help others cope. We have all read and been touched by stories of kindness from around the country; this crisis has brought us together emotionally as it holds us apart physically. Being kind to someone else lifts up both the giver and the receiver, and we all need that lift right now.
To help inspire each other, we can share stories and pictures (with permission) of kindness during the week on Twitter using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

REOPENING SCHOOLS
I have been speaking with local schools last week and today. They are working hard to prepare to receive children in June, thoughtfully making the arrangements they feel are are most suitable and realistic for their own circumstances. I salute them for the role they have played in keeping children safe since the lockdown began, and for the efforts they are making to comply with government instructions.

LONDON TRANSPORT FUNDING
The government has agreed a £1.6 billion funding and financing package for Transport for London. TfL is working hard to return Tube and bus services to normal levels while many of their staff are themselves ill or self-isolating, and with sharply reduced revenues. Given the requirement to maintain two metres distance between passengers wherever possible, the capacity on the Tube will only be around 13-15 per cent of normal even once services are back to full schedules. The bus service will have similar capacity limits.
This means we need everyone to do everything they can to stay off public transportation. Everyone who can work from home should continue to do so. If you need to travel to work or to seek medical care, public transport should be avoided if at all possible. And if you must travel by bus or train, please plan ahead and travel outside of the busiest times, which are 05:45 to 08:15 and 16:00-17:30.
Please wear a face covering and respect the space of fellow passengers to help maintain this distance. Do not travel if you have any symptoms of the virus. If you are using public transport, you may be asked to wait to enter a station.
These are details about the terms of the Government’s financial package offer to TfL:

• The package goes up to the end of September. It is £1.6 billion in total, with £1.095 billion in grants and £505 million in a loan from central government.
• There will be a temporary suspension of the Freedom Pass and 60+ card concessions, to off peak hours only.
• There will be a re-introduction of fares on buses.
• There will be a temporary suspension of free travel for under 18-year olds, although special arrangements may be made to ensure children eligible under national legislation can still travel to school for free.
• The Congestion Charge and Ultra LowEmission Zone will be reinstated from today.
• The Congestion Charge reimbursement scheme for NHS staff will be extended and will also be open to care home workers.
• The Congestion Charge will, from the 22 June, increase to £15. The hours of operation will be extended to 7am to 10pm, seven days a week.

CYCLING IN RICHMOND PARK
As part of the effort to get as many commuters as possible off of public transport without adding more cars to the road, I am continuing to press Royal Parks for a decision on whether to reopen Richmond Park to commuter cyclists.

SOUTHWEST LONDON CCG MERGER
Some of my constituents have expressed concern that the Clinical Commissioning Groups of Richmond, Kingston, Wandsworth, Sutton, Merton and Croydon went ahead with their merger into one SW London CCG last month, as Covid-19 was hitting its peak. I asked the new larger CCG about this and they replied to say that “We were able to meet the deadline of 1 April as the majority of the work to get to this point had been undertaken prior to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.” I can confirm that I have not observed any loss of responsiveness or gaps in care due to the merger. The merger seems to have been a unanimous joint agreement among the six boroughs and to have gone smoothly.

COMMUNICATING WITH DEAF CHILDREN (AND ADULTS!)
The National Deaf Children’s Society has sent us this poster about communicating with children with hearing impairments under current guidelines. Most children (and adults) with a hearing impairment are only partially deaf. They supplement what they hear with lip-reading and facial cues, so talking to someone who is wearing a face mask can be difficult. Hearing aids are designed to work within a two metre radius of the wearer, so the two metre social distancing rule is a further problem. Please have a look at this poster for some tips on how to communicate with a hearing impaired child – they apply equally to hearing impaired adults!

 

NEWS

RICHMOND GOOD NEIGHBOURS ARE RUNNING UP EVEREST
Richmond Good Neighbours has been providing support to residents of Richmond for over thirty years. Volunteers shop for clients, take them to hospital or a doctor appointments and will stay with them if they need moral support or a second pair of ears. They drive them to social events, meet them for a cup of tea and a chat or take them to the theatre or cinema.
The charity’s finances, however, have been badly hit by lockdown. Members of the Richmond Hill Covid 19 Support Group, who have already done fantastic work in making visors for the NHS and care workers, are helping this valuable service by raising money in a Richmond Hill Running Uphill Challenge. The Challenge is to cumulatively run the equivalent height of Mount Everest. The challenge will involve running up the hill in the Park, from Petersham Gate towards Pembroke Lodge, as many times as you can or wish. Together our combined uphill ascents should equal an Everest ascent. You don’t have to run it fast and can walk it if you prefer. We are asking those taking part to give an entry donation to Richmond Good Neighbours, and to please send the link to your friends and family to request sponsorship donations too.
If you would like to participate, please send an email to hello@russellhanson.co.uk with subject “RGN” to let us know and we will give you all the details. If you will not be running yourself, you can support the runners conquering Everest for Richmond Good Neighbours here: www.gofundme.com/f/running-uphill-for-richmond-good-neighbours

Sarah

Sarah Olney MP
www.SarahOlneyMP.org.uk
email: office@saraholneymp.org.uk

Earlier updates can be accessed here.