Kate, at a melanoma awareness month event.
Kate, at a melanoma awareness month event.

It feels like parliament has been in recess more than it has been in session in recent weeks. The Easter break was quickly followed by ‘prorogation’, the gap between the end of one parliamentary session and the start of the next. Handily, prorogation coincided with council elections, allowing MPs to return to our constituencies to help with the campaign. Now, just three weeks after going back to parliament for the start of the new session, we are off again, for the half term break and Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

I’m looking forward to more time in the constituency to visit local organisations and businesses, and catch up with my constituents. But I do worry that all these breaks aren’t a very good look!

But even in just three weeks back in parliament, quite a lot has been going on. Most notably, the chancellor of the exchequer finally acknowledged Labour had been right all along: we need a windfall tax on energy companies, and more help for families coping with soaring inflation and rising household bills.

This week also saw the publication of a really important independent report. Well, two important reports, actually – the Sue Gray report into the Downing Street parties in breach of lockdown has dominated the news.  But an equally important report was published this week on children’s social care. This addresses the way we look after children who can’t always live with their family, and the local authority has to step in. Sometimes that means children being placed in foster care, or placed for adoption, but far too often, these children fail to thrive. I read the report with great interest, and would love to hear from families, social workers, foster and adoptive parents, young people, and anyone with lived experience of the care system, about what you think needs to change.

The children’s social care report provided very useful background to an important inquiry I participated in this week into children in custody, in secure children’s homes, secure training centres or young offender institutions. Six years ago, the government agreed to replace failing secure training centres with new secure schools that would prioritise education for the young people in their custody. But on current plans, the first secure school won’t open until the end of 2023, there are no specific plans or funding for the second, and no commitment whatsoever for any more to be opened after that. As a result, many young offenders end up in unsuitable youth offender institutions that resemble adult prisons, often many miles away from home. That’s a nightmare for keeping them in touch with their families, and helping them to prepare for the return home after they’re released. The first secure school is opening in the south of England; I very much hope the second (when we eventually get it) will be in the north west.

In my blog last week, I noted that we’re approaching the summer holiday season – just a repeat of last week’s reminder to apply for your passport good time! And this week, can I also remind everyone hoping for a holiday in the sun to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. May is melanoma awareness month, and I was very pleased to meet campaigners in parliament to support their call for everyone to keep safe by using sun cream, and being careful about how long you spend out in the sun. Melanoma (skin cancer) can be fatal, so please make sure you keep yourself and your family safe.

Finally, an enormous thank you to everyone who joined us at the screening of our documentary celebrating the life of our 100-year old friend and Stretford resident, Joan. It was fascinating, often funny, and very moving to hear Joan’s memories of politics, campaigns and life in Stretford, and I know she really enjoyed the event! Special thanks to Simon Buckley and his team for making the documentary with Joan, and to everyone who contributed to our collection for Stretford Foodbank (which Joan helped to set up) – we raised £270. And please don’t worry if you missed the screening – we’ll be planning ways for more people to see it very soon!

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