When I wrote my last blog I was half-way through a fortnight of being shadowed by one of our two UK Youth Parliament Representatives for Dorset, Laurence Hayward. Laurence survived a fairly hectic fortnight, which included a day with Simon Hoare MP in Westminster. The intention was that there should be two days but as Laurence was having to travel up each day the decision was made that he should not come on the second day but spend some time with Simon and his team int the autumn – and in any case it was believed there was nothing of particular interest happening that day. As it happened that turned out to be the day when Boris Johnson did his resignation speech in the House, so it would actually have been an interesting day indeed! Just shows how quickly things can change in politics…. “a week is a long time in politics” – Harold Wilson.
It was a great privilege to have Laurence with me and I look forward to working with him on how we can involve young people more in the decision making in their communities, working through their schools, the Youth Council and Youth Clubs. During the fortnight Laurence attended the Corporate Parenting Board, the Special Educational Needs Development Group and an Enquiry Day examining Children and Adolescent Mental Health, at all of which events there was much talk of getting the young persons views but actually Laurence was the only young person present. At present I fear there is genuine concern to engage with young people and their families but we are a long way off achieving that. An Enquiry Day into Children’s Services is planned for later this year and I hope we may have more success in getting contributions from parents and hopefully young people.
Jumping to a totally different topic, I have been working with one local resident, a widowed lady on a very low state pension, to help her claim financial support which she would probably have been entitled to ten years ago. A lot of money has been foregone by her because she just did not know about Pension Credit, Council Tax Support and Housing Benefit, or at least that they might apply to her and would have doubled her income. This is not about scrounging, it is about receiving funds that someone is entitled to. I am always willing to help. I am not an expert but I can usually find people who are, not least the MP’s Constituency Support Worker, Diana Mogg, who has direct access to people in the Department of Work and Pensions who are responsible for these things. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) is the best known source of advice and guidance with benefits and they receive some local authority money to provide that service. They are anxious to help and in particular are concerned that people applying for Universal Credit, the benefit for working age people, may not know they can also apply for Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit. Nowadays Universal Benefit has to be applied for “on line” which not everyone has access to. The CAB does have computers people can use, as do the libraries and in Sturminster the Learning Centre at The Exchange. Fortunately Pension Credit has to be applied for by telephone, which actually makes people’s life a lot easier if they are older people unused to modern technology. Having said that, I never cease to be impressed by the IT technical competence of some very much older people using their laptops and iPads.
In my previous blog I mentioned the desire to purchase a paddock on the eastern side of Sturminster Newton which was seen as the key to unlocking the Trailway Route out of town to Stalbridge. That field was bought by a private benefactor, although once the Trailway Route has been secured the rest of the field may well be sold on to a local charity who want to develop it as a space for the public to relax in. It is hoped that continuing the Trailway Route through the town will benefit the shops and cafés, bringing people in from the eastern side. However it will take a while to actually find the funds to build the Trailway route itself. In the first instance we can improve the existing footpaths and signs and use Stalbridge Lane to provide the route to Stalbridge. Walking has tremendous health benefits and I am currently talking to people in the health service about how we can develop a Health, Sports and Leisure Strategy for the Town, of which the Trailway and our excellent footpaths will be a key part.
Surgeries and door knocking in September:
Saturday 1st Sept. 9.30 p.m. door knocking in Glanvilles Wootton; 10.30 a.m. Surgery in Pulham Village Hall; 11.30 a.m. Surgery in The Exchange Coffee Bar, Sturminster Newton
Saturday 8th September Hilton Church Get Together and Mud Pie Café Okeford Fitzpaine
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