You may have noticed on the news that Britain now has its first ever female Defence Secretary, Penny Mordaunt. I am delighted that I will continue in my role as Parliamentary Private Secretary working closely with the Secretary of State, the MoD and our armed forces. Penny is a great appointment for the role given her background: she is a Royal Navy Reservist, a former Minister for the Armed Forces and represents a seat in Portsmouth, which is home to its own Naval base.
It is not always the case that Ministers appear perfectly suited to their posts - but in this case, it is like a duck taking to water! Penny has already put a focus on support for veterans by confirming £9 million of funding which will be focused on improving ex-service personnel’s mental health. I am also certain she will be a champion for women in the Forces given her previous work at the Ministry of Defence and her continuing role as Minister for Women and Equalities.
Up in Westminster an area I have been focussed on is adult social care, having set up a new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to make progress on the issue. This week we had our first evidence session examining staffing problems and the difficulty to recruit and retain within the sector. Currently there are 110,000 vacancies for social care workers across England. This is something we need to address as we’re all getting older, living longer; often with more complex conditions. Both my grandmothers suffered from dementia, and both required care. I have seen how dedicated and kind carers can allow people like my Nan to stay at home longer, which is always the best option, and when that is no longer possible offer the full-time care required.
The APPG is looking into how we can encourage more people into caring by making the job more attractive. We are pushing to make social care a recognised profession with employees receiving proper training, which will both improve job satisfaction and service quality. It is also a very natural route to develop and train to be a nurse, so we will be pushing for opportunities for carers to expand their career horizons.
Another big issue in this understaffed industry is loneliness as carers have no time available to keep people company. Programmes like Chichester College’s Bridging Generations is a response to this, offering older people company and in return young students get direct access to a bank of experience and knowledge that only our older generations have. There are also a wide range of lunch clubs and interest groups around the Chichester district which offer the chance to mix and mingle to keep loneliness at bay. My one hope for my old age is that we won’t still be talking about Brexit!