Message from Andrew Mitchell

22nd May 2020

This is my ninth weekly message to residents across Sutton Coldfield.

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week which is a good opportunity to highlight positive mental health messages.

I continue to receive a large volume of correspondence each day and I appreciate that the last few months have been difficult for many people and there has undoubtedly been a greater demand for mental health services.

This year, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness. It has been wonderful to see so many acts of kindness take place throughout our Royal Town. Thank you to everyone who commented on my post earlier in the week and gave examples of the kindness of friends, neighbours and strangers. Our local volunteers continue to do a sterling job supporting vulnerable residents and the many hundreds of hours that volunteers have given to our community in the last few weeks has been an inspiration. Meanwhile we can all continue to make a difference in small but meaningful ways. Taking just a few moments to make a phone call or video call can make a real difference and brighten someone’s day, particularly for those that have been shielding and I would encourage everyone to keep reaching out to their friends, family and neighbours as I know so many of you have been doing over recent weeks. Our community spirit is growing and it will help see us through the crisis.

I have received a large number of emails about schools reopening for a wider number of pupils. The Government hopes for a phased return of primary school children. For older pupils, the Government hopes to ensure that Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year have the opportunity to receive some face-to-face contact with their teachers before the summer holiday. This will only take place if the scientific and medical advice says it is safe to do so. Ministers are giving schools detailed guidance to put appropriate safety measures in place. The Government continues to constructively engage with schools, teachers and unions. While I hope to see children back in schools soon as I believe that it is important for their education and physical and mental health, I will only support proposals that take place at the right time and with the right safeguards in place. I fully support our local headteachers and their leadership on this issue.

I also continue to receive many emails about the Household Recycling Centre at Norris Way. It has been clear now for two weeks that the current system is not working. I have raised this with Birmingham City Council who have responsibility for the site and I have to say that I am incredibly disappointed with their response which seems to be little more than hoping that the problem resolves itself. This isn’t good enough and local residents and businesses deserve better. Other councils have introduced booking systems and taken an innovative approach. Our City Council needs to listen to those that live and work nearby and make some urgent changes. This is a further example of the need to devolve more powers to our Town Council and I would like to thank our local councillors Ewan Mackay and David Pears who have on a daily basis been working hard to try to sort the matter out with Birmingham City Council.

Earlier this week the Prime Minister announced that by next month we will have 25,000 contact tracers in place, ready to start tracing new cases of coronavirus. Alongside our ramped up testing capacity, tracing will become an essential part of our ongoing approach. Our new army of tracers will be capable of tracking the contacts of up to 10,000 new cases a day. After doubling our laboratory capacity, setting up 50 regional test centres and 116 mobile testing units, introducing home testing kits and 3 Lighthouse laboratories, the UK’s testing capacity continues to scale up towards 200,000 tests a day. Next week, we will begin offering antibody tests to health and care staff, eligible patients and care residents to see if they have had coronavirus. In the meantime, if you are experiencing a loss of sense of smell or taste, a new, continuous cough, or a high temperature, you can book a test online by visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

Ahead of the Bank Holiday and some promising weather forecasts a quick reminder that we all must continue to follow the social distancing guidelines. You can exercise outside as often as you wish and you can also sit and rest outside. Exercise or recreation can be alone, with members of your household, or with one other person from outside your household, while keeping two metres apart at all times.

As your MP I am here to help. If you feel I can assist with any concerns, please do not hesitate to get in contact by emailing me on andrew.mitchell.mp@parliament.uk

Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP