Robert’s Weekly Column – Wednesday 8th August 2018

I have written previously about my work as Solicitor General in assessing and challenging cases where Unduly Lenient Sentences have been passed.   We have recently expanded the scheme to cover more terrorism offences and are now looking at other areas too.  Use of the Internet by offenders who view or share indecent images of youngsters is just as insidious as direct sexual abuse and should be dealt with fully by the courts. I am keen to see that these types of serious offences are included into the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme, which will help to make sure that appropriate sentences are passed consistently.

Following a consultation by the Department of Transport, the “blue badge” scheme, allowing people with disabilities to parker closer to their destination including on yellow lines, is to be extended to those with invisible conditions such as Autism and mental health difficulties. These rule changes will give equal treatment to those with physical and mental health issues. Many will benefit from the much needed changes; there are 600,000 autistic people in England for example and for some, car journeys, and especially the logistics of parking are a source of very considerable psychological distress.  Disability is not always going to be visually obvious, and I welcome this change.

This week, the Department for Work and Pensions announced increased funding to support disabled people with the greatest barriers to work. Under the current Access to Work scheme, workplaces that are a supported business will have access to increased funding of £5,000 a year for each eligible disabled person. This funding helps businesses to provide correctly adapted work environments, increased HR support, job coaches and extra supervision where necessary. This is an important and worthwhile scheme that will help over 2,000 disabled people with the greatest barriers to work, while allowing for the recruitment of even more employees into the scheme.  I have been working with local organisations like Building Bridges and Pluss, who are helping to support more and more people into work.

The government’s cut in stamp duty for first-time buyers was introduced last November, and since then 121,500 first-time buyers have benefitted, saving a total of £284 million in stamp duty.  We are committed to making home ownership a reality for a new generation and it’s good to see that this policy has helped so many first-time buyers both in Swindon and across the UK.

On Sunday 9th September, I will again be running the Swindon Half Marathon. This year I will be running for Hop, Skip and Jump.  This charity, which has had a Swindon base at Upper Shaw Farm since 2011 and which I worked to bring to our town, provides respite care for children and young adults with disabilities and Special Education Needs in Swindon and elsewhere. The Half Marathon is a great local event.  Money is raised for charities, the event promotes fitness and spectators provide a boost to the local economy. I was disappointed to read that the organisers have said this might be the last year of the event due to a lower than expected number of entries. I have written to Swindon Borough Council about this on behalf of local residents and added my concerns. There is still time to register for the race online and I encourage you to do so. To all runners, I will see you on the route, good luck!

In addition to my normal meetings with constituents, local businesses and organisations, the Parliamentary Summer Recess has allowed me extra time in South Swindon to knock on doors, speaking with, and listening to many local residents about a host of local and national matters.