Robert's Weekly Column - 22nd July 2020

As face coverings become compulsory in shops from Friday 24th July, I am concerned about the impact that they will have on those who are hard of hearing and rely on lip reading, or those with autism and other disabilities. That is why I have teamed up with local charity Disability Experts to encourage people to wear disability friendly face coverings.

If you would like to purchase one of these coverings, please get in touch with Disability Experts or visit  https://www.friendlyfacemasks.co.uk/.

Please also be mindful and respectful of people who for a variety of reasons are not able to wear face coverings and are therefore exempt. More information can be found via: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own.

I am pleased that a new provider has been found to run the short breaks services formally managed by Hop, Skip & Jump. The Brunel SEN MAT, in partnership with Uplands Enterprise Trust will take over the services for children and young people with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND).

The service will continue to offer a variety of activities for children and young people to engage with, including indoor and outdoor play facilities, all with an emphasis on self-development and discovery. There are also sensory rooms, soft play facilities and art rooms that the children can enjoy while their parents receive a much-needed break.

Previous users of Hop, Skip & Jump will be contacted by social workers to explain the options available for support this summer on an individual basis.

On Tuesday, as Justice Secretary I took the Counter-Terrorism & Sentencing Bill through its remaining stages in the House of Commons. This important Bill builds on the action we took following the dreadful attack in Streatham when we passed emergency legislation to ensure that terrorist offenders, including those currently serving, will no longer be released early automatically.

This Bill will ensure that the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders spend more of their sentence in prison, which provides both greater protection for the public and longer to support offenders’ rehabilitation through a variety of specific interventions.

The Carfax site in the town centre, now called Kimmerfields, has been awaiting development for a long time, so I am delighted that Zurich have signed a contract to begin building its new offices there. This exciting project will play an important role in the ongoing regeneration of our town centre.

They will be working with local schools, colleges and community groups to create artwork via a competition to be displayed in the new building. The insurer will also be looking into opportunities for local college students to visit the site as part of its work with school to inspire and engage young people about careers in insurance.

Zurich’s commitment to Swindon is a testament to the skills and knowledge of the local workforce and I will continue to work with the Council and other agencies to help further regenerate our town centre and ensure we can attract investment. I will also keep ensuring that Swindon’s voice is heard in Central Government and that work on important government initiatives like the Towns Fund and Future High Street Fund continues.