On Friday, I spent my latest day of volunteering getting my hands dirty with the excellent staff and clients of the Shaw Trust. This was my second thoroughly enjoyable visit to the nursery and workshop, which employs disabled people, helping them develop the skills and confidence they need to enter the world of work.
On Saturday, I was honoured to be asked to declare the new Farley Fox playground officially open. The culmination of years of effort by the community, it is a superb facility that I am sure will enrich the lives of many young people.
While I was in that next of the woods, I pressed on to Winterslow Horticultural Society’s spring show. I presented the prizes at last year’s summer show and they were kind enough to invite me to make a return visit.
Meanwhile in Westminster, it is a busy time. In addition to my membership of the Defence Select Committee, I have been appointed to the Welfare Reform Bill Committee. Over the next two months, in 28 two-hour sessions, I and a representative group of colleagues from all parties will be scrutinising the bill line by line.
I know from numerous constituents how much anxiety possible changes to their benefits are causing and I will be mindful of those concerns as I work to ensure that the benefits system in future, not only protects society’s most vulnerable but also rewards the attitude of honest claimants by always making work pay.
In particular, I have heard powerful representations about how Disability Living Allowance is assessed and paid. I could not agree more that the system for evaluation must be instilled with a greater degree of sensitivity, while also being rigorous enough to discern the most deserving people from those who may be ‘playing the system’.
Finally, this week, my staff and I are saying a sad farewell to David Webber, a local boy who jumped in at the deep end soon after I was elected and has done a magnificent job as my intern. We will miss his easy-going sense of humour as much as his hard work and wish him well as he returns to his studies at Aston University.