Friday, 5 March 2021

Welcome news in the Chancellor's Budget

On Wednesday the Chancellor announced his Spring Budget, which was full of good news for people across the Hexham constituency and the country as a whole. The Chancellor outlined his plans to support people and businesses through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond the end of the Prime Minister's roadmap for easing restrictions and to level up the economy across all regions of the UK.

Key announcements in the Chancellor's Budget include:

  • The extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September to ensure continued support for businesses, employees and their families
  • Two further grants for the self-employed, including those who are newly self-employed 
  • New Restart grants of up to £18, 000 and recovery loans to support local businesses to reopen
  • The opening of the new Levelling Up Fund for its first round of bids
  • The opening of a new Treasury campus in Darlington, as part of the Government's commitment to level up and spread opportunity across the whole country
This Budget will provide businesses and families across Tynedale with the support they need to get through the pandemic. The extension of financial support, including the furlough scheme and additional grants for the self-employed, will be a tremendous help to local businesses and individuals as we start to reopen the country and economy. I am especially thrilled at the announcement of a new Treasury campus in the North East, which signals that the Government is committed to delivering investment and opportunity across our region.

Further information about financial support available to businesses and individuals can be found here- https://www.guyopperman.co.uk/financial-support 




Monday, 1 March 2021

20 million vaccines!

The vaccine programme continues to go from strength to strength, with another milestone reached over the weekend- more than 20 million vaccines have now been administered across the UK. That works out as an average of more than 2.5 million doses per week or 1 in 3 adults vaccinated across the country.

In the Hexham constituency, 41.4% of people have now received a vaccine- a really incredible achievement by the NHS, volunteers, the Armed Forces and everyone involved with the vaccine rollout. 

The Prime Minister is aiming to have offered every adult a vaccine by the end of July. Everyone in the top four priority groups has now been offered a vaccine, and invites are now going out to those in groups 5 to 9.

Thank you to everyone who has come forward for their vaccine. Every jab makes a difference in our fight against Covid-19.



Thursday, 25 February 2021

Roadmap for easing restrictions

On Monday, the Prime Minister outlined his roadmap for cautiously easing the current lockdown restrictions in England. 

Thanks to the incredible ongoing success of the vaccine rollout, which has now vaccinated more than 18 million people across the UK, we are now in a position to start thinking about how we can gradually remove the current restrictions.

The roadmap sets out four stages for easing restrictions, with at least five weeks between each phase to allow the latest data to be examined. The data will be subjected to four key tests:

  • That the vaccine rollout continues successfully
  • That the evidence shows vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalisation and death
  • That infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations that would put the NHS under unsustainable pressure
  • That new variants of coronavirus do not cause additional concern
As the four tests are currently being met, the first stage of easing restrictions will begin on 8th March. On this date:
  • Schools and colleges will open for all students
  • Practical Higher Education courses can begin in-person learning
  • Exercise and recreation outdoors with your household or one other person can take place
  • Wraparound childcare, including sports activities, can resume for all children
  • Funerals can take place with up to 30 people attending, and weddings and wakes can take place with up to 6 guests
  • Care home residents will be able to name a visitor, who will be able to visit them regularly
Some further changes will also take place from 29th March, when schools go on Easter holidays:
  • The Rule of Six will return outdoors, including in private gardens
  • Organised outdoor sport (children and adults), all outdoor children's activities, outdoor sport and leisure facilities and outdoor parent and child groups (up to 15 people) can resume

Further easing of restrictions will take place in the coming weeks as long as the four tests continue to be met, with Stage 2 no earlier than 12th April, Stage 3 no earlier than 17th June, and Stage 4 no earlier than 21st June. 

I welcome the announcement of this roadmap, which means that after an incredibly difficult year, we can all now see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, please keep following the national restrictions that are still in place, in order to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the NHS.

Further details about the roadmap for easing restrictions can be found here-



Friday, 19 February 2021

Applications reopen for National Lottery Grants for Heritage

The last year has been incredibly challenging for many heritage organisations and projects across the Hexham constituency. 

It's therefore great news that the National Lottery Grants for Heritage scheme has reopened for applications. Organisations can apply for financial support for their heritage projects. 

When applying, heritage organisations are asked to focus on outcomes that will help drive the UK's wider recovery from Covid-19, by boosting local economies, encouraging and sustaining jobs and opportunities, supporting wellbeing and ensuring that heritage plays a central part in creating better places to live, work and visit.

Funding from the National Lottery has proved to be a lifeline to many heritage organisations this year, and I would strongly encourage our local heritage projects to apply. You can find out more about how to apply for a National Lottery Grant for Heritage here- https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/news/full-range-national-lottery-funding-resumes-refocused-priorities-2021-22 




Wednesday, 17 February 2021

George Stephenson's birthplace set to reopen its doors

I am delighted that following our long-running campaign George Stephenson's birthplace in Wylam will finally be back open for visitors. 

George Stephenson's birthplace was closed in 2017, however after long-term discussions with myself, local County Councillor Karen Quinn and Wylam Parish Council and the National Trust, it is great news that the National Trust have confirmed that the cottage will be open ten times between May and October. I am really pleased that the National Trust have listened and taken action, and I hope that visitor demand means that we can see the birthplace open even more throughout the coming years. 

George Stephenson is one of Wylam's most famous former residents and is known as the 'Father of Railways' because of his pioneering work on the railways and steam locomotives. He is such an important part of the history of Wylam and Northumberland as a whole, and I am so pleased that more people will now be able to share in this important piece of our heritage.



Monday, 15 February 2021

Nominate an unsung hero to be a Coronavirus Community Champion!

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged us all in ways we couldn't have imagined, and in an incredibly difficult time, one of the shining lights has been the extraordinary way in which communities have come together to support each other through the pandemic.

It's always brilliant to hear constituents tell me of their gratitude to a particular person, business or organisation that has gone the extra mile to help them through this difficult time. But most of these acts of kindness that are being carried out every day are largely going unrecognised.

That is why I am delighted to launch my Coronavirus Community Champion Awards, created specifically to recognise people who have gone above and beyond to help others during this pandemic.

I want to hear from you about the people who have gone out of their way to make your life a little bit easier, by nominating them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award.

This could be a teacher, delivery driver, care worker, shop worker or someone who has gone out of their way to help their vulnerable neighbours, to list just a few examples!

So if you would like to say thank you to an unsung hero of this pandemic, please nominate them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award here- https://www.guyopperman.co.uk/campaigns/guy-opperman-mps-coronavirus-community-champions 






Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Over 70? Come forward for your vaccine now!

The vaccine rollout is continuing to pick up steam, with over 12.2 million people now having received a vaccine so far. 9 in 10 of those aged 75 and over in England have now received their first dose, and it is aimed that by May, everyone over 50 will have received a vaccine.

Until now, the advice has been that you should wait to be contacted by your GP or the NHS to book your vaccination. However from today, anyone 70 or over who has not been vaccinated should contact the NHS to arrange their appointment. This can be done by calling 119 or online at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ 

By making sure that you and your loved ones are booked in for a vaccine, you can help give those most at risk the protection they need as we continue to fight this disease together.



Thursday, 4 February 2021

10 million vaccines!

Yesterday we reached a significant milestone in the vaccine rollout- more than 10 million people have now received their first dose of the vaccine!

9 in 10 people aged over 75 have now received a first dose, and vaccines have been offered to all elderly care home residents and staff in England and Wales. We are well on the way to hitting the target of offering vaccines to the top four priority groups by mid-February.

My thanks to our NHS workers, volunteers and armed forces for their tireless efforts to deliver the largest vaccination programme in our history. Every single vaccine given makes us all a little bit safer.



Monday, 1 February 2021

LGBT History Month

February marks the start of LGBT History Month.

Thanks to the efforts of LGBT campaigners, attitudes around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people and their lives have changed dramatically in the last thirty years.

In 2013, I backed gay marriage- a measure that was controversial at the time, but I genuinely believe that almost every MP would now vote to introduce same-sex marriage.

However there is still so much more to do. Specifically, HIV and AIDS is still a significant issue for the LGBT  community, and unfortunately attitudes towards HIV/AIDS are still too often stuck in the past.

There is good news though- there are now effective HIV/AIDS treatments and the aim is that the rollout of PrEP will have ended new cases by 2030. It is so important to remember that those on effective treatment cannot pass on HIV, and so this is a really significant step forwards.

1st February also marks the start of HIV Testing Week. The Coronavirus pandemic has shown the importance of effective and accurate testing, and testing can help to beat HIV too. Testing can be done at home and in private- just visit https://freetesting.hiv 



Thursday, 28 January 2021

Landmark Supreme Court ruling on business interruption claims

 Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of small businesses receiving payments from business interruption insurance policies. 

This news will have been warmly received by many small businesses across Tynedale and Ponteland and provide a lifeline to many in the months ahead.  

 

Insurers included in the case are Hiscox, Arch, Argenta, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA- but around 60 other insurers sold similar products and will have to start paying out to their policy holders. These companies will have to pay out on many, but not all, policies. 


I would ask any constituent who had business interruption claims rejected at the advent of the pandemic to contact their insurance company to see how this ruling affects them.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

True Potential donates to support local students learn online

The past year has been difficult for school pupils, with school closures changing the way that our students learn. This month, many students have once again had to switch to home-learning, as due to the rapid increase in coronavirus cases seen across the country, schools are currently closed to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Remote learning has been particularly challenging for students who do not have access to technology devices and internet services. That is why financial technology business True Potential has purchased laptops and tablet devices for local primary schools and academies in Northumberland and Newcastle, with more still to follow.

As well as buying new laptops for our local schools, True Potential is also offering many of its unused laptops.

I am now supporting True Potential to distribute the devices among local schools so that we can get them to the families that need them most for remote learning.

I know how challenging remote learning can be for students and their families. It is so important that every student has access to the resources they need to continue their education from home, and I am incredibly grateful to True Potential for the wonderful work they are doing to support our local students.

If you do not have access to a laptop, tablet or the internet to assist with remote education, you should contact your child’s school.



Monday, 18 January 2021

Supporting students with remote learning

The past year has affected each and every one of us, but it has been particularly challenging for our children, with school closures and being apart from their friends making this a very difficult time. 


Although schools are physically closed to most students, teachers are still working extremely hard to provide remote learning programmes to their students, whether that is through providing resources or holding online video lessons. 


As families begin a new week of home learning, it is important to remember that help is out there to support young people to learn effectively and safely at home.


Learning resources - your child’s school will be providing learning programmes each week so that students can continue their curriculum-based work. However, there are many educational and fun learning resources online - here are just a few:


- BBC Bitesize has lessons and quizzes for children from Early Years to over 16s, which cover a wide range of subjects- https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize


- The Oak National Academy was created in April 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The resources are created and delivered by teachers, and cover Reception to Year 11- https://classroom.thenational.academy


- There’s more to home learning than just English and Maths! The curriculum covers a variety of subjects, including art, music and PE. Joe Wicks’ online PE sessions are a great way to take a break and keep children moving- https://www.youtube.com/c/TheBodyCoachTV/videos


Northumberland County Council has also provided a list of online learning resources (https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/coronavirus/Northumberland-schools.aspx#helpwithhomeschooling-coronaviruscovid-19), including these brilliant slides which are packed full of fun home learning ideas-


Key Stages 1 and 2: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/NorthumberlandCountyCouncil/media/Document-store/COVID%20resources/New-Home-learning-for-KS1-and-KS2.pdf


Key Stages 3 and 4: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/NorthumberlandCountyCouncil/media/Document-store/COVID%20resources/Secondary-Version-Home-learning-Pack.pdf


Online safety - now we’re all working online more than ever before, it’s so important to ensure that children are able to access the Internet safely. Here are some useful resources to help you talk to your child about online safety: 


- Northumbria Police Safety Advice: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/NorthumberlandCountyCouncil/media/Document-store/Online-Safety-Advice.pdf


- NSPCC Online Safety Advice: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/ 


Access to devices and the internet


If you do not have access to a laptop, tablet or the internet to assist with remote education, you should contact your child's school. 


The government has made a significant investment into remote learning to ensure children can continue their education through the pandemic. More than 560,000 laptops and tablets have been delivered for disadvantaged children. 


The Department for Education has also worked in partnership with mobile operators to help schools support disadvantaged pupils who rely on a mobile phone signal for internet. Schools can request a free uplift in data for most of the main mobile network providers. You can find out more here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-technology-for-remote-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19#get-internet-access-for-disadvantaged-children


Mental health - many children will be understandably worried about the coronavirus and being away from their friends and school may have an impact on their mental health. Here are some resources designed to help children who are feeling anxious:


- This brilliant book is designed to help children understand the coronavirus and the effect it is having on their daily lives-  https://nosycrowcoronavirus.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/Coronavirus-ABookForChildren.pdf


- The NSPCC has advice for parents on how to talk to their child if they are worried about the coronavirus- https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/childrens-mental-health/depression-anxiety-mental-health/


For more resources and advice on remote learning, visit- https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/coronavirus/Northumberland-schools.aspx#TOP

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Community Champion winners celebrate half a century

 One of the best parts of being an MP is getting the opportunity to celebrate with and congratulate people who are at the heart of their local community.

Before Christmas, I joined forces with County Councillor Gordon Stewart to present husband and wife team Anne and Steve Blakeburn with one of my Community Champion Awards. Anne and Steve own Balls of Prudhoe Fish & Chip Shop on Front Street, Prudhoe, and are celebrating an incredible fifty years of their family business.

They have even kept going through the COVID-19 pandemic, working hard to ensure that they can continue to cater for the local community.

My Community Champions Award Scheme recognises people, charities and businesses in Tynedale and Ponteland who make a difference in their local communities. After serving the people of Prudhoe with fantastic food and a friendly welcome for the last half century, Anne, Steve and their team truly are community champions!

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Vaccines- your questions answered

Last week marked a milestone in Tynedale’s fight against the coronavirus, with the first vaccines delivered locally. Archie Tait from Barrasford celebrated his 88th birthday by receiving his first dose of the vaccine in Hexham! 

The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine across the Hexham constituency and beyond is a huge step forward in what is to be the largest vaccination programme in British history. Nationally, over 1.5 million doses have been given – more than the rest of Europe combined. 

 

I know that many people in the Hexham constituency have questions about the vaccination rollout and are anxious to receive news about when they can expect to receive their vaccine, so I have set out further information below. 

 

How many vaccinations have been administered so far?

 

In a sign of the rapid acceleration of the vaccine that we can expect over the coming weeks, very soon, hundreds of thousands of people will be being vaccinated per day. The government has a plan to vaccinate all of the four most vulnerable groups – 13.9 million people – with at least one dose by the middle of February. This includes all care home residents and their carers, frontline NHS staff, everybody over the age of 70, and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding. 

 

The Army have also been brought in to aid the pace of the rollout, using their expert logistics skills to ensure we can vaccinate people as fast as possible, so we can ease restrictions at the earliest opportunity. 

 

How many vaccines have been approved for use in the UK?

 

To date, three vaccines have been approved in the UK- Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca and Moderna. The UK has ordered 367 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, including 10 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which was approved this week.

 

Every vaccine in use has been approved by the independent expert body, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, following a rigorous assessment by a team of scientists, and advice from the Commission on Human Medicines, which reviewed all data to ensure the vaccine meets the required standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. 

 

All three vaccines have only been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency because they are safe, effective and give very high protecting from severe illness. 

 

How effective are the vaccines?

 

No vaccine is 100% effective – the annual flu vaccination programme, for example, provides around 67% protection. All three vaccines approved in the UK have been shown to offer a high degree of protection from the virus. 

 

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, while the recently approved Moderna vaccine offered nearly 95% protection from severe cases of the illness in trials.  

 

The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to be around 70% effective, and nobody who received this vaccine in trials developed severe COVID-19 or needed hospital treatment.

 

When will I get my second vaccine dose?

 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) authorisation of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine states that the vaccine should be administered in two doses. The second dose should be given between four and twelve weeks after the first. For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the second dose should be administered at least three weeks later.

 

Data shown to MRHA shows that both the Pfizer/BioNTeach and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines offer considerable protection against COVID-19 after a single dose. The Government has therefore asked GP practices to focus on giving the first vaccine dose to as many patients as possible, rather than vaccinating fewer people with two doses.

 

At this stage of the pandemic, it is important to prioritise the first doses of the vaccine for as many people as possible on the Government’s priority list. This will protect the greatest number of at risk people in the shortest possible time and will have the greatest impact on reducing mortality, severe disease and hospitalisations and in protecting the NHS. 

 

It is important to stress that everyone will still receive their second vaccination within 12 weeks of the first does, as this is important for longer term protection against COVID-19. 

 

Is the vaccine safe?

 

All three vaccines approved for use in the UK have been extensively trialled under a variety of conditions, before undergoing a robust and independent analysis process.

 

The MRHA is one of the most respected regulators in the world and has followed rigorous procedures to ensure that the vaccines meet the high standards of safety and efficacy. So far 1.5 million people have been given a COVID-19 vaccination and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. If you have concerns about your personal health in relation to receiving the coronavirus vaccine, I would certainly recommend that you first discuss this with your GP.

 

When will I receive my vaccine?

 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have set out guidance on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination. This priority list has been determined following consideration of evidence on the risk of exposure and mortality by age and occupation.

 

The vaccination programme is currently focused on vaccinating care home residents and staff, frontline health and social care workers, people over 70 years of age and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. The Prime Minister has stated that it is hoped that everyone who falls into one of these groups will have had a first dose of the vaccine by the middle of February. 

 

More than 1,000 GP centres, 223 hospitals and 200 vaccines will be giving vaccines by the end of the week, and once the above priority groups have been vaccinated, the government move to the next phase of the vaccination programme when the next priority groups will receive their vaccinations.

 

How will my vaccination be arranged?

 

Your GP practice will contact you when it is your turn to be vaccinated. I understand that many people are anxious to receive their vaccine but please be patient. Your GP practice will contact you in due course. 

 

In the meantime, make sure that you are registered with a GP practice and that they have up-to-date contact details for you or someone who they can speak to on your behalf.

 

The COVID-19 vaccine will always be free of charge and you will never be asked to share bank details to confirm your identity. The vaccination is only available through the NHS and it is not possible to pay to receive the vaccination privately.

 

I would really urge everybody who is offered the vaccination to take it. Vaccination is the best way of avoiding potential serious illness from the coronavirus and helping to ease the current restrictions and pressure on the NHS.