Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Wag and Company are recognised as a Point of Light

The Points of Light Awards were launched in Downing Street in 2014 to recognise outstanding volunteers who make a positive change in their community. First established by President George HW Bush in 1990, the UK's programme was developed in partnership with the original scheme, and I recently had the great honour of presenting one of the awards to Diane Morton, the founder of Hexham-based charity Wag and Company.

Wag and Company is the UK's only dog befriending charity for older people facing loneliness in their own homes. The charity uses friendship dogs to combat loneliness, and their more than 400 volunteers take their dogs to homes, care homes and sheltered housing to provide much-needed companionship to residents. Throughout the pandemic, Wag and Company has continued to provide virtual visits.

It was very special to be able to present Diane with her award, along with a letter from the Prime Minister. I was joined by Councillor Cath Homer and was also able to meet volunteers Tonia and Linda, and their wonderful dogs Belle and Ollie. 

I know through my own experience that a dog can have a massive impact on physical and mental health and wellbeing. Wag and Company is a very special charity and I would encourage everybody to support them in whatever way you can.

Congratulations to Diane and all the volunteers at Wag and Company!



Thursday, 24 June 2021

Alan Turing and the new £50 note

This week the Bank of England's new £50 note, which features Alan Turing, the codebreaker and computer scientist, entered circulation.

Alan Turing played a pivotal role devising code-breaking machines during World War II and was a significant figure in the development of computer science. Turing's work not only continues to influence science, but his legacy is also incredibly important in our society today, as he was homosexual and was posthumously pardoned by the Queen, having been convicted of gross indecency for his relationship with a man.

The £50 note features various symbols that represent aspects of Alan Turing's life and work. For example, the design includes a mathematical table and formulae from his 1936 paper "On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem", which is recognised for its importance in early computer science, and ticker tape depicting his birth date- 23rd June 1912- in binary code.

You can read more about the Bank of England's new £50 note, as well as the extraordinary and inspiring life of Alan Turing, here- https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/polymer-50-pound-note?fbclid=IwAR37phzdyJeHiQLirIQ7uszMQiWMDsgJFYXqSY4jWIqJMYwtWbXQlNrS9oU 

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Getting ready for curtain-up at the Queen's Hall

The Queen's Hall is one of Hexham's greatest cultural assets, and as we start to count down the days until the building reopens its doors on 11th August, this really is an exciting time for the Queen's Hall.

I recently met with Chief Executive of the Queen's Hall, Katy Taylor, to discuss plans for reopening for shows in the summer, the challenges they have faced throughout the pandemic and the support they have received from Historic England. I was also able to see first-hand the amazing backstage refurbishments that are currently being made before shows restart in the main theatre. 

Venues such as the Queen's Hall have been hugely affected throughout the pandemic, so it was great to be able to discuss the support Katy and the team have received from Historic England. I would encourage everyone to support our local businesses and venues as we come out of the pandemic. The Queen's Hall will be opening for shows on 11th August so please do support them- I will certainly be returning to see the finished refurbishments for myself!

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Find out if you're eligible for Pension Credit

The UK has never paid our pensioners more, with our annual state pension bill at £100 million, up from £60 billion in 2010. 

Around 1.5 million pensioners across the UK receive extra help from Pension Credit- a top up to their retirement incomes, which offers a springboard to a variety of other financial support, such as a free TV licence, housing support and more.

But there are still hundreds of thousands of pensioners who might be eligible for Pension Credit but are still not claiming what could be worth an average of £64 per week. That's why the Department for Work and Pensions is teaming up with Age UK and the BBC to raise awareness of Pensions Credit and help people understand what they are eligible for and how they can apply.

Pensioners whose income is below £177.10 (for individuals) or £270.30 (for couples) per week may be eligible to receive Pension Credit. If your income is higher, you might still be eligible if you have a disability, care for someone, or have particular housing costs.

To find out whether you are eligible for Pension Credit and to get an estimate of what you might receive, you can use the DWP's free online Pension Credit calculator. If the calculator shows that you might be entitled, or even if you aren't sure, then I strongly urge you to make a claim. This can be done online or by calling the DWP Pension Credit Freephone claim line on 0800 991234, or by post. Organisations such as Age UK or your local Citizens Advice Bureau can also help you to claim.


So, if you have a relative or are caring for someone, please help them make a claim. Even a small amount of Pension Credit can open the door to other support, including a free TV licence or help with council tax. The application process is straightforward and will ensure that you receive the support you are entitled to.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Book your vaccination now!

The vaccine is our way out of this pandemic and restrictions. Vaccines reduce the likelihood of serious illness from coronavirus, as well as reducing transmission of the virus between people.

That's why it is great news that, from today, 23 and 24-year-olds can book their Covid-19 vaccine. If you are 23 or over, or will turn 23 before 1st July 2021, you can now go to the NHS website to book your appointment- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ 

Meanwhile, over 40s are being encouraged to receive their second vaccine dose earlier than originally planned. Rather than the original 12 week interval between doses, over 40s can now change their second dose appointment so that it comes 8 weeks after the first. This is to make sure that those aged over 40 have maximum protection against the virus sooner.

To bring forward your second dose, visit the NHS website and go to 'Manage my appointments'- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ 

Evidence shows that it is so important to get your second dose to ensure that you have longer term protection from the coronavirus. If you haven't booked your appointments yet, please do it today!

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Carers Week 2021

7th-13th June is Carers Week, a time to thank unpaid carers for the incredible work they do in their families and communities, as well as to highlight the challenges facing unpaid carers, particularly throughout the past year.

A tenth of adults in the UK provide unpaid care for a friend or family member, and some of these people may not think of themselves as carers. However it is really important that carers are able to access the right support to help them carry out their roles, and one of the aims of Carers Week is to make sure that carers know where they can access this support. 

The following links contain useful information for unpaid carers:



In Northumberland, Carers Northumberland is there to support carers, including by providing a support network with other carers in order to tackle isolation and loneliness:


Carers make such a valuable contribution to the lives of their family members, friends and neighbours, spending a significant proportion of their time providing support to those who need it the most. Thank you to all carers for the dedication and valuable service they provide to their families and communities.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Conserving the planet's rare habitats and species

World Environment Day, which took place on Saturday, encourages us all to take action to protect our planet before it is too late.

To coincide with World Environment Day, the Government has announced a range of measures designed to tackle the biodiversity crisis worldwide and protect rare and vulnerable habitats across the planet.

Over £8 million is set to be invested in projects in the UK Overseas Territories over the next three years to conserve significant habitats that are threatened by climate change. The Darwin Plus scheme will see 31 projects receive funding to protect habitats and species, including coral reefs in the Indian Ocean to help small-scale fishers sustainably manage the habitats, and marine turtles in the Ascension Islands.

As president of the G7 and COP26, it is right that the government is leading the way in the fight against climate change. It is vital that we act now to conserve ecosystems and species, and this funding, along with the £220 million already announced for biodiversity conservation in developing nations and the doubling of UK international climate finance announced in 2019, is hugely significant.


Friday, 4 June 2021

Happy National Fish and Chip Day!

Happy National Fish and Chip Day!

Today is the sixth annual National Fish and Chip Day, celebrating Britain's favourite dish and the people, from fishers to shop owners, who work hard to get it on our plate.

The Hexham constituency is home to so many brilliant fish and chip shops, and with more glorious weather forecast to be on the way, this weekend is the perfect time to support your local chippy. 

Where is your favourite place to get fish and chips in our local area?

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Happy Pride Month

Today marks the beginning of Pride Month, an event which celebrates LGBTQ+ people and their contributions to our society. It is also an important time when we can reflect on the remarkable achievements of campaigners, which have made the UK one of the most tolerant and diverse countries in the world.

This year, Pride Month undoubtedly looks a little different, with marches and celebrations postponed until laster in the year. But with the recent announcement that Hexham has been awarded £80,000 by Historic England to improve cultural activities on Hexham High Street, including Hexham Pride, it will not be long before we can once again celebrate the valuable contribution of LGBTQ+ people to our local communities in person.

I was proud to vote to legalise same-sex marriage in 2013, as well as to vote in favour of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland two years ago. Everyone should have the freedom to live and love without fear. There is more to do to stamp out prejudice in our society, but we have come a long way over the last decade. 

Happy Pride Month!