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Weekly news from Caroline Ansell
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Welcome to my e-newsletter!

Dear All,

I hope this finds you safe and well? 

Each week is as busy as the last but increasingly has a different focus, as we move through the stages of managing the impact of the virus.

This week, I have voted to pass important legislation in the House of Commons in the form of the Trade and Immigration Bills, both central to our future as a sovereign nation.  With my team, I have continued to champion local people’s access to support, and whilst I still can’t host my public surgeries, I’ve moved online with direct calling for anyone in Eastbourne & Willingdon who needs my help.  

This week has also had a particular focus on Education and I have been speaking to Heads of schools across Eastbourne and Willingdon about a safe, phased return to lessons and with Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, to raise their questions and any concerns to help everyone through the transition.  It's hugely important we begin to take these small steps to recovery as the risks of a prolonged lockdown are mounting.   

It's Bank Holiday weekend but not as we know it. That said, I'm focusing on the positives, not always easy in the current climate. The photo above is from the very lovely Princes Park. 

Late last night I had news of the collapse of Shearings.  What this means for us in Eastbourne is local job loses from the Burlington and the Majestic and a time of uncertainty for these premier seafront sites. I raised our tourism and hospitality sector at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday and this latest blow illustrates how important it is we mobilise to be ready to open up, just as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.     

📞 Just a Call Away 

I may not be able to hold my face to face private appointments or drop-by public advice surgeries but I want you to know that I am still very much here to support you.   

To book an appointment, you can email me:
📧caroline.ansell.mp@parliament.uk or call my office on 📞 01323 409000, with your 1️⃣ name, 2️⃣ number and 3️⃣ a line on what you would like to raise.

The Work of Parliament  
Tech connects me to Parliament.  What is it like to work virtually? 
We left the EU on the 31st January and passing new, key laws before the end of the transition period, 31 December, is very much on the programme in Parliament and a great deal of work is happening in government departments too.

Notable in this was the 3rd reading of the recent Agriculture Bill which will establish an independent agriculture policy for the first time in over forty years. We now can bring in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and crucially, animal welfare.  We already exceed many environmental and animal welfare protections than EU law currently provides for but I know we can do more. I am particularly pleased that a system of paying farmers to protect our environment, reduce flooding and maintain access to the countryside means we all benefit from our precious farmland.   

A new Immigration Bill which moves us to a points based system has had its 2nd reading and will return to the Commons subsequently for further debate.  Negotiations with the EU over our future relationship, significantly on a trade deal and co-operation in security, also continue. 

Rightly, much focus is on the global pandemic but wider work very much continues now and you can access more below.

Follow the link below to read about the latest Brexit news, from fisheries and the Northern Ireland border to the EU Settlement Scheme: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/brexit/

You can also Subscribe to the House of Commons library to receive updates on specific topics you’re interested in. 

Local COVID-19 Health Update 

Details were shared this week of how many losses we have experienced from COVID-19 in Eastbourne. During a health update for local leaders, the Director of Public Health for East Sussex County Council, stated that there have been 46 deaths in Eastbourne, recorded in the official figures. Of these, 22 occurred in hospital, 1 in a hospice, and 23 in care homes. Since the figures are normally reported at a broader level - international, national and regional - this report helps bring the impact down to the clearer local level. 

East Sussex - excluding Brighton & Hove - had 666 recorded infections from the coronavirus as of Tuesday. Of these, 147 cases are in Eastbourne. Eastbourne currently has a recorded infection rate of 142.5 cases per 100,000 people, less than 1% of the population and East Sussex’s rate is currently running at about half that of the average for England.

The fact that East Sussex and Eastbourne have lower current rates of infection than the rest of England is good news.  There is no doubt that we still need to be alert to every risk of transmission, every vulnerable person, and every case, to stand a better chance of averting every early death. Part of the defence has to be better testing, tracking and tracing, as is being continually rolled out, both nationally and locally.

This week one of the British Army’s mobile testing units was set up on College Road, to help provide additional temporary local testing capacity. Many tests for current infections were also distributed via courier, for home and workplace testing. Information on getting tested, if you suspect that you currently have COVID-19, is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested

Elsewhere, good news came in the form of new antibody tests being confirmed by UK authorities as far superior to versions that had been previously available. Preparations are now underway for their deployment, first to healthcare workers and then to others over the next few weeks. This week a study by the Korean Centres for Disease Control also showed that people do appear to have immunity from reinfection, once they have developed antibodies to the virus. This makes news of reliable mass antibody tests timely and welcome.

Five and overs in UK, now eligible for testing. 
You can check your eligibility and apply for a test here.
From House to Home 
All our schools are finding new creative and engaging ways to connect with their school communities. Here's a fantastic example I thought you'd like to see from St Catherine’s College, in Priory Road, a wonderful 'Staff Hello' video which featured about 40 members of the school’s working team! 

Schools of course have been open throughout the lockdown period for the children of essential workers and for vulnerable children and I would like to thank all the heads, teachers and support staff who have done so much to help during this crisis.

As a former schools inspector myself, I understand something of the challenges they have faced.  Heads and their staff have been effectively running three schools all at once: face-to-face classes, online education and additional support for disadvantaged and vulnerable children. 

But despite all this great work, some figures show that fewer than 30% of children in the UK have engaged consistently with online education. 

One challenge is access to technology and the inequalities created by the digital divide,  a defining issue I raised in Parliament last month. This has been recognised by the government in their targeted provision of 4G routers, laptops and tablets for disadvantaged Year 10s and some of the most vulnerable pupils in other year groups across the UK. But Tech only facilitates.   

School is more than the lessons of the timetabled curriculum and interaction with their teachers and peers is vital learning for our young.  It’s painful to write but school is a protection too and at least one good meal a day for children at risk of abuse or neglect. 

Our Heads have my 100% support as we move to take small steps on the road to recovery; there are genuine concerns and important measures to put in place but the same science that said we should close schools, now says we can begin to open them up further.  Denmark has shown the way and that this can be done. 

Need Help? Help is at hand

If you’re feeling isolated, anxious or unwell at home and don’t have anyone that can help you, the Eastbourne community hub may be able to help. 

📞 For Eastbourne:                                          dial 01323 679722
📞 For Willingdon, Wannock and Jevington :   dial 01323 443322

And finally...

There will already be a legacy from lock down to address, most especially for Year 10 with exams essentially just two terms away. The Department for Education is looking at ‘catch up’ summer camps with Teach First and having in a past life mentored training teachers at Brighton Uni, I will be volunteering to be part of it and reaching out to others to join in. 

Another lock down legacy as yet to be fully understood in its scale and scope will be the impact on mental health. It will have been incredibly hard for very many, from those home alone to those on the frontline of covid wards. Specialist provision is important but what I'm also told, and what I know to be true myself, is that just plain kindness and reaching out to each other can do a power of good.  I love the work of a Box Full of Rainbows and what a powerful symbol of hope the rainbow is proving to be.     

Enjoy the sunshine this weekend, stay safe and take care,  

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